Wednesday, August 13, 2008

What happens when we can't be the world's police anymore

The United States has no way to respond to the Russia-Georgia situation. We have no diplomatic leverage, because our international credibility has been ruined by the Bush regime. We have no military leverage, because most of our military is in either Iraq or Afghanistan. We have no economic leverage, because we've sold our economy to China.

All we can do, it seems, is threaten to kick Russia out of the G-8, and refuse to participate in a joint military exercise with them. Neither option gives Russia enough of an incentive to stop the fighting.

This conflict is a stark example of a new reality developing on the world stage. America is no longer the world's police force. It cannot rush into countries and stop conflicts. It cannot change the behavior of bad states. It cannot influence global diplomacy in quite the same way as it once could.

This new reality has developed over quite a few years, but there are several factors that have come together to bring it into focus.

Europe has risen up and taken the stage as a new global economic and political superpower. At the same time that we've been pawning ourselves to China, developing a huge trade deficit, and driving down the value of the Dollar to dismal levels, Europe has been building up a strong economic foundation, with the Euro now challenging the almighty British Pound for the title of most powerful currency.

China has also become a power player, since they basically own us. We can't really tell the Chinese to stop investing in Darfur, because we don't want to get the Chinese angry at us and have them call in our debt. We can't really call out the Chinese on human rights violations in their own country, either, because, along with the debt issue, the Bush regime has destroyed any credibility we might have once had on human rights issues.

Russia's 21st century development has been an exercise in recreating the authoritarian government structures and military might of the old Soviet Union without the Stalinist propaganda, while maintaining the illusion that they're still a developing democracy. This latest move into Georgia is simply an extension of the Russian desire to reestablish itself as a global superpower in opposition to the United States and the so-called "West." Former Eastern Bloc countries need to take notice of Russia's actions, because if Georgia falls, Russia could be emboldened to make further moves.

And we can't do a damned thing about it.

The old MAD defense of the Cold War era isn't an option anymore. Sure, we could nuke Moscow, and sure, that would probably lead to a global nuclear holocaust which nobody would win. But the threat of that global nuclear holocaust will fall flat, because we're not poised on the brink of it anymore, and the international community would not allow it to happen. The stakes have changed so much since 1989 that the idea of the United States and Russia duking it out is a completely different dynamic, one that leaves us with no options for stopping Russia from doing pretty much anything it wants.

If anyone is going to stop Russia from whatever it might be planning in the long term, it's going to have to be Europe, or China. Combined, Europe and China have the economic, political, and military wherewithal to stand up to Russia and force them to back down. The trouble is that there would have to be some extreme conditions to force Europe and China to sit down together and work something out.

Condoleeza Rice can go to Georgia, and she can shake her finger, and tell Russia that it's a bad bad boy, but she has absolutely nothing to back her up. This is one problem that the United States of America (property of the People's Republic of China) can't fix.