Paul Berman's long posting yesterday on the implications of the Russian invasion of Georgia and of its threats to other independent countries is provoking serious thought and heated argument in many places, some high places, and some fundamentally irrelevant ones, too. It is, of course, a challenge to liberals and to Democrats who would prefer that some domestic tsunami occur so that American eyes are deflected from the enormity of Putin's actions. I know that many folk will prefer to point fingers at Bush -- this mistake and that -- but the fact is that Moscow has acted in the last two weeks in a continuous and logical extension from its aggressive politics over the last few years.
Seven years ago in Ljubljana, Bush told the press that "I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straight-forward and trustworthy." How nice.
Well, Putin is neither straight-forward nor trustworthy. And neither are his interlocutors.
The ramifications of his actions are ugly, and they will expose themselves to stark daylight as time goes on. Imagine for a moment that the United States has mounted an attack on Mexico or Cuba, truly an unimaginable act. What would Nancy Pelosi say? Or Harry Reid?
Europe has spoken with forked tongue, and it will be some time before we'll really know what it means. You can count on the Brits, though...and the Central and Eastern Europeans. I'd even be willing to wager on France, although it was Sarkozy who wrote the document behind which Putin has hidden the injustice of what will be his long sojourn near warm ports, Russia's historical justification for aggression against its neighbors.
There has also been a reaction in the Middle East. Hamas has endorsed Russian actions. And Syria has offered to station Russian ships in its waters and Russian missiles on its territory. Syria? Really?
The very Syria which the Middle East optimists had just yesterday seen as making peace with Israel. Wizen up, ladies and gentleman. Syria has what it wants: Lebanon, Iranian arms, and warm water ports for Russia on the Mediterranean, if Russia pays enough in hostility to Israel, Saudi Arabia, Jordan...