Gun-Totin-Wacko, a regular reader and commenter here at Gates of Vienna, offers his thoughts in a guest-essay on the current war between Russia and Georgia.
The Case for Georgia
All day today I’ve been monitoring the internet, reading articles and comments, especially at Ace of Spades, about the war in Georgia. The vast majority of what I see is from people who argue that we can’t help, that Georgia is historically part of Russia, or that Georgia isn’t really crucial to the US and it’s allies.
This is a load of hooey. Not one of these arguments stands up to scrutiny. So I intend to put a nail in each of them. And I’ll even make a suggestion or two on how to help.
[NOTE: At no point am I absolving the Georgians of any guilt for crimes they might have committed. If they are, as rumored, guilty of mass murder or ethnic cleansing, then the people involved need to be punished.]
First let’s look at the “historical” argument. Yes, Georgia has historically been part of Russia. As many readers will know, Stalin himself was a Georgian. Fine. Point made.
However, this is meaningless. The Ukraine, Poland, the whole of Central Asia, etc can be called “historically part of Russia”. What of it? All this aside, the issue is quite clear: Georgia is an independent country with a democratically elected government. Both the independence and the government are recognized by the international community as legitimate. How is it that a large country can simply invade and overwhelm a smaller neighbor, just by calling up arguments from the past?
A moment ago I mentioned Poland. For most of the past 250 years, Poland has been divided by its two neighbors, Germany and Russia. Except for the brief 20 years or so between the two World Wars, it was a conquered territory from the latter part of the 18th century until the 1980s. Does this unfortunate fact mean that Russia would have had a legal claim to invade in 1984 and re-conquer it? Or that Germany and Russia had the moral right to divide it in 1939? Or course not. So what is different now?
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As to the claim that it’s too difficult to aid the Georgians, I grant the premise. It is awfully hard, especially since the Russian forces have invaded and cut the country in half. However, the world community needs to find some way to help. Going back to my previous example of Poland, the same basic argument holds true. Why did Britain and France not give active help in September 1939? Because Poland was too far too isolated, and not really vital to their interests (Though they did at least declare war. They then sat back until after Poland was dismembered).
Remember too that the same argument held sway the year before at Munich. Alliance be damned, the French and Brits felt that they could not help, and that the Sudetenland was not worth going to war over. Perhaps they were correct, but the long term proves otherwise.
So should the entire world now sit on their hands and watch Georgia get overwhelmed because it would be too hard to do otherwise? Nonsense! With the application of willpower and effort, Russia could easily be put in its place. Economic boycotts, aid to peripheral countries, etc. But the West is too morally weak (witness the people in Europe who are openly supporting Russia, or at the very least not denouncing the invasion), and the rest of the world is either accustomed to bullying by neighbors, or hoping for a precedent they can use.
As to the claim that Georgia isn’t important enough to our interests, again I strongly disagree. Georgia is an ally of the West, and as I pointed out before, it’s a sovereign country. For those reasons, it becomes a moral imperative to help. The nations around Russia’s periphery are all terrified tonight, seeing the resurgence of what is essentially the Soviet Union. The weakness of the international response doesn’t help. Seeing your neighbor get beaten up by a thug while the police do nothing teaches the weak a strong lesson in human survival.
Of course, Europe is worried about their energy supplies. With good reason. Putin has never shown any hesitance to use whatever weapons he has available. But is it better to do nothing, hoping not to offend him, or to resist now, and hopefully end the crisis before winter?
Finally a couple of suggestions for how the civilized world can help. First off, the International Olympic Committee should take an emergency vote and announce the expulsion of the Russian Olympic Team from the Beijing Games. It’s not much, but it’s a start. It would demonstrate a bit of will, and be a nice first step. No conflict, just a move to tell them “the international community won’t allow you to play if you don’t play by the rules”.
I also maintain that there’s a way to throw a wrench into the Russian invasion. The main route of supply from Russia into South Ossetia (and on to Georgia proper) runs through the Roki Tunnel. Russia’s initial move was to race through the Tunnel, and into the fighting zone, to ensure that the Georgians didn’t close it off. Therefore, we can safely view this tunnel as a choke point for the Russian Army. The tunnel needs to be closed off, in order to prevent any more reinforcements, and also to interrupt needed supplies for their forces. Perhaps a nice unmanned drone — a Predator or two with attached missiles — could be launched, and bomb the southern end. Blow up the tunnel, and the Russians have to find another way to resupply their forces. Not to mention that, after the fighting ends, the tunnel would have to be repaired, which would be an added expense for Putin. If that doesn’t stop them, then look at other locations. At this point, we should focus on doing logistical damage to the Russian forces, rather than engaging them in combat. Stop them with a quick blow to the rear, and perhaps their calculus changes.
I hope that these thoughts are helpful to someone. I haven’t been doing too many deep thoughts here. It’s just a bit of ruminating on this crisis. The moral imperative is to assist somehow. If we do nothing, then the entire world takes a step back from where we believed ourselves to be. In the end, it comes down to a simple question: Should we do the easy thing, or the right thing?