Sean Gabb on the War in Georgia
Free Life Commentary,
A Personal View from
The Director of the Libertarian Alliance
Issue Number 174
14h August 2008
Another Neocon Farce?
by Sean Gabb
Foreign policy is an open issue among libertarians. Some of us are
isolationists. Others are pacifists. Others take a more belligerent line,
believing that there are threats to the admittedly imperfect liberal
democracies of the West that must be countered, and even that the
intelligent use of force can increase the amount of freedom in the world.
I am an isolationist. Though I incline to anarchist, I accept that for
the moment, the world is ruled by various states, and that there will
always be disputes between states, some leading to war. This being so, I
believe that the best way to minimise the threat of war is to have our
own state keep out of any dispute that does not immediately concern the
integrity of its own territory.
I am a citizen of a country that was a principal actor in the two big
wars of the twentieth century. I believe that these wars were unnecessary
for the security of my country and killed unimaginable numbers of people.
They also destroyed British primacy in the world and were the means of
transforming Britain from genuine liberal democracy to politically
correct corporatism. That is why I was so opposed to to our role in the
wars of the past decade in the Balkans, in Iraq and in Afghanistan. And
that is why I am now opposed to any intervention in the war between
Russia and Georgia.
I am told that Russia is an aggressive power that must be resisted in the
Caucasus before it is able to threaten other places. The newspapers are
filled with the usual talk of Munich and appeasement, together with
claims that a new Cold War is beginning. I deny this.
Russia may be an aggressor in this war. Or it may not be. I will not
enter into the details of who moved first, or with what provocation. But,
even assuming that Russia is the aggressor, I fail to see what business
this war is of the British or American Governments. The implied deal at
the end of the 1980s was that the Soviet Union would evacuate its
European colonies, in return for which Russian security would be
respected. Every former republic of the Soviet Union, with the exception
of the Baltic States, were to be regarded as part of the Russian sphere
of interest. That included the Ukraine and Georgia.
It was unwise to recruit the former East European colonies of the Soviet
Empire into NATO, and to move Western armed forces right up to the old
Soviet border. But that was something the Russians at the time were in no
position to resist, and that they might, given intelligent diplomacy, be
brought to accept was no threat to them. Now that Russia is again a first
class power, it would be madness to intervene in what used to be a core
part of the Soviet Union.
Yes - Russia is again a first class power. This may be founded on the
high price of oil and gas. The demographic trends in Russia may point to
a longer term weakness. But Russia will for perhaps the next decade be
again a first class power. This is no threat to the west. I was against
fighting the Cold War. But it was then arguable that the Soviet Union was
a danger to the west. What we had then was the largest country in the
world, with the largest armed forces, both at the disposal of a murderous
and expansionist ideology with intellectual sympathisers in every country
in the world.
First class or otherwise, Russia today is a normal power. It is no longer
interested in conquering France and Australia and Argentina. The present
ruling class in Russia legitimises itself and its efforts in terms of
Russian nationalism and Orthodox Christianity. This makes Russia a danger
to some of its immediate neighbours, but not to us. It is rightly
annoying to the British Government that Mr Putin seems willing to have
his political enemies murdered in London.
In the longer term, indeed, Russia is at least a potential ally of the
West, if not part of the West. If there is to be a contest in this
century - and I hope there will not be - between the West and Islam, or
the West and China, Russia must reasonably be counted as on our side.
With two lost wars in the Islamic world, and growing American impotence
in East Asia, now is not the time to antagonise Russia.
I have, in the past day, read statements by David Milliband, the British
foreign Secretary, and by the Conservative leader, David Cameron, that
strike me as almost childish in their failure to understand the realities
of international politics. There is nothing we should do to help the
Georgians. There is nothing we can do. Russia is not an enemy of Britain.
Sadly, London, just like Washington, has been captured by the
neoconservatives. These are not conservatives, new or old. They are
simply warmongers. They have misread the history of the twentieth
century. For them, national greatness is measured by military power. They
are allied to business and other interests that benefit from war. They
had a fine time during the Cold War. They were disappointed when this
abruptly ended. They have since then been lying us into smaller wars all
over the world. They want a permanent war with Islam. They look forward
to a cold war with China. Of course, now that Vladimir Putin is in charge
of Russia, they are in love with the idea that the original Cold War
never really ended, and that the warm certainties of their youth can now
What passes in the Conservative Party for thinking about foreign policy
is dominated by these people. I remember one Conservative politician who,
in 1995, assured a closed meeting that the Soviet evacuation of Eastern
Europe was a fraud, and that Russian tanks were ready to rumble westward
at the press of a button in Moscow. I was urged at the time not to hold
the clown up for the ridicule he deserved. I wish I had not listened. The
man is still important, and is a standing reminder that the Conservatives
are at least as great a menace to world peace as New Labour.
I could say more. But I think I have said enough. I hope the Russians and
Georgians will come to terms before too many more people are killed. In
the meantime, I am resolutely opposed to any intervention of any kind in
the dispute by the British Government. And, since Britain is regrettably
for the moment part of the American Empire, I oppose involvement by the
NBSean Gabb's book, Cultural Revolution, Culture War: How Conservatives
Lost England, and How to Get It Back, can be downloaded for free from