Showing The Bear A Game Face
In today’s New York Post, Max Boot surveys our reactions to the unfolding events in Georgia and concludes that “all indications are that the will of the West has been found wanting. The Bush administration has limited its reaction to a few statements of disapprobation while State Department derriere-coverers rush to assure The New York Times that they counseled Saakashvilli against any military action in South Ossetia, making it seem as if he’s to blame for the Russian invasion of his country.”
Mr. Boot understands that one likely obstacle to action would be the lack of support from Europe. But that doesn’t mean we are just a pitiful helpless giant:
…we need to do more to aid Georgia – and possibly Ukraine, Azerbaijan and other former Soviet satrapies that feel threatened – by designating them as “major non-NATO allies.” That status now applies to 14 countries: Egypt, Israel, Japan, South Korea, Jordan, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Bahrain, the Philippines, Thailand, Kuwait, Morocco and (incongruously, since it’s not acting like much of an ally now) Pakistan.
Designation as a major non-NATO ally isn’t the same as a mutual defense pact, which would bind the United States to fight on behalf of these countries. But it does confer all sorts of advantages in supplying US military systems and other aid.
More important, it sends a message that the fate of these countries matters to Washington – that we won’t cast them adrift.
Signaling a clear US commitment to an embattled country is often the surest way to prevent hostile neighbors from invading it, whereas being ambiguous on whether we’d help out – as we were with South Korea in 1950 and Kuwait in 1990 and now with Georgia – can invite aggression.