Russia Archives

From Russia, With Love

  • Russia taking over Crimea.
  • Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia worried about the same thing happening to them.
  • Russian forces massing on the border of Ukraine.

No, this is not the opening scene of some pre-World-War-2 movie; it’s history from the past couple of weeks. But during the Cold War, Russia had control of all of these under the umbrella of the Soviet Union.

In the 1980s, President Ronald Reagan set out to defeat – not just contain, as his predecessors has done, but defeat – the Soviet Union. He succeeded. His detractors said, and continue to say, that he got lucky; that the Soviet Union was going to collapse under its own weight anyway, and it just coincidentally happened on his watch. But Reagan was the first President to actively try to bring it down. That it happened right after this attempt is a cause & effect that is extremely rare in geopolitical affairs. And those he liberated – from places already mentioned as well as Poland and other former eastern Bloc nations – certainly give him that credit. And he did it without causing a nuclear World War 3, which those detractors predicted.

A huge foreign policy success in the 1980s liberated millions and kept them free. Understanding the world as it was – not being afraid of the Soviets, but projecting strength to keep them at bay – set the stage for their downfall. And understanding today’s world as it is, is absolutely required in order to deal with the foreign policy challenges of today. But our current President doesn’t recognize what’s going on right in front of him. Here’s an excerpt from one of the debates he had with challenger Mitt Romney

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T1409sXBleg

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    Our Leaders: Stupid Crocodiles

    Reflect a moment on the Olympics, the US and many Western leaders have decided “not to attend”, Google followed suit with a rainbow Olympic rings display, and publicly gay (privately … who knows) stuffed shirts were sent as part of the US delegation and many others. This was supposedly in response to how Russia is perceived to deal with public homosexuality.

    Consider the following. Make an honest list of the top 10 economic, liberty, social, legal, and cultural issues facing the Russian people and the Russian Federation today. Order these by which have the highest priority and will do the greatest good. If you are honest (and I will charitably assume that is the case), gay rights did not appear on the list. Extend it to 20. Gosh. Still not there. In fact, I’d be willing to bet, if you put the time and effort it that gay rights might not even (if you are honest) make the top 100.

    So …. why is that a putative issue for our leaders? Could it be because all politics is local and this is a safe way of pretending to do something about gay issues in their country without having to actually, you know, do anything about those issues? Crocodile tears all around.

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      So Much For the "Reset Button"

      The problem with pretending everything is OK with Russian relations is that Russian politicians just don’t like to be criticized, especially by their own people. And they’ll find anyone to blame it on.

      Prime Minister Vladimir Putin strongly criticized U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Thursday, accusing her of encouraging and funding Russians protesting election fraud, and warned of a wider Russian crackdown on dissent.

      By describing Russia’s parliamentary election as rigged, Putin said Clinton "gave a signal" to his opponents.

      "They heard this signal and with the support of the U.S. State Department began their active work," Putin said in televised remarks. He said the United States is spending "hundreds of millions" of dollars to influence Russian politics with the aim of weakening a rival nuclear power.

      Putin’s tough words show the deep cracks in U.S.-Russian ties despite President Barack Obama’s efforts to "reset" relations with the Kremlin. Ahead of the election, President Dmitry Medvedev threatened to deploy missiles to target the U.S. missile shield in Europe if Washington failed to assuage Moscow’s concerns about its plans.

      Clinton has repeatedly criticized Sunday’s parliamentary vote in Russia, saying "Russian voters deserve a full investigation of electoral fraud and manipulation."

      Tell the truth to the Russians, get blamed for everything. Obama naïvely blamed Bush for…well, just about everything. But the fact is, Russian relations have very little to do with being nice to them or presenting toy reset buttons.

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        Credit Where Credit is Due

        Whenever I try to give credit to Ronald Reagan for participating in the fall of the Soviet Union, I often hear that its fall was an inevitability, and it just so happened to occur on Reagan’s watch. I have to point out to them that Reagan was the first President to come along with an intent to defeat communism, not just contain it. And then to have the Soviet Union defeated "on his watch", with nary a nuke dropped, is one of those "coincidences" you don’t often see in politics; where the effect so closely mirrors the cause.

        Interestingly, some of those who say the fall of communism was inevitable weren’t around when it happened. I was. And so was Lech Walesa.

        Lech Walesa said that there would not be a free Poland without Ronald Reagan, during the unveiling of a statue in Warsaw of the late American president on Monday.

        The former Solidarity leader said that “as a participant in these events,” it was “inconceivable” that such changes would have come about without the last American president during the post-1945 cold-war era.

        Walesa added that thirty years ago, it seemed that the fall of the communist system would not be possible without a nuclear war.

        Reagan stood strongly, and very publicly, with Poland against the Soviets. This was not an appeasing President. The Soviet Union was wrong and evil, and Reagan was not afraid to call it that, to the consternation of so many American liberals. (Just ask if, after Reagan walked out of the Reykjavik summit, if they thought nuclear war was a distinct possibility.) Lech Walesa agreed, and understood that history could just as easily played out very differently, if Reagan had not believed that victory was possible.

        Let’s give credit where credit is due. Poland certainly is.

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          Must Be All That Smart Diplomacy

          After supposedly "resetting" relations between the US and Russia, the Russians seem to not have gotten the message.

          In the past four years, Russia’s intelligence services have stepped up a campaign of intimidation and dirty tricks against U.S. officials and diplomats in Russia and the countries that used to form the Soviet Union.

          U.S. diplomats and officials have found their homes broken into and vandalized, or altered in ways as trivial as bathroom use; faced anonymous or veiled threats; and in some cases found themselves set up in compromising photos or videos that are later leaked to the local press and presented as a sex scandal.

          “The point was to show that ‘we can get to you where you sleep,’ ” one U.S. intelligence officer told The Washington Times. “It’s a psychological kind of attack.”

          Despite a stated policy from President Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev of warm U.S.-Russian ties, the campaign of intelligence intimidation – or what the CIA calls “direct action” – has persisted throughout what both sides have called a “reset” in the relations.

          They have become worse in just the past year, some U.S. officials said. Also, their targets are broadening to include human rights workers and nongovernmental organizations as well as embassy staff.

          Presenting a toy "reset button" is no diplomacy. Understanding who America’s enemies are, is. Indeed, we must try to get them to understand a mutual benefit, but the promise of the Obama administration has fallen flat.

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            A Clear Look Into the Soviet Union. >yawn<

            Betsy Newmark notes the collective disinterest in new documents that give us a much better look into the waning day of the former Soviet Union.

            This is amazing stuff: Claire Berlinski reports on documents smuggled out of Russia about the last years of the Cold War. These are documents from Gorbachev’s own files and are an amazing treasure trove of notes from his meetings with foreign dignitaries and from the Central Committee of the Communist Party. Simply fascinating stuff. But no western publisher seems to be interested in publishing any of this.

            Why wouldn’t western researchers and publishers be interested in documents containing such tidbits as Gorbachev’s response to the Chinese killing dissidents in Tiananmen Square? Maybe they don’t like the real story of how he just shrugged it off. Or his laughter at the news of the Soviets shooting down a Korean jetliner.

            The press and the Left in this country were apologists for the Soviet Union, very nearly lionizing Gorbachev.  So it’s no wonder that this is not getting more notice in the network news.  Again, it’s all about the narrative (and not wanting to be shown to be horribly wrong about them).  And not only the US press but the European press as well which, again, were all too ready to seek the USSR’s approval rather than take the hard positions on what was right.

            (This is the same press/Left/Europe that freaked out when Reagan stood up to the Communists and set in motion their downfall soon after.)

            Betsy has more, and Clair Berlinski has lots more.  And you gotta’ wonder if "USSR" was replaced by "Nazis", whether this would be equally as ignored.

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              Political Cartoon: Enemies and Allies

              From Michael Ramirez (click for a larger version):

              Michael Ramirez

              Treating your enemies better than your allies doesn’t seem to be working, for either our enemies or our allies. 

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                Feel-Good Diplomacy

                How’s that working out for President Obama?  Charles Krauthammer takes a look back at the past nine months and ticks off this administration’s biggest foreign policy initiatives.

                What’s come from Obama holding his tongue while Iranian demonstrators were being shot and from his recognizing the legitimacy of a thug regime illegitimately returned to power in a fraudulent election? Iran cracks down even more mercilessly on the opposition and races ahead with its nuclear program.

                What’s come from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton taking human rights off the table on a visit to China and from Obama’s shameful refusal to see the Dalai Lama (a postponement, we are told)? China hasn’t moved an inch on North Korea, Iran or human rights. Indeed, it’s pushing with Russia to dethrone the dollar as the world’s reserve currency.

                What’s come from the new-respect-for-Muslims Cairo speech and the unprecedented pressure on Israel for a total settlement freeze? "The settlement push backfired," reports The Post, and Arab-Israeli peace prospects have "arguably regressed."

                And what’s come from Obama’s single most dramatic foreign policy stroke — the sudden abrogation of missile defense arrangements with Poland and the Czech Republic that Russia had virulently opposed? For the East Europeans it was a crushing blow, a gratuitous restoration of Russian influence over a region that thought it had regained independence under American protection.

                But maybe not gratuitous. Surely we got something in return for selling out our friends. Some brilliant secret trade-off to get strong Russian support for stopping Iran from going nuclear before it’s too late? Just wait and see, said administration officials, who then gleefully played up an oblique statement by President Dmitry Medvedev a week later as vindication of the missile defense betrayal.

                The Russian statement was so equivocal that such a claim seemed a ridiculous stretch at the time. Well, Clinton went to Moscow this week to nail down the deal. What did she get?

                "Russia Not Budging on Iran Sanctions; Clinton Unable to Sway Counterpart." Such was The Post headline’s succinct summary of the debacle.

                Note how thoroughly Clinton was rebuffed. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov declared that "threats, sanctions and threats of pressure" are "counterproductive." Note: It’s not just sanctions that are worse than useless, but even the threat of mere pressure.

                There’s more; read the whole thing(tm).  Now granted, nine months is not time enough to make great strides.  Heck, it’s barely enough time to win a "peace" prize.  But if the world has a collective thrill up its leg over the election of He Who Is Not Bush, it’s having a difficult time showing it. 

                As I noted 3 years ago, the facade is just that; a false front.  Goodwill was not squandered because little of it was there in the first place.  The world is just as difficult to work with now as it has ever been, especially for those European leftists who keep trying to remake American in their image, those radical Islamists who hatched a massive terrorist attack plan while we had a Democrat in the White House, and a Russian government deeply paranoid of America, no matter who is in power.

                Fine oratory, promises, and a medal given because of them, will not change the world.  There are too many enemies out there that will be placated only by a credible threat of force.  The more credible the threat, the less likely it is that it need be used. 

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                  Sometimes, You Need a Cowboy

                  So how’s all that "capitulate to their demands and get them on our side" plan going?  Not so well, apparently.

                  Denting President Obama’s hopes for a powerful ally in his campaign to press Iran on its nuclear program, Russia’s foreign minister said Tuesday that threatening Tehran now with harsh new sanctions would be “counterproductive.”

                  The minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, said after meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton here that diplomacy should be given a chance to work, particularly after a meeting in Geneva this month in which the Iranian government said it would allow United Nations inspectors to visit its clandestine nuclear enrichment site near the holy city of Qum.

                  “At the current stage, all forces should be thrown at supporting the negotiating process,” he said. “Threats, sanctions and threats of pressure in the current situation, we are convinced, would be counterproductive.”

                  Mr. Lavrov’s resistance was striking given that, just three weeks before, President Dmitri A. Medvedev said that “in some cases, sanctions are inevitable.” American officials had hailed that statement as a sign that Russia was finally coming around to the Obama administration’s view that Iran is best handled with diplomacy backed by a credible threat of sanctions.

                  It also came after the Obama administration announced that it would retool a European missile defense system fiercely opposed by Russia. That move was thought to have paid dividends for the White House when Mr. Medvedev appeared to throw his support behind Mr. Obama on Iran, though American officials say the Russian president was also likely to have been reacting to the disclosure of the secret nuclear site near Qum.

                  See, if Iran gets a nuke, it’s highly unlikely that Russia will ever be a target, given how close these two have worked in the past.  So Obama, instead of proving his Jedi diplomacy skills, got played instead.  Apparently, Medvedev is immune to those Jedi mind tricks.

                  Even Obama’s supporter in the punditocracy are complaining about this administration’s efforts.

                  And, no, Obama hasn’t reset the American relationship with Russia. He was taken for a ride. Maybe his vanity won’t let him admit it. But, believe me, the Russians know they have taken him (and us) for a big ride, indeed.

                  Here are the facts:

                  After Obama agreed to cancel the missile defense program for Poland and the Czech Republic, the president got Moscow to give him an inch. Maybe, they said, we’d have to move on tougher measures against Iran if Tehran doesn’t satisfy us on its nukes. “Hallelujah!” said the president and his entourage.

                  All of this good cheer is now over. Lavrov greeted Clinton in Moscow with the bad news: “At the current stage, all forces should be thrown at supporting the negotiating process. … Threats, sanctions and threats of pressure in the current situation, we are convinced, would be counterproductive.”

                  Just before Hillary arrived in Moscow, she warned that America was impatient. With whom? With the Iranians, of course. But her impatience with Tehran will be useless unless we get impatient with Russia.

                  “We did not ask for anything today,” she said. “We reviewed the situation and where it stood, which I think was the appropriate timing for what this process entails.”

                  Of course, if you don’t ask, you don’t get. In fact, with the Russians, if you don’t demand and threaten a little, you get zero.

                  As history has shown us.  No, not everybody can be trusted, reasoned with or impressed upon.  Sometimes you just gotta’ be the cowboy.  They may complain about it and say they don’t like us, but being liked by the rest of the world shouldn’t really be a main goal of US diplomacy. 

                  That’s what Nobel "Peace" Prizes are for.

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                    Can Diplomacy Fail?

                    The answer is "Yes", but when it does, this is not necessarily a failure of those trying to prevent conflict.  At times, this is simply a result of the motivations of the belligerent. 

                    In response to my post about the delusions of negotiating with Iran, commenter Dan Trabue responded with why negotiation and pressure should be able to convince Iran not to go nuclear, and if it didn’t then it was a failing on our part.  If we go to war, it is an admission of failure on our part "that we’ve failed to outsmart this particular unreasonable leader."

                    I disagree.  Let’s look at some major cases.

                    Saddam Hussein had been negotiated with for decades.  Not even the first Gulf War was enough to keep him back.  Iraq regularly fired at coalition planes enforcing the No-Fly zone after the liberation of Kuwait (a country, by the way, that we liberated even though they had been a close ally of the Soviets and were extremely anti-Israel).  The UN and most Western governments (and in the US, both Democrats and Republicans) believed that Hussein was hiding WMDs.  He hindered UN weapons inspectors.  The threat of war from the US didn’t even move him.  This was a madman bent on both personal power and funding anti-Semitism.  There was nothing to give him that would take away those desires. 

                    Let’s go back a little further…

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                      On Mending Our Fences in the World

                      Supposedly, George W. Bush squandered all the goodwill we got from the world as a result of the 9/11 attacks.  Enemies became friends, the uncooperative became helpful, and all was right with the world, until Bush screwed it up.  What is forgotten in all of this is that those that opposed us before 9/11 opposed us after it too, with a brief fair-weather friendship in between.  Nothing was actually squandered because nothing was actually gained, other than a brief facade that apparently many fell for.

                      Of course, when places like France started electing people more aligned to the Right, suddenly actual cooperation with the US was back, but this time the Left ignored it.  The narrative was already in place.  The Iraq war was "unilateral", except for the dozens of other countries helping out.  The world hates us now, except that those countries pretty much hated us before, too.  Going after terrorists, their enablers, and, oh yeah, a Ba’athist that had continually broken the terms of his cease-fire despite dozens of harshly-worded UN resolutions; that pushed the world away.

                      News flash; they were never really close enough to us to be pushed.  It was all an optical illusion.

                      But now we have a President who says he wants to mend our fences with the world, and get them to like us again.  He’s made some speeches that got huge crowds, which is all very nice.  But what is he doing to bring people back to loving the US?

                      This:

                      WARSAW, Poland – Poles and Czechs voiced deep concern Friday at President Barack Obama’s decision to scrap a Bush-era missile defense shield planned for their countries.

                      "Betrayal! The U.S. sold us to Russia and stabbed us in the back," the Polish tabloid Fakt declared on its front page.

                      Polish President Lech Kaczynski said he was concerned that Obama’s new strategy leaves Poland in a dangerous "gray zone" between Western Europe and the old Soviet sphere.

                      Recent events in the region have rattled nerves throughout central and eastern Europe, a region controlled by Moscow during the Cold War, including the war last summer between Russia and Georgia and ongoing efforts by Russia to regain influence in Ukraine. A Russian cutoff of gas to Ukraine last winter left many Europeans without heat.

                      [...]

                      An editorial in Hospodarske Novine, a respected pro-business Czech newspaper, said: "an ally we rely on has betrayed us, and exchanged us for its own, better relations with Russia, of which we are rightly afraid."

                      The move has raised fears in the two nations they are being marginalized by Washington even as a resurgent Russia leaves them longing for added American protection.

                      The Bush administration always said that the planned system — with a radar near Prague and interceptors in northern Poland — was meant as defense against Iran. But Poles and Czechs saw it as protection against Russia, and Moscow too considered a military installation in its backyard to be a threat.

                      "No Radar. Russia won," the largest Czech daily, Mlada Fronta Dnes, declared in a front-page headline.

                      Say what you want about Bush, but he went after those with designs on killing us.  Obama is supposedly mending fences by ticking off our allies, in order to not offend a nuclear Russia. 

                      Why should Russia be offended at a missile shield in eastern Europe if they really have no designs on it?  How is this, as they claim, a security threat or political provocation?  How is that an affront, especially when the International Atomic Energy Agency believes that Iran has (not "will have" but "has") the knowledge to make a nuclear bomb, which is arguably the most significant part of the process. 

                      But never mind allies who may need protection from a rogue state, we need to make sure Russia doesn’t get its feelings hurt.  The replacement?

                      Obama said the old plan was scrapped in part because the U.S. has concluded that Iran is less focused on developing the kind of long-range missiles for which the system was originally developed, making the building of an expensive new shield unnecessary.

                      The replacement system is to link smaller radar systems with a network of sensors and missiles that could be deployed at sea or on land. Some of the weaponry and sensors are ready now, and the rest would be developed over the next 10 years.

                      The Pentagon contemplates a system of perhaps 40 missiles by 2015, at two or three sites across Europe.

                      Because after all, 10 years is certainly not enough time for Iran to come up with a delivery system for a nuke, right?  Right? 

                      And this all begs a couple of questions; if Russia doesn’t like the system that was to be implemented, who’s to say that they’ll like the new one, and will Obama scrap this new idea if the Russians don’t like it? 

                      Way to mend those fences. 

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                        Is This "Making the World Like Us Again"?

                        The blog "Stop the ACLU" has a run-down of just the recent cases of countries doing things in a manner that doesn’t exactly say they like us again.  Cuba and Venezuela opening up their airfields to Russian bombers.  Ecuador (Ecuador!) expelling US diplomats for the second time this month.  Iran continues its nuclear ambitions (and blames economic isolation for their pushback).  North Korea threatens to test a ballistic that some believe could hit the US west coast. 

                        Hillary Clinton did, however, use the strongest possible terms to denounce that missile test, saying that such a launch would be "very unhelpful". 

                        Yeah, that’ll teach ‘em.

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                          Regarding the recent invasion of Russian forces into Georgia, Rod Dreher links to Fred Kaplan. Kaplan states,

                          Bush pressed the other NATO powers to place Georgia’s application for membership on the fast track. The Europeans rejected the idea, understanding the geo-strategic implications of pushing NATO’s boundaries right up to Russia’s border. If the Europeans had let Bush have his way, we would now be obligated by treaty to send troops in Georgia’s defense. That is to say, we would now be in a shooting war with the Russians. Those who might oppose entering such a war would be accused of “weakening our credibility” and “destroying the unity of the Western alliance.”

                          Dreher states,

                          To be fair, refusing to defend a NATO country that had come under attack would weaken the credibility of the alliance. But of course it would be insane to get into a shooting war with Russia — which still has nuclear weapons — to defend Georgia. This is why Bush had no business leading the Georgians on with this kind of crazy talk…

                          As repellent as I find the prospect of an Obama presidency, the idea of hotheaded John McCain sitting in the Oval Office now trying to figure out how to deal with a newly aggressive Russia makes me extremely nervous — this, to the extent that a McCain administration, on national security and foreign policy, represents a third Bush term.

                          Maybe Dreher and Kaplan should spray some Windex on their crystal balls.

                          The way I see it, the Russians not only see us as resource-stretched (and rightly so), what with our commitments to Afghanistan and Iraq, but they also see a lame-duck president.

                          More importantly, however, I think that they view the American people’s will as weak, and that their own fortune-tellers are envisioning an upcoming administration chock-full of platitudes, yet devoid of substance.

                          Notice that many of the complaints and criticisms of the way we’re handling the global war on terror link back to 20th century modes of thinking. Comparisons are made to Vietnam, the Cold War, NATO, etc. The problem is, we aren’t living in the 20th century. There is no Soviet Bloc, we aren’t on the verge of nuclear annihilation and, for the most part, we aren’t facing an enemy clothed in identifiable uniforms.

                          In Rethinking Russia on Terrorism Issues, Douglas Farah states,

                          …Russia is set on selling weapons to those who want very badly to hurt us, and who buy their weapons with the stated purpose of using them for that.

                          Everyone sells weapons, and yes, the United States plays in the game. But Russia’s willingness to arm non-state actors and states that are facing international sanction is qualitatively different.

                          This is the world we face, in the 21st century.

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                            Moral Authority II

                            Matthew Yglesias:

                            Watch in amazement as John McCain condemns Russia for having the temerity to cross an international boundary — “in the 21st century, nations don’t invade other nations.”

                            We all recall, of course, John McCain’s outrage when the United States violated this rule back in 2003.

                            So James Taranto’s prediction has quickly come true.  Which got me wondering; how many dozen UN resolutions does it take before an invasion is OK by international standards, and how many resolutions was Russia enforcing when it invaded the Republic of Georgia?

                            [tags]Mathew Yglesias,John McCain,Russia,James Taranto,Best of the Web Today,United Nations,Republic of Georgia[/tags]

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                              Moral Authority

                              James Taranto, writing for the Wall St. Journal, tried to anticipate an argument by anti-war types:

                              Here’s what’s going to happen next: Someone will argue that America lacks the "moral standing" to oppose Russian intervention in Georgia, because we intervened in Iraq "without U.N. approval." When the U.S. liberated Iraq, of course, it was acting to enforce the Security Council’s own resolutions. So America’s acting to overcome U.N. fecklessness will be invoked as an excuse for Russia’s unprovoked violation of another country’s sovereignty. U.N. idolatry runs counter to the U.N.’s own purported reason for existing.

                              As blogger TigerHawk notes, though, they may not ever make that argument because they won’t have much of anything to say.  After checking off the many groups that have nothing to say about it (and crediting the one that did), he concludes:

                              So far, at least, it is safe to conclude that these organizations are not so much anti-war as they are anti-American and anti-Israeli. It is useful to clear that up.

                              Since that post, two sites have said at least something about it.  Democracy Now has conducted an interview with a retired Air Force Colonel about the history in the region.  The Stop the War Coalition has an opinion piece that essentially states that Georgia is as much to blame for the conflict.  But there is still basically no real outrage.  Pretty much all quiet on the anti-war front.  And if the only wars that they are against, or even bother to work up a sweat about, are those involving the US or Israel, then I’d say they need to relabel themselves or lose their own moral authority.

                              [tags]moral authority,anti-war,Democracy Now,Stop the War Coalition,James Taranto,Best of the Web Today[/tags]

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