2008 South Ossetian War

78 Teach ye diligently and my grace shall attend you, that you may be instructed more perfectly in theory, in principle, in doctrine, in the law of the gospel, in all things that pertain unto the kingdom of God, that are expedient for you to understand;
79 Of things both in heaven and in the earth, and under the earth; things which have been, things which are, things which must shortly come to pass; things which are at home, things which are abroad; the wars and the perplexities of the nations, and the judgments which are on the land; and a knowledge also of countries and of kingdoms—
80 That ye may be prepared in all things when I shall send you again to magnify the calling whereunto I have called you, and the mission with which I have commissioned you.
-D&C 88:78-80

The 2008 South Ossetian War, featured nearly daily in the news in early and mid-August 2008, like many foreign policy topics, seems confusing.  It’s this type of confusion that makes Americans feel more comfortable with someone with foreign policy “experience” (the Washington variety) in the Oval Office.

The conflict certainly seems convoluted.  Our views are also distorted by the misconception that there is usually a “good guy” and a “bad guy.”  But this is not always the case.  There may be two “bad guys,” or both may be in different shades of gray.  In my opinion, that is the case here.

Georgia attacked first.  Why?  They wanted to subdue the so-called “breakaway” region of South Ossetia.  (One wonders about North Ossetia, which has been part of Russia for a long time.  But I digress.)  Why would they want to subdue it?  This is one reason I have a hard time buying Georgia’s story.  What justifies aggressive military action, even invasion?  In my mind, Georgia was completely unjustified.  Even if there were mitigating circumstances, pre-emptive, aggressive war is never justifiable.

But many know that Russia was not terribly innocent in the scheming.  They had troops all along the border at the time of Georgia’s attack, and were very swift to respond to the Georgian “incursion.”  They also had a heavy-handed occupation for several weeks after combat operations had largely ceased.  Independent human rights workers have indicated the Russian-caused casualties and damage outweigh that caused by Georgian forces.

Russia claims that South Ossetia (and Abkhazia) have a high percentage of Russian citizens, or individuals with valid Russian passports.  Thus, Russia was defending her citizens from attack.  Moscow news reported that Georgians and South Ossetians in Moscow were mostly opposed to the conflict, linking it with Georgian President Saakashvili.  Other reports, however, indicate huge chunks of South Ossetian government budgets are essentially Russian-supplied kickbacks, questioning the legitimacy, even, of South Ossetian and Abkhazian governments.

What’s my point?  Both parties are guilty.  Both are responsible.  The United States has some responsibility also, as we trained Georgian troops and have strong diplomatic ties with Georgia.  We also brought NATO to Russia’s borders (or tried to) by inviting Georgia in.  This has the understandable effect of angering Russian authorities.

What should have happened?  When relations were frosty between the two nations (namely, Georgia and Russia), they should have talked about it.  How much destruction of life and property would have been spared if a peaceful solution had been reached beforehand?  South Ossetian, Georgian, Abkhazian, and Russian governments (moderated by another party or two, perhaps) should have gotten together and brokered a peace deal, one which would benefit all parties as much as possible; one which would have best represented the aims of the South Ossetian and Abkhazian peoples, with Russian and Georgian interests subordinate.

Our foreign policy does not encourage talking before shooting.  It encourages suspicion, back-biting, evil speaking, spying, trust in oversimplistic political decisions about complex intelligence gathered from a variety of sources, and military aggression, a shoot-before-you-speak approach.  If it does not create these scenarios, it at least creates situations where these scenarios become very possible.

We continue to provoke Russia with a missile shield in Poland.  We continue to talk of a second Cold War.  We continue to push for NATO expansion.  We continue to support Russian enemies as “fledgling democracies.”  Isn’t Russia a democracy, also?  The net effect of all of these policies is to estrange Russia and increase tensions.  We are moving farther from Russia when we could be moving closer.

I do not mean to sound like an alarmist.  World War III (or IV, if the Cold War counted) is not imminent.  But our foreign policy does not bode well for long-term peace.

Unfortunately, it is all but taboo to even question the status quo in foreign policy.  Differences between McCain and Obama with respect to Russia (and most countries, for that matter) are much more slight than mainstream media moguls would lead you to believe.

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5 Comments

Filed under foreign policy, Libertarian, politics

5 responses to “2008 South Ossetian War

  1. There was some talk where the Russian President Putin offered a radar base as part of the missile defense shield. I’m not certain as to whether this was a true offer or not. Perhaps you could enlighten me on this subject.

    What happened when Bush “Looked into his soul” and saw a good man? It seems things have soured rather quickly with Russia, when it seemed relations were once promising.

    I know oil, and Russia’s new found wealth have much to do with diplomacy, but still I’m confused as to what’s really going on here….

  2. plato04

    Mormon Heretic,

    Certainly more is afoot here than is obvious at first glance. There is plenty of guilt and sinister motives to go around. When all things are revealed, perhaps we will see the whole story. Now, we only see fragments.

    As much as I lament the American corporatism (big government allied with big business, supported by both mainstream presidential candidates) so prevalent today, Russian corporatism is similarly ugly and perhaps more so.

    I still find myself strangely sympathetic to Russia’s plight. Would I feel comfortable if China started training the Mexican military and supplying them with weapons? I have a hard time sympathizing with our arrogant American imperialism and backdoor dealings. No one even thinks to question taking NATO to Russia’s borders, for instance.

    Regarding the Russian radar base in Cuba, here’s an interesting story. It sounds like the type of thing I wish America would do:

    http://en.rian.ru/russia/20080909/116644861.html

    This is certainly a time of wars and rumors of wars.

  3. I may be getting my details wrong, but I thought that radar base was somewhere in Russia. As I recall, it would help detect an Iranian missile, if launched against Israel, or some other anti-Russian or Anti-European target.

    It seems that Putin was merely posturing, but perhaps Bush was just posturing too. Bush did say the Russians should not fear the missile shield, and at the time, terrorism was a much hotter issue than the South Ossetian war.

    It seems corporate greed is bad in both America and Russia, but I can’t blame everything on the corporations….

  4. plato04

    Perhaps you are referring to this situation (with all the radar bases, who can keep track?):

    http://www.globalsecurity.org/space/library/news/2007/space-070618-rferl01.htm

    I’m not sure greed is really the fundmental problem. Greed is an ancient vice. I would rank theft, adultery, and murder (among others) higher than greed in seriousness on my list of sins.

    I’m more concerned about subsidized greed, where certain individuals, groups, or organizations receive government benefits, subsidies, kickbacks, favors, etc., while the rest of us are wondering where our piece of the pie is, or why they’re taking our piece in the first place.

  5. Yes, that article describes what I was thinking of. Perhaps I’m hallucinating, but it seems like there was talk one time of Russia participating with NATO. Bush has long sought to alleviate Russia’s fears of NATO. It seems in the Yeltsin years, things were more cozy than they are now. I must say I liked how things were going in the 90’s with US-Russia relations, and I’m not sure I understand why there has been a change.

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