Thinking the Unthinkable

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The real turning point in the modern histories of Russia and Georgia was not the collapse of the Soviet Union but the war in August. Back in 1991, when both countries withdrew from the Soviet Union, no one could imagine that they would be at war with each other. Unfortunately, the unthinkable has occurred. From now on, nothing seems inconceivable, including a war between Russia and the United States.

The United States has also tested the boundaries of the unthinkable -- in the economic sphere. Facing an unprecedented financial crisis, U.S. President George W. Bush, after only a few hours of deliberation, approved radical measures last week for increasing the role of the government in the U.S. economy, including nationalizing the country's largest financial institutions.

U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal was the closest analogy in modern history of adopting these kinds of radical socialist measures. Although Roosevelt was able to stabilize the U.S. economy after the Great Depression, it was actually World War II that enabled the United States to fully emerge from the lingering economic crisis.

In this context, consider the mystery surrounding Pearl Harbor. Why did the U.S. government fail to move its fleet to safer waters, even though it was fully aware of Japan's readiness to attack? Was it due to a bureaucratic blunder or was it a conscious decision to sacrifice the lives of U.S. seaman to rally Americans to enter the war? To this day, there is a heated debate among historians over the question.

Similarly, historians and political analysts are asking, "What role did the United States play in tiny Georgia's decision to risk an attack against enormous Russia?"

Since the unthinkable has now become conceivable, I will go out on a limb by suggesting that the United States played a major role in the Russia-Georgia conflict. Further, the September financial crisis that followed the Georgia war in August has only intensified Washington's determination to increase global tensions.

Iraq is another good example. All of the U.S. government's official justifications for the war, including Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and its ties to terrorism, turned out to be baseless. At the end of the day, U.S. corporations with ties to the Bush administration were awarded multibillion- dollar contracts to rebuild Iraq. To be sure, Iraqis suffered greatly under Saddam Hussein's bloody dictatorship, but his regime did not pose a threat to global security.

I recently asked an eminent U.S. political analyst about the $1 billion in promised U.S. aid to rebuild Georgia after the war. On the condition of anonymity, he said, "It wouldn't surprise me if the reason for the $1 billion aid is to divvy out lucrative construction projects to U.S. contractors, who in return will donate money to the election campaigns of Republican candidates -- or at the very least, U.S. aid to Georgia will serve as the last chance for the Bush administration to reward friendly contractors before leaving office."

It is one thing when during good economic times Washington starts a little war to grant sweetheart reconstruction deals to its favorite U.S. corporations. But it is something else altogether when the government must save the whole U.S. economy from the worst economic crisis since the Depression. That task requires a much larger war -- and one with far more casualties.

We should be prepared to think the unthinkable as we follow the United States' continuing struggle to promote democracy all over the world.

Alexei Pankin is the editor of IFRA-GIPP Magazine for publishing business professionals.