Newspaper logo  
 
 
Local News & Opinion

Ref. : Civic Events

Ref. : Arts & Education Events

Ref. : Public Service Notices

Travel
Books, Films, Arts & Education
Letters
Open Letters:

Ref. : Letters to the editor

Health Care & Environment

07.27 ETS would be more cost-effective than higher renewables target, analyst says

07.27 Alaskan villages imperiled by global warming need resources to relocate

07.26 A Millennial Named Bush

07.26 'Beepocalypse Not': Alec lobbyists abuzz in defense of pesticides amid die-offs [Koch bros. lobbying group expands its willful ignorance of science beyond climate change]

07.25 The nine green policies killed off by the Tory government

07.25 Marshall Islands urge Australia to follow its ambitious climate goals

07.25 Queensland plans 1,600km string of fast-charging stations for electric cars

07.25 UK suspends ban on pesticides linked to serious harm in bees

07.25 Tory attacks on green policies signal dark times ahead for the environment

07.25 Needle-sized mechanical wrist gives surgery a new angle [We need a tiny vacuum cleaner with spinning brushes to suck out plaque]

07.25 Poison in the sky: Even low air pollution can be lethal, Israeli study finds

News Media

Daily FAIR Blog
The Daily Howler

US Politics, Policy & 'Culture'

07.27 Socialism, American-Style [Bernie Sanders wants more efficient or profitable public programs to make the U.S. competitive again]

07.27 Hillary Clinton aides' Wall Street links raise economic policy doubts

07.27 Rand Paul pushes to defund Planned Parenthood as group cites 'smear' effort

07.27 Rick Perry calls for more guns in cinemas following Lafayette shooting

07.26 Is this how the Establishment takes down Outsiders like Bernie Sanders? [4:20 video]

07.26 Between the World and Me: 10,000 Years From Tomorrow [We must treat all people as family, and kick ourselves everytime we don't]

07.26 Are Americans More Pessimistic About Race—or More Realistic?

07.26 Puerto Rico debt crisis: austerity for residents, but tax breaks for hedge funds [another government by and for the rich, paid for by the poor]

07.26 Obama’s Evolving Outrage on Guns

07.25 Should There Be a Criminal Investigation Into Hillary Clinton's Email?

Justice Matters

07.27 35 women accusing Bill Cosby of sexual assault told their stories to New York Magazine

07.27 Fiat Chrysler Faces Record $105 Million Fine for Safety Issues

07.24 “If you don’t want to get shot, just do what I tell you”: American cops are on a dangerous power trip

High Crimes?
Economics, Crony Capitalism

07.27 Greece rocked by reports of secret plan to raid banks for drachma return

07.27 How the Euro Turned Into a Trap [If loans are denominated in euros and dollars how would using and devaluing the drachma help?]

07.25 Investors could lose $4.2tn due to impact of climate change, report warns [EIU's "The Cost of Inaction" report]

International

07.27 Is the Ugly German Back? Flames of Hate Haunt a Nation

07.27 Who’d be young and Greek? Searching for a future after the debt crisis

07.27 Turkey agrees plan for 'Isis-free zone' along Syrian border

07.26 The Insecure World of Freelancing

07.26 Zimbabwean authorities hunt Spaniard accused of killing Cecil the lion [immoral]

07.26 Turkey sends in jets as Syria’s agony spills over every border

07.26 Solar is bringing a new world to women in Zimbabwe

07.25 When Public Art Meets a Stupid Construction Mistake

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