Michael Barone

He hailed the Berlin airlift as an example of American generosity, which it was. But he didn't note that it was an example of American military strength: The "candy bombers" were members of the U.S. Air Force. And when he celebrated the fall of the Berlin Wall, he said it was supported by "the world as one." But a lot of people -- communists -- built the Berlin Wall, supported the Berlin Wall and shot men who attempted to climb over the Berlin Wall to freedom.

Vladimir Putin's Russia did not invade Georgia solely because it is a country on its borders moving toward freedom, democracy and the rule of law, though that was one reason. He did not invade solely to intimidate other former Soviet republics that have moved in the same direction -- Ukraine, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia -- though that was another reason. He invaded also because Georgia is the chokepoint on the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline that is the sole means except through Russia of transporting oil from the Caucasus and potentially natural gas from Central Asia to Europe and the wider world.

Maintaining a visible and active American presence in Tbilisi makes it riskier for the Russians to destroy the pipeline and makes it easier for Georgia's President Mikheil Saakashvili to resist Russian pressure to resign. There are other ways we can put pressure on Putin: Charles Krauthammer has suggested dissolving the NATO-Russia Council, barring Russia from the World Trade Organization, dissolving the G-8 and boycotting the 2014 Winter Olympics. The way forward is not clear, as it was not in Berlin in 1948.

Some say we never should have encouraged Georgia by offering NATO membership, which was sidetracked by Germany; others say if NATO membership had been extended, Russia would not have invaded. Perhaps and perhaps. In June 1948, some said we should have withdrawn from Berlin, while others said we should have negotiated land access to Berlin in 1945. We are where we are, as we were where we were then. The question is whether we have the nerve and the ingenuity and the persistence to stay. Truman's America did. Does ours?

Michael Barone

Michael Barone, senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner (www.washingtonexaminer.com), is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and a co-author of The Almanac of American Politics. To find out more about Michael Barone, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2011 THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM