Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Nations don't die or grieve - People Do - so why kill and die for empty words?

What the fighting in Georgia comes down to is a struggle between competing nationalisms. Russian nationalists believe this war shows Russia is a 'Great Power' again, it's past 'humiliations' put behind it, just as American nationalists believed the 1991 Iraq war had 'exorcised the ghost of Vietnam'. Saakashvili as a Georgian nationalist hoped to reassert Georgian 'sovereignty' and 'national unity' by reintegrating the secessionist region of South Ossetia into Georgia.
If success in imposing their will on other people by killing large numbers of them - half of whom are always civilians - gives anyone a feeling of 'pride' it's a sad reflection on them.

At the end of the day all these 'nations' , 'sovereignties','prides' and 'humiliations' are just abstract ideas compounded by primitive instincts. No nation ever suffered the agony of physical pain that actual wounded and dying people do. No nation ever grieved its 'humiliation' the way someone grieves the death of a loved one.

There is no moral high ground for either side either. In the 1992-4 civil war Georgian forces ethnically cleansed Ossetian and Abkhazian civilians. Ossetian and Abkhazian paramilitaries have almost certainly done the same now. Putin and the Russians may provide protection to Ossetians but its unlikely they provide much to Georgians in South Ossetia, especially given the history of massacres and systematic torture of Chechen civilians by Russian forces under Putin in Chechnya.

So it's merely sickening for either side's political leaders to talk of high principles - 'the nation', 'pride', 'sovereignty', 'preventing genocide' while the fighting goes on. If Russia's or Georgia's governments want the respect of the world the best way to get it would be to end all military action and negotiate whatever compromises they each need to make to satisfy both sides. Above all they need to start talking and stop killing now.

If that means abstract ideas like 'sovereignty' or 'the pride of the nation' need to be compromised by both sides those are casualties far more acceptable than one more life.

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