Russia’s splendid little war

Writing in the feverish runup to the Iraq war, the National Review‘s Jonah Goldberg endorsed the following foreign-policy doctrine, which he attributed to his colleague Michael Ledeen: Every ten years or so, the United States needs to pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world ...

Writing in the feverish runup to the Iraq war, the National Review's Jonah Goldberg endorsed the following foreign-policy doctrine, which he attributed to his colleague Michael Ledeen:

Every ten years or so, the United States needs to pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business."

This was never a wise prescription for U.S. policy, but it is a remarkably apt description of what Russia just did to Georgia.

Writing in the feverish runup to the Iraq war, the National Review‘s Jonah Goldberg endorsed the following foreign-policy doctrine, which he attributed to his colleague Michael Ledeen:

Every ten years or so, the United States needs to pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business."

This was never a wise prescription for U.S. policy, but it is a remarkably apt description of what Russia just did to Georgia.

Could Russia have responded to Georgia’s assault on South Ossetia in a more measured way? Sure. But from Vladimir Putin’s perspective, this was a great opportunity to teach Georgia a lesson and encourager les autres along its periphery. And by shutting the operation day just a few days in, Russia has probably avoided a coherent, punitive Western response.

Over the long term, certainly, Europe and the United States will eye Russia with much greater suspicion. And this war is certainly going to strengthen the Russia hawks, who see their views vindicated.

Inside Russia, it is a victory for the cold warriors and a huge embarrassment for Dmitry Medvedev, who was finally exposed this weekend as a Potemkin president when Putin visibly took charge of the situation. That could doom Medvedev’s efforts to crack down on corruption and promote the rule of law — vital reforms that would ultimately do more good for Russia than any amount of mucking around in the former Soviet Union.

The question now is: Will Russia overreach? Fresh off their blitzkrieg victory in Georgia, will Putin & co. try to stir up fresh troubles in the Crimea? What kind of punishment will they try and mete out to Poland and the Baltic states for supporting Georgia? To the Czech Republic? We can only wait and see.

More from Foreign Policy

A worker cuts the nose off the last Ukraine's Tupolev-22M3, the Soviet-made strategic aircraft able to carry nuclear weapons at a military base in Poltava, Ukraine on Jan. 27, 2006. A total of 60 aircraft were destroyed  according to the USA-Ukrainian disarmament agreement.
A worker cuts the nose off the last Ukraine's Tupolev-22M3, the Soviet-made strategic aircraft able to carry nuclear weapons at a military base in Poltava, Ukraine on Jan. 27, 2006. A total of 60 aircraft were destroyed according to the USA-Ukrainian disarmament agreement.

Why Do People Hate Realism So Much?

The school of thought doesn’t explain everything—but its proponents foresaw the potential for conflict over Ukraine long before it erupted.

Employees watch a cargo ship at a port in China, which is experiencing an economic downturn.
Employees watch a cargo ship at a port in China, which is experiencing an economic downturn.

China’s Crisis of Confidence

What if, instead of being a competitor, China can no longer afford to compete at all?

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell testifies in the U.S. Senate in Washington on Sept. 24, 2020.
Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell testifies in the U.S. Senate in Washington on Sept. 24, 2020.

Why This Global Economic Crisis Is Different

This is the first time since World War II that there may be no cooperative way out.

Chinese President Xi Jinping (left) and Premier Li Keqiang applaud at the closing session of the National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 11.
Chinese President Xi Jinping (left) and Premier Li Keqiang applaud at the closing session of the National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 11.

China Is Hardening Itself for Economic War

Beijing is trying to close economic vulnerabilities out of fear of U.S. containment.