As you read this American tax dollars are being loaded onto planes and flown across the world to reward one of our least important allies for his own folly.
It’s been a strange and sad little war so far. A few thousand dead, maybe a hundred thousand are refugees. The above map pretty much covers it all. (Click here to see the full sized version) Last Friday Georgia tried to seize Tskhinvali, the capitol of de-facto independent South Ossetia. They were fiercely opposed by Russian troops and Ossetian militia and failed to take the city, then the Russians advanced into Senaki and Gori. Russian planes have launched air strikes at military targets in T’bilisi (the capitol of Georgia,) Gori, and Poti, some inevitably missing and striking civilian targets. As wars go it’s relatively modest so far, Russia has moved maybe 15,000 troops into Georgia. That alone outclasses the tiny Georgia military, which has mostly retreated in the face of the Russians. The only town that has been destroyed so far is Tskhinvali, a town of about 25,000, though Gori is getting serious damage too.
At this point it appears the Russians have halted their advance, in fact it wasn’t a terribly broad advance to begin with. They moved troops into Ossetia and Abkhazia and only advanced into Georgia proper in two locations. It seems clear the Russians intend to secure the independence of those two regions from Georgia, and punish Georgia for its aggression, not to mention its desire to join NATO. The American reaction, well, Bush finally stopped watching the Olympics in Peiping and did something. I’ll get to that in a minute, first a few other observations and follow ups on the current situation.
One of the my most dismaying observations so far is how much the western mainstream media is simply parroting the Bush administration line and more or less representing this as an unprovoked Russia invasion of Georgia. Russia’s attack was not only provoked, there’s not any doubt the Georgians started the major military action by trying to take Tskhinvali by force. This was not and is not some sort of Russian invasion of Georgia, they don’t want another Chechnya. The second major deception being doled out is that Georgia is some sort of freedom loving democracy, when in fact Georgia has a long history of despotic rulership. And its current President, Saakashvili, is not a nice guy. He’s shut down opposition newspapers, forcibly prevented demonstrations, and had his political opponents charged with spying and treason. Some democracy.
President Saakashvili is pretty much the poster child for loose cannons. He’s going around making speeches claiming that Georgia is Poland in 1939 and the Russians are the invading Nazis. Yes, he has literally made that comparison. Of course if the Russians wanted to conquer Georgia, Russian tanks would have rolled into Tbilisi a few days ago, Russia has more tanks than Georgia has soldiers. He’s claimed to have shot down more Russian aircraft than anyone since 1939, a claim so outlandish as to not need refute. At one point he harshly criticized the USA for not rushing to Georgia’s aid, which didn’t go over well in Washington. He also claimed that the Americans were coming to his aid and that large parts of Georgia were going to be placed under American military control. The Pentagon was quick to refute this nonsense. I suppose he was hoping it would make the Russians think. And it has, they officially think that President Saakashvili is crazy. I wonder myself.
After listening to Saakashvili’s rants for a few days, and American threats, the Russians gave the USA an ultimatum, basically telling us to choose between a real relationship with Russia or a relationship with this nutbar. Always eager to show the world just how easily manipulated the Bush regime is, they came out in full support of Saakashvili and upped the ante, threatening Russia with all sorts of punishments for its aggression. Yes, the USA is rushing humanitarian aid to Georgia and threatening Russia with unspecified sanctions, including kicking Russia out of the G8. In other words the USA plans to restart the Cold War in defence of an unstable leader of a tiny country who had the poor judgement to start a war with Russia. Yes, American tax dollars are being loaded onto planes and flown across the world to reward one of our least important allies for his own folly.
The Russians must be thrilled, hell, all of our rivals around the world must be thrilled. The USA is committing itself to supporting yet another unstable regime at huge expense merely because they fit into Bush and the Neocon’s sophomoric good vs evil narrative of world events. Has Bush never heard the saying: “You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear?” Apparently not. I wish he showed the same fervour toward fixing America’s rapidly decaying infrastructure and solving problems in America’s cities, but when you’re on a heroic crusade to rid the world of evil, taking care of your own people is apparently a low priority. And just how many failed states can the USA afford to prop up anyhow? Stay tuned…
Sadly the way this story is being spun by the Bush administration, it reinforces their bogeyman view of the world where all of our problems can be solved by spending ever more money on defence and foreign meddling. Some have even gone so far as to suggest that this little war is the “October surprise,” a carefully concocted event to boost support for McCain and his militaristic drum beating presidential campaign. I think that’s giving them way too much credit, though as usual the Bush Administration has demonstrated its breathtaking talent for deliberately misrepresenting an event in order to justify its own extremely parochial view of the world. Everyone engages in spin of course, but the Bush administration apparently believes its own spin, and that indeed, is scary.
If there’s a plus side to this, more and more I am seeing that thinking conservatives are no longer in favour of endless adventures abroad when the home front and the American economy is in such shambles. Bankrupting America with foreign crusades while letting our infrastructure and economy decay is not defending America, it’s letting America go to the dogs.
(The above maps were legally produced using UN maps for a base, UN maps are public domain, yadda, yadda, yadda, link. Credit and copyright: Doug Stych. These two maps and the accompanying article may be reproduced for non-commercial use so long as they are properly attributed and a link is provided to Doug’s Darkworld. My thoughts and prayers for a peaceful resolution to this mess.)