Georgian President Saakashvili, Welfare King

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George Bush, following in the footsteps of his predecessors, has established a welfare system with the warfare State. Through the (evolving) public justifications for his use of American military power, Bush has laid out principles under which foreign countries are entitled to US combat forces. As he displayed beautifully on the Glenn Beck show, Georgian President Saakashvili is a welfare king who knows how to game the system.

After telling Beck that the Russians were not attacking Georgia, but America — going so far as to write anti-American proclamations on their missiles — Saakashvili declared:

SAAKASHVILI: America for us is a symbol of freedom worldwide. I grew up with ideals that America I grew up in Soviet communist society until the age of 20. I know I, for me, for my old, early childhood America was a dreamland. America was a place from which all the bright ideas came. America was the place which was great inspiration for me to raise my child. And then when Soviet Union collapsed, when the Cold War was over, when I went to study in the US and finally I realized my dream, I never thought that this evil would come back again. I never thought the KGB people would again try to run the world. And that’s exactly what’s happening now. This is worst nightmare coming true. And what’s at stake here is America’s ideals. If freedom collapses in Georgia, it will collapse in both the countries, in other places as well.

Some Americans think that Georgia was minding its own business, when all of a sudden Russia attacked it, and now George Bush, as is his wont, is pining to do what he can to protect freedom.

I don’t think that’s what’s going on at all. Reportedly the Bush administration warned Saakashvili not to provoke the Kremlin, yet the Georgian president ordered his troops into South Ossetia anyway, and without even notifying the US of his plans. Then Saakashvili reassured his people that the US military would take control of Georgian airports and sea ports, an apparent lie that the Pentagon quickly denied to the rest of the world. I think Bush and his advisors must be saying, "What is this guy doing?! Doesn’t he see the impossible position he’s putting us in? Is he trying to start a world war?"

And thus the folly of the Bush administration’s foreign policy adventures is complete. Just as domestic welfare programs violate property rights, create a culture of dependency, and bankrupt the government, so too has Bush’s occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq killed innocents, encouraged weak nations to "need" US military aid, and squandered US strength. This last point is important: It’s not merely that Bush & Co. set the precedent for bold leaders of tiny nations to chant the magic word "democracy" in order to gain access to US firepower. But precisely because the US is bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan, Russian Prime Minister Putin was in a much stronger position to invade Georgia. The US really can’t fight a war with Russia at the moment.

Just to make sure there are no misunderstandings, I am not casting Russia as the innocent victim of US expansionism. I have no doubt that Putin is an evil man who would conquer the world if he had the ability.

Fortunately, he doesn’t have the ability. Yet what he does possess — and in far greater doses than his American counterparts — is the ability to think three moves ahead. When the US wanted to let former Soviet republics into NATO, then-president Putin warned that this would upset the strategic balance.

Just think about that for a minute. Isn’t that an odd thing to say? That’s not how US politicians talk. For them, it’s all about freedom and apple pie, and foreign policy is a simple matter of blowing up the bad guys to protect the good guys. There’s very little public recognition of the fact that one nation’s moves will lead to obvious responses and then counterresponses, such that all countries might end up wishing that first move hadn’t been made. That’s what Putin was saying, and so far he seems right on the money.

Let me shift gears a bit and say the talk radio guys are definitely right about Obama. His official statement on the Georgian situation was ridiculous, designed as a message for American voters, not the rulers of other nations with whom he may soon be interacting:

The violence taking place along the Black Sea is just miles from Sochi, the site for the Winter Olympics in 2014. It only adds to the tragedy and outrage of the current situation that Russia has acted while the world has come together in peace and athletic competition in Beijing. This action is wholly inconsistent with the Olympic ideal.

Don’t misunderstand, there is nothing objectionable in these observations for a regular human being. But for someone who is actively seeking to be in charge of the most lethal collection of weaponry the world has ever known, and to be heading a massive organization that has created millions of deadly foes around the world, you can’t talk like that. You have to have some swagger, for crying out loud. I feel like an eight-year-old Corleone nephew, and because of some fluke Fredo is about to become head of the family. Not good.

So we see that there is yet another problem with democracies. Because of their periodic elections, even relatively stable States such as the US temporarily lose their footing. The calculations of both Saakashvili and Putin certainly included the lame duck Bush administration, and the implications of foreign events on the American election.

Conservatives have long realized that the welfare state is immoral and wastes money, but it also hurts the very people it is supposed to help. I hope they soon realize that the same is true of the warfare state. Trying to spread freedom and peace at missile tip will, in the end, only lead to more repression and war.

Bob Murphy [send him mail] has a Ph.D. in economics from New York University, and is the author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Capitalism. He has a personal website at ConsultingByRPM.com

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