Tuesday, August 12, 2008

WaPost blogging on Russia

OK, I understand if you think Russia was unjustified in its attack on Georgian troops in South Ossetia. I respect that opinion, although I disagree with it.

But the national security blogger at the Washington Post is writing as if Russia unilaterally invaded Georgia without any provocation. The moderator's post DOESN'T EVEN MENTION THE WORDS "South Ossetia" or "Abkhazia". I was absolutely dumbfounded.

Anyway - feel free to tear them a new one. This is ridiculous.

Even people I have had disagreements with - such as my brother, who has posted on this blog - have an understanding that this has been a protracted conflict with a history of violence between Georgia and separatistist regions with strong ties to Russia. Not sure what the disconnect is at the Washington Post.


Evan said...

Heh. I don't think we actually disagree about this all that much, and where we do disagree I think it's in terms of general "vibes" about Russia rather than any concrete political points. I haven't read enough of the chatter about this conflict to know what general opinion is. It sounds like many folks are fine with the straightforward "defending global democracy" shtick., though, based on the WaPost blog.

The trouble with situations like this- and online discourse about them- is the extent to which people either defend the soundbytes of someone like Bush, painting Georgia and Russia in black-and-white terms, or try to attempt this massive deconstruction of our intentions and boil everything down to Israel, oil, and imperialism. I think the most responsible perspective of the situation is to recognize that there may be some honest interest on the part of Russia in the people of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, as well as an honest concern on the part of the US that Russia has imperialist ambitions not only in the separatist territories that are pro-Russia, but in Georgia as a whole. On the flip side, the pragmatic reasons for both countries being in Georgia are plentiful.

As I understand your position re: Us involvement, you more question whether this warrants our attention and investment on a purely risk/benefit comparison. In addition, the concern is that we're overlooking ethnic cleansing in our support of Georgia. In terms of Russia, I think it's fair enough to be cautiously supportive of their response to Georgia's violence, but there are also just as many reports out there that Russia is setting things in place to move on to Tbilisi as there are reports to the contrary, so I don't want to discount the very real concerns about Russian imperial ambitions. Now, whether that's our fight is another question to be asked, but it may be a legitimate one to ask, at least, even if the answer is no.

dkuehn said...

Ya - good responses all. And I'm actually quite hesitant of Russia as a whole. It actually bothers kate a lot - I'm usually fairly suspicious. I'm suspicious of China in the same way. Its more of a "we should keep our eye on them" kinda thing. No doubt they'll try to kick us when we're down.

But just because I keep my eye on them doesn't mean that I don't think they can be (and in many cases are) a well functioning part of the international system. and I think they've demonstrated that in Georgia, personally. They are policing their sphere of influence just like we do.

And if they take Georgia? Disconcerting - perhaps. But it depends in large part on what they do with it. If they just arrest and try saakasvili for war crimes and institute and occupational government - I honestly wouldn't be excessively disturbed by that. that's what we're doing in Iraq, after all (Saddam did have popular support - lots of people liked him). I'd probably look at that the same way i currently look at Iraq for us, namely - probably should not have happened, but if they're going to do it - do it right. The thing is, I think Russia would be more justified in overthrowing Saakasvili than we were in overthrowing Saddam.

In that sense, I guess the better comparison is between Milosevic and Saakasvili. Just because we deposed Milosevic (also democratically elected), doesn't mean we were imperialists. We weren't imperialists because we didn't stay there to rule. So it really all boils down to that - (1.) will russia even try to depose saakasvili, and (2.) if they do will they replace him a la Milosevic, or will they move in.

I doubt they'll even replace Saakasvili. The global outcry would be unprecedented... but they might. But if they do, I wouldn't be surprised if its a Milosevic-style action. And honestly, I really can't see what's especially imperialist about that.