Newspaper logo  
 
 
Local Gov’t Stories, Events

Ref. : Civic Events

Ref. : Arts & Education Events

Ref. : Public Service Notices

Futurism
Books, Films, Arts & Education
Letters

Ref. : Letters to the editor

Health Care & Environment

08.18 Kuwait's inferno: how will the world's hottest city survive climate change?

08.18 We saved the whale. The same vision can save the planet

08.17 New Research Suggests Memory Loss in Alzheimer’s Patients May be Reversible

08.17 We Just Figured out How to Activate Stem Cells to Treat Baldness

08.17 1 in 9 Deaths are from Air Pollution & Trump is making it Worse

08.16 Ignoring Threat of Rising Seas, Trump Eliminates Flood Risk Standards

08.16 In Egypt, A Rising Sea — And Growing Worries About Climate Change's Effects

08.16 Australian coal-power pollution would be illegal in US, Europe and China – report

08.15 Tagus river at risk of drying up completely

08.15 Pesticides could wipe out bumblebee populations, study shows

08.15 Sierra Leone's deadly mudslide: thousands missing as search continues

08.15 Monsanto sold banned chemicals for years despite known health risks, archives reveal [immoral capitalism]

News Media Matters

08.18 Climate change will likely wreck their livelihoods – but they still don't buy the science [a willfully ignorant people? or a public conned by oil-industry subsidized news media distortions?]

08.15 Dems Demand Answers About FCC's Apparent Favoritism Toward Sinclair

Daily: FAIR Blog
The Daily Howler

US Politics, Policy & 'Culture'

08.18 GOP Senator Drowned Out By Cheers for 'Single Payer' at Town Hall [might our 'representatives' understand better if we took their free healthcare away?]

08.18 If a top Trump aide leaves, it could 'start a run on the bank'

08.18 The United States was never immune to fascism. Not then, not now [2:54 video; “Stupid is as stupid does.” –Forrest Gump]

08.18 Trump's evangelical panel remains intact as others disband. Who are his religious cheerleaders? [“Stupid is as stupid does.” –Forrest Gump]

08.18 To understand the US's complex history with slavery, look to Thomas Jefferson

08.17 Cuckoo D'État: The Lunatics Have Taken Over the Asylum

08.17 Stranding CEOs Too Slow To Quit, Trump Disbands His Own Business Councils [could a wider boycott accomplish resignations or positive change?]

08.16 Mark Ruffalo, Michael Moore Lead NYC Protest Against 'Absolutely Racist' Trump [short video]

08.16 Companies Linked To Mike Pence Seek An Upper Hand In Infrastructure Policy [our Public Infrastructure is at risk of being transformed into Private Infrastructure with tolls ad infinitum]

08.16 Surviving America’s Political Meltdown

08.16 Burying the Lie of the “Alt-Left”

08.16 The Guardian view on Donald Trump and racism: a moral failure that shames America

08.16 Republicans denounce bigotry after Trump's latest Charlottesville remarks

Justice Matters

08.16 Indiana prosecutors want to incarcerate the opioid crisis away [“Stupid is as stupid does.” –Forrest Gump]

High Crimes?

08.18 Buses in Seoul install 'comfort women' statues to honour former sex slaves [immoral crimes are hard to forget]

08.14 Americans once carpet-bombed North Korea. It's time to remember that past

Economics, Crony Capitalism

08.15 Why Are Drug Prices So High? These Politicians Might Have The Answer [especially since the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling, BIG money corrupts & controls U.S. government to the public’s detriment]

International & Futurism

08.18 Spain attacks: Suspects shot dead in Cambrils after van-ramming

08.17 Tesla Just Made A Futuristic Tiny House

08.17 Investment Bank Report Predicts the Cost of Electric Vehicles Will Match Regular Cars by 2018 [pressure is building for electric utilities to become 100% renewable or we'll die]

08.17 German Politicians think Trump is dangerously close to Neo-Nazis, and they Should know

08.15 As Yemen Cholera Cases Reach 500,000, US and UK Condemned for Complicity

We are a non-profit Internet-only newspaper publication founded in 1973. Your donation is essential to our survival.

You can also mail a check to:
Baltimore News Network, Inc.
P.O. Box 42581
Baltimore, MD 21284-2581
Google
This site Web
  Rice's Recipe for Duck Soup
Newspaper logo

COMMENTARY:

Rice’s Recipe for Duck Soup

by John Hickman
Whether Georgia or Russia has sovereignty over Abkhazia and South Ossetia really doesn’t matter in the long run.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice deserves credit for knowing how to make good use of a bad historical analogy. Where any other Republican Secretary of State would have chosen the Munich analogy to denounce the current Russian military intervention in Georgia, Rice reminded her audience of the Soviet Union’s invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 during a press conference on August 13: “This is not 1968 and the invasion of Czechoslovakia, where Russia can threaten its neighbors, occupy a capital, overthrow a government, and get away with it.,” she said. “Things have changed.”

What merits attention is that Rice did not draw an actual parallel between 1968 and 2008. Instead she simply conjured the image of the Soviet Union/Russia as bully. That was smart, because the two events are so fundamentally dissimilar.

First, there was no territorial dispute involving minority ethnic regions in Czechoslovakia whose people preferred to be part of the Soviet Union. Majorities in both Abkazia and South Ossetia appear to prefer being part of the Russian Federation rather than the Republic of Georgia. Second, Czech President Alexander Dub?ek did not deliberately provoke the Soviet Union into a punishing military response by ordering the Czech army to attack Soviet peacekeepers. Georgian President Mikheil Saak’ashvili deliberately provoked the Russians by ordering his U.S.-trained Georgian army to attack the handful of Russian peacekeepers in South Ossetia, killing 10 and wounding 30. He did that despite knowing that the Russian 58th Army was stationed just on the other side of the border.

If Secretary Rice had wanted to offer a proper historical analogy, she could have compared the current conflict with the 1864 Second War of Schleswig by which Schleswig and Holstein, two provinces with ethnic German populations, were detached from the insecure grasp of Denmark and then annexed to Germany. That was the first of several successful limited wars by which the brilliant Prussian Chancellor Otto von Bismarck finally unified Germany and then established it as a Great Power.

It is unwise to encourage the masses to wonder why their political elites are so agitated about the ownership of some distant smear of color on the world map.

Neo-realist international relations scholars interpret the current conflict as another step in Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s strategy for the reemergence of Russia as a Great Power by asserting power in its traditional sphere of influence. Rice is obviously unlikely to deploy this historical analogy. First, only a fraction of her American audience will know the historical reference or have ever heard of Schleswig and Holstein. Even mentioning it risks alerting them that whether Georgia or Russia has sovereignty over Abkhazia and South Ossetia really doesn’t matter in the long run.whether Georgia or Russia has sovereignty over Abkhazia and South Ossetia really doesn’t matter in the long run. It is unwise to encourage the masses to wonder why their political elites are so agitated about the ownership of some distant smear of color on the world map. Worse, Rice would appear too much the smarty pants intellectual for the sort of populist conservative who seeks political wisdom from the likes of Jeff Beck and Toby Keith. And that could be a negative for any plans she might have for a future political career. Second, comparing the two little wars would suggest that Putin was on a par with Bismarck. She can‘t have that. After all, history will deem the president she serves anything but a strategic genius, and she has played a major role in helping him squander so much of America’s power in the world.

There may be no good historical parallel for the disastrous decision-making of Georgian President Saak’ashvili. Instead, a cinematic reference is necessary.

Listening to Saak’ashvili’s rambling performance during a August 15th joint press conference with Rice is like watching the immortal Groucho Marx perform in the 1938 Marx Brothers’ comedy "Duck Soup." Groucho’s character is Rufus T. Firefly, the new President of Freedonia, who snatches war from the jaws of peace by insulting the ambassador of neighboring Sylvania and thus torpedoing a negotiated peace settlement. As the Freedonian army collapses and the Sylvanian army closes in on the presidential palace, Firefly goes on the radio to plead for international assistance:

“Calling all nations! Calling all nations! This is Rufus T. Firefly...(We’re in a mess folks!) Rush to Freedonia. Three men and one woman are trapped in a building. Send help at once.”

Here is Saak’ashvili fulminating at the Russians during an August 15th joint press conference with Rice:

“Bullying and blackmailing is the best things they enjoy and the only thing they understand. It’s unity and strength of international community; nothing else can deter and stop them, because otherwise, they are like—they will stop—keep advancing, they will keep killing, they will keep destroying other countries.”

What deprives the Georgian Firefly’s performance of its comedic punch is that his decisions resulted in the deaths of actual human beings and made refugees of many more. That, and the fact that he seems unstable.

If there is a silver lining to the dark cloud that is this absurd little war in the Caucuses it is that more Americans may begin to question why the Bush administration would endorse making Georgia and neighboring countries members of NATO.

If there is a silver lining to the dark cloud that is this absurd little war in the Caucuses it is that more Americans may begin to question why the Bush administration would endorse making Georgia and neighboring countries members of NATO. What they will be asking is whether it makes sense to obligate the U.S. armed forces to defend their political elites from the consequences of their irresponsible actions. How often will Americans have to watch the leader of a NATO “ally” on the borders of Russia appear on television to deliver an unfunny version of Grouch’s lyrics?: “Tell them the enemy comes from afar, with a hey nonny-nonny and a ha-cha-cha.”


John Hickman is associate professor of comparative politics at Berry College in Rome, Georgia. His published work on electoral politics, media, and international affairs has appeared in Asian Perspective, American Politics Research, Comparative State Politics, Contemporary South Asia, Contemporary Strategy, Current Politics and Economics of Asia, East European Quarterly, Journal of Southern Europe and the Balkans, Jouvert, Legislative Studies Quarterly, Political Science, Review of Religious Research, Women & Politics, and Yamanashigakuin Law Review. He may be reached at jhickman@berry.edu.


Copyright © 2008 The Baltimore News Network. All rights reserved.

Republication or redistribution of Baltimore Chronicle content is expressly prohibited without their prior written consent.

Baltimore News Network, Inc., sponsor of this web site, is a nonprofit organization and does not make political endorsements. The opinions expressed in stories posted on this web site are the authors' own.

This story was published on August 17, 2008.

 



Public Service Ads:
Verifiable Voting in Maryland