More on Georgia and Russia (and a bit re: Poland)

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Since I last posted about Russia’s invasion of Georgia the conflict escalated from South Ossetia to Abkhazia and into central Georgia. Russia has agreed to a cease-fire but the specifics are sketchy at this time. Here are some selections from the web:

Max Boot (Contentions)

I am relieved to hear the Russia has called off its invasion of Georgia, although whether actions on the ground will match the words emanating from Moscow remains to be seen. But I am very, very depressed at the pusillanimous reaction to Russian aggression in what used to be called the Free World. Far too many are rushing to blame the victims. A perfect example of this mindset is this column by Newsweek’s Michael Hirsch. He begins, “There is no excusing Vladimir Putin’s bloody invasion of Georgia,” but then he proceeds to offer one excuse after another. “Since the cold war ended,” he writes, “the United States has been pushing the buttons of Russian frustration and paranoia by moving ever further into Moscow’s former sphere of influence. And we have rarely stopped to consider whether we were overreaching, even as evidence mounted that the patience of a wealthier and more assertive Russia was wearing very thin.”

and more here.

Abe Greenwald (Contentions): What are friends for?:

Georgia has our attention (or is sharing it with John Edwards). John McCain, Barack Obama, and George W. Bush have issued assorted statements on the matter, French president Nicolas Sarkozy has dashed through the motions of European diplomacy, and President Bush has sent Condoleezza Rice dashing after him. Additionally, American Navy vessels are heading toward the Black Sea–to deliver aid. But a week after Russian tanks and jets set Georgia ablaze–and three days since the announcement of a ceasefire–Russian troops patrol Georgian cities with virtual impunity. No nation has defended Georgia and no Georgian ally has even given her the means to defend herself. Moreover, no agreements have been drafted explicitly securing Georgia’s territorial integrity. In this way, Saakashvili got the West dead wrong.

Victim status doesn’t get you what it used to. There was a time when an American friend or a strategically critical state under attack got more than color commentary from the White House and a boat full of Ace bandages. When Russia rolled into Afghanistan in 1979 we didn’t give Afghans our sympathy; we gave them guns–big ones. When Saddam tried to annex Kuwait, we went in and sent him back home. Today a real invasion will get a symbolic vote, a high profile condemnation, and a Facebook group.

Bob from Brockley has a nice set of links here. Bob takes a critical approach to reports in the Western media here:

Western media is not simply accepting Georgian lies, but accepting lies from both sides, to satisfy our thirst for news, in the context of a lack of decent coverage on the ground.

I agree with Bob but isn’t this the case in every conflict where reporters on the ground are scare? Western newspapers rely on government reports, interviews with officials, interviews with the opposition, etc. Look at Darfur. There are not many western reporters there. Newspapers report what the government in Khartum claims and what those resisting the government claim and what human rights organizations/NGOs claim. Same with Zimbabwe. We know what we know about these conflicts largely based on propaganda. Even in wars we today consider rather clear-cut, like World War II, most of the information produced by Western media was propaganda.

I also think it is important to make a distinction between “accepting lies” and reporting the position of an official of a government or political movement. If a media outlet notes, “according to Georgian officials 2,000 Georgian civilians were killed” and “according to Russian officials, 2,000 Russian civilians were killed” that is different than claiming “2,000 Georgian civilians and 2,000 Russian civilians were killed.” All of the MSM reports I have read are careful to point out which side is making a particular claim so I do not agree that reporters are accepting the lies of either side.

Pundits (and most bloggers) are a different case. Unless they are reporting facts on the ground (for example, the number and type of military units involved in a particular skirmish) I expect them to have an ideological interpretation of the conflict and communicate that in their opinions.

Kellie Strom (Air Force Amazons): They’re all the bloody same over there:

I’m a lousy chess player, but from what I read it looks to me as though Russia has been advancing its pawns in the hope that one of them would be taken, allowing its main force to attack. Georgia was facing losses either way, whether at the hands of the advancing pawns, or in risking confrontation with the main Russian forces. I’m not yet convinced that Georgian actions were wholly unreasonable. If they hadn’t responded, the Russian reaction to weakness would have undoubtedly have been an even greater buildup of their forces within the contested areas, and a continuation, if not escalation, of actions by its proxy separatist forces.

Sultan Knish: Pat Buchanan, the Kremlin’s New Whore

Lastly, within days of Russia’s invasion of Georgia, Poland agreed to serve as a base for a U.S. anti-ballistic missile system. Do you blame them?

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4 responses »

  1. Thanks for the link.

    I see Max Boot also points to one of Andrew Sullivan’s topsy turvy posts on Georgia. Sullivan has been incredible. I’ve a longer post on what he’s been writing in the last week here.

    Sullivan seems incapable of seeing Georgia outside of the context of his anger towards Bush. I found his comments, repeated and elaborated as they were, just staggering. I agree with him that torture is always wrong, and I agree in part with him that in certain cases during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq the rule of law has been undermined in what should be a struggle to defend the rule of law, but to deny Georgia solidarity as a result shows no understanding of the fundamental principles he’s supposedly arguing for. Denying human rights in Georgia does nothing to improve human rights in Iraq.

    There was a similar moment at the start of Any Questions on BBC Radio 4
    on friday, where the first question from the audience on Georgia was an
    attack on Bush. These people are clutching that personalised hatred
    so tightly it’s as if they’re afraid of losing it if they let anything else into the
    same space – it’s hatred as a security blanket.

    People like Andrew Sullivan have repeatedly criticized the US for not building alliances, and for resorting to unilateral military actions. Leaving aside the fact that US actions haven’t actually been unilateral, here we are faced with Russia taking unilateral military action, and the US is being criticised for building alliances. Where the hell is the principle in that?

    Since then Sullivan has sunk even lower. This post of his shows a YouTube video from the same amateur Russian propagandist responsible for this, and this, and most pathetically this.

    Sorry for such a long comment.
    Best wishes,
    kellie

  2. Re Kellie:
    I used to really respect Andrew Sullivan, and worried what it said about me that I liked someone so far to the right of me. Now, me and Andrew seem to have swopped places! His case of Bush Derangement Syndrome is one of the worst.

    Re TNC above:
    Yes, I think you are pretty much right on the “accepting lies” stuff. But one British middle market daily I saw on the train (I think it was the Mail or Express, or maybe the London Evening Standard) had a headline “2000 dead in South Ossetia” – that’s my scare quotes, not theirs. Maybe in the article, they said “Russia claims”… It’s true the MSM generally says things like “witnesses have reported” and “according to…”, but they aren’t very doubting in their tone, even when the evidence is very shaky. The 24-hour news culture is partly to blame, I think, rather than a deep ideological malaise, but nonetheless…

  3. The BBC News website has difficulty remembering that Russian claim of 2,000 dead. I sent the website an email about it the day before I wrote this post – usually they’re very responsive, correcting a story whether or not they answer the email. This time, nothing. Odd.

  4. Kellie, no worries on the long comment.

    Yes, Sullivan is off his rocker. Joe Klein from Time magazine has been moving in a similar direction.

    “These people are clutching that personalised hatred
    so tightly it’s as if they’re afraid of losing it if they let anything else into the
    same space – it’s hatred as a security blanket.”

    Hatred as a security blanket. I really like that, Kellie. I think it applies in a lot of cases, not just hatred of Bush. Extremists on the left and right have a similar irrational hatred of Israel and Jews.

    Bob, we don’t have as many good newspapers in the U.S. as we used to but I would generally consider tabloid and television coverage of any event to be quite poor while papers like the L.A. Times, NYT, WSJ and Washington Post have higher standards. A tabloid like the New York Post is not above having a large headline reading “Kabulseye!” with a picture of flattened building underneath it. Yes, that was an actual headline.

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