"But war, in a good cause, is not the greatest evil which a nation can suffer. War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks nothing worth a war, is worse. When a people are used as mere human instruments for firing cannon or thrusting bayonets, in the service and for the selfish purposes of a master, such war degrades a people. A war to protect other human beings against tyrannical injustice – a war to give victory to their own ideas of right and good, and which is their own war, carried on for an honest purpose by their free choice – is often the means of their regeneration. A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. As long as justice and injustice have not terminated their ever-renewing fight for ascendancy in the affairs of mankind, human beings must be willing, when need is, to do battle for the one against the other."

Thursday, August 14, 2008


Back in the days of the original Olympics, all the Greek city-states who attended made a sacred vow to lay down their arms and abstain from warfare for the two weeks of the Games. Apparently modern notions of what's sacred and civilized don't apply to the Games anymore, as Russia celebrated the XXIXth Olympiad by invading her tiny neighbor of Georgia. Blame has been laid on both parties: Russia, for arming and supporting Ossetian separatists, attempting a land grab by issuing Russian passports to Ossetian sympathizers and then claiming an invasion was necessary to protect her 'citizens', seeking to control a strategic oil pipeline that was outside its orbit, and sending a strong message to other former Soviet republics to think twice before cozying up to the West; and Georgia, for, as far as I can tell, falling for Russia's provocations and having the gall to aspire to independence outside the Russian sphere of influence. Whatever Georgia's sins in this matter, she appears to have suffered mightily for them. Russia, on the other hand, has yet to suffer anything for possibly the greatest act of naked aggression in the 21st century.

The West, meanwhile, has not suffered materially, but our collective failure to do anything besides call for "restraint by both parties" (oh you bad-ass, Obama, you) is embarrassing and shameful. Georgia's current leaders brought genuine reform and improvement to that country, and sought to join the modern world in organizations like NATO. They, still in the infancy of independence, joined our efforts to bring something better to Iraq by deploying 2,000 troops there (more than our older erstwhile allies like France and Germany). They believed our promises of solidarity and support for things like democracy and free markets. One could not blame them for finding those promises to be empty. As Russian tanks rolled toward their capital, the Georgian contingent in Iraq was forced to stop defending democratic principles in the desert in order to preserve them at home. The U.S. finally offered humanitarian aid, but little else. France's Sarkozy appeared to win a diplomatic coup by negotiating a cease-fire, only to learn that Russia needed less than 24 hours to violate it. The conflict appears to be over, and what do we have to show for it? One nation is in ruins, another is leisurely pulling its forces back, confident that it will pay no penalty for its actions; and on the borders of the Bear, neighbors tremble as they wonder when and if they'll be next. And, as always, the international community looks on stupidly in the face on injustice.

What should the fall-out from this mess be? First, at the very least we owe Georgia all the aid we can give it for taking it on the chin because they bought our rhetoric. We should admit Georgia and other Eastern republics seeking NATO membership into the club as quickly as possible. Clearly, attacking a fellow member of the U.N. has no repercussions, and Security Council resolutions are useless in this case since Russia will veto them in less than a heartbeat (did that occur to you, Bill Richardson?). Russia might think twice about invading a NATO member, however. And when we say that this attack has set back Western relations with Russia "for years", we should prove it. Stripping them of G-8 membership and blocking their entry into the WTO would do that. And, since Russia thinks it has most of Europe over an oil barrel, we should hit their petro-dollars, as that's one of the few things propping up their kleptocracy.

There is, perhaps, one ray of light from this debacle in which we can take small comfort. It's been noted that Russia arrayed its dozens of tanks and thousands of troops on the front lines weeks before, and then attacked with overwhelming force. That overwhelming force looks impressive from afar, and is doubtless intimidating up front; but the reason it took hordes of tanks and infantry to invade a tiny nation is because Russia's military competence is mediocre at best. Oh, they have good equipment - not as advanced as the West's, but lethal enough - but their training and morale is middling. Russia still relies on conscripts and has officers who treat the military as their own personal playground. Georgia's forces have few conscripts and are trained by the best military in the world; namely, us. It's telling that with all the firepower Russia brought to bear, their air force - despite complete air superiority - couldn't sever the oil pipeline after a week of trying. They excelled at widespread and indiscriminate destruction of civilian targets, but couldn't conduct precision bombing; and Georgia shot down several of their aircraft to boot. God forbid we or any of Russia's larger neighbors should ever get into a shooting war with the rodina; but should that happen, the Russian military might find it bit off more than it could chew.

1 comment:

Winefred said...

Revealing interview of the Georgian prez by Glenn Beck. Prez talked non-stop, and Beck just let him vent. Watch it all here.