Monday, August 11, 2008

Some random thoughts on the Russia/Georgia war:

1. It seems that most reporting on this subject in the western media has a fairly uniform anti-Russian tone. I can see how it might be tempting to adopt such a tone. Its easy to cast Georgia as the good guy - after all, it is a democracy with free elections. By contrast, the same cannot be said of Russia, which seems to be getting more and more authoritarian every day. Putin now effectively controls what goes onto the major television stations as well as most the print media. Critics of the government are arrested based on flimsy pretexts. And so on.

Nevertheless, it seems to me that its wrong to cast Russia as the villain in this conflict. Majorities in South Ossetia and Abkhazia do not want to join Georgia. Georgia is trying to subjugate two distinct ethnic groups, with distinct cultures and languages, against their will.

Of course, there are thorny questions here (how exactly do we decide which groups are entitled to self-determination?) to which I don't have any systematic answers. Still, its hard to feel any sympathy for the Georgian attempt to restore its "territorial integrity" at the expense of two peoples which have given up thousands of lives in the past two decades fighting for independence.

2. John McCain's reaction to this conflict is pretty crazy:

McCain seized on the conflict again today during a campaign stop in Pennsylvania, remarking that Nato's decision to delay Georgian membership in the alliance this year "might have been viewed as a green light by Russia for its attacks".

"I urge Nato allies to revisit the decision," McCain said.
If there is one thing we should learn from this conflict, its that admitting Georgia into Nato makes it quite likely that the US will be drawn into military conflict with a nuclear superpower over a country most Americans haven't even heard of until last week.


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