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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

A pawn for a pawn?

Here's a strategy that would really make Moscow stand up and listen

By Dennis Byrne
Chicago Tribune

Russian boss-man Vladimir Putin probably figured he scored a big one for his reawakening empire by barging into the pro-Western, democratic nation of Georgia.

Fine, if that's how Putin Bonaparte wants to play it, we'll take . . . hmmmm . . . Cuba. We'll roll right in, just like the Russian tanks and fleet rolled into Georgia, and say, "Hello, Fidel. Good-bye Fidel."

Why not? The conventional wisdom is that we can't do a lot about Georgia, now a Russian captive nation like Soviet days of old, because ultimately we fear a direct face-off between U.S. and Russian military forces. Thus, we are limited to diplomacy and sanctions. We've got little to offer Putin that would appease his restore-the-Russian-Empire dementia, so diplomacy amounts to nothing more than a stink in a windstorm. Sanctions? To get the UN to impose any, the Security Council would have to approve them, over Russia's veto. We could impose our own sanctions, which might be considered an act of war. Throw Russia out of the global economic powerhouse of the Group of Eight or reject its application for membership in the World Trade Organization? Maybe, but who knows?

So, we are left with a game of "you take my pawn, I'll take yours." In Cuba, we could use the same kind of baloney that Russia used to justify its invasion of Georgia: We installed a free Cuban government for "humanitarian" reasons. Who in this hemisphere has suffered more at the hands of a tyrant than the Cuban people? Who needs more protection from the tyrant Fidel Castro than people would who risk their lives crossing 90 miles of ocean in an overloaded, open boat? Who has a greater interest in securing the liberties of the Cuban people than the tens of thousands of Cubans living in America whose gifts of billions to relatives back home is what has kept Castro's pathetic communist utopia going?

Cuba and Russia are on the threshold of strengthening relations, which were weakened after the Soviet Union fell apart, thanks to America winning the arms race and the intrinsic flaws of the communist system. Ever since Castro marched out of the hills and into Havana almost 50 years ago, Russia has considered Cuba a client state, just as Putin intolerably views Georgia as an American client state. Putin wants Georgia to be his client state, because he can't tolerate freedom on the doorstep of his empire, especially if the Georgian people, in their freedom, prefer to ally themselves with Western democracies.

So, what if Putin shuts down the petroleum pipeline to Europe and the West in retaliation? Fine. Declaring a national emergency, we take oil-rich Venezuela, which, under its emerging tin-pot communist tyrant Hugo Chavez, also is tending toward becoming a Russian client state. If Putin wants to engage in an empire-building contest, maybe we should take back all the countries that we once had, however briefly, and then gave back to become democracies—the Philippines, Panama and Grenada, for example. After all, they're in our "sphere of influence," just as Putin claims Georgia is in his. Two can play the empire game, and Putin and all his oil aren't up to the competition.

By now, you must be saying that I've got to be kidding. I am, sort of. I described this global scenario because Russia's invasion of Georgia is the scariest global moment since the end of the Cold War. This Putin-inspired conflict could spiral into a replay of the Cold War in all kinds of ways, with nuclear annihilation, mutually assured destruction and tens of millions of combatants, if not hundreds of millions of civilians, dying in a World War III. That's why the presidential and congressional candidates' response to Russia's attempted enslavement of Georgia perhaps is unexpectedly the most critical issue of this election cycle.

Both presidential candidates have issued standard statements calling for "restraint" and "talks," but a clearer understanding about how to meet this newest foreign policy challenge has yet to emerge. Recognition that we might now be engaged in two conflicts—one against terrorism and the other the traditional state-to-state variety—is a good place to start; then we can move on to the details.

Democrat Barack Obama already has said he favors, in essence, a weaker military because he apparently believes that state-to-state conflicts are old hat. Will events require Obama to change his position, again?


Anonymous said...

"Democrat Barack Obama already has said he favors, in essence, a weaker military .."

You are like Jerome Corsi. Making allegations without any supporting facts. Rolling into Cuba - Stupid as stupid says.

Anonymous said...


You are one confused individual. Not only you confused the agressor and the victim (FYI, the "Putin-inspired" war started when US-armed Georgia attacked civilians in South Ossetia), you chose to "jokingly" offer a scenario that is as absurd as it is dangerous. Who did Fidel attack, exactly? Were 2,000 Miami residents killed recently by Cuban bombs? And can you imagine US' reaction if it *did* in fact happen? Would it abide by any rules at all in responding? Would it listen to hypocritical cries to respect the sovereignty of a neighboring country?

Anonymous said...

If only W had invaded Cuba instead of Iraq...

scotty said...

Yeah; let's bring back a wonderful guy like Bastista and put ht e American Mafia in charge of the country like we had in the good old days.

Anonymous said...

I never understood why we continued to honor Kennedy's promise to not undermine Castro in return for the Soviets not to put more missles in Cuba (and to remove the ones they had installed).

We should have invaded Cuba long ago and freed the people from the Castro monsters who have jailed and killed hundreds of thousands of fellow citizens and impoverished the whole country.

The Soviets kept pushing into other countries and infiltrating our institutions -- we know they have been successful by the thoughts of the posters before me who have been propagandized in our public schools.

Georgia was attempting to stop the provinces from breaking away. The Soviet-Russians had colonized Georgia as they did all of their captive nations so that they always had a Fifth column of native Russians causing trouble for Georgia.

The Russian "mercy" mission was moved into position long before they had "provocation." Even after Georgia pleaded for a ceasefire and Russia said they were leaving, they have continued to move missiles into the country and to bomb civilian targets.


Anonymous said...

No need to invade Cuba to join this game: Bush Bonaparte had already started it by invading Iraq. It’s the Russians that have just joined us. Who can blame them if they want to play too? But surely Bush Bonaparte can now continue the game by rolling into Cuba. Why not? It’s a conveniently small and defenseless country. And thank you very much, but we are perfectly capable of making up our own baloney to roll in. Haven’t you heard of weapons of mass destruction piling up in Havana? And why credit the Russians with so much relevance? I would argue that Bush’s attack and occupation of Iraq is by far the scariest global moment since the end of the Cold War. We’re still winning the game.

Anonymous said...

Most ridiculous article I ever read on the issue. Most of the articles about the conflict is dirty propaganda of ether of two sides, very few are real analysis of the situation worth to read. But this one... I don't know how to classify it. Author is out of any logic. Even a joke to be funny should have some logic in it, right?
Shame on Chicago Tribune for publishing such articles!

Stephen Schade said...

Mr. Byrne:

All three parties in this debacle look bad. Georgia provoked Russia, Russia overreacted, and the South Ossetians looted Georgian towns.

Georgia should have taken a lesson from Taiwan, which has not declared independence because it does not want to provoke China. The downsides of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan are that it would be more difficult due to crossing the Formosa Strait, a large amount of trade would be lost, and the US has agreed to defend Taiwan. None of these negatives existed for Russia, which is why they marched right in.

As for Obama, he said he would actually spend more on the military initially to restore the fighting capability that Bush has destroyed. And Obama will fight the real war, which is in Afghanistan.