August 13, 2008

The New Old War

Gary Brecher (aka The War Nerd) has been eXiled from his normal gig, but he?s still covering the latest war in the caucuses as only he can?observing, for instance, that so many of the war?s victims are really overweight:

?We?re the new normal, but damn, we sure are ugly casualties. Skinny people just look better sitting in rubble with bloody faces, I can?t lie.?

The Nerd then gets down to brass tacks (to borrow that hip new catchphrase I?ve been hearing on the campaign trail).

There are three basic facts to keep in mind about the smokin? little war in Ossetia:

1.  The Georgians started it.?
2.  They lost.
?3.  What a beautiful little war!

The Georgians bided their time, then went on the offensive, Caucasian style, by pretending to make peace and all the time planning a sneak attack on South Ossetia. They just signed a treaty granting autonomy to South Ossetia this week, and then they attacked. Georgian MLRS units barraged Tskhinvali, the capital city of South Ossetia; Georgian troops swarmed over Ossetian roadblocks; and all in all, it was a great, whiz-bang start, but like Petraeus asked about Iraq way back in 2003, what’s the ending to this story? As in: How do you invade territory that the Russians have staked out for protection without thinking about how they’ll react?

The problem was that Gerogian President Saakashvili had been doing a little too much cribbing from the Rumsfeld-Wolfowitz Way of War. 

Most likely the Georgians just thought the Russians wouldn’t react. They were doing something they learned from Bush and Cheney: sticking to best-case scenarios, positive thinking. The Georgian plan was classic shock and awe with no hard, grown-up thinking about the long term. Their shiny new army would go in, zap the South Ossetians while they were on a peace hangover (the worst kind), and then, uh, they’d be welcomed as liberators? Sure, just like we were in Iraq.

Man, you pay a price for believing in Bush. The Georgians did. They thought he’d help. And I just saw the little creep on TV, sitting in the stands watching the U.S.-China basketball game. I didn’t even recognize Bush at first; I just wondered why they kept doing close-ups of this guy who looked like Hank Hill’s legless dad up in the stands. Then they said it was the prez. They talk about people “growing in office”; well, he shrunk.


[T]he Georgians got so cocky from that success, and from their lovefest with the Bushies in D.C., that they thought they could take on anybody. What they’re in the process of finding out is that a light-infantry counterinsurgency force like the one we gave them isn’t much use when a gigantic Russian armored force has just rolled across your border.

At the turn of the century, there was a lot of theorizing about the rise of the global ?Market State? that would work with international institutions (or not) in intervening against non-state actors and solving humanitarian crises. It now seems more likely that the 21st century will witness the return of conventional warfare and old-fashioned border disputes. Realpolitik, and not ideological crusades or ?unipolarity,? will triumph. For the Nerd, whose taste for blood and guts exceeds mine, it?s the reappearance of the ?beautiful little war??with postmodern touches, like fatties plumped up on cola and imported Doritos flailing in rubble.   


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