South Ossetia: tell me what to think

I admit it: I hadn’t heard of South Ossetia before the events of the 7th August. Like so many things I was previously ignorant of as soon as it makes the front pages suddenly everyone has an opinion.

I am curious though: is anyone in the right here? Is it an act of foolish aggression, as the Foreign Secretary is saying, or is it the result of a strategic mistake on the part of Georgia? Any ideas?

The War Nerd is as callously insensitive as ever, but suggests that Georgia started it:

There are three basic facts to keep in mind about the smokin’ little war in Ossetia:

1. The Georgians started it.
2. They lost.
3. What a beautiful little war!

For me, the most important is #3, the sheer beauty of the video clips that have already come out of this war. I’m in heaven right now.

On the other hand, David Miliband, UK Foreign Secretary is saying that the Georgians were provoked:

Since the early 1990s the frozen conflicts of South Ossetia and Abkhazia have been the subject of international mediation aimed at peaceful resolution. In the first week of August South Ossetian provocation prompted a Georgian military response.

So who do you trust to be correct – a shady Internet personality, or a high-ranking British politician?

[The Exiled analysis via Ken MacLeod]

11 thoughts on “South Ossetia: tell me what to think”

  1. What actions did Ossetia take which warranted the deaths of 2000 civilians and the destruction of a major city?

    What Ossetian actions warranted the deaths of Russian peacekeepers?

  2. The question is correct, but the options for answers are wrong. Ask instead: “who started the war – the politicians, demagogues and agitators, or the normal people trying to get on with their lives?” Then ask “who suffered the most in the war?”, and watch the answer change. Same shit, different decade.

  3. I don’t have any business telling you what to think, but I suspect this guy does:

    A snip:

    “It soon became clear to me that the Ossetians viewed Georgians in much the same way that Georgians view Russians: as aggressive bullies bent on taking away their independence. ‘We are much more worried by Georgian imperialism than Russian imperialism,’ an Ossetian leader, Gerasim Khugaev, told me then. ‘It is closer to us, and we feel its pressure all the time.’

    “When it comes to apportioning blame for the latest flare-up in the Caucasus, there’s plenty to go around. The Russians were clearly itching for a fight, but the behavior of Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili has been erratic and provocative. The United States may have stoked the conflict by encouraging Saakashvili to believe that he enjoyed American protection, when the West’s ability to impose its will in this part of the world is actually quite limited.”

    –” ‘We Are All Georgians’? Not So Fast,” Michael Dobbs, Washington Post, Aug. 17

  4. Russia, pretty much. They started preparing in April, ordered ‘Ossetians’ to step up pressure in first days of August. By 8th, Georgians had a choice: either step in, or have their villages along the border to be bombed to oblivion by ‘Osset’ tanks operating under the eyes of Russian peacekeepers. Trap sprung.

    The ‘2000 dead’ is highly unlikely, HRW on the ground could only confirm some 44. Keep in mind that the whole region had less than 70k inhabitants, the ‘capital’ there was a rather small town by anyone’s standards. Also, Russian forces shelled it for a full day to force Georgians out, and yes, they used GRAD as well.

    As to why I wrote ” around Ossetians – their administration consists of Russian career military and civilian officials, with very few ever having anything to do with Ossetia before being assigned there. The separatist forces (now know as ‘Russian irregulars’) are largely North Ossetian, not locals.

    As for the reasons – Russia can’t stand democracies on it’s borders, especially in ex-USSR area – the national narrative maintains that democracy is incompatible with soviet peoples. Only countries it gets along well are autocratic hellholes ending with -stan or -elarus.

    And before others here shoot me down as neocon shill – I think invading Iraq was a stupid idea, creation of Israel was a mistake and Obama has a good chance of fixing all the shite Bush broke. I’m a conservative, but European one – meaning I’m roughly ‘liberal commie fag’ on American political scale;)

  5. I sometimes can’t comprehend people’s ability to tie absolutely everything into their own little black and white conspiracy theories.

    Here’s a very short version:

    Separatists shelled Georgian villages. Georgians asked Russian peacekeepers to interfere. Russians flipped them off. Georgians decided to act themselves. Russians took offense.

  6. I’m not entirely certain there are clearly defined “good guys” and “bad guys” in this situation. This applies to a lot of wars, for that matter. I’m pretty certain the civilians on both sides would rather have had a peaceful week and I’m not convinced the enlisted in either army wouldn’t rather have been taking a nice vacation somewhere.

  7. Here is what I think, and you are free to ignore me:
    I don’t care who started it. Russia has gone far and above necessary force here. They’ve made little effort to avoid civilian targets. Maybe Georgia started it, but the evidence looks like Russia has been aggressively pushing for this war. Georgia never stood a chance, and instead of just moving into South Ossetia and stopping the fighting there, Russia is using its force to get what it wants. Don’t forget there are also two oil pipelines that move through Georgia, and Russia has a financial stake in this. There’s a lot going on here and it’s all bad.

  8. Pseudo-democratic Georgian leaders (96 percent voter support! even more democratic than Iran or old-time Soviet democracy!), supported by US economic and military assistance, provide convenient US proxy in region, as foil against Russia. Russia-supported cadres in some Georgian regions make significant progress at breaking away from central Georgian control, and provide convenient bases to continue attempts to destabilize Georgia. Georgia, unable to allow the continued attacks and Russian influence within its borders, and increasing problem of Russia-supported breakaway states, moved to shut down the attacks and bases, especially since they were led to expect continued support from US, particularly via its very effective US-based lobbyist (who is also McCain’s chief foreign policy advisor, and who was previously an important lobbyist for Iraq’s Chalabi, trying — obviously effectively — to encourage US attack in Iraq). Russia, knowing the US couldn’t really do much about it, used the Georgian attacks as an excuse to “support their allies” in the “breakaway republics” — and as an excuse to squash the US-aided military buildup that Georgia had been doing for a number of years.

    And there we are. Russia gets what it wants: a reduction of the Georgian nuisance, and an opportunity to show it isn’t completely powerless. McCain, in particular, along with other US politicians (who gets forced into a tough soundbite mode, because nuanced subtleties look weak to much of the public), get what they want: an opportunity to talk tough and show the apparent continued need for toughness and anti-Russian containment. Georgia and the Georgian President don’t really get what they want in the short term, since they get roughed up pretty badly, but in the longer term are likely to get increased US aid of various sorts.

Comments are closed.