The conflict in Georgia as described in the news is without context or background. First, here’s a linguistic map of the area.
The Ossetian’s are culturally related to Persians, the Georgians are Orthodox Christians. The Ossetia’s and Georgians have not gotten along, for a very long time, going back to the wars between Rome/Byzantium and Parthia/Persia. So, this goes way back, old old hatreds. Russian troops have done in Ossetia, the same thing we have done in Kosovo. Just as Tibetans want to be free of China, Ossetian’s want to be free of Georgians. As do the Abkhaz people, in the other area of “Georgia” that wants self government. The Ossetia’s know independence is unsustainable, but they prefer the remote and light hand of Russia to the close and heavy hand of Georgia. Let it go.
Georgia is physically as close to Russia as Cuba is to the U.S. The Russians appreciate our interference in Georgia probably as much as we appreciate their interference in Cuba. The United States has no national interests in Georgia; Russia does. Push comes to shove, we won’t go to war for Georgia and should therefore not indicate or imply that we would, it makes the Georgian’s take excessive risks. The oil pipeline doesn’t rise to a national interest of ours, it was never realistic to begin with, because it was predicated on a straight line graph prediction that Russia would remain at the nadir of power similar to the late 90’s.
Straight line predictions are almost never right, and Russia was bound to recover, as it has done before. Students of Russian history know that in 1917, Russia government collapsed the country fell apart in chaos, revolution and civil war. Twenty Eight years later in 1945 they were the greatest land power on the planet. They had beaten the vaunted German Wehrmacht and planted their flags in nine capital cities. They conquered Manchuria and Korea, a territory as large as Western Europe in around three weeks. This easily surpasses the early Wehrmacht success in Poland and France. And they stopped. And they proved reasonable over Finland. Russia will have Abkhazia and Ossetia, the real question is will they have Georgia proper too. Russia wins any fight over that.
We Americans need to take stock, of our true national interests and the real world. The nonsensical chest thumping since the fall of the USSR has cost us a lot. Missed opportunities, unproductive ill will, diminution of goodwill, and failure. The fall of the USSR and its meaning has not sunk in too many in the U.S., I’m looking at you Dick Cheney, but that is its own blog topic. Our attempts to apply a different standard to our actions than the actions of other countries is pointless feel good rhetoric. Our national geographic and historical ignorance serve us ill. NATO has got to pull back to Western European countries only, in this I include the Baltic States, Finland, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, and Croatia, and exclude Turkey and Greece. See, the funny thing is we are actually less powerful, not more powerful with the USSR gone. Against the USSR/East bloc we could assert ourselves with cheap nukes. Against a chaotic world, we can only assert ourselves with infantry, and we don’t have nearly enough, not remotely. The stink of our foreign policy failures is rife. Let’s not further add to the list.