Monday, August 11, 2008

Watching the Good Guys Lose in Georgia

There isn't a whole lot on the political blogs about the Russian invasion of Georgia. I don't think that's due to apathy about the subject, but rather the fact that there's not much to say or do. We're watching a war in which the good guys are going to lose. It sucks.

Heck, it's depressing to imagine one sovereign nation quite openly invading another. Even Eritrea and Ethiopia have the good graces to be somewhat circumspect in their involvement in the morass that is Somalia. Preceding that, the last completely open invasion that I can remember is Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. We've become used to a vicious yet graceful dance as the international system today -- trade talks, weapons sales, surrogate insurgencies, armed force training, banking links, etc. The massive payments to Colombia and Egypt from the United States are the main reasons our nations are so close; that method isn't much more subtle than gunboat diplomacy, but at least it's a minor improvement. Not that the cloak-and-dagger surrogate stuff is an improvement -- Afghanistan and Iraq don't benefit from their neighbors' meddling, surely. However, deniable interference makes coming down from confrontation easier; there's less loss of face in severing sever links with a militia than to go to a peace conference and sign a treaty, etc.

But men in one set of uniforms killing men in another set? It seems so archaic. There's an obvious winner here, and an obvious loser. There's obvious hostility and worse still, naked ambition here. There's no hope in Russia's posture. Even if -- if -- Russia was legitimate in occupying the restive areas of Georgia, there is no consequent reason to further occupy undisputed Georgian territory, or demand the replacement of its head of government. There is no effort on Russia's part to project this as anything other than a 19th century style land grab.

I think that's what is depressing, in the end. There's no way to pretend that this will be easily rectified, that there's any real principle at stake here, other than the use of power for power's sake. In all likelihood, Russia will have de facto peeled off some territory of a weaker neighbor, and the rest of the world will barely have done anything to prevent that other than a "stern word" in between taking in sporting events. Add on the surreal fact that the United States is basically ferrying troops back into Georgia to fight the Russians, while working closely with the Russians to ensure that Americans aren't harmed in the process.

This also casts Russia in pallid terms. Democracies don't act like this...even quasi-democracies steer clear of this behavior. It's stunning how smoothly Putin has regressed the Russian nation into a place where people applaud tanks rather than eat enough food.

And worst of all, the United States can't really do anything. This isn't Iraq or the Taliban...the Russians won't be pushed around militarily, and we'd be fools to try. It's not Bush's fault, either. I can't imagine President Gore or Kerry could have talked Putin down from this ledge, and neither would certainly be willing to bring the United States into a very hot war with Russia. It is true that America has grown isolated under Bush's incompetent occupation of the White House, but I can't imagine Britain, France, or India are looking the other way because of that. Simply put, Georgia isn't worth the price for the Western World, and Putin knows that.

The good guys are going to lose. The bad guys are going to win. And we can't do anything about it.

If you want more up-to-the-minute detail, check out the following:
Rustavi 2: More news from a Tblisi tv station.
President of Georgia's site (Note, previous 2 sites now hosted in Atlanta due to Russian hacker attacks on the Georgian servers)
Civil Daily News: English news from Georgia
Wu Wei: On the ground, blogging in in Georgia
Government of Georgia official site: The official site, now under attack, same as the people it serves.
BBC News: Informed if biased coverage of the conflict.

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