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Historical Fiction

10:26 AM, Feb 24, 2009 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
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Joe Klein apparently understands the Russians better than they understand themselves, and certainly better than anyone else in the press corps. In his latest dispatch for Time, the self-styled bane of neoconservatives untangles the latest Jewish deception in foreign affairs:

Today Jackson Diehl picks up Charles Krauthammer's theme of last Friday, which is that Barack Obama is getting played by the Russians. This is a theme that goes back to John McCain's overreaction to the skirmish in Georgia last summer--and further, to Robert Kagan's theory that the Russkies are roaring again. Which goes back to the neoconservative tic of searching for--at times, creating--enemies rather than opportunities.

In other words, this is cold war nonsense. The Russians were behind Kyrghizstan's "decision" to close down the American base there, an important Afghan supply link. (The "decision" is more like the opening round in a negotiation, which will probably wind up with the U.S. shelling out more for the rights to use the base.) The Russians want to have a choke-hold on U.S. Afghan supply routes. The Russians want to build a naval base in Abkhazia--nominally part of Georgia, but not really--on the Black Sea. The Russians want to gobble up Georgia.

OK. Russia has a history of aggression in its near-abroad. Let's assume all of the above is true, even if it probably isn't.

There were very few times in last year's campaign when McCain completely outmaneuvered Obama, but one of those instances came during the invasion of Georgia, when McCain's deep suspicion of all things Russian led him to condemn Russia's aggression quickly and forcefully. Obama, on the other hand, allowed his staff to put out a pathetic statement calling on both sides to show restraint. The invasion of Georgia provided no opportunities for this country, it was a moment that brought into sharp relief the dangers posed by a resurgent and more confident Russia. Even as a decline in energy prices and a global recession threaten the collapse of the Russian economy, that country continues to assert itself by pressuring the Kyrgyz to shut down a critical U.S. supply line. What makes Joe Klein think this isn't true?

More troubling, why does Joe Klein consider Abkhazia "not really" part of Georgia. It is a part of Georgia according to the United Nations and nearly all of its members. The borders in that region are contested only by Russia. Is the West Bank "not really" a part of the Palestine territories? One doubts that Klein would be similarly inclined to ignore an internationally recognized boundary for the benefit of nationalist Jews -- so why the sympathy for nationalist Russians?

Obama projected weakness and indecision when Russia first invaded Georgia last summer. Now the Russians are trying to choke off U.S. forces in Afghanistan and the Obama administration has offered no discernible response -- though, presumably, hopefully, a serious behind-the-scenes effort to determine a strong response is underway. But for those whose loyalties are divided between their responsibilities as a journalist and their fealty to Obama, Klein offers an alternate realty in which Obama is playing the Russians, not the other way around.