War Doesn’t End With Treaties

Something made me perk up this morning, going through the weekend’s news. After two weeks of reading about South Ossetia’s irregulars, the militiamen blamed for everything from looting to attempted genocide, in the periphery of news stories, this morning I read this in the Washington Post:

In Khetagurovo, housewife Ofelia Dzhanyeva said she had lost her brother during the war in the early 1990s when South Ossetia threw off Georgian control, and after the latest conflict nothing would induce Ossetians to accept Tbilisi’s rule.

“None of the Ossetians is even thinking of reconciliation with Georgia now,” she said. “In 1991 our children turned into refugees. Now they have grown up to defend their homeland.”

She’s talking about the 1991-92 South Ossetia War, when the Ossetians declared independence from Georgian rule, and Georgia retaliated by invading the territory. The children who suffered in that conflict grew up internalizing simmering hatreds. When Georgia once again attacked this year, bombing South Ossetian villages, they finally had a chance to unleash their pent-up rage. The comportment of the official South Ossetian Army, some 2500-3000 men, was eclipsed by the rampaging of nearly 20,000 irregulars.

A cease-fire was agreed upon in the 90s conflict, but officials cannot sign away the damage done to a generation of young people by their policies. The latest conflict, with its thousands of refugees, may be setting the stage for the next generation of children obsessed with revenge. Official independence, especially if only recognized by Russia, isn’t likely to paper over those wounds.

Even though the scale of this conflict is relatively tiny, with “mere” tens of thousands of refugees, the entire world has been in some way affected. Western-Russian relations are at the lowest point since the cold war — and one shudders to think of the possibilities if Georgia had been allowed to join NATO.

Now consider the numbers we’re dealing with in Iraq. A “ripening,” so to speak, of the personal crises of every young Iraqi may be 10-15 years in the future. Barring a far-reaching patching up of grievances between Westerners and Iraqis, as well as between groups throughout that ethnic maze, the world might be in for another South Ossetia — times 1000.

43 thoughts on “War Doesn’t End With Treaties”

  1. Yes the “ripening” will happen just as it already has in Palestine and soon will in Afghanistan and every other place we crush. The blowback is only just beginning and will only get worse. We need to change our policies fast and even then we will still have made enough enemies to last us a lifetime. Non-intervention is the only answer.


    1. But since US has nuclear weapon, it can safely practice that “non-interventionism”, like Russia did for last 17 years.

      If there is enough brain – speaking even of US hawks – US should retread. Believe me, as a citizen of USSR I know :-)

      In the meanwhile, as we speak, NATO ships are entering the Black Sea. One of them has 50 missiles that are capable of carrying nuclear charges.

      Russian Parliament had recognized Osetia and Abhazia independence today. Russia had announced that it’s plans to enter WTO are delayed indefinitely. Russia had announced that ALL cooperation with NATO is canceled as of today.

      Russian Navy ships are leaving Sevastopol naval base. Naval artilery and missiles on the shores are getting readied. I wonder what is going on with regards to strategic nuclear forces…

      I’m ready to die today (and tomorrow :-) and if that would clean up the Earth of Western “Civilization” delusion, that is OK. I hope our Chinese friends would be able to handle the World better then Europe did , part of which Russia still is.

      See you in heaven :-)

      1. Sorrily there does not seem to be “enough brain”, collective or individual, in the United States to resign a losing game, not only in the world but at home.

        Whatever the failures of the old Soviets, there was a stubborn rationality and even a comic recognition that much was wrong, systematically and practically. The Russians’ continuing affair with mathematics and fine chess and great literature and music may also have been aspects of it

        Intellectually the vast majority of Americans, and most especially those among the elite, are adolescent braggarts and fakers, for whom tic-tac-toe is the most they experience of logic and with Stephen King’s horrors (or anything else that makes a lot of money quickly) as what they consider great literature.

        The game with Iran was over when Putin visited Tehran.

        Arming and encouraging the Georgians to attack Osetia was sheer lunacy.

        Afghanistan, from which the Russian Soviets, copying the American mode of warfare, learned their lesson, now beckons both the US and NATO.

        Unfortunately no one in Congress or the executive, with the possible exception of Kucinich, can see it, and they insist on playing out their losing position to the end, hoping that Iran or the Russian Federation will blunder, or that, whatever the result of the game by any rules known to the sound of mind, any loss can be easily reversed by PR.

        In any instance, the United States is close to economic collapse, if things last that long.

        Perhaps the Russians, when all is said and done and the disaster is obvious, will be as forbearing as Reagan (unlike any of his successors).

        At some point in the inevitable perestroika the US will do well to divest itself of most, if not all, of its nuclear weapons, as well as of obscenely expensive military fantasies, materialized in the Stealth technology for example, of a first strike and victory, whether against Russia or China or anywhere else.

  2. What business is it of the US’s to guarantee that South Ossetia remain part of Georgia?

    It was only ever “part of Georgia” because Stalin, Soviet dictator and a Georgian chauvinist by birth, decreed it to be so.

    What business is it of ours to enforce what Stalin decreed, especially when the inhabitants don’t seem to want to be part of Georgia?

  3. Yes but when the blow-back occurs it will be because they hate our freedoms and we allow women to go to school.

  4. Mr. Sapienza,

    It is remarkable how much sympathy you have for South Ossetians and the range of knowledge
    you have on a relatively unknown situation.
    In sharp contrast to your hostile comments concerning Haiti and Cuba last week. Your
    elitist and inaccurate comments concerning the plight of Haiti are a familiar tactic of
    Western imperialism. That is to blame the plight of poor people of color for their own sad fate. That is
    after the West has looted said country of all land and resources, installs a dictatorship friendly to maintaining a pro West status quo, and makes available ultra low wage jobs for corporate multinationals.
    In the case of Cuba, a nation that has by a near miracle managed to defend itself from US imperialism and avoided the fate of an Iraq style occupation, you give the standard right wing line of derision.
    A remarkable rebuke of US corporate and political control in Latin America has occurred in the last decade. Hugo Chavez has been able to survive overthrow and defend a popular revolution of the impoverished masses. The majority poor in Bolivia finally have a voice. Argentina, Brazil, and
    Chile have all formed popular governments that say no to US intervention and corporate interference.
    If you want to be an effective champion of human rights in the Middle East you must first understand a similar struggle that has gone on for decades in our own Hemisphere.

  5. Georgia? Ossetia? Abkhazia? I just don’t see what business any of these places are to America. Whatever happened to the policies of the founding fathers?

      1. Oh yass, ma’am! Less conquer, maim and kill in the name of the all mighty progress! Praise the Lord! Hallelujah!!

        1. Really? You responded to it below, so apparently you just needed it explained to you. In case you’re missing the point again, that means you missed the point.

        2. Oh, so the point is below. When one wants to make a point, one doesn’t write it below.

        3. I made the point twice. Once with a kerosene metaphor, and once with the word ‘obsolete.’ You apparently didn’t understand the metaphor, but when I made the same point a second time, you understood and offered a response. When one is feeling generous with a stupid audience, one is willing to make a point several times. For you, this is the third. How long do you want to continue?

        4. It is quite positive to be very talkative but your last post is a dull blah – blah fiction with a weak attempt to be offensive.

        5. Yup, you’ve tried too many times to wiggle out of your wrong statement: 2008-08-26 17:58:46.

      2. To continue the metaphor, if using electric lights brought on the same godawful consequences that endless interventions do, we’d be far better off with kerosene lanterns.

        I’ve never figured out why “old” is automatically equated to “obsolete” in some people’s minds.

        1. The equation wasn’t automatic. But isolationism is obsolete. I’ve never understood why the founding fathers are treated like saints and prophets.

        2. The way you interpret “isolationism” yes, otherwise no.
          For your better understanding: Founding Fathers wrote the best political document in the history of mankind.

        3. Sure, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution are some damn fine works. But even the ‘best political document in the history of mankind’ got some things wrong. The founding fathers themselves were even more flawed than their best works, so I still think it’s a little strange that some people take their policy positions as dogma-especially in the field of foreign policy, since the world has changed significantly over the last couple hundred years.

          How, exactly, do you think I’m (mis)interpreting ‘isolationism’?

        4. How can I answer your question if I don’t know what are you talking about.
          What are some things wrong with the Constitution?
          Founding fathers had flaws, so what? Every human being has flaws.
          Who are some people that take their policy as dogma?
          The world is changing every second, how ’bout humans?

        5. The Constitution forbids interventionist war policy. That matters, even were that document faulty on aggressive war (which it is not), because it is meant to delimit federal power. Ignore the Constitution because you don’t like part of it, and pretty soon you have the Bush administration.

          Warmonger is imbecilic policy because it does not work. Other than the spread of evil and suffering, how was the world changed by America’s wars and lesser interventions against Spain, the Philippines, Guatemala, Somalia, Vietnam, Grenada, Lebanon, Kaiser’s Germany, and on and on? In fact an excellent argument can be made that our wars have made the world a worse place.

          And even if warmongering were effective it would make America but a shadow of what it was, or could have been. Our taxes are higher, our liberty more constricted, our lives less safe, our stupidity more elevated, and our basest passions unceasingly inflamed because of it. Isolationism in George Washington’s sense (commerce with all, entangling alliances with none, war only in self-defense) is smart, practical, and constitutional. And, ultimately, more humane than the course we’ve chosen in our modern insanity.

          The founders knew all this. They weren’t saints, but intelligent men who knew their history and human nature.

        6. I’m talking about why Andy’s implicit “why shouldn’t we just do what the founding fathers said to do” argument is extremely weak.

          As for flaws in the original Constitution, denying women and slaves the vote comes to mind, as does counting slaves as three-fifths of a person.

          The fact that the founding fathers had flaws is a reason not to accept arguments from their authority. Just because the founding fathers thought x was right isn’t a good reason to think that x is right.

          Andy seemed to me to be elevating the opinions of the founding fathers to the status of unquestionable truths. If you haven’t met other people who do the same thing, you should get out more.

          Yes, I agree. Humans change over time.

          Look, I appreciate your willingness to hear me out, but the length of this conversation is now way out of proportion to my interest in it.

        7. R. Nelson, I agree with most of what you say, but I think you’re too quick to identify ‘interventionism,’ as you call it, with warmongering. Washington’s brand of isolationism was certainly smart and practical at the time, but in the modern world commerce, strategic alliances, and self-defense are intimately linked, especially for the US. Perhaps if we had consistently followed Washington’s advice, things would be different. But we haven’t, and we’re already entangled, as is most of the rest of the world. Ending our alliances now, under such conditions, would destabilize the balance of power, and unfairly expose many people around the world to the risk of serious harm, including us.

        8. How in God’s name can riling up Russia for no good reason possibly be interpreted as stabilizing? Surely you don’t believe that slapping up strangers and stepping on people’s throats for their own alleged good is a path to harmonious, stable relationships between countries.

          When you find yourself making huge mistakes, you don’t perpetuate them. You withdraw–slowly perhaps, as a possible concession to your point–but withdraw nonetheless. Do you see any sign at all that either Democrats or Republicans have the slightest disagreement with the morass we’re in now?

        9. “The world is changing every second, how ’bout humans?” I took that to mean you thought humans change over time. If you want to avoid misunderstandings, then write like an adult.

        10. R. Nelson,

          I don’t believe I ever claimed that riling up Russia would stabilize anything, although I also don’t think that backing down necessarily stabilizes anything either. The Russia/Georgia/NATO/South Ossetia conflict is complex, and I haven’t tried to say anything about it in this thread because most of the commentators here tend to oversimplify it. My immediate point was a general one about the importance of maintaining alliances in the modern world. Perhaps–as a possible concession to your point–that scenario will change someday, but it isn’t now, and it won’t be tomorrow.

        11. There’s nothing about the modern world that makes alliances any more appealing or necessary now than they were 100 or 1000 years ago. It’s usually a mistake for any generation to think it’s sui generis.

          But we do know that alliances, secret and open, led to our world wars. Why kill 18 million people over the assassination of some costumed gasbag in an insignificant country? Because there were all of those “stabilizing” treaties and alliances around to suck the whole world in.

          Weston, since you find yourself stuck between “don’t know if stirring up Russia is stabilizing” and “don’t know if not stirring up Russia is stabilizing,” why not try peace and neutrality? Sort of a Pascal’s wager on peace, wot?

  6. U.S. policymakers and analysts do not even take cognizance of the people involved. This conflict is seen as one between the Russian Federation and Georgia. The people do not matter at all. It depends on what paradigm you adopt. Georgia is a U.S. proxy and client state. Therefore, the people of South Ossetia are totally irrelevant and immaterial. They do not even exist.

    South Ossetia mirrors the Kosovo conflict. Over 200,000 Serbs, Roma, Gorani, and Jews were expelled and forced to flee Kosovo after NATO and U.S> military forced occupied Kosovo. Subsequently, over 150 Serbian OChurches were attacked or destroyed and Serbian villages razed and destroyed. Like South Ossetians, these over 200,000 Serbian refugees and expellees from Kosovo will want to return. And thus are sewn the seeds for future wars.

  7. Yes, of course. Nothing should ‘perk up’ an anti-war activist like the transmission of violent ethno-nationalist sentiment from one generation to another.

  8. Our foreign policy is bad for my religion. I keep trying to believe that we have a Christian nation that believes in a personal God who is keeping score, but I also see that our foreign policy is based upon greed, revenge, and a cunning awareness of what our military superiority might help us steal. Plus with people like Bush and McCain claiming to have accepted “Jesus as their savior”, it really pollutes Christian standrds. I know that if I were the Almighty, I doubt I would want to have some jackass like Bush in my heavenly golf-foursome for the next trillion years or so.

    1. I know exactly how you feel. At the beginning of the Iraq invasion our pastor declaired from the pulpit that we needed to stand behind our president because he is a good god fearing man. I was pissed enough to walk out and not come back. How does bombing people equate to Christ? I guess I need to get the new “who would Jesus bomb” sticker for my car.


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