09/14/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Boast Boldly & Tote a Tiny Twig

Not since 1956 have I felt so ashamed of my country as I do today. Page one of The New York Times headlines:

Bitter Refrain
Amid Retreat:
Where is U.S.?

One Georgian soldier, "his face a mask of exhaustion", cradling a Kalashnikov, said 'We killed as many of them as we could, but where were our friends?'. Another, speaking with anger, says "Write exactly what I say." "Over the past few years I lived in a Democratic society. I was happy. And now America and the European Union are spitting on us."

In Budapest, Hungary in 1956, Radio Free Europe, the American foreign propaganda network, egged on the Hungarians, urging them to fight the Soviet army and advising various methods of resistance. We suggested, or at least implied, that the West would come to their rescue if they needed help. The Russians crushed the Hungarians, and we did nothing. Now it's Georgia's turn, and one again it's, "You guys fight. We'll hold your coat."

We've got 1,000 American soldiers in Georgia, training the Georgian army. Do you think for a minute we didn't know that the Georgians were going to make their move; were going to launch an artillery attack and invade South Ossetia? Did anybody in the Pentagon say to the Georgians, "You're on your own, buddy."

Who do the Georgians think we are, a super-power? We've got a broken army, so tied up in pacifying Iraq that we don't even have a brigade to spare to go to Afghanistan where the Taliban have just defeated the Pakistani army in the battle for Bajaur, a tribal region right on the Afghan border. We've got a broken economy with credit crumbling, unemployment rising and the national debt at an all-time high. We've got an energy deficit so great that we are willing to drill offshore on the Florida coastline while millions of barrels a day gush from the wastelands of Siberia.

In such circumstances it would seem wise to stop talking tough, to button your lip, to keep your mouth shut. But we've got a President who supported Georgia in its "Rose Revolution" against a pro-Russian government and praised it as an icon of democracy ever since. The Georgians were so grateful for Bush's "exuberant support" of their president, Mikheil Saakasvhiki, that they renamed a street in their capital, Tbilisi, "George W. Bush" street. They have also supported our war in Iraq, sent 2,000 troops and suffered three deaths. Just last week two more Georgians died with US forces in Afghanistan. But that also appears to have had a downside.

To again quote The New York Times: "by preparing Georgian soldiers for duty in Iraq the United States appeared to have help embolden Georgia, if inadvertently, to enter a fight it could not win." The Times continued, "American officials and a military officer who have dealt with Georgia said privately that as a result, the war risks becoming a foreign policy catastrophe for the United States, whose image and authority in the region were in question after it had proven unable to assist Georgia or to restrain the Kremlin while the Russia Army pressed its attack." So, the Georgians launch an attack on South Ossetia with artillery and tanks, killing dozens maybe hundreds of Russians. Then the Russians come in and slaughter them. Its Hungary 1956 all over again.

I cannot refrain from reminding readers that both Budapest and Ossetia occurred under Republican administrations whose braggadocio seems to have exceeded their bravery. It was another Republican, Teddy Roosevelt, who advised "Speak softly, and carry a big stick", but unfortunately: George Bush, "you're no Teddy Roosevelt". In your case it's "Boast boldly while toting a tiny twig".