The Miseducation of Antony Blinken
Originally published at the Libertarian Institute
On January 19th, the U.S. Senate held confirmation hearings for Joe Biden’s Secretary of State nominee Antony Blinken. Blinken has a reputation on both sides of the aisle for being exceptionally qualified for the job of America’s top diplomat, which is surprising considering he was on the wrong side of every major foreign policy blunder of the last 20 years; Iraq, Libya, and Syria.
When Senator Rand Paul asked Antony Blinken what lessons he has learned from his disastrous foreign policy record in Libya and Syria, Antony Blinken replied that after “some hard thinking” he’s proud that he has done “everything we possibly can to make sure that diplomacy is the first answer, not the last answer, and that war and conflict is our last resort.”
Of course war is the last resort. Even the most hawkish war criminals would agree that war is the last resort. But the question is, war is the last resort to accomplish what? If war is the last resort to get a country to fully capitulate to Washington’s demands then eventually the U.S. will be at war with everyone. To Blinken, war as the last resort can only be understood in the same way a mugger considers shooting his victim as a last resort to stealing their wallet.
Blinken displayed his hubris a few minutes later when he said, “The door should remain open” for Georgia to join NATO under the justification of curbing Russian aggression.
Rand Paul informed Blinken, “This would be adding Georgia, that’s occupied [by Russia], to NATO. Under Article 5, then we would go to war.”
Senator Paul is right. According to Washington, Russia has been occupying 20 percent of Georgia since 2008. Under the principle of collective defense in Article 5 of NATO, the U.S. would be obligated to treat Russia’s occupation of the country of Georgia the same way the U.S. would treat a Russian occupation of the U.S. state of Georgia. That sounds like a recipe for war. But don’t worry, peaceniks, Antony Blinken has assured us that war is the last resort!
Blinken’s framing of the issue exposes his disingenuous approach. Russian aggression is a term used by Washington insiders to describe a Russian reaction to western aggression. Blinken knows that the 2008 war between Russia and Georgia was not Russian aggression, he calls it that because it suits his agenda and the American press is dependably ignorant enough to not ask questions.
In the 2008 war, Georgia was the aggressor against the South Ossetians, a people who are ethnically distinct from Georgians, and who have never — not even for one day — considered themselves a part of Georgia. The Ossetians have a history of Russian partiality; they were among the first ethnic groups in the region to join the Russian Empire in the 19th century and the USSR in the 1920s. Today, ethnic Ossetians straddle both sides of the current Russian border, and they are more aligned with the Russian government than with the Georgian government.
When Georgia gained sovereignty from the former Soviet Union in 1991, South Ossetia declared its independence. In response, Georgian forces invaded South Ossetia, initiating an armed conflict that killed more than 2,000 people. In 1992, a ceasefire Agreement was signed in Sochi between Georgia, Russia and South Ossetia, which created a tripartite peacekeeping force led by Russia. Although the international community never acknowledged South Ossetia’s independence, they have enjoyed political autonomy since the 1992 Sochi agreement.
The Sochi agreement held up until Georgia’s ultra-nationalist President Mikheil Saakashvili came to power in the 2003 western-backed bloodless “Rose Revolution” coup-d’etat. The pro-western President Saakashvili advocated joining the EU and NATO, and insisted on asserting Georgian rule over South Ossetia. U.S. President George Bush supported the new Georgian president’s effort to bring Georgia into NATO, which for Russia would mean bringing a hostile military up to its border. In 2006, President Saakashvili offered South Ossetia autonomy in exchange for a political settlement with Georgia. A referendum was held, and the South Ossetian people overwhelmingly reaffirmed their desire for independence from Georgia.
In August, 2008, After exchanging artillery fire with South Ossetia, Georgia invaded South Ossetia’s capital city of Tskhinvali, killing 1,400 civilians and 18 Russian peacekeepers. Georgia’s attack triggered a Russian invasion into South Ossetia and Abkhazia (another breakaway region) to restore stability and protect peacekeeping forces. Russia is by no means innocent — they used disproportionate force attacking targets inside Georgia — but only a Russophobic shill would conclude that this war was somehow caused by Russian aggression. The idea that Russia had no business intervening is laughable. Under the 1992 Sochi agreement, Russia took charge of a peacekeeping coalition to help prevent exactly the scenario that happened in the summer of 2008.
If George Bush had succeeded in bringing Georgia into NATO, the United States may have been dragged into war with Russia in 2008. Antony Blinken claims that NATO membership deters Russian aggression, but does he really believe that Russia would have been deterred from intervening to protect its own peacekeeping force? Does Blinken believe that Georgia — backed by the U.S. military — would have acted more cautiously in South Ossetia, or is it more likely they would have been bolder?
It’s undeniable that it is in Russia’s best interest to have pro-Russian countries on its borders. But pretending as if Russia is going to march into Tbilisi and reabsorb the entire country of Georgia into Russia is a level of paranoia that should disqualify anyone from having an opinion on the subject. The military conflict in Georgia is about the two breakaway regions and their right to self determination. Russia’s self interest happens to align with the wishes of the people in South Ossetia and Abkhazia. By supporting Georgia, America — the champion of democracy and self determination — has adopted the position that South Ossetians didn’t really mean to repeatedly choose independence when given the option. This is a situation where America’s professed values are diametrically opposed to its policy of countering Russian influence everywhere on the map.
Antony Blinken should pause to consider if America’s policy objectives are worth fighting a war for. Is it worth confronting Russia in South Ossetia? Was it worth confronting Russia over Crimea and the Donbas in Ukraine? Is it a good idea to withdraw from the INF Nuclear Treaty and the Open Skies Treaty? Should we have spent the last 30 years marching NATO — a military alliance hostile to Russia — right up to the doorsteps of Russia? Is any of this really making us safer?
Blinken has bought into his own propaganda. To Blinken, regardless of the stubborn details of history, every conflict on Russia’s border is simply Russian aggression. Washington’s solution is the expansion of NATO, which Russia describes as “NATO encirclement”. This is an unacceptable military threat to Russia, who has a deep distrust of western intentions due to a long history of western invasions into Russia. Antony Blinken still lives in a bipolar world in which the United States and Russia are existential threats to each other’s existence. Every conflict and every alliance is only viewed through the lens of the New Cold War crusade against Russia. This maniacal crusade could thrust America in the unthinkable abyss of nuclear war.
Rand Paul got his answer, Antony Blinken learned nothing from all his mistakes! The danger isn’t merely resorting to war too early, the danger is in sticking our noses in conflicts that we have no business being in. War should be the last resort to defending America’s people and it’s homeland from foreign invasion; it should not be the last resort to enforcing America’s utopian vision on the world, and it certainly shouldn’t be the last resort to prevent an ethnic group in the South Caucasus — that almost no American has ever heard of — from the right to self-determination.