Wednesday, August 27, 2008


This is the same title of an excellent article that appeared in Newsweek two weeks ago. It was written immediately after Russia counterattacked Georgia.

The author, John Barry, carefully constructs his point using the lessons of history. He drew parallels with Hitler and Stalin's Soviet Union.

Nature abhors a vacuum and the United States has filled that void. Whether Americans like it or not, America, the most powerful country in the world, is also the world's top cop.

What if America does not live up to that role? Well, other powers will step into that void. Nature abhors a vacuum. This law of physics apparently applies to human affairs as well. Ignoring a problem does not make it go away. After you read excerpts of the article below, ask yourself how differently the future would have turned out if Hitler's early probing attempts were rebuffed strongly.

Let me quote the second, third, fourth, and fifth paragraphs of this article:
As those of a certain age will recall, "appeasement" encapsulated the determination of British governments of the 1930s to avoid war in Europe, even if it meant capitulating to the ever-increasing demands of Adolf Hitler. The nadir came in 1938, when British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain acceded to Hitler's demand to take over the western slice of Czechoslovakia—a dispute Chamberlain so derisively dismissed.

It is impossible to view the Russian onslaught against Georgia without these bloodstained memories rising to mind. In history, as the great French President Charles de Gaulle remarked—no doubt plagiarising someone else—the only constant is geography. And through centuries of European history the only constant has been that small countries, doomed by geography to lie between great powers, are destined to be the cockpit for their imperial ambitions. That's held true since the Low Countries' agony under Spanish power in the 1500s. And the lichen has not yet spread over the gravestones of Europe and America that mark the toll of the two European wars of the 20th century—both having their roots in struggles between rival empires to assert power over the luckless nations of central Europe.

This time, the cockpit lies further east. In the wake of the cold war, the West providentially summoned the nerve to push NATO eastward to incorporate the former Warsaw Pact vassals of the Soviet Union—presciently doing this while post-Soviet Russia was too weak to resist. But once Moscow got its breath back, anyone with historical wit could foresee a revived Russian push for influence in central Europe. Many argued against this NATO expansion, calling it "premature" and "sure to inflame Russia." The usual arguments. Those naysayers might now look at the Russian offensive in Georgia, and ponder how much greater this crisis would be had it involved, say, Poland or Hungary or the Czech Republic. At least central Europe is now under the umbrella of NATO Article 5 guarantees.

Instead, what we see are conflicts at the new margins of the West's sway: Ukraine, the Balkans, now Georgia. These conflicts have one common factor: a resurgent Russia determined to exploit local grievances to beat back Western influence—in shorthand, democracy—on its shrunken frontiers. Using, in all cases, precisely the argument (a Russian right to protect its citizens, in Serbia its co-religionists) that Hitler used in the 1930s. The Sudeten Czechs were Germans, after all. Just as the South Ossetians now are, well, sort of Russian—having at any rate been issued Russian passports.
Doesn't it make sense?

Click here to open a new web page or tab to read the original article.

The graphic came from here.

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