(Gasp) William Kristol Is Right…About Georgia-Russia Conflict

It should come as no surprise that I differ often with William Kristol.  His world view and mine dart off in different directions more times than not.  Today, however, we meet and agree concerning the ongoing invasion of Georgia by Russia.  While I certainly understand the larger implications of our assisting in any fashion the government and people of Georgia, I also understand the message it will send if we do not.

The timidity of not acting underscores how America is viewed in the world.  The fact that our government has reacted like a deer in the headlights does not place us in good standing with others in the shadow of Russia.  Some may see this as an attempt to beat up on President Bush.  It is not, though it would be hard for anyone to think this weekend was one of his finer attempts at world leadership. 

I am never the first to suggest rash actions when it involves sending military assistance, in one form or another.  Most times I tend to think diplomatic measures are more prone to achieve a better result.  But there are times and places when it is too late for diplomacy to work.  As Gori is reported to have fallen to the Russians, and the nation of Georgia appears to about to be split, one must understand why Kristol and I agree today.   The Russian goal of removing President Saakashvili in Georgia must not happen. 

But Georgia, a nation of about 4.6 million, has had the third-largest military presence — about 2,000 troops — fighting along with U.S. soldiers and marines in Iraq. For this reason alone, we owe Georgia a serious effort to defend its sovereignty. Surely we cannot simply stand by as an autocratic aggressor gobbles up part of — and perhaps destabilizes all of — a friendly democratic nation that we were sponsoring for NATO membership a few months ago.

For that matter, consider the implications of our turning away from Georgia for other aspiring pro-Western governments in the neighborhood, like Ukraine’s. Shouldn’t we therefore now insist that normal relations with Russia are impossible as long as the aggression continues, strongly reiterate our commitment to the territorial integrity of Georgia and Ukraine, and offer emergency military aid to Georgia?

Incidentally, has Russia really been helping much on Iran? It has gone along with — while delaying — three United Nations Security Council resolutions that have imposed mild sanctions on Iran. But it has also supplied material for Iran’s nuclear program, and is now selling Iran antiaircraft systems to protect military and nuclear installations.

It’s striking that dictatorial and aggressive and fanatical regimes — whatever their differences — seem happy to work together to weaken the influence of the United States and its democratic allies. So Russia helps Iran. Iran and North Korea help Syria. Russia and China block Security Council sanctions against Zimbabwe. China props up the regimes in Burma and North Korea.

The United States, of course, is not without resources and allies to deal with these problems and threats. But at times we seem oddly timid and uncertain.

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?

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Map Of Georgia-Russia Conflict Shows Why Oil And Natural Gas Top Concern

Clicking on link below allows for larger view of map.

What motivates Russia to invade another nation and violate international norms in the manner it now is doing?  The answer lies beneath the soil. 

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A Unique Family Portrait

Each morning as I walk into our kitchen one of the first things I see is a framed picture that hangs on the wall surrounding the  chimney once used for the cook stove a hundred years ago.  There is no way to miss the picture as it greets everyone who enters from the hallway.  The picture is one, that for me, brings a flood of warm memories, smiles, and at times tears.  It speaks of where I came from, and who I turned out to be.

One year ago today my Mom died, and I feel a need to write, and in so doing remember her on this day in ways that reflect how home life once was.  I made the decision some time back to allow my readers into some parts of my world on this blog, and as such feel no need to apologize for sentimentality.

It was Christmas 2000, and James had just started coming to our home for weekends and holidays earlier that year.  As a lover of the camera he was taking photos of everyone, and late in the day thought the shoes in the entrance where family coming into the home would take them off before entering was a special way to recall the day.  One could tell at a glance by the shoes assembled who was there, so in a real unique way, it was a family portrait.  We had the film developed, and as always at some point the pictures made their way back home for all to see.  I recall that Mom laughed at the shot and thought it really different, in that special type of way.  Then the picture was added to the countless others that have been taken and placed in the files, and life moved on and it was forgotten.

After my Mom passed away last August the pictures came out as a way to cope and heal.  There in the 2000 file was the photo of the family shoes all placed neatly in the back entry of the old home.   The first thought I had upon seeing the picture was that never again would the smells of holiday turkeys and hams fill the entire house.  The number of shoes present meant a holiday was underway, and the bustle and noise in the house that I never thought to be small until I moved out, would never again ring off the walls.  For me the photo was not just a scene, but also had cooking smells and audio of many voices attached to it.   For me the picture was a multi-dimensional moment in time.  I saw the faces of those who had worn the shoes, carrying the baking rolls or desserts, taking off their coats and coming into the kitchen where the stove would be on and the heat from it a welcoming comfort. 

For Christmas 2008 James had the picture enlarged and framed for me.  I think it is priceless, and it was a most comforting way to deal with last December. When the time came to hang it, there was no doubt where it should be placed.  And so James got out the hammer and hung the picture in the heart of our home, the kitchen.

The entrance way back home, as with any room there, evokes countless memories.   It was that door my Mom would open every now and then when I was a small boy to make sure that the snow and ice did not freeze it shut during the winter storms.  It was here at the door entrance that as a grade school kid my Mom gave me a super big hug upon my return from a three day school camping trip. (I think she had really missed me.) This was the place my nephew Trevor, age three, being held by Mom, decided to get sick on her shoulder and the floor.  Not fun then, yet somehow it brought a smile, even to Mom in years to come as we reminisced about it.  On Thanksgiving in 1996 she cried in that doorway when she hugged me as I arrived, telling me that she was glad I was home after a rough year in which I had suffered with an illness.  I can recall the sound she made at that door as she tried not to cry while hurriedly putting on her shoes to go across the road to my grandparents the night her father passed away.  And I still know the final words she said to James and me at that door in late July 2007 as we left on our last visit with her at home before she entered the hospital.  “Love you both”.

Over the years she would watch from that door as I backed out of the driveway after a visit,  giving a final wave from inside, and wait until I was down the road before I saw in my rear-view mirror that she turned the yard light off.  I often laughed to myself that my Dad would have wondered what was wrong with me if I had hit a deer in front of my car while looking for the yard lights to go out behind me!  But I have always been sentimental.   And I have found that trait to be a bridge from painful times to moving forward with life.

The shoe picture is one such memory that makes Mom’s home warm and vivid again in my mind.  By placing it in our kitchen it continues a part of the love that she had in her home.  It is through these uses of memory that we cling to the past and embrace it, and then allow the past to heal and embrace us in return, as we move on to new days.

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