Georgia: Another Neocon Farce?

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Foreign policy
is an open issue among libertarians. Some of us are isolationists.
Others are pacifists. Others take a more belligerent line.

I am an isolationist.
Though I incline to anarchist, I accept that for the moment, the
world is ruled by various states, and that there will always be
disputes between states, some leading to war. This being so, I believe
that the best way to minimise the threat of war is to have our own
state keep out of any dispute that does not immediately concern
the integrity of its own territory.

I am a citizen
of a country that was a principal actor in the two big wars of the
twentieth century. I believe that these wars were unnecessary for
the security of my country and killed unimaginable numbers of people.
They also destroyed British primacy in the world and were the means
of transforming Britain from genuine liberal democracy to politically
correct corporatism. That is why I was so opposed to our role in
the wars of the past decade in the Balkans, in Iraq and in Afghanistan.
And that is why I am now opposed to any intervention in the war
between Russia and Georgia.

I am told that
Russia is an aggressive power that must be resisted in the Caucasus
before it is able to threaten other places. The newspapers are filled
with the usual talk of Munich and appeasement, together with claims
that a new Cold War is beginning. I deny this.

Russia may
be an aggressor in this war. Or it may not be. I will not enter
into the details of who moved first, or with what provocation. But,
even assuming that Russia is the aggressor, I fail to see what business
this war is of the British or American Governments. The implied
deal at the end of the 1980s was that the Soviet Union would evacuate
its European colonies, in return for which Russian security would
be respected. Every former republic of the Soviet Union, with the
exception of the Baltic States, were to be regarded as part of the
Russian sphere of interest. That included the Ukraine and Georgia.

It was unwise
to recruit the former East European colonies of the Soviet Empire
into NATO, and to move Western armed forces right up to the old
Soviet border. But that was something the Russians at the time were
in no position to resist, and that they might, given intelligent
diplomacy, be brought to accept was no threat to them. Now that
Russia is again a first-class power, it would be madness to intervene
in what used to be a core part of the Soviet Union.

Yes –
Russia is again a first-class power. This may be founded on the
high price of oil and gas. The demographic trends in Russia may
point to a longer-term weakness. But Russia will for perhaps the
next decade be again a first-class power. This is no threat to the
west. I was against fighting the Cold War. But it was then arguable
that the Soviet Union was a danger to the west. What we had then
was the largest country in the world, with the largest armed forces,
both at the disposal of a murderous and expansionist ideology with
intellectual sympathisers in every country in the world.

First class
or otherwise, Russia today is a normal power. It is no longer interested
in conquering France and Australia and Argentina. The present ruling
class in Russia legitimises itself and its efforts in terms of Russian
nationalism and Orthodox Christianity. This makes Russia a danger
to some of its immediate neighbours, but not to us. It is rightly
annoying to the British Government that Mr Putin seems willing to
have his political enemies murdered in London.

In the longer
term, indeed, Russia is at least a potential ally of the West, if
not part of the West. If there is to be a contest in this century
– and I hope there will not be – between the West and
Islam, or the West and China, Russia must reasonably be counted
as on our side. With two lost wars in the Islamic world, and growing
American impotence in East Asia, now is not the time to antagonise
Russia.

I have, in
the past day, read statements by David
Milliband
, the British foreign Secretary, and by the Conservative
leader, David
Cameron
, that strike me as almost childish in their failure
to understand the realities of international politics. There is
nothing we should do to help the Georgians. There is nothing we
can do. Russia is not an enemy of Britain.

Sadly, London,
just like Washington, has been captured by the neoconservatives.
These are not conservatives, new or old. They are simply warmongers.
They have misread the history of the twentieth century. For them,
national greatness is measured by military power. They are allied
to business and other interests that benefit from war. They had
a fine time during the Cold War. They were disappointed when this
abruptly ended. They have since then been lying us into smaller
wars all over the world. They want a permanent war with Islam. They
look forward to a cold war with China. Of course, now that Vladimir
Putin is in charge of Russia, they are in love with the idea that
the original Cold War never really ended, and that the warm certainties
of their youth can now be revived.

What passes
in the Conservative Party for thinking about foreign policy is dominated
by these people. I remember one Conservative politician who, in
1995, assured a closed meeting that the Soviet evacuation of Eastern
Europe was a fraud, and that Russian tanks were ready to rumble
westward at the press of a button in Moscow. I was urged at the
time not to hold the clown up for the ridicule he deserved. I wish
I had not listened. The man is still important, and is a standing
reminder that the Conservatives are at least as great a menace to
world peace as New Labour.

I could say
more. But I think I have said enough. I hope the Russians and Georgians
will come to terms before too many more people are killed. In the
meantime, I am resolutely opposed to any intervention of any kind
in the dispute by the British Government. And, since Britain is
regrettably for the moment part of the American Empire, I oppose
involvement by the Americans.

August
15, 2008

Sean
Gabb [send him mail]
is the author of Smoking, Class and the Legitimation of Power.
His new book, Cultural Revolution,
Culture War: How Conservatives Lost England, and How to Get It Back
,
can be downloaded for free. See his
website.

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