Seven nail-biting thoughts as the Russian tanks roll by:
1) The damage has already been done. It is vast, and it is irreversible, at least for a long time to come. We have been living in the age of 1989--an age of democratic revolution. The damage is to those revolutions and their legacy.
The democratic revolutions came in three waves, each new wave weaker than the last. The earliest of revolutions, the velvet revolutions of 1989 itself, were a mighty tide, but the second wave needed a push. This turned out to be
The third wave, in the Middle East in 2005, proved to be feebler yet--set off once again by
The Cedar Revolution has undergone any number of setbacks since 2005, but one of the worst took place earlier this month. Hezbollah's militia won an official recognition within
And the tide rolls out.
2) The vast and irreversible effects of the invasion of
From atop those several foundations, the pro-Russia parties derive strength from a variety of physical threats: a threat of cyber-attack (already waged against Estonia on behalf of the Russian ethnic minority there, and, shortly before the invasion, against Georgia); a threat of a cut-off in gas supplies, which Russia has already wielded against Ukraine; and, more vaguely, a threat of murky political tension. Today, the pro-Russia parties in each of
The strengthening of the pro-Russia parties will be met, at first, by an increased hostility from the democratic parties--the genuinely democratic parties, and some of the not-so-genuine ones. Political tensions are therefore bound to rise all across the region, not just between the ex-bloc countries and
The greater the danger of violent attack on
3) The nature of the Iranian regime requires Europe as a whole to press
The potential of new and catastrophic wars in the
4) The invasion of
Today, any time some large group of people behaves in a way that defies a logical calculation of potential gains and losses, the people in question are said to be reacting to "humiliation," or what used to be called "ressentiment." Humiliation, though, taken as a political experience, exists only where it has been ideologically constructed, and not otherwise.
And yet, their fear is entirely doctrinal--which is to say, imaginary.
Why do the Russians indulge such an interpretation? It is an archaism. The mystery wrapped in an enigma is a bit of an antique. In any case, the current dominance of this kind of thinking may suggest that
5) American foreign policy since 1989 has rested in significant degree on one large proposition: the notion that
An American retreat from the principles of democratic solidarity will represent one more retreat in the face of the Russian invasion--the biggest retreat of all, ultimately.
6) The invasion of
To heap blame and contempt on the Bush administration is therefore a just, reasonable, and hygienic thing to do--but only for five minutes. On the sixth minute, which has already arrived, it will be necessary to come up with a response.
7) A simple, adequate, tit-for-tat response to
Barack Obama has lately been speaking of a "green economy." A new, combined foreign and energy policy will have to extend the same general concept. The new foreign policy will have to be, in one variant or another, a policy of "green democracy"--green, because fossil fuels have become the engine of reaction, all over the world; and democracy, because wars are sometimes about something, and the war in Georgia, for all the table-banging over the oppression of pro-Russia ethnic populations, is ultimately about the legacy of 1989.
Paul Berman, a contributing editor at The
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By Paul Berman