Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Reaping What We've Sown

The overwhelming media narrative of the conflict over South Ossetia is one of pre-defined roles and clearly-defined morality which leaves little room for actual analysis of reality. Though both countries are in propaganda mode, one thing remains clear, Russia's response -- "disproportionate" or not -- was exactly that, a response to Georgia's incursion into South Ossetia. No doubt that Ossetians were engaging in small-scale provokation, and no doubt the Russians were amply prepared, but that doesn't obscure the fact that this was a Georgian operation from the start.

The other obvious missing link here is the seemingly obvious revelation that should be lurking in the background: Russia's reaction is purely a manifestation of the seeds the US has sown. Taking proportionality out of the equation, Russia was at least responding to a tangible threat to its citizens. (South Ossetians are overwhelmingly Russian.) Compare that with the US policy of pre-emption, which states that we are allowed to take unilateral military action against threats as we perceive them, even if they exist solely in the imaginations of our imperial leaders.

The groundwork for the fight in Georgia was lain in 1999 with the NATO power-expanding adventure in Serbia, yes, to protect a breakaway enclave. The US has spend the inter-nicene period in a Quixotic quest to expand NATO influence and surround Russia, a policy of which Georgia was no small part. The US officials apoplectic over Russia's opposition to such power plays are members of the same government that spawned the Monroe Doctrine and has for centuries claimed the entire Western Hemisphere as its own. Witness the US response to Cuba, a solitary, minuscule island Communist country. The US wants to put missiles on Russia's doorstep, but seemingly can't fathom that the Russians might oppose such a move, as if the US response would be vastly different were the roles reversed.

The same government now demanding that Russia follow international law is the same government that invaded a country that posed no threat in clear violation of that law, and the same country that has spent an administration utilizing lawyers to effectively make international law inapplicable to its actions. International law is what we point to when we oppose others' actions, its not what we apply to ourselves.

The conflict also provides yet another opportunity for the administration and its surrogates to side with a regime it touts as "democratic" even though such a position is clearly belied by facts. Saakashvili has been increasingly un-democratic, shutting down opposition in the form of media outlets or political parties. "Democracy" again proves to be a word without objective meaning, pliable to whatever use the administration has for it. Our allies are invariably "democratic," no matter how authoritarian. Bill Kristol illustrates the motif perfectly:

[Georgia] has had the third-largest military presence — about 2,000 troops — fighting along with U.S. soldiers and marines in Iraq. For this reason alone, we owe Georgia a serious effort to defend its sovereignty. Surely we cannot simply stand by as an autocratic aggressor gobbles up part of — and perhaps destabilizes all of — a friendly democratic nation.

Because it is allied with NATO, Georgia becomes 'democratic' by default. Punitive measures undertaken by the ruler of the country to thwart democracy do not figure into the equation. Also, as I noted Saturday, it is intellectually dishonest to treat South Ossetia differently than Kosovo. When the US goes to war in support of a breakaway province, it's taking up the flag for democracy and liberating a people. When Russia does precisely the same after that province is attacked, its an "autocratic aggressor [gobbling] up part of [sic] a nation." The argument is blatantly fallacious on its face, and clearly has no foundation in either logic or intellectual honesty.

What is central to all of the reactions to the Georgia-Russia conflict is a failure to see that the actions of Russia are directly derivative of the US's own policies. It was the US that invaded to "protect" Kosovo in 1999. It was the US that declared that nothing but a perceived threat -- tangible or not -- is required for the country to take military action with complete disregard for the UN and international law. Of all of the world's nations, there is not a single one with less moral authority to now call for the application of either than the US.


Georgia, Kosovo, and the US's Shifting Stance on Independence, August 9
What's the End Game in Georgia?, August 10

Sphere: Related Content

No comments: