Wednesday, August 13, 2008

... more South Ossetia

OK - so now there are claims that the Russians violated the ceasefire (crossing the border, not actual shooting from what I've heard). Dan Froomkin reports (although I didn't read the whole article) that Bush responded by agreeing to send in aid. This is potentially an explosive situation, again, if an accident were to occur. If something happened to our military while they were distributing aid we could get much more involved than we are now. And Saakasvili is bitching that this isn't enough.

BBC reports a little more detail on breaking the ceasefire... sounds like its unclear whether they are still trying to stabilize Gori, or moving toward Tbilisi or what. Some reports of looting, but not confirmed and who knows how bad this is.

I imagine if they are doing anything other than stabilizing the area, we'll find out soon.

So the "accidental war" possibility is rearing its ugly head again. I can't emphasize enough how bad this would be. We can have arguments about whether Russia was justified or not - but there is a huge difference between an unjustified Russia and a Russia that needs to be met by the U.S. military.

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.

Monday, August 11, 2008

More on South Ossetia

I'm really starting to worry about this situation.

Recent reports suggest that Russian troops are pushing beyond South Ossetia, into central Georgia - perhaps towards the Georgian capital, Tbilisi. I think it's notable that the first city to be seiged outside of South Ossetia is Gori, which lies between Ossetia and Tbilisi - not Ossetia and Abkhazia - Georgia's other breakaway republic.

It seems like Medvedev is preparing to defend against an assault from or prepare for an attack on Tbilisi, rather than solidify his advances into the separatist regions. That's disconcerting for two reasons -

1. It would mean that this really is an invasion of Georgia, rather than a crackdown on Georgian interference in the breakaway republics, and

2. The U.S. is currently transporting Georgian troops from Iraq to Georgia to fight the Russians.

So Russia is invading Georgia proper, and the U.S. military is going to be in Georgia too... bringing Georgian troops so that they can fight Russian troops. Is it just me, or is this a recipe for disaster??? Why the hell are we getting involved in this??? What if there's a stray bomb that kills American troops helping the Georgians out? How many options is Bush really going to have to respond to something like that? And even if it doesn't come to that, what will Medvedev and Putin think? How are they going to interpret us transporting Georgian troops to the battlefield?

I don't know if this will mean war with Russia. Even I have enough faith in Bush and Medvedev and Putin to think that this is probably a slim possibility. But why are we toying with it? Why can't the Georgians transport their own damned troops. I know they've provided a bunch of troops in Iraq, but who cares! We're the United States of America - we're not obligated to play chauffeur to a Central Asian republic that sent 2,000 soldiers to Iraq. I applaud their enthusiasm, but I hardly think it qualifies them to ask anything of us.

I don't know for sure if the Russian move on South Ossetia is justified or not. My impression is that there is substantial justification for what Russia is doing in South Ossetia and Abkhazia. That does not justify an invasion of Georgia. The United States needs to think straight on this conflict and not treat Russia like another Hitler in the Sudetenland - we need to treat them like the Greaet Power that they are. And maybe they overstepped their bounds here, but we can't just blunder our way into this war - we need to proceed cautiously.

We also need to remember that Russia has something in South Ossetia that we never had in Iraq - an actual smoking gun. Whoever started it several iterations back, the fact is Georgia moved troops against South Ossetia on August 7th. I know this was disputed at first, but it seems to be reported universally now. I don't want to see Saakashvili fall, and I don't want to see a Russian occupation of Georgia. But tell me - how the hell is that different from what we did in Iraq? It's different for one reason - in Georgia, Saakashvili made the first move and Russia responded. In Iraq we made the first move and Saddam responded. I would rather watch Russia take Georgia than get the U.S. into a direct conflict with Russia over a standard of international relations that we can't even hold ourselves to. If we try to do that, we're going to have egg on our face - I guarantee.

Call for Papers

Urban Affairs Association, Spring 2009 in Chicago

Southern Sociological Society, Spring 2009 in New Orleans

Chinese Wine

An interesting Slate article on the demand for and supply of wine in China.

In other news:

We opened a Merlot from Prince Michel yesterday - a confidence booster for Kate's job interview today. Very smooth merlot.

About a week ago we also opened a Viognier from La Grange. It was a 2007 - very good year for Virginia wines. Viogniers are on the sweeter side - "grapefruits and honeysuckle" is what you usually hear, but I tasted some pineappley notes in this as well. Definitely a honey quality to it, too.

In beer news, about a week ago I got a six-pack of Gold Ale from Clipper City Brewing Company, based in Baltimore. A pretty standard ale - very malty. Not too dark or heavy. I like their McHenry Ale better.