Neocons are people that see danger everywhere and seem to crave military solutions in all cases. They endlessly blather about how we need to stand firm against bullies or other threats (Russia being near the top of the list), and protect our brave allies on the front lines, and along with them, democracy, freedom and our honor. They mock cowardly European who think appeasement (read - any diplomacy) might have a chance. They fuel conflicts and perpetually tout military options.
And yet, whenever given the opportunity to stand up to their words (and sent other people to fight, of course, they don't do that themselves), the results are surprisingly poor.
After the catastrophic invasions and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, the neocons have just lost a third war, in Georgia.
Georgia says its troops have withdrawn from the breakaway region of South Ossetia and that Russian forces are in control of its capital, Tskhinvali.
A government spokesman told the BBC it was not a military defeat but a necessary step to protect civilians.
Right. That's what you say when ... errr, let me see ... oh yes ... when it is a military defeat.
Georgia said Sunday it had withdrawn entirely from the separatist enclave of South Ossetia in an effort to stave off all out war, and that Russia overnight had launched major land offensives from the north and west of the country.
Russia said it was checking whether Georgian forces really were pulling back from positions they occupied. One Russian military commander told the Interfax news agency that he saw no signs of a Georgian withdrawal.
Georgia withdrew its troops "as part of a very conscious decision by the Georgian government to end this spiral of violence," said Georgian Foreign Minister Eka Tkeshelashvili in a phone interview. She said Georgia had delivered a message to Moscow asking for a ceasefire, but had yet to receive a response.
"Please stop shooting."
Even the WSJ, home of Georgian president Saakashvili for an endless series of editorials urgin the West to stand firm to Russia, is backing down:
"War has started," Vladimir Putin said yesterday as Georgian and Russian forces fought over the breakaway Georgian region of South Ossetia. War is certainly what the two countries have seemed to want for some time, and the chances of avoiding a drawn-out conflict now are slim.
It's unclear at this stage which side is more at fault for the current fighting. Georgia says it moved on the South Ossetian city of Tskhinvali yesterday after rebels there broke a cease-fire. But President Mikheil Saakashvili has long pledged to retake South Ossetia and another separatist area, Abkhazia, and may have underestimated Moscow's reaction.
Perhaps Mr. Saakashvili finally snapped and acted first here, as the Kremlin insists. If so, it was a huge mistake, as he has picked a fight with a much larger opponent and damaged his country's chances of joining NATO. The West may support Georgia's territorial integrity, but no one wants war with Russia.
Oh, now they tell us. After telling us how Russia was behaving aggressively, threatening democracy in various countires bordering it, and how it was vital that we support these countries, including my military means (isn't that what Georgia joining NATO was about - about "attacking one is attacking all"?), they tell us that we don't want war with Russia?
Is it because Russia, after telling us what would be considered a casus belli by them, actually acted on such announcements, called Saakashvili's bluff and responded with overwhelming force, kicking his ass, and by proxy, that of his gung-ho advisors in the WSJ and other neocon nests?
We don't have to approve Russia's policies to note that it has been consistent and unsurprising for anyone who bothered to listen to them (something neocons don't seem to do, except to find proofs of hostility to justify their own macho posturing).
Even granting that Russia has conducted an aggessive, outward bound foreign policy (as opposed to the kinder version that says they are simply reacting to Western provocations) towards the former Soviet Republics and beyond, this whole episode should disqualify the neocons from ever speaking about foreign policy again - they claimed the need for strength, the need to call Russia on its imperialism, the need to beef up the military of the threatened countries and to support them with the full force of the alliance of democracies - and they dumped Georgia at the first opportunity, after Russia showed it was actually serious about fighting when it got under way?
We get the worst of both worlds: military build up, diplomatic tensions and deep mistrust within (former?) allies in the West, and defeat when the inevitable confrontation happens.
Either Russia is a real danger, and we need consistent policies to address that (including, I might add, serious policies to reduce our energy use, given that Russia is the largest energy exporter and can, supposedly, cripple us with the "energy weapon" beyond the traditional military invasions and irredentism) or it is not, and we need to start talking with them and listening to them - and maybe avoid things like bringing our soldiers to their borders, cancelling unilaterally treaties signed with them, and endlessly calling them an enemy.
Either we actually do realpolitik, or we don't. Realpolitik is meant to be distateful, but effective. What we have now is certainly distateful, but effective is the last word that can be used to describe it. Beyond the loss of credibility I discussed yesterday, losing wars and having cities in allied countries flattened out can hardly be considered great successes.
What saddens me the most is that neocons still get taken seriously by the Serious People inside the beltway and elsewhere, and still get to influence policy.
If impeachment is off the table, could at least tar and feathers be brought back into fashion for a few of these people?