Russia invaded Georgia? Really? That seems more like something I read in history class than something that should be all over newspapers and blogs right now. Considering that I was just two years old when Francis Fukuyama published the essay "The End of History," in which he proclaimed that the end of the Cold War was also "the end point of mankind's ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government," it is safe to say I grew up during an era when liberal democracy and the United States reigned supreme.
As a history major at Dartmouth College concentrating on the history of the modern world, I realize that the world I know is just a blink in time. In Government classes, we debated whether the United States is an empire or a hegemony, but it was always taken for granted that the United States was number one. However, as a result of events this summer, it is now up for debate whether or not the United States is "supreme."
With our liberal economy plummeting into deeper and darker holes and our democratically-elected president continuing to be stupid during his last few months in office, and with Communist China's impressive display of strength and athletic prowess during the Olympics in Beijing, it seems natural that Russia would take this opportunity to invade Georgia. The United States, the keystone of liberal democracy, appears vulnerable while China appears unstoppable and Russia feels confident and aggressive. I bet that deep in his soul, where even George W. Bush couldn't see, Vladimir Putin was silently laughing at the president as the two were seated near each other during the Olympics' Opening Ceremonies.
Now what is this I hear about Poland? Russia wants to invade poor innocent Poland? The same Poland that was invaded during World War II and fought Nazi Germany predominantly on its own? This certainly seems like deja vu to me, at least based on my history studies. The number one rule in history is that it is circular and not linear. In predicting the future, we must look to events in the past - and if events in the past are any harbinger, we are in for something big. The United States has stepped up early and created a defense agreement with Poland. However, Russia sees this as an aggressive act on our part, just like we viewed Russia's placement of missiles 90 miles from Florida during the Cuban Missile Crisis. We are no longer in the Cold War, but experts are claiming we might be on the verge of a hot war.
There is something nostalgic about all these current treaties, alliances, tactics, and threats. It hearkens back to a time when rules and regulations still governed wars, when nations were at war with each other, not fighting with individuals, insurgents, and shadowy terrorist organizations. It is calming to be able to look to history for answers and advice. These times might be trying, but at least we have been through them before. We can throw around lofty terms like political realism to make sense of this disarray forming in front of our eyes. Finally, we can rejoice that we are not destined to endless centuries of foreign policy boredom, like Fukuyama predicted when he declared that we had reached the end of history. I just hope we can learn from our past mistakes and that no nations or people are hurt.