Georgia: Diplomacy by Necessity
The United States is ill equipped to provide military assistance the Republic of Georgia in spite of their requests. We did send some humanitarian aid. We offered the type of aid that the airlines give you on a coast to coast flight: carrying a bag of peanuts. The hollow rhetoric by our politicians is of no consequence to our stated ally as they seek to maintain their independence. It’s sort of like trying to hail a taxi on a Saturday night. There are simply none to be had. As a result “diplomacy by necessity” or “Diplomacy 101” is the bitter pill our President and our nation are being forced to swallow.
Of course the first responses to this conflict by both the President and Republican Presidential Nominee, Senator McCain were hollow threats to the Russians and words of compassion and support for the Georgians. The Russian response to the U.S. given their sluggish response to the supposed cease fire treaty has essentially said: What are you going to do about it? And Senator McCain’s statement on behalf of all Americans: “We are all Georgians today” prompted the Georgian President to respond (I’m paraphrasing):
“Thanks but it’s time to put up or shut up”. What most Americans have long understood is that there is no more water in the “military” well. We don’t have the military assets we require to adequately carry out operations on all of the military fronts we are already engaged on. Afghanistan and Iraq are tremendous drains on our troop availabilities and weapons. This is to say nothing of the costs that the U.S. must shoulder to continue these massive operations. The bottom line is we have no true ability to assist the Republic of Georgia with any significant measure of military support.
The Russian government did not undertake the invasion of Georgia without having given the reach and resources of the United States ample consideration. Further, this action sends a clear message about their lack of regard for our current military prowess as well as our diplomatic importance. It was a calculated roll of the dice, knowing that we were unable to strike back on behalf of our ally and that we lack the trust and confidence of the rest of the world, crippling our ability to quickly lead in the formation of an international coalition of military support for Georgia. The Russians know that this nation has tapped out their military resources and they know that our leadership has nearly destroyed our credibility on the world diplomatic stage. If every newscaster in America knows it, then it’s no secret. To be sure the Russians know that this could eventually escalate in to a very significant conflict but they are betting that the risk of a major European or world conflict is not particularly great. What they really want is resources and influence. In spite of the rhetoric the some pundits and politicians are spewing. The Russians, although reckless, have not shown a sincere interest in reinventing the former Soviet state. That is simply the latest in scare tactics infecting the media. Some might argue, myself included, that this Georgian conflict appears to be about oil and influence. Some might argue, myself included, that this Georgian conflict looks a lot like Iraq.
The Georgian problem is extremely complex and there is no arguing that they have internal problems of a military, economic nature. But there are also internal political challenges that threaten their nation’s survival and continuity. Russia’s designs on Georgia are reportedly rooted in their desire to control oil assets as well as a desire to begin an ideological march to reconstitute a thriving communist political ideal in Georgia. It must also be noted that there are substantial pro Russian regions and elements in the Republic of Georgia that fuel the internal storm and which are threatening political stability. All of this and the tiny fledgling nation is not a member of any major world body. That would have been a significant deterrent at this point. As it is, they are on their own with only the verbal promise of support by the U.S.
For the first time in a very long time the United States is forced to seek diplomatic solutions and answers to problems and questions that our leadership has not previously considered. Many lessons may be potentially learned. It is not enough to simply call a nation an ally. It is not enough to say that you have looked into the soul of a man. It is not enough to make hollow public statements of support. Undertaking diplomatic initiatives with both friendly and aggressive nations requires interaction and communication. There must be intense focus on geopolitical flashpoints along with anticipated peaceful and military resolution scenarios. We should never be unprepared to assist an ally and we should never “again” be caught napping when conflict threatens. We should never have to turn our back on a fledgling ally seeking to strengthen their democracy because we failed to build adequate diplomatic bridges. Or worse, we sought to destroy them. And finally, we should never be without the ability to defend that which we are committed to upholding.
The timing of the Georgian conflict is shockingly uncanny. There is no time for the current President to adequately address the situation in that region and certainly no time to repair his diplomatic image. Perhaps a focus on a new era world is in order now.
The United States has peaceful status of forces agreement with numerous nations and troops on the ground in numerous nations around the globe (Cuba, Germany, Korea, Japan, Italy and Spain) to name a few, along with two raging wars. Maybe, it is time to reevaluate the perceived or institutionalized necessity to have thousands of our troops scattered around the world. And maybe it is time to energize global diplomatic initiatives and coalitions that are strong and bound by trust and responsibility as well as momentary and military resources. We must move into the diplomatic 21st Century. We must do things differently.
Today we are faced with the worst case scenario of selecting “diplomacy by necessity” in dealing with the Republic of Georgia conflict. We have yielded the position of power do to lack of foresight and unprepared ness. We are issuing hollow threats to the Russians and humble appeals for support to tepid allies. We are no longer the lead dog and the Russians are thumbing their noses at us. Just as we thumbed ours at the world not so long ago in the Middle East. If America is to again be viewed as the leader of the free world, then America must fully appreciate the importance of an ongoing “program of diplomacy” as a vital geopolitical tool. The reactionary alternative is “diplomacy by necessity”. You can judge for yourself how that’s working for us.
Had we been ready, we could have helped them. In furthering the cause of freedom and democracy, it would have been nice to have had that option.
L. A. Walker, © Leon A. Walker