August 14, 2008

"Syncronized Self-Loathing"

Gerard Baker of the TimesOnline, on Western hand-wringing, and the promise of more of the same as the EU rises.

To some, China's muscular domination of the Olympic medal table is a powerful allegory of the shifting balance of global power. A far better and more literal testimony to the collapse of the West may be seen in the distinctly weak-kneed response to Russian aggression in Georgia by what is still amusingly called the transatlantic alliance.

Once again, the Europeans, and their friends in the pusillanimous wing of the US Left, have demonstrated that, when it come to those postmodern Olympian sports of synchronized self-loathing, team hand-wringing and lightweight posturing, they know how to sweep gold, silver and bronze.

There's a routine now whenever some unspeakable act of aggression is visited upon us or our allies by murderous fanatics or authoritarian regimes. While the enemy takes a victory lap, we compete in a shameful medley relay of apologetics, defeatism and surrender.

The initial reaction is almost always self-blame and an expression of sympathetic explanation for the aggressor's actions. In the Russian case this week, the conventional wisdom is that Moscow was provoked by the hot-headed President Saakashvili of Georgia. It was really all his fault, we are told.
Vladimir Putin's mastery checkmates the West.

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Nicolas Sarkozy, the French President, in his capacity as head pro tempore of the EU, came back from a trip to Moscow and Tbilisi, waving a piece of paper and acclaiming peace in our time.

But the one-sided ceasefire that he negotiated was more or less dictated to him by Mr Putin. It not only left the Russian military in place in the disputed enclaves. It allowed them free rein to continue operations inside the rest of Georgia.

That disastrous piece of European diplomacy finally seems to have stirred the US into tougher action. Goaded by John McCain, who has been brilliantly resolute in his measure of Russian intentions over the past few years, the Bush Administration at last dropped its credulous embrace of Mr Putin and upped the ante with direct military assistance to Georgia and threats of tougher diplomatic action.

But we should never forget what Mr Sarkozy and his EU officials got up to this week. There can be no clearer indication of the perils that threaten the West if the EU gets its way and wins more clout in the world.

This, remember, is the same EU that wants to take over foreign and security policy from member states, an institution that is always eager to pump itself up at the expense of democratic institutions in those member states, but which crumbles into puny submission when faced with authoritarian bullying overseas.

See also Daniel Henninger in the WSJ

It's worth noting that like Mr. Saakashvili, a Columbia Law graduate who came to the U.S. from Georgia on a State Department Muskie Fellowship, many of his young ministers were schooled at places like Duke, Southern Methodist, Indiana or in Tel Aviv, Israel.

Surely many such foreign students must ponder the evident success of the U.S. The young Georgians did.

They returned to Tbilisi and with Mr. Saakashvili began to erect, piece by piece, a political, economic and financial system that could plug itself smoothly into the ones already running in the West.

On balance, they've succeeded. Growth last year was about 12%. Foreign investment flows have been high.

Much of what they did to make Georgia fit with the world seems pedestrian. They passed laws to enhance property rights. They joined international conventions and institutions affecting arbitration, accounting and ownership. They changed their securities law so corporate insiders couldn't expropriate minority investors. They have pursued free-trade agreements with their regional trading partners. Naturally they want to join NATO. Georgia isn't John Locke's England yet -- the judicial system is notably weak -- but the trajectory is set.

In historical terms, this is essentially what Gen. Douglas MacArthur did for Japan after World War II and Konrad Adenauer did in West Germany. Both were explicit efforts to reorganize a nation to participate in the political and commercial life of the West. "The West," of course, is only a phrase that describes the civilized world's rules of the road during the postwar period. Russia opted out, adopting the Soviet gulag model until 1991.

Georgia is a microcosm of a world of nations now emerging from old systems. In that former, preglobalized world, the West's great powers were on top, and everyone else muddled below. What Georgia represents is an independent nation that has worked hard to be part of the established civilized order, rather than contribute to the chaotic and violent frictions that seem on the verge of constantly overwhelming the world. Putin's Russia is a manufacturer of frictions.

And Krauthammer has some ideas on things we can do about it.

Posted by dan at August 14, 2008 8:32 PM