I found a very good article by Christopher Westley of the Mises Institute regarding the conflict between Georgia and Russia over the South Ossetian province. Westley characterizes the conflict somewhat differently from both the Bush Administration and the media:
“…let us be clear about what has happened. In recent years, the United States has been providing military aid and advice to an increasingly militaristic Georgia, whose military budget has increased 30 fold since 2003 (much to the chagrin, I am sure, of the Georgian taxpayer). US intelligence services played a fundamental role in the 2004 election of its pro-Western president, Mikheil Saakashvili, who, in turn, has been aggressively courting Georgian membership in NATO.
None of these developments have been exactly welcomed by the Russians, who share a huge border with Georgia and run important natural-gas pipelines through the region. To understand why, Americans should consider how the US government would react if (say) Texas declared its independence and received massive amounts of military aid and advice from the Russians, all while the Texas president feted his Russian counterpart at state dinners in Austin and promoted Texan membership in a post–Cold War Warsaw Pact that had already expanded greatly in the previous 15 years.
Throw into the volatile mix the region of South Ossetia, which I admit to never having heard of before Friday (frankly, its name reminds me of a Miami avenue). It is a region within Georgia that has long resisted consolidation by the Georgian state, preferring to secede from it as Georgia seceded from Russia. Over the years, Georgia objected to South Ossetia’s right to self-government, and while much of the world’s attention was on Olympic opening ceremonies in Beijing, the Georgian government decided to take the region by force.
The Russian government, caught unawares, objected. And so we have the tragic situation that is playing itself out today.”
Incidentally, this synopsis is in line with what I believed the situation to be but without the facts to back it up. It seems that the US government is interested in spreading freedom, except for those peoples it is trying to free, as long as the people being freed support our government. Such is the case in Georgia. The US government is propping up a fledgling Georgian “democracy” while extracting troops (I’ll be it only a handful) for the War in Iraq.
Apparently the South Ossetians aren’t playing along with the US government playbook and thus Georgia attempted to force them into agreement. When the security for Russian peacekeepers deteriorated, Russia did what we most certainly would do if faced with the same situation. They protected their interests.
Westley concludes his point:
Finally, much of what is happening in Georgia today reminds me of Hazlitt’s dictum that good economists consider the full effects of policies and actions. Given the recent and not-so-recent history of US military interventions on foreign soil, there is little objection that our government can make when other governments invade countries, kill scores of innocent people, upend families, destroy homes and businesses, and contemplate regime change.
What game theorist in the Pentagon thought that the United States could intervene so heavily in the political and military affairs of Georgia without some eventual response from the Russians? At the very least, jobs should be lost, and theories should be questioned when such policies result in long-term, deadly blowback.
If we continue to propagate an interventionist foreign policy we can expect the same results, whether in Iraq, Iran or Russia. Either way, the losers in such a strategy inevitably are the citizens.