What Is Maximum Pressure?

Washington Times calls for the United States to exert “maximum pressure” on Russia in defense of Georgia. This means, what, exactly? Deploy troops? Threaten nuclear war? And then there’s Robert Kagan who, as you’ll recall, is considered the respectable neocon. Shockingly enough, he thinks the best way to understand this particular foreign policy crisis is through a Munich analogy!

The details of who did what to precipitate Russia’s war against Georgia are not very important. Do you recall the precise details of the Sudeten Crisis that led to Nazi Germany’s invasion of Czechoslovakia? Of course not, because that morally ambiguous dispute is rightly remembered as a minor part of a much bigger drama.

It seems to me that rather than specifically informing us of each and every time something happens in the world that reminds neocons of the Sudetenland crisis, maybe they should let us know on those rare occasions when a world event doesn’t spark a Munich analogy. That would be a dog bites man kind of story. Meanwhile, if we launch a war with Russia — which would seem to be the point of busting out the analogy — then how are we going to find the time to launch wars with Iran and China? And what about Syria?

UPDATE: And of course there’s Bill Kristol:


When the “civilized world” expostulated with Russia about Georgia in 1924, the Soviet regime was still weak. In Germany, Hitler was in jail. Only 16 years later, Britain stood virtually alone against a Nazi-Soviet axis. Is it not true today, as it was in the 1920s and ’30s, that delay and irresolution on the part of the democracies simply invite future threats and graver dangers?

Now of course Vladimir Putin really is a bad actor. And it should be said that as of today Russia seems to be going beyond anything that could be justified as a response to Georgia’s provocation in South Ossetia. But the habit that the Kristols of the world have of deploying this kind of rhetoric is infuriating. If Kristol really thinks we should go to war with Russia, he’s being crazy and irresponsible. If he doesn’t think that, then he has no business busting out these Munich analogies. Nowhere in his column does he propose a single concrete step with any meaningful chance of altering the situation — it’s all dedicated to mocking doves, but utterly lacking in viable alternatives.