Monday, August 11, 2008

Georgia On My Mind... No sane person can watch the images on television of the conflict between Russia and Georgia and not be sick to their stomach. The devastation, the dead and the horror is all too much to watch. Maybe because the cities look so much like Western cities that we can identify so much easier than to the suffering in the Congo or even Iraq. Blocks of building ablaze like the London Blitz with bodies littering the streets. Unfortunately, it appears it is only going to get worse.
There is no question that this is going to have a serious impact on our foreign policy. [Yesterday] morning George Will on ABC's This Week all but proclaimed that this was the beginning of the "Cold War" again, and that if you looked into Putin's eyes you saw the words KGB. He made clear that this was an invasion of a European nation and that our response could determined our security for years. One thing is clear - President Bush doesn't seem too concerned. After exchanging chit chat with Bush at the Olympic Opening Ceremony, Putin quickly flew back to Moscow to direct the war; Bush has hung around the Olympics and has great shots of him with the Women Beach Volley Ball Champions. (Guess Cheney is still in charge.)
Before we rise in mass and point out the evil Russia empire and the return to the Cold War politics, let's me sure we know the facts. After all, what exactly should our response be to this horrendous situation that is being made worse by Russia? We certainly don't plan to send troops and stage a blockade of Russia. We certainly are not going to ban trade or cut off relations with Russia. So let's be sure our response matches our capacity to be taken seriously. There is no question that at this stage that Russia's military operations are to be condemned and every effort should be made by this nation for an immediate cease fire.
The history of this region is complex and one that has been dominated by Russia for the last two centuries. ... In April, 1991 it declared itself independent after two centuries of Russian rule and as part of the dissolution of Soviet Russia it became a reality. The nation has less people then Los Angeles County. Immediately there was a civil war between South Ossetia and Georgia. South Ossetia has about 70,000 people which is about the size of the Obama rally in Portland! The break away slice of Georgia wanted to unite with North Ossetia which is part of Russia. About 75% of the people of South Ossetia are Osstians and only 20% are Georgian. There has been an uneasy peace with Russian Peacekeepers in the region until this week.
So how did we get to the point where entire cities are being devastated and thousands are dying?
We all have acted like fools is the answer. The United States has been sending arms to Georgia right on Russia's back step and clearly within its 'sphere of influence'. We have encouraged the talks of Georgia joining NATO and attempted to put a wedge between Georgia and Russia. Georgia this week decided to 're-take' South Ossetia and launched its troops into the region and, with no surprise, the Russians responded. Not only did the Russians respond, they responded as they always do - with great brutality and overkill. I think there is a real possibility that Russia will attempt to not only unite South Ossetia with North Ossetia within its boundaries, but also maybe force Georgia back into its 'sphere of influence'.
This war does raise extremely important questions that should be debated calmly and with a sense of history, and certainly not hot rhetoric that sounds like [if came] out of the 1950's. First of all, our President should come home. Second, clearly this raises the valid issue of exactly what are Putin's motives, both short term and long term. This clearly leaves no doubt who is charge. Wonder if the current Russian President Dmitry Medvedev is having his picture taken with the Russian gymnasts in Beijing while Putin calls the shots? Third, we have to review our concept of 'nation state' and what really constitutes a nation both historically and in geo-political terms. Do we want to go to war over a place that has only 70,000 people? If we do, why? What is our national interest? Are we ready for a show down with Putin and is this the place? If not, where is the place?
This might be a brilliant opportunity for us to be a force for peace and in the process to gain the insight, knowledge and information to answer the questions above. Our response must be measured, historically accurate and clearly in our national interest. The war in Georgia is simply another awful horror visited upon a people who a week ago were [having a] wonderful time with their families.
Most of all, this situation breaks our hearts.

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