The sudden war in the Caucuses involving Russia and Georgia is quite disturbing. It's inspired me to do a bit of reading on the recent history that led to this battle. From this reading, it is clear that the tensions between Russian and Georgia over South Ossetia and Abkhazia have been building for quite a while. What also seems clear to me is that these tensions have absolutely nothing to do with the interests of the American people, and so we, as a country, should stay far clear of this dispute.
I don't see any obvious good guy in this fight based on what I know now, and the downside of major intervention is a war with Russia, which, needless to say given the huge nuclear arsenals on either side, would be very very very bad. Where is the comparable upside?
For the Bush administration (and its annointed successor John McCain) to have encouraged Georgia in its quest for NATO membership seems extraordinarily foolhardy and I'm glad German chancellor Angela Merkel was able to put a halt to that earlier this year.
I'd like to point out a few facts of recent history that I've discovered from my reading -- found through that obscure tool "Google News" -- facts that suggest that a lot of the rhetoric we see flying around about Georgia's allegedly "democratic" government is way overblown.
From the New York Times last November, less than nine months ago (emphasis added):
TBILISI, Georgia, Nov. 15 — Educated in America, fluent in four languages and in the values of free-market democracies, Mikheil Saakashvili was supposed to have been different. When he was elected president of Georgia after a bloodless revolution in 2003, he was deemed a savior for the post-Soviet landscape, as if he had been conjured by a committee of Washington think tanks and European human rights groups.
Yet this week, with Georgia under a state of emergency after his government quashed a large demonstration and violently shut an opposition television station, Mr. Saakashvili seemed, even in the eyes of some steadfast supporters, to be ruling with the willfulness of the very autocrats that he once so disdained. Was his true temperament showing, or had the burdens and realities of office somehow changed him?
After shutting down the opposition media, Saakashvili called for quick elections, in which he won a narrow majority. Does an election under these circumstances deserve to be called "democratic"?
From the International Herald-Tribune in January of this year, shortly after the elections:
"The president [Saaskashvili] has not behaved like a mature democrat, and many feel that he bought votes with promises and benefits," Swedish observer Birgitta Ohlsson was quoted by the newspaper Dagens Nyheter as saying. "We regard this with anxiety."
The head of the observer mission, Hastings, said the election revealed problems that must be addressed urgently. "The future holds immense challenges," he said.
The observers' report cited violations on election day, including cases of multiple voting. The most damning section was on the vote count, which they said was very slow in most polling stations they visited and basic procedures were often not followed.