Georgia on my mind
In Post-Soviet Russian, ethnic minorities liberate you!
Georgia is in the news today for two key reasons. The first is that little kerfluffle over the Ossetians, people who left to our own devices we would probably willingly ignore. The State Department, of course, does not wish to do this--but you know what they say about the best-laid plans of Rice and men...

Americans have been turned off to an aggressive foreign policy by what are widely (and incorrectly) seen as failed military adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan. There is a small cadre of people who are opposed to any unilateral military action, on the grounds that it isn't any of our business--but most people don't really agree with this position, so we'll kind of ignore it.

The problem with dismissing the sword arm of foreign policy out of hand is that it strongly limits our available options. Opponents of the Bush administration specifically and to some degree the pax americana in general would like to regard this as fearmongering meant to compel us to give up our essential liberties, but the reality is that America does face military threats, from two primary sources:

1. Terrorist and non-state agents: although Coalition intervention abroad, including Afghanistan and particularly Iraq, has severely restricted the ability of terrorist organisations to operate, they nonetheless remain a credible threat. It is certainly true that it is impossible to defeat terrorists solely through the imposition of military might, but we should not take this to mean that the application of force is completely ineffectual. Direct military campaigns have helped the gradual disembowellment of Al Qaeda, and supplies of military equipment and advisors have helped to cripple other terrorist groups like FARC. Notwithstanding, such terrorist organisations do still exist, and we ignore them at our peril. The global war on terror is not just an abstraction or an empty phrase.

2. Belligerent state-level actors. This is where Georgia fits into things. The US and Western Europe are not (surprise surprise!) roundly liked: aside from yappy, dismissable, loon-run states like Venezuela and North Korea, Russia in particular now looks to be attempting to reexert control over its traditional spheres of influence. Against said states, we must be willing to consider, if nothing else, the use of military force--if for no reason other than that, as Moscow demonstrates, they themselves are more than willing to use the army to achieve their goals. Georgians are not, after all, the first people to have had their sovereignty and freedoms crushed beneath the treads of Soviet tanks--just ask the Hungarians. Or the Afghanis. Or the Czechs. Or, or, or.

We can see how well diplomacy has worked in diffusing (post?)-Soviet aggression. Putin and Medvedev appear to have gambled that the West, despite outward shows of support, would not intervene militarily on Georgia's behalf--and, indeed, they did not. Of course, Georgia is somewhat hard to support, in a geographic sense. The United States puts a strong emphasis on force projection, and with good reason--but without willingness to actually commit that force, all the aircraft carriers in the world are just so many paper boats. Unchecked, Russia is liable to continue with its sabre-wielding.

And of course, 1 and 2 frequently intersect. Russia now demonstrates a willingness to prop up revolutionary non-state groups, as does Venezuela. We're finding ourselves in a position where if we're not willing to do the dirty work, our enemies certainly will. Now--does this mean I think we should send in the Airborne willy-nilly? Do I think we should be bombing the Kremlin? No. But, I think it is important that Americans--and indeed, all Westerners--consider what the potential implications are of ceding the stage to newcomers. To a degree, yes, a hegemony is still a hegemony--but let's face facts, most of us would rather live in a NATO hegemony than an East Bloc one, and this is coming from the guy with the .SU domain.

Anyway, that's that. The second reason Georgia is important is that a couple of blokes from thereabouts (that is, Georgia, United States) have discovered Bigfoot, and are providing DNA evidence to support these claims. Hoax? Maybe. Slow news day? Definitely. What else would we be focusing on, after all? Plausible? Of course not. Possible? Sure. The wealth of data from the more pristine parts of the country surrounding our friend Mr. Sasquatch is not conclusive, sure. Indeed it may not even argue for their presence. But we would be fools to dismiss it out of hand. The anti-Bigfoot crowd falls into a small minority of people who have any anthropological/primatological background whatsoever, and the much larger crowd who doesn't know what they're talking about but finds the notion of the yeti silly enough that they're willing to dismiss first, and think of reasons for the dismissal later.

Me (I am not an expert, though I do have a degree in anthropology, hot damn), what do I think? Personally, I don't know. But among the people who believe are Jane Goodall and my grandfather. Do you really want me to start thinking grandpa is a fraud?

Come on.

Pat Shearon
16.08.2010 - 11h47

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