I know what you're thinking. You're wondering, "Does the 'Haf have Olympic fever yet?" The answer is no, but I tried to get it. I turned on ABC to watch the Olympics, but it wasn't on. I sat through local news and then through Ebert (though he was not there) and some other guy who was not Siskel reviewing movies, thinking the Olympics would start at the end of each show. Then I figured out it's on NBC. So I turned the channel and fell asleep.
1. Al Franken, running for the Senate in Minnesota, held a campaign event about Veteran's Affairs. One man showed up.
Don't get depressed, Al. That's stinkin' thinkin'.
2. Matthew Omolesky explains Georgia in "History Returns to the Caucasus."
(All this talk about the end of history, starting with Fukuyama's book and continuing in Robert Kagan's book, is, I assume, speaking in metaphor. Obviously, history will not literally end so long as man walks the Earth. From the amazon reviews, however, it seems that Fukuyama uses Hegel's ideas, so maybe he really does believe "history" moves with some teleological purpose. It is all annoying nonsense.)
Thomas de Waal explains the conflict. If you're like me, you could not have found South Ossetia on a map last week.
Saakashvili has said, "If the whole world does not stop Russia, then Russian tanks will be able to reach any other European capital." I think he is about to learn that there is a difference between Tbilisi and Paris.
3. Here are some choice excerpts from Pravda on the conflict in Georgia:
Russian officials believe that it was the USA that orchestrated the current conflict. The chairman of the State Duma Committee for Security, Vladimir Vasilyev, believes that the current conflict is South Ossetia is very reminiscent to the wars in Iraq and Kosovo.
Ask anyone in the Caucasus region, and they will tell you never to trust a Georgian because they would shake your hand with a smile and then stab you in the back. On Friday morning, we saw a perfect example of this treachery, when hours after declaring a ceasefire, Georgian military units launched a savage attack on the civilians of South Ossetia.
Pravda is still the place for crude propaganda.
4. Good satire.
5. Stephen Brown's take on Georgia is good.
One of the triggers for the conflict exploding now, however, occurred outside the Caucuses when western countries recognized Kosovo, formerly part of Serbia. This diplomatic manoeuvre upset the Kremlin, which has refused to recognize the new entity. It has also not forgotten that a weak Russia had to watch helplessly in 1999 as an American-led NATO bombed its historical Balkan ally into submission.
Now in retaliation, Russia sees the opportunity to inflict the same fate on America’s Caucasian ally. It reasons that if Serbia is divisible, then so is Georgia. Like the Albanians in Kosovo, the Abkhazians and South Ossetians should have the right to secede if they do not want to remain part of Georgia. And they don’t. As proof, many people in these two rebellious areas, as many as 90 per cent according to one report, have taken Russian citizenship.
But there is another reason besides current political ones that prompted the Kremlin’s military action. By invading Georgia, Russia is also following its age-old historical pattern. When Moscow is weak, as it was after 1917 and in 1991, the states on its periphery break away. But when the center is strong, as it is again becoming now, it sets out to reincorporate those very same peripheral states. “Georgia is only the start,” said Saakashvili in an interview with a German newspaper six weeks ago. “Tomorrow the Baltic states, then Poland.”
While America has been fighting the war against Islamic terror, Russia has bided its time, solidifying its power at home and grabbing as much energy resources as possible. Once again, Russia has chosen to show its totalitarian and expansionist strength for all the world to see. America, meanwhile, with hands full in the terror war, appears only able to urge restraint -- while one of its key allies potentially faces its own ruin and loss of freedom.
6. This piece stunned me. The Georgians are surprised and dismayed that America has not entered the battle on their side.
“We killed as many of them as we could,” he said. “But where are our friends?”
It was the question of the day. As Russian forces massed Sunday on two fronts, Georgians were heading south with whatever they could carry. When they met Western journalists, they all said the same thing: Where is the United States? When is NATO coming?
Since the conflict began, Western leaders have worked frantically to broker a cease-fire. But for Georgians — so boisterously pro-American that Tbilisi, the capital, has a George W. Bush Street — diplomacy fell far short of what they expected.
...Georgians around Gori spoke of America plaintively, uncertainly. They were beginning to feel betrayed.
“Tell your government,” said a man named Truber, fresh from the side of the Tbilisi hospital bed where his son was being treated for combat injuries. “If you had said something stronger, we would not be in this.”
He had not slept for three days, and he was angry — at himself, at Georgia, but mainly at the United States. “If you want to help, you have to help the end,” he said.
“Write exactly what I say,” he said. “Over the past few years, I lived in a democratic society. I was happy. And now America and the European Union are spitting on us.”
On one hand, this seems tragic. Their expectations are way out of touch with reality. On the other hand, it is irksome to think that the Georgians might have pushed things too far thinking America would be there to bail them out.