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Proving once again that politics no longer ends at the water's edge, Republican leaders and many in the media have been lambasting President Obama's response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. While the Washington Post editorial board charged that Obama's foreign policy is "based on fantasy," Senator John McCain and his Mini-Me Lindsey Graham (R-SC) called President Obama "feckless" and "weak and indecisive,"  an approach which "invites  aggression."

Predictably, the memories of the administration's critics are short. After all, President Bush didn't roll back the Russian occupation of South Ossetia and Abkhazia after Vladimir Putin's battering of Georgia in August 2008. Bush didn't lead an alliance of the willing to isolate Russia, undermine its economy, mine the Black Sea, provide defense guarantees and rush American military supplies to Tblisi. Instead, Dubya simply denounced Moscow's reaction using much the same language President Obama is deploying now.

As you may recall, Georgian shelling of the South Ossetian capital on August 7 and 8, 2008 started what an EU report later concluded was an "unjustifiable" war. (On the 9th, GOP White House hopeful John McCain first declared "we are all Georgians now.") With Russian forces pounding Georgia troops, President Bush on August 13 declared, "To begin to repair the damage to its relations with the United States, Europe, and other nations, and to begin restoring its place in the world, Russia must keep its word and act to end this crisis." Two days later on August 15, Bush anticipated by almost six years John Kerry's line that "You just don't in the 21st century behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped up pre-text."

We hope Russia's leaders will recognize that a future of cooperation and peace will benefit all parties. The Cold War is over. The days of satellite states and spheres of influence are behind us. A contentious relationship with Russia is not in America's interests, and a contentious relationship with America is not in Russia's interests.

With its actions in recent days, Russia has damaged its credibility and its relations with the nations of the free world. Bullying and intimidation are not acceptable ways to conduct foreign policy in the 21st century.

Only Russia can decide whether it will now put itself back on the path of responsible nations or continue to pursue a policy that promises only confrontation and isolation.

To begin to repair its relations with the United States and Europe and other nations and to begin restoring its place in the world, Russia must respect the freedom of its neighbors.

Bush no doubt felt burned by Putin. After all, early on in his presidency George W. Bush declared he had "looked the man in the eye" and "was able to get a sense of his soul." Making matters worse, his Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had summed up Bush's post-Iraq invasion  foreign policy by declaring, "Punish France, ignore Germany, forgive Russia." Worse still, as the New York Times reminded readers on August 14, 2008, Presidents Bush and Putin had recently concluded high-level talks in--wait for it--Sochi.

(Please continue reading below.)

Only four months ago, Mr. Bush and Mr. Putin met in Sochi, the Russian resort only miles from Georgia, and signed a "framework agreement" that pledged cooperation on a variety of diplomatic and security matters and declared that "the era in which the United States and Russia considered one another an enemy or strategic threat has ended."
For his part, President Bush ordered the U.S. military to provide humanitarian assistance to Georgia and promised $1 billion in new aid. But the cease-fire negotiated by France preserved the new reality on the ground. Five and a half years later, Putin's forces are still in control in the disputed regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

In October 2009, the EU report "confirmed the common view that the Georgian president, Mikheil Saakashvili, bears responsibility for the outbreak of the war and that Russia is equally responsible by escalating the political pressures that led to the hostilities."

While Georgia protested those conclusions, Commissioner Jorg Himmelreich described in the New York Times "the decisive role that the United States played before, during and after the conflict":

After 9/11, however, President Bush changed the policy toward Georgia, introducing two elements that developed into serious strategic disadvantages. Mr. Bush not only made Georgia into a partner in the "war on terror," but he promoted Mr. Saakashvili and Georgia into a centerpiece of his "promotion of democracy." In Tbilisi in 2005, Mr. Bush proclaimed Mr. Saakashvili's Georgia "a beacon of liberty."

Even as President Bush became increasingly aware that he needed the Kremlin's help in Iran and for other American interests, he was kept a prisoner by this exaggeration of Georgia's importance for U.S. foreign policy.

Senior officials of the Bush administration claim they warned Mr. Saakashvili against using force against Russia. But having invested so much ideological importance in the Georgian president, Mr. Bush couldn't warn him publicly -- or, as it turned out, stop him. Having become so dependent on Mr. Saakashvili's success, the United States lost the political influence to stop him.

As Wikileaks revealed in December 2010, the U.S. position was made worse by the fact that the Bush administration--and its allies like John McCain--gullibly believed everything Saakashvili told them. The leaked cables from Tblisi, the New York Times explained, "display some of the perils of a close relationship":
A 2008 batch of American cables from another country once in the cold war's grip -- Georgia -- showed a much different sort of access. In Tbilisi, Georgia's capital, American officials had all but constant contact and an open door to President Mikheil Saakashvili and his young and militarily inexperienced advisers, who hoped the United States would help Georgia shake off its Soviet past and stand up to Russia's regional influence...

The cables show that for several years, as Georgia entered an escalating contest with the Kremlin for the future of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, two breakaway enclaves out of Georgian control that received Russian support, Washington relied heavily on the Saakashvili government's accounts of its own behavior. In neighboring countries, American diplomats often maintained their professional distance, and privately detailed their misgivings of their host governments. In Georgia, diplomats appeared to set aside skepticism and embrace Georgian versions of important and disputed events.

By 2008, as the region slipped toward war, sources outside the Georgian government were played down or not included in important cables. Official Georgian versions of events were passed to Washington largely unchallenged.

The last cables before the eruption of the brief Russian-Georgian war showed an embassy relaying statements that would with time be proved wrong.

Wrong, that is, about a conflict America's man in Georgia helped precipitate. And one about which the Bush administration could do--and did little--to reverse.
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Comment Preferences

  •  Republicans and our media are morons (6+ / 0-)

    But it begs the question, why weren't these same folks blaming Bush for being so feckless, someone actually attacked innocent Americans in the States on 9-11. Talk about a lack of fear of feckless leaders. This take hypocritical audacity to the next level.

  •  Evidently Putin thought Bush was just as weak (4+ / 0-)

    as he thinks Obama is.

    Or maybe he can just read a map.

    Purity is for primaries; in the general, our worst are better than their best.

    by blue aardvark on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 12:36:36 PM PST

  •  When former President George Bush "looked (6+ / 0-)

    into Putin's soul" and saw goodness, it is now clear Bush needed glasses and was apparently nearly blind as far as "soul-sensing," goes.

    When remembering those dark days and contrasting former President Bush to President Obama, in terms of competence and leadership, we see such a vast superiority of President Obama that we would need so many standard deviations to portray the contrast that it exceeds my vocabulary.

    Unlike the dark days of Bush-Cheney, we can feel confident and trust that President Obama, Secretary of State, and his top quality team of National Security advisers will handle this crisis in the best way possible for our nation and the world.

    Certainly, so much better than I could, or any Republican, or pretty much any one else I can think of that i'm not even going to offer any suggestions.

    I pray, (in a scientific humanist kind of way,) we come through this without any violence.

    The means is the ends in the process of becoming. - Mahatma Gandhi

    by HoundDog on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 12:37:55 PM PST

  •  The US response to the Russian action in the (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Louisiana 1976

    Crimea is no different from our response to Georgia and no different than our response to Czechoslovakia and no different from our response to Hungary.

    4 examples of Russia taking military action against another European nation, and the response of 4 different US Presidents, two each Republican and Democrat, was to respond only diplomatically.

    Why anyone is expecting anything different the 4th time I don't know.

  •  I know that to others.. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Louisiana 1976

    Obama is as bad, if not worse than Bush, but for me the lack of fear and  anxiety are very apparent and appreciated.  

  •  The media always overlooks that the response (4+ / 0-)

    of Neocon-dominated admins (like Bush's) was only strong when it came to bombing the shit out of militarily impotent, starving 3rd world countries. Otherwise, it was always a matter of a few feeble phrases.

    We're shocked by a naked nipple, but not by naked aggression.

    by Lepanto on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 12:56:45 PM PST

    •  You got that one right (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Louisiana 1976

      Give us some Cuban medical students, a 3rd world army like Iraq's after years of economic sanctions, or tribal warlords and we might clean up.

      Nobody is going to war with Russia over the Ukraine. The Russians know it. Any reaction will need to be economic and cultural and who knows how effective.

      In the long run how important is Ukraine to American interests? Not very. Certainly not worth any dead American soldiers, seamen or pilots.

      Blue is blue and must be that. But yellow is none the worse for it - Edith Sidebottom

      by kenwards on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 01:34:47 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Let's not forget (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Louisiana 1976

    On August 15 Bush was shamelessly saying "Bullying and intimidation are not acceptable ways to conduct foreign policy in the 21st century" and that same day he was off on vacation to his Crawford ranch. He hit 950 days of vacation for his presidency that August and broke Reagan's presidential vacation record.

    http://web.archive.org/...

    President Bush postponed his summer vacation at his Texas ranch because of the crisis in Georgia.

    A day.

    Bush plans to leave for Crawford tomorrow.

    "Got a lot of folks, smart folks analyzing the situation on the ground,' Bush said today, after a meeting at the CIA today, "of course, briefing us on different possibilities that could develop in the area and the region.

    Vacation accomplished.
  •  Yes, But What is Obama Going to do Now? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Louisiana 1976

    I am a strong supporter of Obama, but whether we like it or not, there is a narrative that Obama can be pushed around by his adversaries because he is conflict averse. Obama took the first step in mitigating this perception by standing firm last October against Republican demands that the ACA be repealed or else they would impose economic catastrophe by defaulting on the nation's debts. The result was that the Republicans backed down on their demands last month. However, this perception that Obama can be bullied still persists in the foreign policy arena.

    Obama has to start making decisions on how to deal with Putin. He has to understand how authoritarian conservatives like GOP lawmakers, Assad, and Putin think. These leaders follow Machiavellian principles and Obama and (progressives in general have to learn this fact). If I were Obama, I would order US warships in the Black Sea to escort Ukranian naval ships. I would also order that the US airlift food and other supplies to Ukranian troops trapped in their Crimean bases. This is what JFK would have done.

    I would suggest liberals to read the book "The Republican Brain. The Science of why the Deny Science" We all know that Conservatives deny science. This is the Democratic advantage. However, the Republican advantage is that they understand and predict human behavior better than liberals, do. This is because liberals believe in the Age of Enlightment. Unfortunately, human thinking patterns to not follow the principles of the Age of Enlightnment.

  •  "She did not go to France, she went to Paris" (0+ / 0-)

    He's like the But head President.

    Such a dope.

    " With religion you can't get just a little pregnant"

    by EarTo44 on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 05:02:35 PM PST

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