Why Americans swoon for the former Soviet Republic of Georgia.
By Ilan Greenberg
American Georgia boosters may not boast the same numbers and history as, say, lovers of Paris. But what they lack in size and tradition they more than compensate for with depth of feeling. In fact, it is hard to overstate the level of passion felt by Americans in thrall with Georgia. Love for Georgia is uncompromising and consuming. ...
Scenes of sullen Slavs hammering vodka shots give way in Georgia to boisterous celebrations of copious wine, joke-telling as bloodsport, and supreme hospitality. ...,
As Mitchell said to me, "There's no other post-Soviet government with a president everyone calls by first name who can argue about where to find the best Indian food in New York."
I got to know Georgia—and Saakashvili—when I profiled him for the New York Times Magazine. For almost two months I shadowed Misha. In Slovakia for a regional summit, walking next to Saakashvili along Bratislava's cordoned streets, the Georgian head of state hooked his arm on my elbow and offered to trade gossip about his senior staff. In Tbilisi, Saakashvili gave me carte blanche access, not once ordering me out of his office. In a region where governments routinely conflate tribe with nation, Saakashvili pointedly switched languages to inclusively address ethnic minorities. One evening I answered my cell phone to hear the cackling voice of the then 37-year-old president, who called to tease that his evening was more interesting than mine. I had been crank-called by the president. Stockholm Syndrome was inevitable.
Georgia's charm doesn't end with Saakashvili. Few sights are as beguiling as barrel-chested Georgian men greeting each other on the street with the traditional cheek kisses. ...
Of course, at the government level, assiduous courting of Americans is all part of the plan. Saakashvili has been reaching out to American politicians, especially Republican ones, since he took office. When I spent time with the president, he was obsessive about influencing American opinion-makers in the press, and his chief of staff complained to me he was spending more time dictating responses to articles in American newspapers than governing Georgia.
For Westerners, Georgian cultural idiosyncrasies can be intoxicating. But for Russians, Georgia is also innerving. The two peoples are badly handcuffed. Russian women falling for Georgian men is a stereotype in both countries, and ethnic Georgians populate the upper reaches of Russian pop culture as celebrated singers and actors.
Actually, Americans don't love Georgia. (A lot of Americans aren't even that crazy about the Georgia that Ray Charles sang about.) What percentage of adult Americans do you think could find Georgia on a globe within 15 seconds? 10%?
Here's the double-sided irony, though: We here in the land of the free and the home of the brave aren't supposed to even notice the links among various interests in Israel, the ex-Soviet Union, and the NYC-DC axis, causing Americans to underestimate their power. And that leads to nasty surprises for Americans, like when one of our client states suddenly invades a Great Power's protectorate. A week and a half later, 90% of the press is still baffled by why Georgia thought it could get away with it. (And another 9% is still pretending Russia struck first -- see today's Washington Post where their Editorial Page Editor asks "Who Made Russia Attack?").
On the other hand, the rest of the world tends to overestimate the power of these Jewish-centric networks, which brag constantly about their power, except when somebody mentions their power. Foreigners shake their heads and ask: If they weren't so powerful, then more people in America would be allowed to talk about them, right?
The truth, not surprisingly, turns out to be in-between, but since we're not supposed to talk about it, nobody knows what they are talking about.
In particular, there are large parts of the world where "conspiracy theory" isn't a pejorative -- the way you prove you're the smartest guy in the room is to come up with the most complicated conspiracy theory. A lot of these conspiracy theorists are anti-Semites, but some of the conspiracy theorists, such as the government of Georgia, are pro-Semites.
And while that global impression of Jewish network omnipotence helps various American and Israeli individuals make a nice living for themselves as pretend powerbrokers, it also leads to tragic/farcical events like Georgia's recent attack.
For example, Saakashvili, a former New York lawyer, apparently figured that if:
- he appointed ex-Israelis to his two crucial cabinet positions ("Both war and peace are in the hands of Israeli Jews," he recently joked);
- bought enough Israeli and American weapons;
- sent 2000 troops to fight in the neocons' war in Iraq;
- hosted an oil pipeline;
- and if he relentlessly massaged the egos and cultural biases of Jewish writers from Jewish-owned American media outlets, portraying Georgians as lovable surrogate Italian-Americans in natural alliance with Jews, with himself as their Rudy Giuliani;
Then America would have to help him out in his little invasion of Russian-defended turf. After all, evidently reasoned this ex-New Yorker, The Jews run America, right? Or maybe the world? So America would have to come to his aid in his war against the New Czar and his Armored Cossacks.
Once he started the war, all that Saakashvili got for his years of schmoozing were a lot of credulous articles in the American press forgetting to mention who invaded whom first, and a little rhetorical sabre-rattling from American pundits and Presidential candidates, one of whom, John McCain, has a chief foreign policy adviser who was on the Republic of Georgia's payroll until May 15.
So, Saakashvili's got that going for him, which is nice.
But when it came to actual tank warfare with Russia, well, the idea that these motley networks of hustlers and blowhards whom Saakashvili had cultivated in Israel and America could and would force their countries to ride to his rescue turned out to be just a fantasy in his head.
The Israeli Foreign Ministry has been trying to cut Georgia loose ever since they got wind of the fine mess various ex-Israeli military men had gotten Israel into.
And there was never any way in hell that U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates (who, by the way, is not 29-years-old) was going to send American troops to fight the Russian Army 600 miles south of Stalingrad. The American public wouldn't put up with it. Americans don't know much about history, but we have heard of Hitler and Napoleon, and we more or less know that fighting a ground war with Russia is what brought them down.
By the way, if the Georgian government had any sense, they would haven't turned to American and Israeli advisers for military consulting against Russia, since those two countries' experience and expertise is in tank vs. tank warfare when they have the upper hand. To learn how a little country can hunker down and outlast a big country, Georgia could have hired Swiss experts, or Albanians, or Hezbollah for advice on how a little country can dig in and resist attack from superior armor and air power.
But, the Georgians weren't interested in defense.