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Georgia, Ossetia, Russia, Oh My!

Russian 152mm howitzers firing on Georgian positions, 10 August 2008.

I've been uncharacteristically silent on this one, mostly because this damned gout isn't going away, they took me off the drug that was working because it was mauling my kidneys, and the substitute, well, lets just say I hurt.  A lot.  And things don't seem to be improving.  More doctor visits today.

All y'all have been wrangling this from several different perspectives, and, unfortunately for me, the paying job keeps me silent on several factors of this.

That said - I got this note in email this morning:

I've read all of the articles in the blog on this Georgia/Russia Conflict. It doesn't make sense. As demented as it may be, there is a logic to warfare. A superior force only makes a move when they believe they have more to gain, than to lose. It would appear the Russians were the dominant force. I fell into this trap. As I started, I saw the Russians as the aggressors. What would the Russians really gain in such an action? The bigger question is what do the Russians jeopardize in such an action? What would happen if all of the investors sucked their money and technology out of Russia? She says, if I want to be a "World Player", I must play by the World's Rules. She wants to have trade relationships with the United States, as you say, play by the rulez. If she violates the rulez and sells her natural resources to China, it still meets part of the requirements of the World market. Therefore the energy market prices should still stabilize. I am beginning to believe the Russians were not the aggressors, it was the Georgians. What did the Georgians have to gain? The big thing would be an even deeper security relationship with the United States with foreign aid. There would be one condition, DON'T GET CAUGHT! The nagging questions are these things on timing-

1. The first day of Olympics in China

2. The first day of Obama on vacation

3. 2 Weeks until The Democratic National Convention

Here's my pain-fogged, distilled thoughts on the subject thus far - there are several things at play.

The choice of date - probably to make sure coverage is as limited as possible by the world suck on internet-based info about the Olympics.

Candidate Obama and the Democratic National Convention - nah.

I believe this is Russia telling Europe, NATO, and the US to back-off, and get out of their backyard. And the running sore of the Ossetians and Chechnyans give them both reason and cover.  Russia is letting us know they're back into playing the Great Game.

Not hard to look at this through Russian eyes and see a parallel for them between how they look at Georgia and how we look at Cuba.

Putin is also whipping us with our own rope - this is payback for Kosovo, in a sense, and using our own rationale.
GORI, Georgia - Explosions were heard near Gori on Thursday as a Russian troop withdrawal from the strategic city seemed to collapse. A fragile cease-fire appeared even more shaky as Russia's foreign minister declared that the world "can forget about any talk about Georgia's territorial integrity."

The declaration from Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov came simultaneously with the announcement that Russian President Dmitry Medvedev was meeting in the Kremlin with the leaders of Georgia's two separatist provinces.

"One can forget about any talk about Georgia's territorial integrity because, I believe, it is impossible to persuade South Ossetia and Abkhazia to agree with the logic that they can be forced back into the Georgian state," Lavrov told reporters.

Lastly, they're letting the world (especially Europe) know that if your pipelines don't run through Russia... they may not be safe. A protection racket shake-down.

But I don't believe this is in any significant way tied to our Presidential politics. Since this event plays to Senator McCain's strengths and Senator Obama's weaknesses, one would have to assume the Russians want McCAin as President, which I strongly doubt.  I'm thinking Putin would prefer a beginner like Senator Obama in the White House, over a crusty Cold Warrior like Senator McCain.

This is 3AM phone call kind of stuff, which is not a winner for Senator Obama.

I think the President is playing this about as well as we can with the resources we have available, including courage and commitment from our allies (which isn't in the plus column. generally, for the bigger players among 'em) - we're maintaining a presence in Georgia, which makes it harder for Moscow to press on to Tblisi. 

It's also entirely possible that the Russian pause is because they've shot their logistical bolt and want to get stuff on this side of the tunnel before someone does try to take it out.  But it's equally possible that they've simply achieved enough of what they wanted to achieve and can now sit pretty and make the Georgians take any new, aggressive steps - having handled the Georgian military pretty roughly this last week.  The Russians now have to be concerned about asymetric activity in their rear.

And lastly, for those who still advocate a more energetic response on the part of the US or NATO, consider what happened last time, when nations energetically stumbled themselves into a war they weren't really prepared for nor expected, in terms of scale.  When escalating circumstances got out of hand with unintended consequences - and small restive places ended up bringing down empires grown rickety and overstretched....  not quite100 years ago.

If none of that makes sense - I blame the drugs.


I agree with your up-front assessment about why Russia is doing this, but I'll knock you on the comment about Obama and the 3AM phone call. A response to this action won't come at 3AM, by all accounts (and one would hope this were true), our govt saw the Russian offensive coming and may have tried to warn Georgia off on its attack into Ossetia. By the time the tanks and planes were coming from Russia, there was no action that required a "3AM" phone call, the bluff had been called. Which is fortunate, since Pres Bush and SecState Rice were vacationing and that resulted in the tepid and weak response back to Putin.

Who does Putin prefer? Who knows, but if you think Putin is going to back down before a "crusty Cold War" veteran, you're mistaken. He's a product of the new Russia, he's got lots of oil reserves and popular backing by his public, he's got leverage on us in as far as dealing with Iraq and Iran, exactly why would he be worried that McCain would pull Russia's membership in the G8? Ohhhhh. Scarey.

Russia got everything that they wanted, and they sent the message as you note that they're back in the Great Game. Mission accomplished, now they pull back and let Europe and the US fret over Georgia. Again, agree with you that there is no US/NATO military response that could be made other than to assist in peacekeeping/humanitarian aid (and oops, we're busy doing that in two other countries in the Middle East). Check and mate.

I think the obvious answer is, the Russians thought they could get away with it. Nothing more, nothing less.
They probably expected the Georgian army to stand and fight, which would have meant its destruction. Instead, the Georgians have withdrawn without becoming decisively committed.
They probably didn't expect much in the way of international response, and for the first couple of days, they were right.
And since they are sitting in Georgia, any negotiations will have to start with getting the Russians out of there, which will call for concessions from the west. Not a bad starting spot for negotiations.
Armorer - I agree that this had nothing to do with influencing American politics..

Jason, could you please clarify "Again, agree with you that there is no US/NATO military response that could be made other than to assist in peacekeeping/humanitarian aid (and oops, we're busy doing that in two other countries in the Middle East)"  Yes, were are there and we are busy.  However, I don't see how that matters in the case of Georgia.  Not that I think we should be alone in handling the peacekeeping/humanitarian aid aspect, but, IMO, we can.
he's got leverage on us in as far as dealing with Iraq and Iran, exactly why would he be worried that McCain would pull Russia's membership in the G8? Ohhhhh. Scarey.

I'll disagree there for only one real reason that often gets missed.  Russia's export economy is over 70% from energy and 50% of that export is from oil.  Oil has been dropping like a brick lately.  I imagine that, while Russia liked the extremely high prices for a quick revenue boost, the minute it started falling, they started getting twitchy (hello Georgia).  Honestly, if oil goes back down to around $70/bbl, Russia is going to be hurting bad. 

What they've been trying to do is diversify their export economy to include manufactured goods, textiles, appliances, those types of things, but they have found it very hard to compete with china and Latin America to name a few for these items.  which means they stay vulnerable to the whims of the energy market and the probability that their economy can be controlled (ie, economic warfare) through that one major resource/outlet. 

that is actually why the G8 and WTO are extremely good "weapons".  Putin does not forget 1993.  Perastroyka was dead and Putins beloved mother russia was on life support. 

Other than that, I might agree with your assessment.  I don't believe the political angle influences Russia much accept maybe the lame duck president.  Who's next in the presidency doesn't always influence people's decisions if they believe American has a general policy it will continue to follow regardless of who is in office.

Oh, except I'd call it "check", but not "mate".  A few things left that could make Russia look like it brought its queen out too soon.
Good sense and I've been meaning to add some thoughts about the wider geo-political trip wires. 

1) Oil prices begin to drop like a rock (see my above post ie, Russian export economy 70% oil)
2) US "wins" Iraq war, begins pulling out many brigades of combat troops (ostensibly, this could mean anything such as US now has five combat tested brigades free for other purposes or the pressure is off Iran, nominal ally, time to take risk, etc, etc, etc)
3) Poland okays missile defense shield
4) Georgia to remain PFP instead of full member NATO

Can't find the link, but I see that oil prices have steadied at $115/bbl over the last week.  We might have seen its furthest retreat right now.  That is good news for Russia.  Also, Russian commodities were in free fall and have now steadied. 

a lot of different geopolitical stuff that could be at play.  maybe only presidential consideration is that, whoever comes in November will be fresh and not used up politically.  meaning they would have better opportunity to play tough with politics. 

However, I think there is a rational more strategic reason to have done it now rather than "october".  Namely, Georgia is a mountainous country that still has glaciers on its mountains.  The only way really in and out of Georgia is over the mountains in planes or vehicles.  Fall rains and winter snows (and those may come earlier than ours considering they still have glaciers) make for bad campaigning weather. 
Maggie - obviously I have no direct window into the Pentagon CAT on this, but I would suggest that we're pretty well stressed managing the logistics and C&C for the Middle East operations, considering the footprint caused by 200,000 military and what, another 200,000 contractors. No doubt that we can move some humanitarian aid to Georgia, especially if naval, but I suggest that it may fall significantly short due to our current committments. Maybe NATO will help, maybe they won't. We'll see.

Kat, I think you underestimate the Russian economy. Yeah they're competing against big dogs but the oil's not going to drop much lower. China, India, and Europe all want that Russian oil and winter's coming. Russia needed the G-8 membership in the 1990s, now, not so much. Lots of nations willing to deal with Mother Russia, esp arms deals. But we'll see.
Well, I wouldn't say Russia's economy dies, nor that they lose all the long term, captive market of china and Europe.  However, math tells me that the difference between $145/bbl and $70/bbl is $75/bbl difference.   What's Russia producing these days?  7mil/bpd per IEA.  that's a growth of $525 mil/day in revenues.  Falling by $30 in the last six weeks, that's a loss of about $210mil/day in revenue (keeping in mind all of these oil companies were nationalized and that is all government revenue).  that just seems kind of unsteady to me. 

Russia's economy grew by 8.1% in 2007 and that was almost all oil with the increasing price.  Prior to that, in 2006, Russia's economy was still growing, but at a slower pace before oil started taking off over $50/bbl.  Still, something like 7%.  That can be good and bad.  Sometimes that leads to significant inflation in the housing markets and food (those two I've seen somewhere being a problem).

I'm just thinking about being a one product economy leaves your yearly budget at the mercy of oil production, consumption and speculation.  They still don't have much in terms of private enterprises to generate significant tax revenues to the government nor in providing jobs to stabilize the economy or provide other tax revenues.  The ruble still doesn't compete well against the Euro, dollar or yin. 

think about it.  If you live and die by the price of oil (and natural gas), free falling oil prices can lead to some nasty responses in private investment (something that took an ugly turn anyway after they assassinated a few people). 

Further, China is about to complete filling its last oil reserve (one of the causes of the rising price and last ditch speculation in the last few months).  American use is down and so is Europe and Asia.  Just because they are captive markets, doesn't mean their ups and downs don't impact your economy when that's what you rely on.

Russia's been trying to break into other markets and products for over a decade.  Regardless of what their oil is doing and how much money it brings in, if they can't sell much of anything else to other countries, they don't produce jobs and that makes the citizenship more dependent on government programs and hand outs which drains the exchequer, depresses the economy and typically leads to unstable inflation. 

Kind of why I alluded to 1993 and Perestroika somewhere else.  Russia is not far enough away from those bad old days.  So, yes, I see the G8 and WTO as slightly more important than something they can shrug off. 
hmm...   could always use an additional training area.  mayhap an agreement with Georgia for a long-term (cheap!) lease on some certain amount of acreage for mountain environment training.  kind of a change of pace type training area, for like somebody who is sick of looking at Fort Drum in the winter....
The ghost in the machine 2

One of the reasons that Russia and China spend so much effort on cyberwarfare is that Western information institutions — universities, the press and even the Internet — are so vulnerable to disinformation. The MSM in particular is structurally incapable of classifying and analyzing new information at a near real-time rate. It can be cyberherded easily. And because it is institutionally perpetually amateur, it often can’t even tell when it is being had. Plus many of its major connected nodes are probably compromised and the small world property means that these compromised nodes will spread the poison.

Jason--I wasn't clear in my post, I guess. According to the State Department website, we have been sending millions of dollars in foreign aid to Russia for over a decade. The part I highlighted concerned the portion of the aid for "Security and Law Enforcement." Under that it appears that we are paying for something called "Integrated Military Education"--designed to allow Russian military to cooperate in military exercises with Nato countries. It includes, but is not limited to, education of NCO's and officers. Why are paying for  training their military?

This part is only a drop in the bucket among the rest. My question is why are we sending so much over such a long period of time, and couldn't those buckets be used  in some fashion as a non-lethal bargaining chip?

Heya all:

I tried to post this to the other Georgia/Ossetia thread, but was blocked (are the threads time linked now?). Anyway, it's a bit off topic for this thread, but not entirely, so I've tried to make it fit better. You'll have to decided if it does. I started out talking about Beslan and etc. and I've left that part because it's relevant to understanding the different ways our nations (and some of us here) look at things. I think the rest ties in somewhat. Sorry if it distracts or derails.


In re: Beslan: regardless of who started what, and who did what to whom first, you just don't take children hostages in a school, no matter what the cause-effect cycle. To perpetrate such a crime is utter depravity, and any attempt to rationalize or justify the actions of people who would do such a thing is pathetically misguided at best. And I don't care who caused what part of that crime in the end--Russian missteps or accidental detonation of a bomb--the Chechens took children hostage and killed their parents, in some cases, in front of them, leaving a trail of blood on the Gym floor as they dragged the bodies off to another room, where they would lie for two days! And of course Beslan wasn't the first place the murderers decided to kill innocents--remember the Moscow Theater? The Russians screwed that up, but the Chechens were the aggressors there too. As I see it, the Russians may be ruthless and extremely harsh, but razing a town that people could have left is not the same as putting over 700 elementary school children in a room and shooting them and their parents if things don't go the way you plan. Are the Russians guiltless? No. Are the Chechens? A lot less so. As for who the biggest 'butchers' are, I'd say it's a flat wash in the Caucuses, with my money tending heavily toward the Chechens.


In the end, it comes to this for me: I refuse to simplify my world to make it easy to comprehend. I do not see any of this as black and white, and I don't think the Russians are the Evil Empire anymore (anyone besides me wish Ronnie were still in charge?), any more than I think China is nothing more than an enemy. We and the other major powers are competitors, not enemies (at least not this week), and while the U.S. does not act as they do, we have made our share of mistakes in pursuit of our goals and we have let our arrogance and isolationist tendencies cause us problems. Not that I really mind that. It's a tough world, and resources are limited, and it has always, ALWAYS been about who owns the water, and I like that we are the biggest dog in the yard, but I am also not blind to the past.

All of human action in history has been driven at its core by the need for resources, and while different political systems have emerged over time (tribal, feudal, etc), and different national characters, the fact remains that we are all human, we all start off with the same equipment and we all end up the same way. The U.S. isn't by a stretch innocent of having done bad things for what we thought were good or legitimate reasons, and other people's liberty has often NOT been one of our concerns, but we've worked hard to reform ourselves over the past century or so and we've made good progress. Unfortunately, however, that amount of time is insignificant compared to the 'remembered' history of Europe, and that's what we are talking about here.

Yes, I am very proud to be American, stupidly so sometimes, but I also know that what we are, what makes us unique, is our youth--having had a chance to start fresh relatively recently on the world stage--AND the power of our immigrant-based diversity, combined with the freedoms given us by our Constitution. We are the world in our hearts and genes, but we have been fortunate enough to have left behind the ages-old hatreds and rivalries and distrusts that come with the need for control of the water, and we have been able to learn from the mistakes (and philosophies) of the past, to our benefit. We are better because we could be as much as because we wanted to be. If you think it's easy for a nation or a people to escape the past, look at how hard it has been to shake the effects of slavery in America, an almost benign thing compared to the atrocities of the past 1000+ years in Eurasia. I was in Trier Germany in the year of its 2000th anniversary. According to its official history, the city had been sacked/razed 7 times. There are ruins in that city dating from the time of Emperor Constantine (the Porta Negra being the most famous). It is part of their remembered history!

So what's my point?

First, that most Americans really don't understand Europe or Russia (or anywhere else for that matter), though we think we do. Russia is not just a bizzaro version of the U.S. (that would be the EU, actually), and the Georgians are not some nascent pre-freedom version of us. The peoples of Georgia and Russia have a history older than the U.S., and this little bit of fluff everyone is so worked up about is hardly noticeable on the grand scale of that relationship. We are the newcomer outsiders here, and the Georgians only care about us insofar as we can help them fight their ages-old enemy.

Second, I refuse to look at what's going on in Russia and Georgia, or anywhere else anymore, in black and white terms. And I am unwilling to let cold-war sentiment cloud my thinking even though a good deal of my life was devoted to the Long Watch. Russia may have provoked the attack, but the U.S. has been pushing Russia hard, and now we sucked Georgia into being our proxy (or may we're the ones who got snookered). And for all of that, it still comes down to this: In this world--especially on the international stage--the smallest things make the greatest differences. Georgia attacked with an army first, and no matter what the provocation, in the world of high-stakes international relations, that trumps anything Russia had done before because Russia didn't start the formal shooting. Yes, we can try to help our proxy by supporting it with aid, and we can send a msg to the Russians that we are not pleased, by using our military to deliver the aid, but the bottom line is that Georgia should not have attacked into South Ossetia. That was the first mistake, the only really important point of reference from the moment they did so. Europe and the U.S. can try to do damage control all they want, but the pride and stupidity of the Georgian President has caused all sorts of difficulties for us and others now--and made us look stupid too (which we deserve a little) and weak, which we're not, really. Simply put, no matter how we try to spin this, we are on the wrong side of the wall of legitimacy, even if that wall is vapor thin. And I bet, too, that the President of Georgia was told all of this in no uncertain terms by our President.

On a final note, consider how many countries in the world consider our invasion of Iraq criminal, even though we had what seemed to be a sound motivation, AND the legal framework in place (as much as anything the UN does is truly legal). Were we wrong to invade Iraq? Does the end justify the means? Or only for the U.S.?

I like the speech Gates made, and I have seen that my analysis was correct. It is pretty clear now that Georgia is not going to get the autonomous regions under its control anytime soon and the US is not going to commit any troops there on Georgia's behalf--which is absolutely the right path to take. More to the point, because Georgia attacked first, there is not going to be any UN or EU condemnation worth mentioning.

I could go on (as you all know I can), but I'll stop here for now. I hope this has made some sense.

RetRsvMike:  Did you know the U.S. has formal signed arrangements with Romania to use one of its eastern airbases as a training base?  I wouldn't be surprised if your idea (a good one, I think) hadn't been already looked at.  Heck, maybe we could set up a PfP regional tng area and everyone could come learn how to do cool winter mountain stuff....

Maggie, you wote "Why are paying for training their military?"  The simple and straight forward answer is that it's worth the small amount of money we spend on that training.  I don't have time right now, and I can't go into too much detail anyway, but please take my word for it that what we spend on training international students is a steal for what we get out of it, which is a cadre of intelligent, educated professionals both in the military and later who understand the United States and are better able, therefore, to know how to deal with us.  And that's not a negative, either.  It helps when senior people in other governments can advise civil leaders that we can be trusted or that we mean what we say when we take a certain tone, etc....  And many of the people who we trained over the years have become lifelong supporters and apologists for the U.S. 

On the reverse side, look what happens when we stop doing that:  We stopped training Indonesian military people some time ago for quite awhile.  The result was a cadre/cohort  of senior military people who distrusted the U.S. and had no point of reference against which to make decisions, so many of them were contrary to our interests.  Things are getting back to normal, but it was a lost opportunity.  Same thing with Mauritania in 2005.  First islamic republic to recongnize Israel, was a staunch ally, but the leader was a despot, so there was a coup, utterly welcomed by the people, but it violated our rules, so we imposed sanctions, no training for that country's military for 2 years.  That did not help us in our war against the extremists.

The truth is that we training many thousands of international students in the United States, and a good deal of it is paid for by the U.S.  Is it worth it?  Collin Powell certainly thought so, and so does the State Department and the Congress because we have been doing it for decades.  As for bargaining chips, I dunno.  It might make us feel good, but it wouldn't stop the Russians from doing what they want, it would just stop them from even caring what we want.

<B>She wants to have trade relationships with the United States, as you say, play by the rulez</b>

Saudi Arabia controls maybe 50% of the State Department via bribes and lucrative consultation jobs, and SA doesn't follow the rules. They would be a rogue state without their oil and money. Something like Cuba.

Russia has learned very well that you don't need to play by the rules the US has, in order to get money and benefits from the US. Why? Cause the US is schizoid. Half the country wants to stall the other half. And we ain't even talking about turf wars inside the gov.

<B>The choice of date - probably to make sure coverage is as limited as possible by the world suck on internet-based info about the Olympics.</b>

Which is consistent with the DDOS attacks on Georgia's internet PR fronts.

<B>And lastly, for those who still advocate a more energetic response on the part of the US or NATO, consider what happened last time, when nations energetically stumbled themselves into a war they weren't really prepared for nor expected, in terms of scale.</b>

All of those nations were European in origin, rather than American. And Russia is nominally European, given their participation in the World Wars you referenced, John.

Georgia, after being told about a million times not to, invaded Ossetia.  Basically Georgia, in all it's leader's self assumed glory, thought it could steal second when the pitcher,Russia, wasn't even in his stance.  DOH!  As a NATO member, Georgia wouldn't have been allowed to do what it tried to do.  Now they are expecting NATO type protection for being stupid and getting their butts handed to them on a platter?  Russia is not to blame!
Gout? Aloes (cleans the system of lots of filth) and Move Free. 
Russia has had 150 armored vehicles (tanks, personnel carriers, etc) on the other side of the Roki tunnel for at least six weeks (building up over a longer period of time).  Exactly what were those two armored divisions doing sitting on the other side of the Roki?  Except poised for invasion?

Please spare me the "Russia innocent" BS.
 SangerM, 14 Aug 2008,  6:54PM  In your comment you talk of change, you tell us we don't understand the region of Europe,Georgia and Russia. I would ask you to help us to understand, we must also be willing to help you. As we do this you and I need to be willing to learn about each other. As we have questions, we'll have somebody who can answer them, what do you think? Don't just complain of our ignorance, help us out. -Grumpy
Steve - "Georgia, after being told about a million times not to, invaded Ossetia."

Georgia has democratically elected leadership and they were dealing with an internal problem.  It might not have been smart, but it was their call.  They are our ally and the backlash they have suffered was out of all bounds.  We should absolutely help them in every way that doesn't harm us. 

To quote an off-color statement I read elsewhere in response to the "we told them not to do that" arguement -

"But, that's the thing. They are their own country, not the 51st state. They can do what they feel is best for Georgia. Then, when their "groins" have been slammed in the desk drawer enough, we bring them an ice pack."
@kat- If you go to, go to the search box, enter "Gates". There is a video of Secretary of Defense, Dr. Robert Gates called "Russia 'Punished' Georgia". According to SECDEF Robert Gates, this is an annual event, only this time Russia went overboard.  -As always, GRUMPY
um? no,  how is it that Georgia has the right to invade Ossetia?
"now they pull back and let Europe and the US fret over Georgia"

Is everybody sure that Russia will just leave? I'm thinking they will still be there this time next year. Because short of a full blown war, we can't make them leave. I'm with the crowd that says economic sanctions and such don't mean that much to Putin, even if it is logical and the rest of the Russian government says it is.

Just my two cents.

Papa Ray
West Texas
we have no right to make them leave.  they are honoring their pledge to protect Ossetia.  If Georgia didn't want war with Russia, they shouldn't have picked that finght...
by the way, thanks to ya Jonah for making this portal of vent available
help me if i'm wrong here but, isn't Georgia invading Ossetia kind'a like Iraq invading Kuwait?
and yes Maggie,  it was their call.  thus,  they have no business whining for America to come bail them out.
"the backlash they suffered is way out of bounds"?  They bombed the capital of Ossetia on their whim.  As far as i know, no state capital is fully occupied by a military force meaning George launched an attack on citizens.  in hopes of getting a few soldiers too?
Um, South Ossetia is a province of Georgia.  Legally, as S. Ossetia is a province of Georgia and not a recognized separate country, Georgia wasn't "invading" anyone.  It was their territory.

But, maybe you missed the part where every August (right around the Eurasian favorite month for their 30 day, state paid vacation - kind of like Ramadan in Iraq always seemed to spike an attack), the "separatists" would start shelling Georgian army positions and the Georgian counter-battery would fire back.  Then, Georgian army would send a company or less after the "separatists", the Russians would "step in", Georgians would back off and everybody starts over at "go" assuming their original positions within S. Ossetia. 

Oh, and Steve, would you be surprised to know that in the South Ossetian "autonomous" region, the separatists only owned about half of the province starting at around Ts'khinvili and going east to the provincial border?  And, shockingly, the Georgian army controlled the other half.  For over a decade.  The Georgians didn't "invade" anything.  They were already there. 

Russia wasn't protecting Ossetia or Ossetians for any reason other than they got to keep their troops on Georgian soil, stir things up with the Ossetians and generally remind Georgia that Russia was in their back yard whenever they got a little too uppity and acted all independent.  Like electing a president that wasn't in Russia's back pocket or getting military training from the US or, my personal favorite, signing separate deals with Azerbaijan for oil and gas pipelines that by passed Russian contro and sold directly to a customer base in Europe that Russia believes it "owns". 

As for how can anyone demand the Russians leave?  Easily.  It's not their country and they are WAY past protecting Ossetians, controlling a large swath of Georgia at this moment.  Getting them to leave is another matter.
um, did not Georgia seperate from Russia in a bid to be a seperate entity?
and now that Ossetia seeks to do the same,  what is the difference?
yo Kat,  at one time Russia owned all of it.  does that make any difference    now?
"the backlash they suffered is way out of bounds"? They bombed the capital of Ossetia on their whim. As far as i know, no state capital is fully occupied by a military force meaning George launched an attack on citizens. in hopes of getting a few soldiers too?

Hey, KGB Steve, you don't know much because actually, the Georgians were bombing the bridge north of Ts'khinvili in order to slow or stop the two divisions of Russian armor rolling south.  Russian military and Ossetian irregulars appear to have come up to Ts'khinvili to counter the Georgians.  Exactly what were they supposed to do?  let the Russians and the "separatists" fire at them from wherever and roll over their position because there was a city there? 

Let me repeat, it wasn't a "few" soldiers.  It was two divisions rolling in.  10,000 soldiers and their armor.

How many Georgians do you think they were facing since the entire Georgian army, spread out all over Georgia, is only a little over 20,000.  I'll repeat that, too.  Spread out all over Georgia.  If there were a thousand Georgians in the area doing much of anything when the firing started, I'd be surprised. 

oh wait,  occording to what Georgia just failed to do,  yes
so now Georgia didn't attack Ossetia?  kat?
and you know where your "KGB" comment can go
two divisions on what side of the line?
counter?  counter what?  were the Georgians doing something they shouldn't have been doing?
what is it that i don't know much -kat?  cuz i'm just here to learn
I'll apologize for the KGB remark.  For all I know, you're just a guy trying to get information.

So, let's start with the Ossetian separatists started firing on Georgian positions.  So, who attacked first? 

"Counter" fire, Steve, is what happens when one side fires on another and then the other side decides to fire back.  Ie, "counter".  In this case, the separatists, in their usual August vacation insurgent mode, started shelling Georgian positions.  Its an annual event according to some watchers of the region, right around the time that everybody in Eurasia takes their 30 days paid government holiday - a left over of the old Soviet workers system.  We saw the same in Iraq and Afghanistan when Ramadan would come around and everybody was on the official recognized holiday.  More part time insurgents could participate more fully.

That is why the Ossetians and Georgians have a decade long tradition of firing at each other around August.

So, no the Georgians weren't doing something they weren't supposed to do unless you think it's okay for the Ossetians to fire on the Georgians and they are just supposed to sit there and take casualties without trying to knock it out?

the counter i was referring to -kat was the counter you mentioned the Russians enacted
seems if it's an annual thing, both sides are suspect on this occasion?
thus a counter measure being taken in response to a previous action...
Two divisions were massed on the Russian side of the line just to the north of the Roki tunnel, north of Ts'khinvili.  However, I might suggest some thought as to why the Russians had two divisions (10,000 men with weapons, vehicles, food, fuel enough to invade Georgia), supplied, armed and ready to roll. 

If 10,000 men were sitting on the other side of the Mexican border on a main highway into the United States, with armored vehicles like tanks and armored personnel carriers, would that seem particularly innocent?  Or, would that appear to be menacing?
if the Ossetians and the Georgians trade lead during an annual festival, who did what to give the Russians cause to step in ?  is what i'm wondering.  ya know?
as long as they stayed on their side of the border, it just wouldn't matter
soveriegnity only covers your boundries
although i have to say, if 10,000 soldiers were amassed on the other side of the border here, i wouldn't fire on them unless i was sure i could take em aye?
so we're back to why.... why did Geargia attack?  especially if they were facing those odds
who did what to give the Russians cause to step in ?

That is the question that perplexes.  It seems that the Georgians had to know the Russians were just on the otherside so why provoke attack?  And, if they were planning on doing something about Ossetia and they knew the Russians were there, why didn't they close off the Roki tunnel and prevent the Russians from entering right from the get go?  before anything else?

The Georgians didn't even try to take out the bridge above Ts'khinvili to stop the Russians until they were well inside the borders. 

the problem right now is that there is too much disinformation being flung from either side.  The lack of trying to take out the tunnel or the failure to get there in time to do it seems either a terrible blunder or that the Georgians thought they were participating in the annual vacation artillery snipe hunt and got surprised when the Russians started rolling in. 

Either way, it was a good excuse for the Russians to roll in and take control.

my point here is,  no,  the USA is not bound to sacrifice our people for Georgia's mistake.  Sure, Russia was waiting for opportunity to step in and take charge.  duh   The key is, ignorance on someone's part gave them the opportunity.  Bad move.  But for Georgia's leader to now denounce "the west" for not "doing something" is um? annoying to say the least.
for the record, the Georgians didn't fire on the 10,000 russians o nthe other side of the border.  They were firing at the separatists and some Russian "peacekeepers" (possibly military advisors) were killed in the process.  The number is uncomfirmed and unverifiable due to the bad info.

However, the Georgians and the main Russians didn't start trading shots until the two divisions were well inside the Georgian border. 
yes but, the Georgians and Ossetians did trade shots.  The key there is, Russians were killed in the process
Georgia was aware of that Russian "peace keeping" force long before any of this happened
Well, as far as I know, we aren't going to sacrifice any of our troops to defend Georgia.  Possibly some politicians and some diplomatic cache along with bandages and food, but not troops in a confrontation.

That doesn't mean we let the Georgians get swallowed up without protest.  There is a lot more at stake here than some little province no one heard about until today.  Oil, natural gas, an ally to the north of Iran.  Pick one or find some more, but freedom and democracy of a state are only worth so much in the grand scheme.  All those other reasons are much more lucrative.
sure, as long as the one you need to count on in the region ain't a bonehead.  been good pondering this with you -kat
Well, when the Russian peacekeeper is standing next to the guy with the mortar tube saying "up 2, right 3", he might get killed in the counter fire.  I hope Russia gives the guy a big heroes funeral and a medal for his sacrifice.

And, yes, the peacekeepers have been there for over eight years but that hasn't stopped the separatists from firing on the Georgians and the Georgians defending themselves for that time.  Until now.
i'm thinkin the wiser person wouldn't be standing next to the mortar loader
and  seperatists are what Georgians were at one time
I think the question is really why did the Russians decide to bounce into Georgia after witnessing these little exchanges for the last eight years?
Maybe they finally *hit* something.

Or somebody decided "enough is enough"...

Kat wrote: "Um, South Ossetia is a province of Georgia. Legally, as S. Ossetia is a province of Georgia and not a recognized separate country, Georgia wasn't "invading" anyone. It was their territory."

This is a specious argument--and it's wrong. South Ossetia is not a province of Georgia, as far as the S. Ossetians or the Russians (or the UN, even) are concerned. The government of Georgia declared it to be so after the collapse of the Warsaw Pact, but it never bothered to check with the people it was claiming to be in charge of to see if they agreed to give up the autonomy they had under the WP.

Also, there is no 'legally' in this case. What law applies and who made that law? International law, the UN? There is really no such thing as 'law' at that level of interaction, there is only treaty and agreement. What 'law' bound South Ossetia to Georgia? The law of proximity? The law of might-makes-right? Again I ask, how is South Ossetia wanting to be independent of Georgia any different than Georgia wanting to be independent of Russia? At what point does a body of people NOT have the right to be independent, and who makes that decision? The answer is easy, and well established, but it's not one we in the U.S. like to admit is true, and some of us would rather pretend it isn't true, even in the face of all evidence to the contrary. To wit: The right to exist as an independent country comes with the power--whether of might or persuasion--to make other countries let you live.

I am not talking about philosophy here, but reality. Even today, no country exists except because 1) it has the good will of the rest of the world (or a powerful set of allies), or 2) because it can make other countries leave it alone.  Period.  Again, I am not talking about philosophy or goody-two-shoes wishes & kisses stuff, just plain old facts of life. 232 years is not really that long a time for a country to exist, but it is a lot longer than most nations have existed in their present forms, and yet even we are not a static nation of fixed permanent borders. When I was born there were only 48 stars on the U.S. Flag, and before I die there might be 51. National boundaries change all the time and countries come and go--just check a set of maps for the past 100 years to see how often this has happened--and they do it for number of good and bad reasons, but for all that, it remains a fact that no country exists on this planet that can't convince other countries to let it exist.
The problem here is the (very hard to accept) basic foundational truth of the Westphalian world: that there is no higher body of law or government on the planet than sovereign nations. This is the core problem with the UN, which has no jurisdiction the members do not give it, which has no power its members do not accord it. Same for the international court of justice. There is no international law--which is something that is usually imposed on lower by higher--there are only treaty based agreements and if any single 'nation' doesn't want to play, then it doesn't have to. Witness the nuclear proliferation treaty, which India never signed, and did not therefore have to abide by, whereas, Iran did. Look at the Kyoto treaty. Look at the U.S. refusal to allow its military personnel to be tried in international courts. Again, in this world, the right to be independent and free is based _solely_ on the power to make it so, and not on any notion of fair or right or justice.

South Ossetia has a powerful ally in Russia, and Georgia has a powerful ally in us; however, the players here are Russia and the U.S., not Georgia and South Ossetia. Moreover, whether anyone cares to call it the way it is or to pretend this is all just a Disney movie, the fact remains that Georgia is a piss-ant country that has something we want and it is trading on that commodity for help keeping it alive. That said, it should either work to build up its strength until it can project power into South Ossetia or it should just drop the issue (ever play risk?) because more than anything the smartest thing for it to do is spend more time thinking about and doing what's best for its sponsor, not what feels good. This isn't grade school, and who cares if they have a "democratically elected leadership and they [thought they] were dealing with an internal problem." It isn't an internal problem, it's an international problem because it involves three countries! And it was NOT their call alone, unless they were willing to forego our help.

Georgia absolutely should have asked us first, since it immediately started shouting for our help when it realized it had bitten into a sh*t sandwich of its own making. As I see it, unless the U.S. had given the green light under the table (to see what would happen), which I do not believe was the case, then this was nothing more than the Georgians figuring it would be better to ask forgiveness than to seek approval. Or maybe more like starting a fight with the expectation that your big brother would take up your slack--only to find that big brother wasn't in on the plan, and isn't going to get his face bloodied for your stupidity.

Georgia was just stupid and got whacked, and I'd say maybe it's time for the people of that country to elect a leadership that understands the realities of the world better than the one it has now--though I suppose you could say it understands better now, and might not be so stupid in the future. Hard to say with that crew.....

Georgia got setup and suckered into a fight. The media is being spoon-fed the Russian version of events and now people here are believing it – that’s your choice. I think the Russians are lying. I believe they intentionally got this conflict going as soon as the American and Italian troops training in Georgia left.

I’m supposed to believe the following:

- The Russian government (Putin) cares about ethnic Russians foreign or domestic.
- They happen to care the most about Russians in South Ossetia (which happens to be the most strategic location in Georgia due to the Roki Tunnel).
- Georgia bombed South Ossetia even though it was a no-fly zone enforced by the Russians. (I guess the bombs and shells would say “made in Russia” either way).
- The Russian Black Sea Fleet just happened to have a Brigade waiting offshore.
- Surprised by events, the Russians were able to roll two Divisions into Georgia in two days. I’ll quote Ralph Peters: :” Any soldier above the grade of private can tell you that there's absolutely no way Moscow could've launched this huge ground, air and sea offensive in an instantaneous "response" to alleged Georgian actions.” I was above the grade of private when I saw our mech armies on the move – it’s a ponderous process for us – and we are much better at it than the crappy Russian Army.
- The Russians Army and their local thug friends aren’t looting and vandalizing central Georgia, they are protecting themselves.

It’s all BS, Russia set up and took out a Democratic Republic because they didn’t like their politics.
Interesting discussion. Steve - it would ease the load on my server (and make your comments less likely to dump into the spambox) if you could consolidate your thoughts more into fewer comments. If this is how your commenting brain works - s'okay. Just askin'. The thing I find intersting running through this thread this morning after you all have been having your chat - is that, from your seeming perspectives... through your straws of view, you're all correct, in one way or another. Maybe even about aloe with gout - though we're trying colchicine with prednisone.
First of all, Bram, my opinions are not founded on what the media opines; moreover, I don't get my news from U.S. newstainment outlets. Fox, CNN, MSNBC, New York Daily News, etc--who gets their ideas and facts from _them_?

Second, Russia was certainly waiting for an opportunity. Georgia gave it to them. So did we.

Russia has always responded to our big games, just like we do to theirs. I spent many a day on top of cold hills eavesdropping on the Warsaw Pact version of Reforger (Druzba) that took place in Czechoslovakia, not too far from the tri-zone area. I know lots of other people who did the same all along the iron curtain all the way around the world. While Russia may certainly have planned all along to invade Georgia, we gave them the cover by holding a joint exercise on their southern border, and I'm sure our analysts saw it and determined it was business as usual.

Of course, no one expected Georgia to be so stupid, eh? Or did we and decided what the hell, let's see what happens? Yeah, I'll buy that.

And once again, I have to say that if Russia had been doing in Northern Mexico what we are doing in Georgia, we would not have stood for it.

And as for Peters, to me, quoting him is like quoting Al Sharpton, Rush Limbaugh, Pat Robertson, Nancy Pelosi, or Hannity And Colmes.... Really.

This is a specious argument--and it's wrong. South Ossetia is not a province of Georgia, as far as the S. Ossetians or the Russians (or the UN, even) are concerned. The government of Georgia declared it to be so after the collapse of the Warsaw Pact, but it never bothered to check with the people it was claiming to be in charge of to see if they agreed to give up the autonomy they had under the WP.

Well, first of all, South Ossetia has been part of Georgia for longer than the Soviet Union and the Warsaw pact.  In fact, aside from tribal/clan affiliations the Ossetians, the Georgian border has followed the Caucusas for hundreds of years.  What people tend to get confused about is that Georgia has been either a protectorate of Russia (1785) or a Republic of the Soviet Union for 70.  But, prior to that and all along, Georgian national boundaries have existed pretty steady despite incursions by the Turks, the Persians and a the Russians. 

Secondly, South Ossetians have never previously existed as any kind of state or province.  As someone might have mentioned, that road was actually a smuggling route for centuries with the peopel living along it more like the nomadic tribes of Afghanistan.  Speaking of which, maybe you're suggesting that the Pashtun's should be a separate autonomous country, too since we can't seem to subdue them?

The long and short, the argument that S. Ossetia is a province of Georgia is not specious when, in fact, yes, international law AND a treaty with Russia after the break up of the Soviet Union made it so.  Not to mention that long history I spoke about.  Russia is having seller's regret.  You know, when you sell your baseball card for ten dollars and then find out that it's a collector's rare Babe Ruth worth $300,000 so you drive over to the buyer's house and hold him up with a gun?

But, in the end, the one argument that stands is whether any nation can defend and hold its borders against an invader.  I agree.  However, when nations don't recognize another's sovereign border, as is the case here, it usually means war.  That's what we got.  Now we decide what our interests are in holding that.
So, I guess the stupid Georigans just should have sat where they were and took the shelling when this all started? 

Or maybe their real stupidity was in doing eight years of the august vacation bang-bang with the Ossets and imagining it would remain business as usual?
Russia has had 150 armored vehicles (tanks, personnel carriers, etc) on the other side of the Roki tunnel for at least six weeks (building up over a longer period of time). Exactly what were those two armored divisions doing sitting on the other side of the Roki? Except poised for invasion?
Sigh.  COme on, Kat.  You're making a circular argument.  'Gun Boat' diplomacy, my friend.  "We've placed X on your border in case you plan on doing something, so don't."  Then when the Georgian's go ahead and start something what does RUssia *have* to do?  Like Sanger has said, this is Great Powers playing for high stakes.  Russia can't let Georgia show them up any more than you claim the US can allow Iran to thumb their nose at us.  There's at least *two* reasons I can think of for doing it that aren't based on the assumption that Russia was planning an invasion months in advance.  Sans any kind of info that invasion plans were not contingency I think we all need to back off the 'RUssia is evil, they planned this alla long' line.  You don't know that.  There's a differnce beween capabilities and intentions. 

If 10,000 men were sitting on the other side of the Mexican border on a main highway into the United States, with armored vehicles like tanks and armored personnel carriers, would that seem particularly innocent? Or, would that appear to be menacing?
Um, yeah, that's kind of the point.  YOu're attempting to *deter*.  You don't deter by asking with please and thank you.  That doesn't work on the micro level(let people have firearms in their homes) so why do you expect it to on the macro, Kat?  Again, you're begging the question.  'Why would anyone not bent on world domination do something so heinous as to mass troops in an area?"  Well, we did.  Many times.  Last time I can think of was in the late '90s when the PRC was getting frisky.  Sent the 5th Fleet(I think it was 5th) to a spot a little to the east of the main Taiwanese island.  Was it menacing?  You bet your @55. 
Again, there's a difference between capabilities and intentions.  And don't forget to id your assumptions. Don't let them straightjacket you. 

And aren't you the folks that are always lecturing about using gun boat diplomacy?  good for Russia, not good for us?

But, let's get back to that.  Two divisions is not "gun boat diplomacy".  Neither are six ships showing up in 12 hours with 4,000 Russian marines. 

Charlie, you know that doesn't happen like that.  I can't figure out why you think that the magical appearance of what is now looking like 15,000 (to start with) Russian troops within 24 hours, with full arms, equipment and supplies to sustain them for at least a week of battle, isn't more than "gun boat diplomacy". 

Seriously, that does not make sense and "gun boat diplomacy" seems really weak in the face of that kind of information.  Really weak.

And aren't you the folks that are always lecturing about using gun boat diplomacy? good for Russia, not good for us?
Huh?  No, I've criticized you for talking out your butt about going aggro on Iran.  You've *never* in the past talked about 'gun boat diplomacy', you've talked about going out for scalps because 'we can't let that little pos country show us up".  I'll take you down for that any gawd-damn-day of the week for that silliness.  

Wow, do you read %hit into things that aren't there.  You smoking le Craque today or something?

My opinion of gunboat diplomacy?  It sucks, really doesn't work that well that often, when it fails it's a catastrophic failure,. I don't like it, but it has its place and moments.  So why the frack would I say that it's fine and dandy for the RUssians to do it?  Dude, you need to quit reading things that aren't on the page(and putting words in my mouth while you're at it). 

I call you on the idiocy of trying to intimidate Iran all day long, because that's based on how their escalation scale up will hurt *us* more than our escalation will hurt them.  The Iranians are an autocracy with a nasty SS like unit for internal security which won't be bothered by cracking skulls over protests at all(which we've bloody seen them do in the last 3 months).  They can take a hit to economy better than we can in terms of it not effecting the will behind the war effort.  We can't take $300/barrel oil which is a risk you'd be running with gbd vis Iran.  

Is this anything like what Russia faces vis Georgia?  Is it?  Then shut up with your bs before you really emberass yourself. 

And, hey, it's not like I speak ENglish or nothing.  I said there's two reasons other than invasion that Russia was there.  How you read that into 'it's hunky dory' says more about you than anything.   

And now you're talking stupid too.  Do you know how long it takes to get 2 Carrier Groups from Pearl Harbor to Taiwan?  Jesus, that's the better part of a month, and far more combat power than 2 divisions and a handful of ships in terms of what it can tear up.  You've gone into 'talking out my @55' mode. 

What, gun boat diplomacy only works if you send a force that *doesn't* make your enemy fear you?  Oh, that's brilliant.  In Old pre-communist China it worked with one ship or a few because that one ship *did* pacify the Natives when they got uppity.  Nowdays it takes a fleet, which is a pretty big force capable of starting off an invasion all on its own.   

There's a fracking progression if you care to look too, Kat.  First the small number of peacekeepers("Hey, look, we're invovled, knock that 5hit off or you'll face us.") followed by the staging of 2 divisions on the border("Look, we're serious, knock that the F$%^ off.").   Yeah, I'm totally full of $hit, huh?  THat's some serious weak sauce there.  Gee, it took me all of two seconds to see that connection, you've been farting around on this the better part of the week and can't see the progression?  ("I am the great and powerful Kat!  Don't look behind the curtain.")

Whatever, deary.  Keeping begging that question. 
Secondly, South Ossetians have never previously existed as any kind of state or province. As someone might have mentioned, that road was actually a smuggling route for centuries with the peopel living along it more like the nomadic tribes of Afghanistan. Speaking of which, maybe you're suggesting that the Pashtun's should be a separate autonomous country, too since we can't seem to subdue them?
Well, some people(and this isn't self-referential, as some people around here do) actually think the best way out of Afghanistan and Iraq *is* to redraw borders so that more homogenous ethnic/cultural groups are under one roof since that's more likely to stop people from going off on one another.  the 3 Iraqs from 1 plan is an example of that.  There's some logic to it. 

But, lets turn this around.  So, we should turn our backs on Taiwan then?  It's 'always been China', even if for 400 years it's changed hands.  It's China, and just a rebellious province like S. Ossettia.  So, let's tear up that TRA and not give them a dime or so much as a screw to stand up to the PRC then, right?  THe Russians really haven't done anything vis Georgia that we haven't done vis China or intend to do. 

What're the rebels of Ossetia like?  Are they democrats or communist retreads?  Nobody's asked that question, and isn't it pertinent since it appears that the only consistent item in whether it is okay to help a rebellious province is whether they're a 'democracy loving' group or not(well, since the KMT reformed and quit being true-blue fascists any way).  

Here's where things stand as I see it.  Sanger has posited that at the end of the USSR and attendant Warsaw Pact most of the satellites countries became autonomous, including Ossetia, and Georgia made a claim for it.  Kat counters that it's always been Georgian territory therefor Russia is improperly interjecting itself and stirring up trouble while Georgia is acting much in the manner of Abe Lincoln. 

Personally, knowing how national borders and such have changed even in stable nations like France over the years, I tend to side with Sanger.  France had to re-conquer provinces of slightly different French people how many times because they didn't think of themselves as 'French' so much as Britans, Bordeaux-ians, Normans, etc, not to mention the Basques after the Reconquista of Spain?  New treaty and practice(the Ossetians acting as an autonomous zone during the sunset of the USSR) would seem to trump ancient history in my mind.   Sounds like Georgia is going back on its word, making a power grab, and ran afoul of someone who's got interests in not seeing them succeed because it affects their power base(Russia). 

Russia is willing to interject themselves and has real interests on the line, and it isn't just oil.  They're in the same position as if the US turned it's back on Taiwan.  Nobody could believe them if the Russians gave their protection to someone.  That's why this was stupid as hell for Georgia to start and smart for Russia--regardless of source of conflict.  THis has nothing to do with right or wrong(stares at Kat, before she launches into another fallcy laden rant where she brings up $hit people didn't say but she claims they did), it's simply looking at the Game as it is played.  If you want a game that's played fair go play tidleywinks. 

As much as I hate to agree with Sanger on how hard we've been pushing Russia, because I like ABMD, he's right.  We have been.  We've been pushing into C. Asia hard for the last decade.  We've been cutting Russia's power base to the roots for a long time.  (Missiles in Poland, Radar in the Caucases, bases in a few countries, grumbling whenever Russia looks crosseyed at anyone).  To maintain their 1st Tier status they had to do this.  Whatever our reasons for doing it we've backed them into a corner of sorts.  That suits me just fine, actually, since I don't like Russia having a large power base and I'd be tickled pink if they fell from first tier ranks.  I'm glad this pushed Poland over the edge and finally agreeing to ABMD being stationed there.  It never had anything to do with Iran.  It's about RUssia.  Others will now band together or become more amenable to the US way of doing things.  But, I'm not goign to sit here and howl about how evil they are for being immoral when playing an immoral game, which is what power politics is.  Russia did what it needed to do to buy it a few more years of Great Power status. 

I'll take you down for that any gawd-damn-day of the week for that silliness.

But CBT has to leave me alone cause he can't control himself. Which is the point and perhaps even the goal.
<B>I'll apologize for the KGB remark. For all I know, you're just a guy trying to get information.</b>

Conscientious propagandists keep their trump card hidden until the very end, Kat ; )

There's going to be a new version of Godwin's Law around here, if this keeps up.

Cool your jets - take on the arguments, and leave the personal snark out of it.

It you can't - then just bite your knuckle and move on.

If you are angry - don't post it.  Wait, clean out the anger, then post.

That is all.  This isn't hard.  Really.
Getting a little angry there, Kumbaya. 

I am the great Kat and don't you forget about it. ;)
K-MO The Great???  Whoa Nelly - We are talking about Katherine Optima Maximae here!

BTW - Thanks for the Pirate Duds; they are becoming. glad you enjoyed them.  Every man needs some thigh high boots and a ruffled shirt to make him feel ..well...manly. ;)

"but please take my word for it that what we spend on training international students is a steal for what we get out of it, which is a cadre of intelligent, educated professionals both in the military and later who understand the United States and are better able, therefore, to know how to deal with us."

College/grad school. I attended two large universities that actively recruited foreign students, had large numbers; in grad school I was the only American in my apartment. Staying for a degree gave these students a good chance to "learn about America." The results seemed to range from love to indifference to hate among those working on being "intelligent, educated professionals."  And among military officers their first loyalty would be to their country, Yamamoto is a good example. He was educated here, liked America, counseled against war with America--and yet went along. And just recently that female terrorist captured, so much in the news. She was educated here in the US at MIT, among others--and she's not unique. I am willing to believe there are a few "success" cases--but I still question the overall wisdom of this. "Know how to deal" has more than one meaning--and not all are good for us.

It's not just this category--that State Department web site listed amounts and different categories going back for years.  How much of this aid actually went to the listed causes? How much did it enable Russia to put its own resources elsewhere, instead of spending money on its citizens? I am not automatically against foreign aid, I see no problem with humanitarian aid to anyone. But I see no reason to give billions of dollars to enable detrimental behaviour toward others. No one has to like us, what difference does that make? But the scale of this really does seem to be paying for the rope to hang ourselves.

"and yes Maggie, it was their call. thus, they have no business whining for America to come bail them out."

Why did you direct this comment to me?



I wrote: "South Ossetia is not a province of Georgia, as far as the S. Ossetians or the Russians (or the UN, even) are concerned. The government of Georgia declared it to be so after the collapse of the Warsaw Pact, but it never bothered to check with the people it was claiming to be in charge of to see if they agreed to give up the autonomy they had under the WP."

Kat wrote (paraphrased) Not so, smart guy...

Um.... Kat was right and I wasn't.

Well, to save a little face, I was a little right in my intent (and thoughts), but not in my writing, and I was definitely wrong about the UN part. To be honest, I was on a different track and wasn't paying attention to the facts as I was trying to making the point I was focused on. All of which comes down to, I was wrong and now I'm dishing up my serving of crow, which I'll eat while trying to explain better what _was_ running through my mind when I wrote it.

First, what I did/did not know:

1) I knew that Georgia has traditionally been bounded on the North by the mountains.

2) I knew that S. Ossetia is not recognized by the EU or UN or US or anyone as an independent state.

3) I knew that S. Ossetia was an autonomous part of the Georgian Soviet, not purely free within the Warsaw Pact; however, when I think about the former Soviet Union, I do not ever think of the separate soviets as being in control of anything, except Yugoslavia under Tito. That is why I don't really (even now) consider Georgia's claim on S. Ossetia as being more than a paper claim.

4) I did not know, until I went back to check, that the UN does indeed consider S. Ossetia part of Georgia, as do the EU and US. That was a surprise, given the previous U.S. reluctance to take sides in the lesser arguments about ethnic autonomy. I made an assumption. It was wrong.

5) I learned years ago that we and the peoples of Europe (east and west) and of the middle east look at race, ethnicity, nationality, and citizenship in very different, and sometimes incomprehensible ways. This has been driven home to me more than once in very personal and disturbing ways, and a lot of that experience has been bound up in what I have been writing about.

6) I know for a variety of reasons that there are real problems within S. Ossetia that make everyone wish it would just go away, including a LOT of criminal activity and smuggling (of contraband and people), and all sorts of unsavory stuff that the world is better off without.

So what was I about earlier?

My focus--what I've been arguing against, if you will--has been the vilification of Russia for responding to what I consider the stupid antics of the Georgians, and also to the cookie-cutter cold war rhetoric about the big evil Russians and the poor, defenseless Georgians. I Was also a bit put off at first by the mostly universal focus of others on the economic aspect of the Russian invasion, and especially on the cost of oil.

I've said a lot about all of that, too much by now, but what I haven't really explained to my satisfaction is what I see as the primary root of the problem, and path of misunderstanding and arrogance that I believe is going to lead us into a war we don't really want, and won't be fighting for the same reasons.

It boils down to history and ethnicity (or nationality, as some call it). The people of Europe, and especially the slavs, do not think of themselves as Germans, Frenchmen, Spaniards, Yugoslavs, Serbo-Croatians, Russians, Czechs and etc., unless they are historically, racially, and culturally so. The world may consider S. Ossetia part of Georgia, but the S. Ossetians consider themselves members of a discrete ethnicity, and they do not consider themselves Russians any more than they consider themselves Georgians. The so-called ethnic Russians in the various countries outside Russia are reviled not because they are of Russian ancestry, but because they consider themselves Russians first and citizens of whatever country they are living in second. This is not easy to explain, and it was really hard to understand the first time I encountered it--it was like getting hit in the head with a brick.

I was in Germany, attending Czech language courses in Munich. Being Jewish, I was invited to share the Friday night meal at the home of a married Jewish couple who taught Czech and Russian at the school. During the evening, I asked how it was that a Russian married a Czech, and was immediately and firmly set straight--they were both Jews, not Russian or Czech. I brushed that aside and said yeah, yeah, but that's just talk, since I'm a Jew too, but I am an American first. Oy, what a horrified response I got! It was NOT just talk to them. They both pulled out their passports and both had JEW as nationality, not Russian or Czech! I was astounded! And I just cannot explain even now, how utterly appalled I was. Why would anyone, especially a Jew want a passport to say that instead of the country he is a citizen of?!? They, conversely, were appalled that I considered myself an American, not a Jew living in America. I told them that everyone here was like me (with the usual caveats, of course), and that just floored them. They said they'd never even considered that all the different races and religious entities in the U.S. wouldn't consider themselves as separate from being American. I could go on about this, but suffice to say the evening was long and not pleasant because these Jews actually felt I was an embarrassment to the 'race' because I chose to be American first.

I have a friend who is Serbian. He is one of the founders of the movement that overthrew Milosevic. He tried to explain to me what it meant to be Serbian once and while I don't recall all of it, I do recall that he said to be Serbian is to be Orthodox. You simply cannot be Serbian if you are not Orthodox, but being Orthodox does not automatically make you Serbian. Some people here may know that Serbs and Croats speak the same language, almost exactly, but one people, being Catholic, uses the Latin alphabet and the other, being Orthodox, uses the Cyrillic, which is mostly just the Greek alphabet. It's all religion, and there is no more real difference between the Croats and the Serbs than there is between the Tutsis and the Hutus in Rwanda (now there's a legacy for the Belgians to be proud of!).

We had a friend who was a Polish national. I could tell lots of tales about her, but I'll simply say that her hatred of Russia and all things Russian, and of all Russians was greater than anything I have ever experienced in the United States--AND she had never experienced any real trauma at the hands of the Russians. Her hatred was fed to her in her mother's milk, and it was soul-deep and implacable, born of centuries of animosity capped by WWII. I've known Russians who felt the same way about the Germans.

Anyway, the point of all that is that regardless of what the Western powers have decided, the peoples of the region who consider themselves ethnic-somethings (and there are scores of these) do NOT consider themselves automatically bound to the nation of the majority. As I said to Grumpy a few days ago, it is NOT just a simple matter of them getting with the program or leaving. To those people, as it was to the Jewish couple I met in Munich, one simply does NOT become a Georgian, a Russian, a Latvian, or any other nationality just because one lives within the borders of the country where those people are the majority. And moreover, the ethnic majority in all of those countries, including most of those in continental Western Europe even today do not consider the ethnic minorities to be full citizens, let alone their equals. If you think I'm making this up, ask people who've tried to be French (I've got a story about that), or German (yeah, like the Turks want to be Germans and the Germans would let them), and so on.

And so, to end this for tonight, it comes to this for me (and this has been the focus of my thinking all along). I don't believe the Russians are any more in the wrong on this than the Georgians. I don't believe the U.S. has worked this out as well as it ought, and I think we're playing a strong game in a bad way. We are really rubbing Russia's nose in its lack of power right now, and though it may benefit us in the short term, I don't think our government has near the focus on the Russians that it ought to have, and it's going to cause big problems in the future. Am I talking about appeasement? Not at all. I would however, really like to see our government not screw things up as often as it does because we think we understand the other side, and because we are once again confusing blatant self-interest with a do-gooder desire to make everyone else "free."

Oh, and just for the fun of it, anyone else know what the names Togarma, Gog, and Magog represent? I'm not a believer, but this is where it all starts if you are.... :-)


Maggie: "and yes Maggie, it was their call. thus, they have no business whining for America to come bail them out."   Why did you direct this comment to me?

Because you wrote on August 14, 2008 11:03 PM (above): "Georgia has democratically elected leadership and they were dealing with an internal problem. It might not have been smart, but it was their call."
Because you wrote on August 14, 2008 11:03 PM (above): "Georgia has democratically elected leadership and they were dealing with an internal problem. It might not have been smart, but it was their call."

Nope. Please check the poster's name more carefully.
Yep.  It's me, Kat.  I'm checking out my new name that Boq gave me.  Kind of digging it.  Long though.  Reminds me of why I just use my initials on things.  Anyhoo, Sanger, thank you for your acknowledgements. 

Oh, I have crazy thoughts on this that goes back to some other things I've written about why countries go to war.  But, that sort of "tribal" thesis you gave is a very good point above all the international geo-political hoopla.  I am rather fond of Medieval history so I actually do understand why this sort of "tribal" affiliation exists in the steppes and caucasus. I also like English Regency era history.  I think I got a considerable amount of info on how these "tribes" (for lack of a better word) existed and were slowly gathered into the Russian fold.  Existing for so long out in the tundra, far away from Moscow, the Muskovites had alternately went to war and bribed them into peace with lots of gold and promises of autonomy, depending on Moscow's needs.

Many of the Caucus areas, like Dagestan and Ingushetia, were actually old Khanates from the Mongol era with influences from Persia and Turkey depending on whose empire over ran the territory in what period.

Smuggling, human trafficking, drugs, money, assassination, these are all part of the history of that area dating back hundreds of years in its relationship to Russia.  You could find these folks fighting for whatever side they thought might benefit them for the moment.  Particularly whenever Russia felt like expediting their relationship with the Ottomans. 

I am with you on the importance of the oil pipeline in general.  however, I do see it as one of those "cost/benefit" targets for the Russians.  It's kind of like having a near abroad weapon against the west.  let's face it, oil prices are sucking and our economy is crashing.  Imagine knocking off 1.2 mil//bpd?

Still, only one target and leverage agains the west. 

In the end, the Russians are playing an extremely deep game and it did not start when Pres. Bush looked into Putins eyes. 

I'm getting a little punchy its so late, but I'll make it short: Ivan the terrible expands Muscovy to the Baltic Sea.  It's all down heal from there.


Maggie100... I should have told you I wasn't writing to you.... In fact, I did refer that comment about yelling for help to the correct Maggie, but I assumed you were her because you asked why I was speaking to you and I hadn't realized there were two of you (oy!), and uh, well yeah whatever...   Having said that, I'll just let you figure out who I'm talking to and if you're wrong, no harm no foul, ok?

Man, I need to get a life, 'cause that just wasn't worth the time it took to figure out who was doing what to whom...  :-(

By Maggie100,

The US is very light stepping when it concerns to other nation's sovereignities. This means that the US will force people to use the US's own money, like the US has concerning contractors or military expenditure.

The US does not see other nations, even nations that aid is provided for, as US states and thus Congress sees no need to provide oversight on them. IT is not their money, after all. The DoS shares the same mentality, except they have the additional incentive of knowing that if they provide loose restrictions to other nations, those other nations will favor those DoS gurus with favors and positions.

The problem occurs because US national security is based upon influencing or controling other nations or their security situations. Because while the US is very solicitious of the complaints of weaker powers, other nations like Russia or China are not. And since the US won't directly fight Russia and China, they start engaging in proxy warfare. And since Russia and China don't want to take on the US via a conventional war, they conduct proxy warfare as well. The Cold War provided a very nice excuse for this in the form of Arab vs Israeli proxies and North Korean vs South Korean or North Vietnamese vs South Vietnamese.

So the US must at both times, respect and not respect, other people's sovereignities. This is a careful balance which is schizophrenic because the United States' own policy makers are schizophrenic.

The good news is that while US enemies won't fight the US with anything except insurgency tactics, the same does not apply to allies of the US. Thus the US can win, even without a conventional war and without doing most of the fighting, by providing proxy aid and training to polities such as the South Vietnamese or the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan.

The bad news is that US enemies who want to avoid a toe to toe fight with the US have the same options.

The advantage, in the end, was always with the Russians, the Soviets, and the Chinese, for their nationalistic and propagand arms were very effective at forming a united public opinion to back any wars of aggression or military aid.

The United States has many people, on the other hand, to intentionally sabotage US national security, whether in the form of direct intervention ala Iraq, or indirect intervention ala Georgia. There are many excuses people have and many rationales they provide. But in the end, those things create division rather than unity. Unity is something Russia and China has always had over the United States, and their unity is not fickle and lasting only for a few months either.
People may speak of defense, strategic defense, having many advantages. But reality always tends to disprove such theories.

Cool your jets - take on the arguments, and leave the personal snark out of it.
Ultimately, I did take on the argument, John, and I only used as much snark as Delusions of Grandeur uses on a daily basis..  

1)  There are other explanations that don't fit Kat's strategic analysis(haven't touched her tactical).  Namely gbd.  The US gbd vis Japan in Manchuria took years to develop and used an entire archipelego to do so(the Philippines).  Gun boat diplomacy is actually a large committment of resources, even if one looks at the number of boats comitteed to China, from whence the term, it wasn't just 4 or 5 for the whole country.  It was a large amount.  Attempting to deter IJ used large amounts of troops, and actions that strained, if not breaking, the definition of neutral(how much did we give to CKS and his KMT, including the 1st AVG?) 
It takes 2-3 days to chase your sailors out of every beerhaus, outhouse, and whorehouse onto their ships and get those ships moving.  400nm is 20 hours steaming time in a straight line at 20knts.  When does the crisis start(which isn't the same thing as troops crossing the Rubicon, and something nobody has yet defined so discerning intent seems rather impossible given movements.)?  When did they show up?  What's Russia's training sched for the Baltic fleet?  Has anyone even looked?  There's no QED here.(and yet for arguing it straight up until now I've had insults hurled my way on multiple threads, been called kumaya, and a laundry list of other snarkage). 
I took the strategic analysis and showed where the flaws were.  If Kat doesn't want to get shown up she shouldn't be so rude.  Period.
2)  Ossetia is like Taiwan.  It's status is in limbo.  Ergo assuming Russia is evil based on some weird argument of 'Only evil countries stack borders or support rebellious provinces.  Only evil countries still blah, blah, blah, blah.  Russia does blah, blah, blah, blah, and stacks its borders and supports rebellious provinces.  THerefor Russia is evil.' is invalid.  We support a rebellious province, namely Taiwan.  Therefor the claim that only evil countries stack borders as postulate is false and the rest of the argument falls with it. 

Snark or no, I made a case without tossing my hair as if it that was enough to make it go away.  I went right at the guts..  Anger doesn't come from dealing with Kat's arguments.  It comes from the double standard.  If she's going to go around doing 'so there!'', poking people in the chest, and all that other crap she routinely does  I'm going to respond in kind.  I'm tired of playing with seperate rules whereby I have to take the high road, and getting shown up for doing it, while she gets to be rude and in everyone she disagrees with's face.  Title IX, homey, cuts both ways.(and if you dont' see the joke, John, the meds aren't working well enough).  You've seen what i can do when I play by the rules.  I've done a good job of it the last 4 years.  but I'm getting tired of being the dude who gets shown up because others don't.  So, if it's a problem, go after the cause and not the symptom.  I don't start fights, John.  I just don't walk away from them very often either.
People may speak of defense, strategic defense, having many advantages. But reality always tends to disprove such theories.
Georgia, playing at the defense strategically has gotten more than if they went offensively---which would've meant attacking Russia *in* Russia since the source of Ossetian funding and courage flows fom Moscow.  Namely: tons of attention, increased aid, more help from the US in the future in terms of training and arms sales, defense pacts(likely to get into NATO now), and outside resolution of dispute that Russia will have to take and smile.  That sounds like a net gain.  They never controlled S. Ossetia, they'll get everything else back, and enjoy all the other stuff.  How's that history saying that the strategic defensive sucks? 
There is no one-size-fits-all-paint-by-numbers approach that works for all situations and conditions.  There's times for the strategic defense and times when it is the worst option.  Containment(REFORGER---re-inforce Germany, not go invade Russia---being one major aspect of Containment) was defensive in approach, meant to deny Soviet expansion whereas Rollback was the offensive minded strategy.  Need I say more to disprove the notion that there's no value in the strategic defense?

Sometimes, I just can't help myself. This just cannot go unchallenged:

"The US does not see other nations, even nations that aid is provided for, as US states and thus Congress sees no need to provide oversight on them. IT is not their money, after all. The DoS shares the same mentality, except they have the additional incentive of knowing that if they provide loose restrictions to other nations, those other nations will favor those DoS gurus with favors and positions."

This is wrong in so many different ways, it makes my head hurt. Gawd....

FACT #1: Congress has put into law an almost grotesque number of restrictions on foreign aid, and I can assure you that there is indeed Congressional oversight on where, when, and how all of the money is used. The people who manage this money account for EVERY dollar EVERY year, and that all gets reported back to Congress which in turn makes annual decisions about the next year's foreign aid for training funds, which isn't really a lot, BTW, by any measure.

FACT #2: DoS does not make decisions about Federal budgets, Congress does, and DoS doesn't have jack to say about the laws governing how the money is used, Congress does. See FACT #1.

FACT #3: Just like all other U.S. Departments and Agencies, DoS allocates funds in accordance with the authorization Congress gives it every year. Many U.S. Departments are allotted funds for international training that includes English language, counter terrorism, special ops, professional military education, pilot training, civil affairs, contracting, environmental protections, law, civil engineering, and so on through every field of human endeavor. The Departments of State, Education, Commerce, Energy, Agriculture, and Defense all run training programs for international students, as do many agencies like the EPA and the AID.

FACT #4: It is unethical and illegal for U.S. Government employees to accept most favors or gifts from anyone (foreign or domestic), and while many people bend or break the law, when they are caught, they are taken to task in some fashion, depending on the severity of the violation. Moreover, other nations have no say whatsoever about the kinds of positions DoS people fill, except insofar as every sovereign nation can demand the removal of a person from its territory.

FACT #5: It is as much their money as it is anyone else's, and probably a whole lot more of it than what I suspect the author of the above statement puts into the pot every year. All U.S. Government employees not exempted for some legal reason pay federal income taxes and most also pay Social Security and Medicare taxes as well, depending on which retirement system they fall under.


And finally, there's this: "Thus the US can win, even without a conventional war and without doing most of the fighting, by providing proxy aid and training to polities such as the South Vietnamese...."

Did I miss something? Did we win that war? Were there no Americans there? Geez Louise, where the hell have I been for the past 50+ years?


I could write a book....  :-(