Josh Marshall wonders what happened to yesterday’s defining generation struggle:
And it’s hard not to recognize that sad figure in the Max Boots and John McCains and Bill Bennetts and all the rest with their sustaining roots planted firmly at AEI HQ. After all, what happened to the long twilight struggle against radical Islam? So yesterday, I guess. Or can we do both simultaneously, even though the Russians are themselves up against hostile Islamic groups on their southern periphery?
Enter Melik Kaylan in The Wall Street Journal to put the pieces together:
The natural resources of Central Asia, from Turkmenistan’s natural gas to Kazakhstan’s abundant oil, cannot reach the West free of Russia and Iran except through that narrow conduit in the Caucasus. Moscow’s former colonies in Central Asia are Afghanistan’s most desirable trading partners. They are watching the strife in Georgia closely. It will tell them whether or not they will enter the world’s free markets without a Russian chokehold on their future — or, whether they, and their economies, are doomed for the foreseeable future to remain colonies in all but name. And it won’t be long before Moscow dictates to them exactly how to isolate Kabul. Moscow is perfectly aware, even if we are not, that choking off the bottleneck in the Caucasus gives Iran and Russia much say over our efforts in Afghanistan.
In Iraq too, the Kremlin’s projection of power down through Georgia will soon be felt. Take another look at the map. If Russia is allowed to extend its reach southwards, as in Soviet times, down the Caucasus to Iran’s borders, Moscow can support Iran in any showdown with the West. Iran, thus emboldened, will likely attempt to reassert itself in Iraq, Syria and, via Hezbollah, in Lebanon.
This is crazy and paranoid, but also ignorant. The former Soviet Republics of Central Asia already have friendly relations with Moscow — Georgia, the Baltics, and the current regime in Ukraine are trying to get out of the Russian orbit, but the ‘stans largely aren’t. But beyond the specific details it’s the constant paranoia and hysteria of the right-wing that really comes through here — the entire American position in the world turns out to hang on the narrow thread of Georgia exercising effective sovereignty over South Ossetia and/or Mikhail Saakashvili’s ability to hold onto power in Tblisis. Nevermind that before he took office, nobody thought him taking power was especially vital to American interests (as opposed to, perhaps, the citizens of Georgia’s interest in democratic elections) or that it’s not clear why the fact that Georgia touches Iran would magically alter the nature of the US-Iran-Russia relationships.