“Russia in control and on the move.”
In South Ossetia, Georgian Villages Burn
Georgian villages are burning in South Ossetia despite the presence of thousands of Russian soldiers in the area.
“Despite the presence of thousands of Russian soldiers in the area”???
19 Responses to “It Becomes More and More Clear”
According to Lew Rockwell, this is simply Russian preservation of Ossetians’ rights. It’s also a neocon plot, a Republican plot to get McCain elected, and a response to Israeli and American provocation. But Thomas Dilorenzo sees the Russian invasion of Georgia as a “civil war,” implying he sees Georgia & Russia as a single country…
“Mises” Institute: shills for the siloviki.
And what is your alternative? Do you want us to go to war to if its necessary to keep Condi’s pledge preserve Georgia’s territorial integrity (e.g. its rule over unwilling Ossetians)? Again……what do you want us to do? IMHO The sad truth which both the Rockwellians and the those who oppose them fail to admit is that BOTH sides in this conflict are wrong and not deserving our support.
What’s Russia’s endgame here, Tom?
The Georgians attacked South Ossetia. Russia responded. Neither Russia nor Georgia are liberal democracies. Russia is as much a part of the west as Georgia is. This is a territorial dispute between two ancient rivals.
Oh and over the past 5 years several hundred thousand Iraqis have died despite the presence of American troops in Iraq, so one might understand how the same might happen in Ossetia and Georgia.
US talk on this Georgia-Russia fight is preposterous. Hypocrisy? Iraq … res ipsa loquitur.
dodsworth: what is my alternative to what? The LVMI writers are utterly misrepresenting the situation; they’ve defended Putin and his cronies for some time.
I haven’t suggested a foreign policy response; neither has LVMI. But LVMI is quick to condemn U.S. gov’t invasion of Iraq, but says nothing negative about Russian aggression in Georgia. Russia has been waging a cold war against Georgia ever since the Rose Revolution, and has been similarly hostile to Ukraine since the Orange Revolution. The one thing Putin’s dictatorial siloviki regime cannot tolerate is anything approaching liberal democracy on its borders (or within them as well). LVMI’s version of libertarianism is completely phony.
I do think that there are appropriate foreign policy responses, but presumably the LVMI doesn’t, because any response would be undertaken by the U.S. govt. LVMI sees anything done by the U.S. govt as illegitimate, presumably because it departs from LVMI’s anarcho-capitalist ideal. OTOH, they never seem to apply this standard to Putin’s dictatorial regime.
Casey and Joe seem to think that it is hypocritical for Americans to condemn Putin’s actions because Bush has done bad things as well. This makes no sense at all. But even when Bush & co. condemn Russia, they are right for a change.
I have no intention about defending LVMI but you are wrong. Anthony Goodman has said in no uncertain terms that should stay out and not pick sides. Now,,,,again what is YOUR alternative? Quit cursing the darkness and light a candle.
Your depiction of the Georgians as essentially the good guys in the white hats and the Ruskies as the guys in the black hates is simplistic. The situation is more complicated and there is more than enough blame to go around. For a more objective source than either of use, check out this story today from the BBC:
“The Bush administration appears to be trying to turn a failed military operation by Georgia into a successful diplomatic operation against Russia.
It is doing so by presenting the Russian actions as aggression and playing down the Georgian attack into South Ossetia on 7 August, which triggered the Russian operation.
Yet the evidence from South Ossetia about that attack indicates that it was extensive and damaging.
The BBC’s Sarah Rainsford has reported: “Many Ossetians I met both in Tskhinvali and in the main refugee camp in Russia are furious about what has happened to their city.
“They are very clear who they blame: Georgia’s President Mikhail Saakashvili, who sent troops to re-take control of this breakaway region.”
Has Moscow learned yet how to play the media game?
Human Rights Watch concluded after an on-the-ground inspection: “Witness accounts and the timing of the damage would point to Georgian fire accounting for much of the damage described [in Tskhinvali].”
Tom – you’re being very cagey here. I hope you’ll soon lay out your thoughts on all this in greater detail.
Rockwell denounces the Russian regime for its war mongering!
Charles – You don’t seem to understand what happened. South Ossetia has been more or less autonomous since 1992. The Georgians attacked. The Russians saw this as an opportunity to attack back, and, then, they went further. Do I prefer they leave Georgia proper? Of course. I condemn two things: the Georgia attack on an autonomous region, and the Russian attack on Georgia.
But my point was this: if a sufficiently advanced liberal democracy like the U.S. puts troops into a sovereign nation, and the result is the death of hundreds of thousands of civilians, then what really could one expect of a considerably less advanced country like Russia.
So I hope for two things: the Russians withdraw, and the South Ossetians get to secede from Georgia and join Russia as is their apparent wish.
dodsworth, darkness in the guise of siloviki deserves to be cursed. Russia has sought to destabilize its neighbors ever since Putin took office. The Rockwellians have defended Putin for some time, and deserve to be cursed too.
You keep asking for my alternative… to what?
Joe, you do not understand. Georgia’s attack didn’t come out of the blue, but was predated by movement of Russian offensive forces into the area, as well as attacks from the breakaway regions. I don’t, BTW, think Saakashvili is a good leader or that he should have attacked. But the Russian operation is illegitimate, and I think there’s plenty of evidence he was goaded into it.
Let me try again. Do you support or oppose the announced U.S. policy by Condi and Bush or do you support another policy? Why are you running away? Tell us what you think! Don’t be a wimp.
This topic is important and worthy of more investigation and more thought.
My own view is that the case is much more complicated than Putin’s eager defenders at the Mises Institute think. For one thing, it is misleading simply to insist that the population of the South Ossetian Autonomous Oblast favors secession, as much of the population was expelled (both Ossetians and Georgians) during the disastrous armed conflict in 1991. And if ethnically Ossetian-dominated areas should be able to secede from Georgia, should ethnically Georgian-dominated areas of South Ossetia be allowed to secede? These cases are rarely so easy to resolve politically.
The case is even more extreme in Abkhazia, which had a very large Georgian population that was expelled (ethnically cleansed), most of whom now live as refugees in other parts of Georgia. They had been the largest ethnic group in the region prior to the expulsions. The Russian government just completed the process by expelling the remaining Georgian population. No doubt the previous Georgian government (under Shevernadze) committed gross errors, but the present government offered federalism and local autonomy, which is more than they have now under Russian occupation.
There are few states with clean hands in the region, which should surprise no one. The previous Georgian government did not acquit itself well, but the current one had promised regional autonomy and federalism.
The attack in Tskinvali undoubtedly caused civilian deaths (although evidently the Russian claims were extremely exaggerated, even a fraction is terrible). A strike to cut the tunnels and bridges into Georgia over which the Russian armor poured might have made a difference, and Georgian sources say that that was the aim. If so, the assault on Tskinvali seems an unjustified diversion, except for Kokoity’s military forces (and the Russian army) that were based there. (The last issue is certainly one that deserves a lot more investigation, particularly in light of the propaganda war back and forth.)
The aggressor and instigator in this case is pretty clear: president Putin, who has supported the statelet of Eduard Kokoity (which finances itself mainly, it seems, from Russian state support and from counterfeiting operations). Kokoity’s forces, with Russian support, had been shelling Georgian villages and had announced a campaign against Georgians.
“I work in Gori and there was hardly a day when there wasn’t any shelling – virtually every day we had wounded delivered to our hospital – there was no end to Russia’s provocation, all year round. So Georgia had no choice but to defend itself.” — Dr Vasily Gorgadze
Moreover, the large amount of heavy armor (tanks and armored vehicles) moving from Russia to Georgia was quite unmistakable and certainly quite threatening to the Georgians. Those are the tanks that immediately poured over the border and are now 25 miles from Tbilisi.
Should NATO send troops to clear out the Russians? I think that the answer is clearly no. The US should not and will not risk war with Russia. The general principle of non-intervention by the US government is operative. (Other governments, of course, may see things differently, and the display of defiance to Putin’s aggressive imperialism by the presidents of Poland, Ukraine, and the Baltic states indicates that they do see collective security as in their interests and that they fear, not the countries to the west of them, but the giant state to their east.) But the wisdom of keeping the US military out does not mean that the policy conclusion should color the facts. It should be the other way around. Unfortunately, some small minds seem incapable of seeing things as they are, rather than as they would be if all of their views were true and there were no counter arguments to them. If we should not attack Putin’s state, then it must be because it is a good state or that its actions are justified. The Mises Institute crew’s revolting history of praising Putin (including praising the shutting down of independent organizations throughout Russia: http://www.lewrockwell.com/blog/lewrw/archives/009344.html ) is a case in point. Of course, a state may act viciously and may even be the instigator of a conflict, without it following that other states should war on it.
The goal of Putin’s invasion of Georgia is clear. To humiliate Georgia’s government and and to harm seriously the people of Georgia. I doubt that Putin and his tiny presidential appointee (one of the few persons in Russia shorter than Putin, which makes the relationship visible enough) wants to reincorporate Georgia into a renewed empire. It’s too convenient for them for Georgia to be independent, but wounded — an external enemy that provides internal political benefits, without being any sort of threat. And the idea that he covets the riches of South Ossetia is implausible. It, also, is much more useful as an impoverished and unstable source of irritation to the Georgians.
As many have pointed out, there are no Georgian tanks or troops on Russian territory and there never have been any. But there are tens of thousands of Putin’s troops and their auxiliaries on Georgian territory. And they are busily looting, destroying, and killing.
Good. We’re all agreed that Georgia started this latest conflict over South Ossetia. I’m relieved, because this seems to be the position of most Georgians:
GEORGIAN OPPOSITION politicians have wasted no time in trying to undermine president Mikheil Saakashvili, who remains broadly popular in Georgia but is still widely perceived in the country as having started the war with Russia.
“And if ethnically Ossetian-dominated areas should be able to secede from Georgia, should ethnically Georgian-dominated areas of South Ossetia be allowed to secede?”
“These cases are rarely so easy to resolve politically.”
That may be true, but bombing and killing civilians, as has been done by Georgia and Russia, is always immoral.
There is a robust debate in Georgia right now on the issues you point to. And that is one more thing that distinguishes Georgia from Russia. Who bears responsibility for such a defeat is the kind of thing that is debated openly in democracies. But we should be careful about the issue of “who started it.” As has been pointed out, Ossetian and Russian forces had been shelling Georgian villages for some time. Perhaps the Georgians should just have “lived” with being bombed on a daily basis, as well as with the movement of columns of armored vehicles to their border. But regardless of the proper response, it should be remembered that the shelling of Georgian villages outside of South Ossetia (and of Georgian villages in South Ossetia) from Russian-backed South Ossetian (and possibly also Russian) forces preceded the attacks by the Georgian military. The Georgian authorities seem to have walked into a well prepared trap, and there may well be political consequences after a democratic debate within Georgia, but let’s not be confused about the time line.
This war was organized in the Kremlin, where such external conflicts prove very helpful for generating xenophobia, statist nationalism, and ever greater centralization of power. (Not unlike how things work in Washington, but much better, more intelligently, and more systematically organized.) The destruction of civilian life (and the loss of non-civilian life, too, of course, especially when one considers the lives of conscripts) is terrible. And that is something understood by the innocents on both sides, the Ossetians (and Georgians) who were killed by bombs from Georgian forces, no less than the Georgians (and Ossetians) who were killed by bombs from Ossetian and Russian forces.
As Georgian libertarians have stressed for quite some time, the best approach was to offer free trading relations and autonomy through federalism for the regions. That is what the Georgian government had begun to offer. That was not, however, at all to the liking of the authorities in the Kremlin, who prefer fractured, warring, dysfunctional neighbors who live in poverty and fear, rather than prosperous, peaceful, free and democratic neighbors with whom one could freely trade. (Remember the unilateral embargo announced by Putin of all Georgian travel, goods, phone calls, postal connections, and other connections? In Ukraine Borjomi water, which was illegal in Russia, was then marketed as “The Taste of Freedom.” The Ukrainians understood.)
Dodsworth, you seem to be ignoring what I am writing about, and want to shift the debate to U.S. foreign policy. The Russian invasion of Georgia is utterly wrong, and part of an ongoing Russian project to undermine the independence of other countries of the FSU. The Rockwellians has spoken in support of the project for some time, and deserve to be condemned for it.
As for Bush & Rice, so far as I can tell, they have not announced any policy, but have simply made statements that the invasion is wrong and there should be consequences. On what specific “policy” do you want me to comment? Quit being vague and insulting, and ask straightformward questions.
On the absence of a U.S. policy, both Rice and Gates seem explicit:
To add to Tom’s comments on “who started it?” (And Iraki’s in another thread)… according to Kommersant (Russian news source), Georgia offered a peaceful solution to Abkhazia in June that would have made the region autonomous, with most of it a Russian sphere of influence:
And in July, Georgia was warning that Russia was moving offensive forces into the region (rather than defensive units):
Dear Friends, I really do not understand, why those of you, who has no idea on what is going on in Georgia try to present untrue and unjust information? Tom, thanks a lot. You’re as objective as usually, and we really are in an extreme need of the help from people like you. Also great thanks to Charles and all the others, who are trying to look into the problem deep enough and not just to stay with superficial and biased info spread by some sources. I do not want to comment on the events as I did in the beginning (I was strongly upset with all these processes, which I think is fully understandable), since I am representing one of the parties, but stay with hope that the reason will prevail.