Thursday, August 14, 2008

A Bad Hand in Georgia

For ourselves, we shall not trouble you with specious pretences - either of how we have a right to our empire because we overthrew the Mede, or are now attacking you because of wrong that you have done us - and make a long speech which would not be believed; and in return we hope that you, instead of thinking to influence us by saying that you did not join the Lacedaemonians, although their colonists, or that you have done us no wrong, will aim at what is feasible, holding in view the real sentiments of us both; since you know as well as we do that right, as the world goes, is only in question between equals in power, while the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.
The Athenians (i.e. Alcibiades), speaking to the Melian ambassadors (Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War, Book 5, Chapter 17 ("Sixteenth Year of the War - The Melian Conference - Fate of Melos" [a/k/a "The Melian Dialogue"]).

Well, there's one theory shot to pieces. (See last post).

The Russians are sitting in Poti and in Gori, apparently making preparations to at least partially withdraw, and appear to be wrecking Georgia's infrastructure before they leave. I wonder if the Russians will claim they've "withdrawn" but leave South Ossetian and Abkhazian "volunteers"(Russian soldiers with different insignia) in place until Georgia concedes independence to these places. In their place, I certainly would.

The Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, has said Georgia's territorial integrity is a "dead issue" and that South Ossetia and Abkhazia are not going to be forced back into Georgia. His position makes better sense than the converse Euro-American position, since it reflects the facts on the ground. The winner gets to call the tune; and, sorry, but the Georgians, Americans and Euros are not in that column.
If President Bush wants to order the Russians out of Georgia and speak up for Georgian territorial integrity without rendering himself ridiculous, than he needs something more to threaten the Russians with than harsh language. At the moment, the less President Bush says about what the Russians should do, the better. The military facts do not warrant his making any demands on them whatever.
The "humanitarian aid" to Tbilisi in C-17's is a step in the direction of giving the Russians something to think about. But is this wise? It seems a couple days late and a few batteries of artillery short. Hopefully the President and his advisers know what they're planning to do if the aircraft are fired upon. I don't think the Russians are seeking a conflict with us. . .they had better not be, for their sakes. But accidents have been known to happen. Personally, I feel badly for Georgia, but it is not worth a war to the United States.
It now seems probable that there was a massive failure of intelligence and imagination on the part of the Americans and Georgians leading up to this conflict. We will no doubt learn more about that in the months ahead. But it is now time to liquidate a bad position, and encourage the Georgians to negotiate the best exit from this position possible.


louielouie said...

if someone had said this is payback for this, i could buy that. but some of the other theories just don't wash.
why did russia, er ah, the soviet union not recognize south ossetia in kind?
it's all the same.
this breakaway republic breaks away from that breakaway republic.
why the tanks?
why the czech redux?
the soviets build tanks, right?
the soviets build guns, right?
how's that washing machine thingy coming along?
what economy?
you will have the economy i tell you to have.

El Jefe Maximo said...

The Russian government, as far as I know has not yet officially recognized South Ossetia. Until recently, the final status of Kosovo would have been an impediment to doing so. Had Russia extended recognition following international recognition of Kosovo, it no doubt would have been seen as an escalation of the Georgia/South Ossetia problem, to which the Russians, citing Kosovo, might well have said big deal.

From the Russian point of view, the downside would have been prematurely putting the "mark" -- Georgia -- on its guard about Russian interest, thus making it harder to draw the Georgians into overstepping.

I have no doubt that Russian recognition of the "Republic of South Ossetia" or something, is imminent, and that shortly thereafter the South Ossetians, much like the Sudeten Germans a while ago, will produce some kind of assembly of notables, or group of great and good, to come on bended knee and beg to be re-united with the Russian motherland.

The Russians may or may not accept -- there are downsides -- and saying no would be such good propaganda for use with the Euros, but it will amount to the same thing. If it legally survives, the place will have as much "independence" from Russia as downtown Moscow.

A similar process will occur with Abkhazia.

louielouie said...

i suppose the reason myself being personally so jacked about this so-called-situation, is the number of people who come into my favorite liquor store in tulsa and criticized the US military action in the wake of 9/11/01, and who are currently coming into my favorite liquor store in tulsa simply glowing with pride.
the majority being high school teachers.
i suppose if i wanted to run for teacher of the year, all i would have to know is america bad, russia good.
what i should not be surprised at is the lack of outcry from the media for the deliberate targeting of journalists in this theater.
it seems the only ones i hear about/from are those NEXT on the soviet union's list.

El Jefe Maximo said...

Those sort of people get me jacked up anyway, Georgia or no Georgia.

I'm less jacked-up about Georgia for its own sake. I am angry about the general lack of competence the whole situation appears to reveal about our governors (maybe more on that later), but Georgia's situation, however tragic, is not of real importance to the US, and would be of none at all if we hadn't (for assorted bizarre reasons), interested ourselves in making Georgia a client.

Strategically, Iran and the Gulf are important. Georgia is a sideshow. That doesn't make it less tragic a situation for the people living there. But we don't have a commission to reform the whole world.