Monday, August 18, 2008

The Empire Gets Slapped

If the South Ossetia War has taught us anything this past week, it is the utter weakness of the US to project its power in Eastern Europe and most importantly on the Russian government. And make no mistake about it: The Russian government has illustrated the weakness of the US.

First, the war itself. Contrary to the most of what the Western media has reported, which waited until the Russians militarily intervened, the conflict began when Georgia attacked its quasi-independent territory of South Ossetia (which was provoked after its 2006 referendum supporting independence from Georgia [the vast majority of South Ossetia's population are Russian citizens]). For this, the so-called democratically-elected President Saakashvili attacked South Ossetia, sending in Georgia's military, which precipitated a massacre of Russians living in the breakaway province.

It was at this point that Russia finally intervened, which was its responsibility as a neighboring country, one that has had troops in South Ossetia as peacekeepers, and even more so since tens of thousands of South Ossetians began migrating into Russian territory to avoid being slaughtered by the Georgian government. Of course, Russia is Russia, and it does not fight the way a normal democratic country does. It has shelled Georgia and certainly committed its own killings of innocent civilians. However, it was provoked into its current situation. That much is a fact.

In the American media, though, you would never know any of this. Here is Fox 'News' cutting off a family in South Ossetia after they retold the story of being saved by the Russian military. Fair and balanced, indeed.

One might ask, why should the US care about South Ossetia? Georgia is probably the closest ally of President Bush of any Eastern European state. There are streets in Tblisi named after him. The Rose Revolution was openly subsidized by the US CIA, installing Saakashvili into power. Not surprisingly, one of Saakashvili's first acts as President was to increase Georgia's military commitment to Iraq (as one of the members of the "coalition of the willing") and sign an agreement allowing for a joint Georgia-NATO military exercise (seen as a precursor of Georgian membership of NATO). This is not unusual, of course. The US has made vassals of most of the ex-Eastern bloc countries, and sadly the majority of the leadership of these countries has gone along (in part because of their pathological hatred of the Russians and also because they want to curry favor with the new superpower).

But like all Quislings, Saakashvili's appeal was limited. His government was losing popularity--due in part to the Georgian economy which, while not as lowly as Maldova's, is nowhere near the growth and vitality of Hungary, Poland, or the Czech Republic. To rouse of support for his government, Saakashvili employed the tried and true tactic of nationalism, which came at the expense of breakaway province of South Ossetia (who has never accepted living under Georgian control). Saakashvili has promised, as one of his most important acts as President, to crush the "criminals" in South Ossetia.

I do not want to delve into the legitimacy of South Ossetia's claims, or for that matter Georgia's insistence that it is a province of their country. Indeed, the Ossetians as a group live on both sides of the border, experienced annexation and mistreatment at the hands of the Georgians and Russians. Nevertheless, when 99% of the population of your territory claim they do not want to live under your government (a government whose language, politics, and laws it does not recognize and never has since its own independence following the collapse of the Soviet Union), I think it is safe to say there is a reason for conflict.

What is not acceptable is the manner in which the conflict was stoked by Georgia's President, including a military incursion that killed and expelled thousands of civilians (virtually ignored in the American media). There is no way Saakashvili would have started this war without the certainty of the positive intervention of the US. Well, it did not happen. It did not happen because it was an impossibility, a bitter lesson that Georgians are learning the hard way.

For its part, the Bush Administration, and especially its ally in French President Sarkozy (interesting to see how servile the French become when they elect a like-minded neoliberal) is threatening Russia with potential sanctions, but nothing will come of it. What will almost certainly happen is that this war will be used by the US and its "new European" allies to manufacture support among Eastern European states to support NATO expansion (which brings with it a multinational military alliance and US nuclear umbrella). Saakashvili simply mistimed his South Ossetia campaign. This is why they lost. The remainder of Eastern Europe (more paranoid about the Russians than being reduced to useful idiots by the US) will follow suit and join NATO (an American organization, since the US is the largest power and by rule the commanding general of the institution). The Russians rightly see this as targeting them.

The most entertaining comments, though, and the ones that illustrate the moral hypocrisy of President Bush, are the ones centered on criticizing Russia for militarily invading a "sovereign nation." Naturally, such sentiments need not apply to the US in Iraq. It does, actually, which is why there is so much support for Russia in this war (from China to Latin American and most all of the Middle East). It is why Saakashvili is completely isolated and likely why his government will fall (and with it the aspirations of the US government in gaining a new Eastern European servant). If you read the Eastern European press, you would never know the Russians saved so many of these peoples from the Germans during World War Two. Apparently being slaughtered by the Germans, as opposed to living under a Russian-sponsored Communist state, would have been preferable to these people.

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