Saturday, August 23, 2008

Georgia On My Mind.

I admit, i haven't really been paying much attention to the news, at least not as much as i should be. Ive been spending a great deal of time thinking about more personal issues. Preparedness, food, diet, fitness, family, finances, you know, those things that all the TV and Internet in the world rarely ever touch upon.

But this morning, i wanted to know about the situation in Georgia, a situation i watched very closely in its first few days, as Georgia intentionaly attacked a sovereign province and provoked a military force nearly 300 times the size of its own. I watched as marionettes from the US state department were paraded out to decry the "Imperial Intentions" of Russia, and laughed as presidential candidates proclaimed that "In the 21st Century, nations dont invade eachother" I watched as US planes evacuated Georgian troops from their battleground training and joint operations in Iraq, and as half of the 300 senior US military trainers who were working with Georgian forces slipped out of Georgia in the middle of the night, only to be replaced a few days later with C17's filled with US troops. I wondered what these fools intended to do in what increasing looked like either the start of a new cold war, or the first steps of creating a new hot one. And then, for a few days, i just decided not to worry about it.

Today, though. I wondered if talk of WWIII had cooled a bit, if rational men, and cooler heads, had by some good fortune prevailed. I admit, i even felt a bit concerned, guilty, for not showing more concern for the world i live in. like i said i had other things on my mind, things closer to home.

So, i fired up the old internet and pumped through the newsfeeds, looking for some sign of where we are now, only to find stories in The Telegraph of Russian commanders foaming at the mouth as ill kept Ossetian Militamen rob old women and brag that they would kill journalists. Talk of "Russian Lies" abounded in the press, but i had wonder who was really lying when things like facts cant be found in the articles of people who call themselves "Members of the Press." International Herald Tribune has a story picked up by AP (or vice versa) that claims "Russia's intervention in Georgia draws on a long history of empire that goes back not just to the Communist era, but much further, to its Czarist past." and paints a picture of a cold and insecure russia that is threatened by the very existence of independent nations, and will seek to destroy them. News, i was looking for, and found none. It seems the majority of the press wants us to beleive that Ivan the Terrible is alive and well.

So, in the end, im not sure exactly what is happening there. The Russians have drawn back to defensive positions and are agressively monitoring the Ossetian border, but the details beyond that are sketchy. No mention is made of the hundreds (or more, by now) US troops who find themselves in a war zone. Its hard to say exactly where this is going, but i can tell you one thing. All government power is still derived, as always from the consent of the governed, and long before the United States government would admit to pushing for a war in Caucasia, it would need some form of consent, as it did in the last two "21st century" invasions mr. McCain forgot about. If there is anything, in the view of Government, the press is good for, it is Manufacturing Consent.

as a wise man once said: "First comes smiles, then lies. Last is gunfire"

And they are lying to you. They always do, but the question we have to ask is why?

Something smells rotten. If we cant know what is happening now, our only hope is to look at what has happened, if you cannot see the future, you had best study history, and today, it seems the only honest writer in the press may be Ian Bell, who wrote the following.

LET'S RUN through this again. Vladimir Putin is not a nice man. The KGB, with whom the young Vlad earned his reputation as a people person, was not Russia's answer to the Rotary Club. As a direct consequence, Russian traditions of democracy remain wafer thin, a cracked veneer that fails utterly to conceal thuggery, rigged votes, oligarchic mafias, corruption, and the corpses of journalists. Are we clear?

Russia's current identity is composed, meanwhile, of a volatile mixture of intense nationalism and paranoia. Its rulers, whatever their labels, take it as read that their country exists under permanent threat of encirclement by its enemies. Now, here's the tricky part: there is nothing currently to suggest that they are mistaken. Intense nationalists of a different stripe, feed the paranoia of the intense nationalists in Moscow. [an old adage states: "You arent paranoid, if they are trying to kill you"]

This is not, of course, the story we have been hearing. When the United States − having shredded the anti-ballistic missile treaty that gave nuclear deterrence its single justification − bribes Poland into housing rockets pointed at the Russians, we hear only of a "shield". When Georgia launches smaller rockets at a South Ossetian town, in defiance of all the humanitarian rules, we hear only that a freedom-loving but "provoked" Georgian leader has stepped into a cunning Russian trap.

It may be, of course, that Georgia's President Saakashvili committed just such an act of astonishing, inexplicable folly. North Ossetia, ethnic and cultural twin to its disputed neighbour in the south, is part of the Russian Federation. Putin and those who support him - a clear majority, as no-one disputes, of Russians and Ossetians - meanwhile have difficulty understanding the concept of Georgian independence.

But when Saakashvili offered the gift of a direct military challenge by shelling Ossetian Tskhinvali, hospitals, parliament and all, how was Russia supposed to react? By asking politely for clarification of Georgian intentions? Imagine the French have just shelled the Channel Islands. What's Brittan's next move?

A daft analogy? Not as daft, I suspect, as the claim that the US, with military advisers on site in Georgia busily equipping and training its army, tried and failed to dissuade Saakashvili from launching a war. Does America have so little influence over a tiny client state that depends entirely on American goodwill? Or did Saakashvili somehow get the wrong idea from someone somewhere about the nature and scale of likely US support and US responses? Nothing else makes any sense.

Much of the West's media have accepted the script as written, and accepted it with enthusiasm. Some people, it seems, really miss the Cold War. As political eminences in the US tell it, that conflict never ended. Who knew? George Bush senior and the "new world order" never happened. Without missing a beat, we are back to "containing Russia". The proportionate response to a five-day war in a postage-stamp region of the Caucasus is the placing of missiles in Poland. Perhaps the Cubans should offer a view?

Let's say, for argument's sake, that Saakashvili did indeed make a grievous error. Let's accept that a Harvard education cannot eradicate a tendency to hot-headedness. It's still either/or. Either Saakashvili was misled, or he is dumb. Either way, does that qualify him to be in a position to whistle-up the nuclear arsenals of Nato should he have another rush of blood to the head?

David Miliband, the vastly-experienced British Foreign Secretary, thinks it does. The latest junior Churchill argues that, precisely because Georgia took a kicking from the Russians, its membership of Nato should be nodded through posthaste. This was precisely the outcome sought by the US at a Nato meeting in Bucharest in the spring, long before anyone had heard of South Ossetia.

You can see how that one would run in State Department strategic gaming. So the Russians get a little war, they would say, and the chance to flaunt their cojones. If this plays, we get to overcome the objections of the Germans, the French and the Italians and plant another Nato flag in Russia's back yard. This is known, I think, at least to the never-recently-sane, as a price worth paying.

Does a leader with Saakashvili's lamentable credentials in war, and as a democrat, really become entitled to have another crack at the Russians with full Nato backing? Such is the meaning of article V of the organisation's treaty: one for all and all for one. If a Nato member is attacked, its brethren must come to its aid militarily. We should grant that licence to the Rocket Man of Tbilisi? Miliband says we should.

Putin and his stooge, Russian "President" Dmitry Medvedev, are reliable villains. Russia says that Poland, with its planned shield, must go back on the nuclear target list: the Apocalypse Express gets its headline. Yet none of this, bizarre as it sounds, should be Europe and the world's real concern.

We are being sucked in, suckered and conscripted. As an economically embattled US flails after former glories, it fashions Nato into a blunt instrument. Whatever the organisation's purpose during the Cold War, it currently stands revealed as an expeditionary force on behalf of Washington's interests. That is not a useful development for Nato, Europe, America or the world.

Georgia should be proof enough. We know that Putin's Russia is not to be trusted. But we also know a simple fact: in South Ossetia, Saakashvili started the shooting. Had the United Nations been allowed to function we might have been talking about faults on both sides. Instead, we are offered a new Cold War as though no other alternative is possible.

Far off in Afghanistan, meanwhile, 10 young Frenchmen die in a single engagement; then three Poles. They join the list of Britons, Canadians, Dutch and Americans that creeps towards 200 lives lost in 2008 alone, mostly for the sake of a Nato mission in a war on terrorism declared, forgotten, botched, forgotten and botched again under Washington's direction. So remind me: where is Kabul, exactly, in relation to the homes of these soldiers?

The city is rather closer to Pakistan, source of the Taliban's endlessly-replenished supplies of men and guns, a country that has just discarded America's latest favourite general turned supreme ruler. Pervez Musharraf leaves behind a state with ungovernable borders that is also − let's take another bow − armed with real, rather than Iranian potentially-perhaps nuclear weapons. Those in the Taliban and those they would call al Qaeda, people who would do us actual harm in our own towns and cities, given the chance, cannot feel too disgruntled.

Another Cold War in Europe and a hot war on the old Northwest Frontier: as a scorecard for Nato, these involve precious few bonus points. You would have to mark them as abject failures. Afghanistan begins to seem very like Europe's long-avoided Vietnam. The disastrous challenge and counter-challenge with Russia meanwhile has a very creaky and disreputable sort of plot line. Nato, amid it all, has become America's proxy. [A proxy, with the power to enforce treaties that obligate member nations to military action, without any democratic check, or even a tacit representation of those soldiers whose lives it plays with]

It was always that, in most senses. You suspect, however, that an expiring Bush administration has found its gimmick, finally. How to draw the sceptical and under-achieving Europeans back in to the great global cause without deferring to their doubts and finer feelings?

Forget threats, insults, or expressions of undying friendship: binding treaties will do. Treaties, that is, and a couple of decent scripts. Wag the dog. Do it all with a crisis in a place with a name that might just have been invented. Do it with an unending war on the authors of permanent, inchoate, indefinable alien threat.

Putin, Saakashvili, and some Afghan warlords will be happy to oblige. David Miliband will not even hesitate. And the matinee crowds will be none the wiser.

Tempora Mutantur Et Nos Mutamur In Illis

1 comment:

Jay21 said...

"We deal in lead"
Roland Deschain, The Dark Tower

The great man speaks and the wheel keeps turning.