James Lileks, writing in JWR:
Nuke Chechnya, some shout. Sure, that'll work. In a sense, it would — "no man, no problem," as a glinty-eyed nasty Georgian once put it. But if anything, Russia's war against terrorism shows the limit of force. Neither world or domestic opinion has heretofore kept Russia from flattening Chechnya into a mist of atomized concrete and pulverized bone.
Americans build bombs that take down government buildings and leave the hospital down the block intact. Russians level the entire block and the next and the next for good measure. The Before and After pictures of Grozny look like the difference between an aerial photo of a thriving city and a snapshot of the Moon from an orbiting Apollo. What else can Vladimir Putin do?
Whatever he does, it won't be pretty. Paranoids on the left and right accuse George W. Bush of using Sept. 11 as a pretext to suspend civil liberties — but if they want to see the real thing, look at Putin.
Watch Russia. Watch as the rest of the Russian Federation gets more tightly bound to the man in the Kremlin; the courts, the media, and the corporations will continue their consolidation into a tightly controlled state. Civility at the core, brutality in the outlands. Fascism without the shouting or silly symbols, but the real thing nonetheless.