Sean Gabb: More on the Georgian War
Free Life Commentary
A Personal View from
The Director of the
Libertarian Alliance
Issue Number 174
14h August 2008

Another Neocon Farce?
by Sean Gabb

Foreign policy is an open issue among libertarians. Some of us are isolationists. Others are pacifists. Others take a more belligerent line, believing that there are threats to the admittedly imperfect  liberal democracies of the West that must be countered, and even that the intelligent use of force can increase the amount of freedom in the world.

I am an isolationist. Though I incline to anarchist, I accept that for the moment, the world is ruled by various states, and that there will always be disputes between states, some leading to war. This being so, I believe that the best way to minimise the threat of war is to have our own state keep out of any dispute that does not immediately concern the integrity of its own territory.

I am a citizen of a country that was a principal actor in the two big wars of the twentieth century. I believe that these wars were unnecessary for the security of my country and killed unimaginable numbers of people. They also destroyed British primacy in the world and were the means of transforming Britain from genuine liberal democracy to politically correct corporatism. That is why I was so opposed to to our role in the wars of the past decade in the Balkans, in Iraq and in Afghanistan. And that is why I am now opposed to any intervention in the war between Russia and Georgia.

I am told that Russia is an aggressive power that must be resisted in the Caucasus before it is able to threaten other places. The newspapers are filled with the usual talk of Munich and appeasement, together with claims that a new Cold War is beginning. I deny this.

Russia may be an aggressor in this war. Or it may not be. I will not enter into the details of who moved first, or with what provocation. But, even assuming that Russia is the aggressor, I fail to see what business this war is of the British or American Governments. The implied deal at the end of the 1980s was that the Soviet Union would evacuate its European colonies, in return for which Russian security would be respected. Every former republic of the Soviet Union, with the exception of the Baltic States, were to be regarded as part of the Russian sphere of interest. That included the Ukraine and Georgia.

It was unwise to recruit the former East European colonies of the Soviet Empire into NATO, and to move Western armed forces right up to the old Soviet border. But that was something the Russians at the time were in no position to resist, and that they might, given intelligent diplomacy, be brought to accept was no threat to them. Now that Russia is again a first class power, it would be madness to intervene in what used to be a core part of the Soviet Union.

Yes – Russia is again a first class power. This may be founded on the high price of oil and gas. The demographic trends in Russia may point to a longer term weakness. But Russia will for perhaps the next decade be again a first class power. This is no threat to the west. I was against fighting the Cold War. But it was then arguable that the Soviet Union was a danger to the west. What we had then was the largest country in the world, with the largest armed forces, both at the disposal of a murderous and expansionist ideology with intellectual sympathisers in every country in the world.

First class or otherwise, Russia today is a normal power. It is no longer interested in conquering France and Australia and Argentina. The present ruling class in Russia legitimises itself and its efforts in terms of Russian nationalism and Orthodox Christianity. This makes Russia a danger to some of its immediate neighbours, but not to us. It is rightly annoying to the British Government that Mr Putin seems willing to have his political enemies murdered in London.

In the longer term, indeed, Russia is at least a potential ally of the West, if not part of the West. If there is to be a contest in this century – and I hope there will not be – between the West and Islam, or the West and China, Russia must reasonably be counted as on our side. With two lost wars in the Islamic world, and growing American impotence in East Asia, now is not the time to antagonise Russia.

I have, in the past day, read statements by David Milliband, the British foreign Secretary, and by the Conservative leader, David Cameron, that strike me as almost childish in their failure to understand the realities of international politics. There is nothing we should do to help the Georgians. There is nothing we can do. Russia is not an enemy of Britain.

Sadly, London, just like Washington, has been captured by the neoconservatives. These are not conservatives, new or old. They are simply warmongers. They have misread the history of the twentieth century. For them, national greatness is measured by military power. They are allied to business and other interests that benefit from war. They had a fine time during the Cold War. They were disappointed when this abruptly ended. They have since then been lying us into smaller wars all over the world. They want a permanent war with Islam. They look forward to a cold war with China. Of course, now that Vladimir Putin is in charge of Russia, they are in love with the idea that the original Cold War never really ended, and that the warm certainties of their youth can now be revived.

I could say more. But I think I have said enough. I hope the Russians and Georgians will come to terms before too many more people are killed. In the meantime, I am resolutely opposed to any intervention of any kind in the dispute by the British Government. And, since Britain is regrettably for the moment part of the American Empire, I oppose involvement by the Americans.

NB—Sean Gabb’s book, Cultural Revolution, Culture War: How Conservatives Lost England, and How to Get It Back, can be downloaded for free from


  1. Excellent article. I have downloaded the free e-book, which I look forward to reading. It is important that the relation between foreign policy and defence policy be thoroughly explored. At present the country is defenceless, because its enormous defence budget is spent entirely on reinforcing American hegemony.

  2. I agree Sean. Although I’m no expert, I don’t believe that Russia is anymore a threat to us as it is to Sweden, nor do I believe China is a threat to us either. If this were happening in Estonia or somewhere closer to home, them maybe we would have cause for concern. Ontherwise we should try not to get on the wrong side of the Kremlin. I have a feeling those within it don’t forget these sort of things very quickly.

  3. Why fight for Estonia and not Georgia, Steven? Can’t see the difference myself.

    It would be like not choosing to put a gun at the bugger’s head over the Sudetenland in 1938, but deciding to support Poland in 1939 when we couldn’t anyway.

  4. Oh, I know there’s no difference in principle David, and I agree with your stance – in principle. But like Sean said, Russia is particularly strong economically at the minute, and considering the Iraq, Afganistan situation etc, do we really need to square up to them? All I know is that nations are very rarely psychopathic. I’m sure Russia hasn’t any plans to pick countries out of a hat that they want to go to war with, just because they fancy a few rounds. But Russia has a history of conflict with us, so we ought to bear that in mind for the future, considering the energy situation etc, when we choose our stance towards them.

  5. And I just wanted to clarify this war in brief, or layman’s terms.

    Georgia is a separate county from Russia. Russia gives lots of Russian passports to people in northern Georgia. There is increased militancy in northern Georgia and arguing between Russia and Georgia. Russia sends troops into nothern Georgia.

    How’s my aim?

  6. The news analysis you need from Spike:

    The US blundered into the Iraq war on the basis of dumb PR, wrong intelligence and total cluelessness about historic ethnic animosity, with every tribe taking turns at leading us around by the nose. Here we go again in Georgia, tied in by Iraq of all places.

    Ossetians will fight to the death to avoid being governed by Georgians – that’s been their culture for hundreds of years and it kept them independent until Stalin gave Ossetia to Georgia. Stalin was a Georgian born in Gori, so he tossed plenty of perks, like the odd smaller country or two, Georgia’s way. Hometown boy makes good and all that.

    When Stalin’s Soviet Union fell apart in 1990 the Ossetians fought Georgia for two bitter years to regain their independence from Stalin’s gift of them to Georgia. They won and in 1992 Georgia agreed to their autonomy and promised not to try to take South Ossetia by force. Russia sent in peacekeepers (no other country wanted to get involved, a wise call in retrospect) and for sixteen years the South Ossetians have been free of Georgian rule. No one else would recognize them, but at least they were free.

    Good times only last so long. Georgia needed money so they sucked up to the US by sending 2000 troops as cannon fodder for Iraq. With an embattled Bush Administration trying to color the Iraq war as a “multinational” effort, those 2000 guys were plenty enough to get the Bushies on their knees in gratitude. Next thing you know, megabucks and military aid flowed Georgia’s way, with thousands of US advisors rotating in and out of the country and arms and weapons aplenty for George Bush’s new best friends.

    Oh, and despite Georgia’s loving maintenance in Gori of a huge statue of Josef Stalin, one of the worst Communist dictators and mass murderers in history, the Bushies started testifying again and again how wonderfully democratic the Georgians had become. 2000 body bags ready to go in Iraq will do that for you.

    So what happened? Turns out Georgia’s East Coast college educated President Saakashvilli knows how to work PR magic with the Bushies but he doesn’t know how to run a country. Never did it before, seems like. Georgians looking for jobs and a good life were getting tired of endemic corruption, broken promises, sinking economy… well, you know, kind of like the Bush Administration. So what’s a close friend of George Bush going to do to raise his popularity? What would George do? Hey! There’s the answer! Invade a smaller country!

    Losing to the Ossetians in 1992 took a bite out of Georgian pride, so Saakashvilli promised his party and his people he’d restore that pride by taking South Ossetia back. Problem was, after sixteen years of running their own show the Ossetians had gotten kind of used to being independent. Worse yet, after becoming pariahs as far as Georgia was concerned they had turned to their other neighbor, Russia, for food, fuel, passports, foreign aid and all that other good stuff. Russia was happy to oblige, made promises to Ossetia, lots of Russians settled there (cheaper than Moscow, you know, and a lot better weather), well, the usual drill when big countries pick up a new client. All that first date stuff.

    Saakashvilli also made the mistake of trying to buff up his image inside Georgia and with the Bushies by poking Russia in the eye at every opportunity. Worked well in Georgia but you really have to ask yourself if that was smart given the total lack of any sense of humor in the Russian leadership about getting poked in the eye. Even the Bushies finally realized they had a loose cannon on their hands. Too late, comrades, too late!

    Last Thursday night as the Ossetians and all the rest of the world was sitting down to watch the Olympics on TV, Saakashvilli launched a really well executed, sneak attack tank and air assault on South Ossetia. Caught them totally by surprise and took the capital of South Ossetia almost before the Ossetians could put down their vodka and get up from the TV. Didn’t know the Georgians had that in them! But you know how those sneak attacks work great when they catch some bozo by surprise. Worked great at Pearl Harbor, too.

    Turns out Georgia had detailed intelligence gathered by flying drones over South Ossetia for months prior. Just two months ago three drones were shot down, so you know they had a lot more than just three. Russia and Ossetians should have been tipped off by that, but it looks like they never imagined Georgia would come storming across the border with tanks, killing anyone that got in their way. Dumb Russians!

    It gets worse. Those stupid Russians had a bunch of peacekeepers in South Ossetia who never got the memo about when the enemy comes in with tanks and all you’ve got is side arms you get the heck out of Dodge. Time to cut and run just like the West did in Rwanda. It’s not your fight, man, so just run back to the TV, keep watching the Olympics and let the Georgians do what they came to do.

    Stupid Russians didn’t get that memo. The Russian peacekeepers lined up against the Georgian tanks, pulled out their pistols and got cut to pieces, about a hundred of ’em killed outright. Stupid Russians. Don’t they know being a peacekeeper is about running away from a fight? Maybe they were just mad about having to miss TV coverage of the Olympic opening ceremony and were too liquored up to realize the Georgians were shooting to kill.

    Well, you know how unreasonable the Russians get when you kill a few hundred of their people. You hear people say thousands got killed, but despite the odor of corpses in the streets of South Ossetia it’s hard to add up more than a few hundred, counting the handful of peacekeepers and a bunch of Ossetian and Russian civilians. Those Russians should drink less vodka and get a better sense of proportion when they complain about genocide.

    But, heck no, that’s not the Russian way. They just have no sense of proportion at all, acting real mad when you run them over with tanks. Hey, don’t they know that Georgia is a democracy and the Georgian president went to Columbia and is a good friend of Bush? Don’t they know that Georgia wouldn’t have pulled a sneak attack and killed all those people unless they were provoked real bad by those horrible Ossetians? Nope. All that impeccable Bush logic was a lost cause with the Russians.

    Well so those totally insensitive Russians started driving tanks across the border from Russia into Ossetia as fast as they could. Lucky for the Ossetians the Russians had plenty of tanks because the border to Ossetia is only about five miles from the Russian war zone with Chechnya and Ingushetia. The Russians have been fighting a war there for about twenty years against Islamic crazies so they had plenty of tanks on hand.

    In case anyone forgets, the Chechens are those wonderful people who think an effective military strategy is to seize 500 people in a hospital as hostages, killing as many of them as they can to get the Russians riled up. Works great! The Chechens also introduced the innovation of chainsawing the limbs off hostages on video to show they mean business. That sure gets your attention as well. So, anyway, given the Chechens are about the only group on the planet who scare the innards out of Russians that meant Russia had plenty of tanks and Chechen war battle-hardened troops available just a few miles away that could rush into South Ossetia. And so they did.

    Saakashvilli planned on taking South Ossetia overnight and he almost made it. Darned peacekeepers wouldn’t run, though, and that slowed him up just enough for the routes into Russia to stay open and allow the aforementioned Chechen war battle-hardened troops to come streaming into Ossetia. There weren’t many of them (too few roads) but man, were they honkin’ mad at how the Georgians had interrupted their much-anticipated viewing of Olympic beach volleyball. Don’t get much nookie in those Chechen war zones you know, so they weren’t happy about being deprived their bikini athletic experience.

    There was also that small matter of how Russians go postal when you kill a few hundred of their people in a sneak attack, and the usual indignation when the Russian military gets caught by surprise and made to look like fools. Yep, those Chechen war battle-hardened troops were in a mean mood.

    In fact they blew the Georgians out of South Ossetia in about 24 hours even though the Georgians outnumbered the inital Russian troops about ten to one. Heavy casualties on all sides, not that the Russians cared. No surprise the Russians kept coming and blasted their way into Georgia itself, streaming more and more armor across the border until, surprise! Russia held about a ten to one advantage over Georgia. With characteristic Russian understatement, a tank commander was heard to comment to a journalist, “Anyone who attacks Russia we will destroy.”

    As you might expect the Bushies were totally surprised their unhinged client pulled a stunt like invading South Ossetia. What to do? Job one is to make it clear It Was Not George Bush’s Fault. Blame the Russians, which the Russians eagerly helped the Bushies do by making sure they sent spokespeople who couldn’t speak a word of English and when they did acted like their own worst enemies. Good job, Russians! Bush rolled out the script that a peaceful, democratic ally got attacked by a revived Soviet bear and now we have got to… what?

    Well, you know the Bush doctrine. First part, build a missile system in an unrelated country like Poland. Second part, make sure no Mexican immigrants can get a job. Well, OK, no Mexicans there but we do have Ossetians. Let’s put the screws on them as the fall guys. They made the Georgians invade them. There, that makes sense! Final part, let’s get the US military involved so we can start another war. Perfect!

    And, just like with Iraq an imbecile media is going to follow the above script when the Bushies feed it to them at the briefings. You know those reporters: deep down inside they all are uncertain about the length of their equipment so as soon as any president starts a shooting war they all like it when manpower and weaponry go on display. After a while (like a lot of bad dates) the hangover sets in and the media starts to regret what they agreed to the night before. Not too many media guys will admit to how happy they were for Bush when he dragged us into Iraq, will they?

    We now have the spectacle of American arms and American prestige committed to defending Stalin’s partition of a tiny country, Ossetia. It’s a screwball world when it is the Russians that are trying to overturn Stalin’s diktat and to restore independence to that small country. Way to go George Bush! You put us on the side of Stalin! That’s a real cool historical legacy every American should want.

    But wait, there’s more! We now have the Bush administration committing American arms and prestige to defending a, get this, sneak attack timed to take advantage of the opening of the Olympics. Hey, that’s wonderful. That’ll show the world our commitment to peace and freedom. Makes the Russians look bad, too, the way our client (go Georgia!) caught them napping.

    So, backing a sneak attack and supporting Stalin’s world view is the American way, and getting Americans involved in yet another war where we are being played for fools by unstable clients will be the parting gift of the Bush administration. Is that what everyone wants?

    Then again the Russians are being “disproporionate,” as if they didn’t get the memo about rolling over and playing dead. Dumb Russians. No sophistication at all. And, they got less medals than us. If that wasn’t a good reason to build more missile systems in unrelated countries and start more wars we can fly drones and get killed in, I don’t know what is.

    I can hear some readers muttering, “OK, wise guy, what would you have us do?” Hey, that’s easy.

    First off, we can’t blame the Georgians for anything because that would make us look bad. Repeat after me: the Georgians were provoked. The Russians made them defend themselves. We told them to resist being baited but gosh darn it, those Russians went too far. They did something terrible. Not sure what it was yet but we’ll come up with something in a couple of days.

    Second, it wasn’t a sneak attack. No. You got that completely wrong and as soon as I get done PhotoShopping this you’ll see it was the Russians that attacked first. They invaded a smaller country. The Georgians were relaxing in their tanks, peacefully resting after cleaning up the South Ossetian neighborhood from some unsightly, formerly-living bodies, drinking whatever it is that Georgians drink when the Russians attacked them.

    Third, the Russians have a totally disproportionate response going. Get out of Georgia, out of Ossetia and go back to Siberia or someplace. We’ll bury their dead and the Georgian dead as well. No, wait, there won’t be any Russian dead after I get done PhotoShopping this. Oh, and all those Georgian and Ossetian guys rampaging and holding up SUVs in the war zone, that’s a job for the Georgian police. They’ll do a much cleaner job of holding up those SUVs, just like they did before the war. Oh and this time we’ll make sure to assign proper UN peacekeepers who know how to cut and run when civilians get killed. We can use the French!

    Fourth, let’s get Georgia into NATO. It’s a great idea to involve unstable countries in NATO so in case John McCain gets elected he’ll have lots of reasons to go to war. Republicans like that, you know, so you have to plan for the future.

    Fifth, let’s build a missile system in Poland. This is completely, totally necessary to defend the Germans and the French against Iranian missiles and spending trillions of dollars on that is a great way to make sure the French never run out of reasons to ridicule the falling dollar. It also gives the Russians something to aim their nukes at besides us.

    Finally, let’s ask Russia to throw the G7 out of the G8 and to pull out of the WTO. It is too embarrassing that we’re the only country that needs the WTO anymore since our economy depends upon manufacturing in China. This will fix that by removing any need for the WTO. And, once Russia throws the G7 out of the G8, since they are the only country that is energy-independent in the G8 we’ll be spared the humiliation of having the G7 fall apart when the aforementioned Germans and French and all the rest get down on their knees to Russia’s control of the energy they need.

    Oh, and let’s make sure to impose Stalin’s plan for Ossetia. Last thing we want is to guarantee free elections to let the Ossetians choose if they want to be free of war, to be their own country or to join whatever country they want.

    Spike, over and out!

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