Corridors of Power: Georgia’s War, Paraguay’s President, and Brazil’s New Hero

Corridors of Power: Georgia’s War, Paraguay’s President, and Brazil’s New Hero

AUGUST BLUES -- "August is the month when wars start," wrote the late Al Aronowitz, the rock writer. Both World War I and II started in August, and now the Georgia-Russia conflagration has followed suit. In planning their attempt to retake South Ossetia, did the Georgians think the Russians would all be on vacation and not notice? Their second miscalculation was to forget the lesson of the Hungarian Uprising of 1956 and somehow believe that their patron, the United States, would step in. That's what the Hungarians believed when they launched their revolution against the Soviet presence, based mainly on broad hints in Radio Free Europe broadcasts. This week, according to the New York Times, the Georgians are echoing what the defeated Hungarians said when Soviet tanks crushed their bid for freedom: "Where are our friends?" The circumstances are different, but the ambivalence has a familiar ring.

IMMEDIATE RESPONSE -- In Washington, senior State Department officials were falling over themselves to convince the media that the United States in no way incited last week's attempt by Georgian forces to regain control of the separatist region. On the contrary, the Americans had discouraged Georgia's President Mikheil Saashkivili from any such belligerent action, and what could he have been thinking?

Had he been misled about U.S. intentions by the fact that between July 15 and 31, 1,425 U.S. troops had been engaged in a joint military exercise called Immediate Response 2008 with Georgian forces near the country's capital Tbilisi? The 15-day exercise was widely covered by the Georgian media as a demonstration of U.S.-Georgian bilateral cooperation. Immediate Response was designed by the Pentagon "to promote understanding and cooperation between military forces of the United States and U.S. allies," according to the Georgian Times newspaper. In interviews, senior U.S. officers involved were full of praise for the battle-readiness of Georgian troops. According to the Georgian press, the Americans had barely left the country when the Georgians put that readiness into practice.

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