Putin's Rules, or Ours?
Is it only a coincidence that Vladimir Putin launched a tank invasion of Georgia inside the week that Alexander Solzhenitsyn died? It was said countless times that Solzhenitsyn's truth-telling began the collapse of Soviet communism. As Vladimir Putin watched his tanks threaten Tbilisi yesterday, he must have thought that the post-Solzhenitsyn world is fine with him. He and the men in his orbit are unimaginably rich for seeing the world through the bloodless eyes of a Saudi prince.
Unburdened of the exhausting task of enforcing Soviet ideology, Putin's Russia got its hands around the energy-needy throats of Germans, the French, Italians and many other Europeans. London's clubs and the sunshiny resorts of Europe make for pleasant Russian playgrounds. Europe's natural-gas users will pay the tab forever.
The New Russians now in Georgia are shaping a new world with rules based on the old Russian brutalisms. Their political instruments include the eternal silence of murder, routine energy-supply blackmail, and this week a revival of the massed-tank strategies of 1956 and 1968.
Deafening is the sound of scales falling from Western eyes, though it's worth noting how few commentaries about the post-Georgia reality have mentioned the wolves already inside the West -- the terror brigades of radical Islam. Iran's mullahs watch and wait; they'll grab the Gulf once it is clear the West won't resist. Soon?
There is an alternative to this dark opposition, whose goal is to displace the order that served the world well in the 60-year postwar era. The alternative is Georgia. After Mikheil Saakashvili was elected president of Georgia in 2004 at age 36, he and his young colleagues began a crash program to integrate their nation into the global world order. Georgia has tried to become both a democracy and free-market economy. It's worth noting that like Mr. Saakashvili, a Columbia Law graduate who came to the U.S. from Georgia on a State Department Muskie Fellowship, many of his young ministers were schooled at places like Duke, Southern Methodist, Indiana or in Tel Aviv, Israel. Surely many such foreign students must ponder the evident success of the U.S. The young Georgians did.
They returned to Tbilisi and with Mr. Saakashvili began to erect, piece by piece, a political, economic and financial system that could plug itself smoothly into the ones already running in the West. On balance, they've succeeded. Growth last year was about 12%. Foreign investment flows have been high..... What Georgia represents is an independent nation that has worked hard to be part of the established civilized order, rather than contribute to the chaotic and violent frictions that seem on the verge of constantly overwhelming the world. Putin's Russia is a manufacturer of frictions.
Some argue that Georgia is not a primary American interest. They see Georgia as ultimately a place that transits oil and gas through pipelines from somewhere else to Turkey or onto Europe. Georgia is unlucky geography. This is false. When this crisis ends, Georgia will be either a model for a world that works or a world whose members do business with knives.
Russia: Georgia can "forget" regaining provinces: "The foreign minister of Russia said Thursday that Georgia could 'forget about' getting back its two breakaway provinces, and the former Soviet republic remained on edge as Russia sent tank columns to search out and destroy Georgian military equipment. Uncertainty about Russia's intentions and back-and-forth charges clouded the conflict two days after Russia and Georgia signaled acceptance of a French-brokered cease-fire, and a week after Georgia's crackdown on the two provinces drew a Russian military response."
Poland Spring: "Russia's invasion of Georgia seems to have concentrated the minds of at least some politicians in Europe. Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk announced Thursday that his country had agreed to host 10 American missile-defense interceptors. The agreement comes along with an enhanced promise of mutual defense between the U.S. and Poland. Poland is already a member of NATO, whose linchpin is a promise of mutual aid in case of attack. But Mr. Tusk made it clear that, in light of the West's anemic initial response to the Russian invasion, he wanted more. "It is no good when assistance comes to dead people," Mr. Tusk said, as far too many Georgians have learned. NATO, he feared, would take "days, weeks" to mobilize a response to aggression against Poland. The missile-defense agreement comes after a year and a half of back-and-forth and domestic political squabbling in Poland."
America the Uncompetitive: "The new international tax rankings are out for 2008, and congratulations to Washington, D.C., are again in order. Our political class has managed to maintain America's rank with the second highest corporate tax rate in the world at 39.3% (average combined federal and state). Only Japan is slightly higher overall, though if you are silly enough to base a corporation in California, Iowa, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, or other states with high corporate levies, your tax rate on business income is even higher than in Tokyo. For the first time, the U.S. statutory rate is now 50% higher than the average of our international competitors"
Gloomy Leftists: "Why are optimists about the state of the world disproportionately represented by classical liberals, libertarians, and free- market conservatives, while pessimists about the state of the world are disproportionately represented by statists?This pattern is so familiar that it eludes our attention. And yet reflection on it is fascinating. There's no obvious reason why persons on the left should be biased into perceiving the state of the current world to be especially dire, and no obvious reason why market-friendly people should be biased into perceiving roses where there is really only rot."
I game the credit card system. So should you : "The beautiful thing about credit cards is how easy they make it for responsible consumers to take unfair advantage of banks and businesses. Some cards offer low `teaser' interest rates -- as low as 0 percent -- for balance transfers, purchases, or even cash advances. We take that cheap money, and when we pay off the balance before the promotion period ends, the card companies actually lose money. We also use credit cards to make shopping more convenient. Just swipe, sign, and go. By paying our bill in full each month, we earn frequent-flyer miles or even cash back without paying the company a cent in interest or fees."
For more postings from me, see OBAMA WATCH, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena
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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)