08/16/08 — Why care about Georgia: Russian aggression could be sign of things to come

View Archive

Why care about Georgia: Russian aggression could be sign of things to come

Want to know why you should care what Georgia does and how Russia responds to it?

There is an obvious reason, of course. Brutal put-downs of
Democratic-leaning nations' attempts to assert their rights to
self-government are never a good sign for future peace and prosperity
for anyone.

And when there are such insurrections, and they attract international
attention, they are a catalyst for even more arguments that could lead
to the need for action -- and more work for this nation's military.

But even more of a concern than that is what tests like this say about
the future of the United States and the type of leader we want to
entrust with its protection and direction.

Russia chose to disproportionately react to the Georgian uprising for
many reasons. The first, and most obvious, is the opening of the
Beijing Olympics. The international community's distraction with this
gathering of countries in a friendly competition -- and the $300 million
spectacle of the opening ceremonies -- seemed to mitigate the response
from the world, or to at least slow its reaction time.

The other reason is that this nation that has long been in the shadow
of the U.S. is now trying out its boundaries -- not just as a major
player in the international world of diplomacy, but to see how serious
the U.S. is about making sure its allies and uneasy "friends" adhere to
the rules of engagement.

In other words, Russia is pushing to see just how strong the U.S. still
is and how much its leadership will allow just to keep the protesters
at home quiet. That's what happens when you deal with a nation state
that handles criticism with gulags and more serious consequences. They
consider leaders who worry about public opinion weak.

You hear a lot these days about the United States' reputation in the
international community -- how we are viewed as a nation by Europe and
the Middle East as well as other nations of the world.

Those who want to change this nation's rules of engagement say its
leadership needs to hold out more olive branches and to reel in the
hawks. They say diplomacy will work and should be our first choice.
They say we need to temper our response to challenges and to work to
avoid conflict at all costs.

And that is exactly what we shouldn't do -- and why we should be careful
about putting anyone in office who wants us to acquiesce rather than to
stand strong even when it is not a popular choice.

Being a strong nation doesn't require the United States to start
military action everywhere or to become an international bully. It
requires us to be able to let others know that we have principles that
we are willing to defend and that we will continue to fight for others
who cannot stand up for themselves.

That is the same sense of duty that led this nation into two world wars and why so many still turn here for help and leadership.

It is a legacy of strength, honor and respect.

Georgia and Russia is a warning -- a look ahead to challenges that might
be coming in the future. It is also a chance to think about what "a new
American policy" really means and to decide what kind of America we
want to be.

Published in Editorials on August 16, 2008 11:30 PM