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War again

August 13th, 2008

The short, but miserable, war in South Ossetia seems to be over for the moment at least. Some not very original observations over the fold

* The decision by the Georgian government to send its troops into South Ossetia reflected at least two of the military miscalculations common to those who start wars
- belief in a quick and complete victory producing a fait accompli
- the assumption that helping a powerful ally (in this case, the US in Iraq) will call forth help when it is needed. In this case, a glance at the map ought to have been enough to show that the US could, and would, do nothing, but the error is much more common than this.

* The Russian government may seem to have triumphed, but the costs of this action will far outweigh the benefits. Among the consequences, an obvious one is the likelihood that Ukraine will be admitted to NATO sooner rather than later. But more generally, Russia has acquired a limited capacity to throw its weight around in the Caucasus at the expense of any likelihood of being treated as a friend by the rest of Europe, not to mention the US. That won’t stop them selling oil and gas, for example, but I imagine most of Russia’s customers will now be willing to offer a premium to alternative suppliers. Implicitly, that means a discount on the price received by Russia

* Virtually everything the Russian government has done here has precedents in the recent actions of the US. Of course, the precedents have been stretched, but the Bush Administration set the (meta)precedent here as well. If it weren’t tragic, it would be laughable to see Bush proclaiming that such actions were ‘unacceptable in the 21st century’.

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  1. Alastair
    August 13th, 2008 at 06:10 | #1

    Well said

  2. August 13th, 2008 at 08:00 | #2

    Worth noting that the President of Georgia was already facing impeachment from the opposition, and may have thought this war would bolster his popularity. Now it’s likely he will be dumped, and the opposition takes over.

    Sounds good, right? But the opposition has been supported by even more hawkish US neocons. Rupert Murdoch actually took temporary control over the opposition leader’s Georgian newspaper empire, so that he could legally challenge the President. It will be interesting to see how all that pans out…

  3. Lord Sir Alexander “Dolly” Downer
    August 13th, 2008 at 08:27 | #3

    What was Saakashvili thinking? Why did he think he’d get away with it?

    Now he and his colleagues are all over the media proclaiming how ‘pro-west’ they are, Harvard educated etc, but as if the US or anyone else would to to war with Russia over this.

    It took, I think, 18 months for Milosevic to get the flick after an initial popularity boost with Kosovo.

  4. Ikonoclast
    August 13th, 2008 at 08:34 | #4

    Does anyone else get the feeling that China is playing a very smart geo-strategic game at the present and that the USA and Russia are being plain stupid by comparison? China seems, historically, to have always had a good understanding of the dangers of strategic overstretch. Accordingly, China acts to keep its core continental empire secure and seems to display only modest expansionist ambitions against much weaker opponents. Tibet is the modern example of this.

    China’s behaviour in relation to Taiwan illustrates its cautious and patient strategy. Just as Hong Kong and Macau “fell� back to China one expects that China feels Taiwan is an apple that will fall to China when the stalk is withered and the fruit is ripe. There is no need to shake the tree while the fruit is still green. China will wait while the USA grows weaker in relative terms. China will wait as the USA exhausts itself in absurd adventures in the Middle East. China will wait as the USA systematically destroys itself by spending so heavily on armaments that it ruins its financial and economic base just as the Soviets did.

    Nevertheless, this does not mean that China is all-wise or all-knowing. China is choking itself on pollution, stoking the global warming and sea level rise will which harm it probably as much as any other continental power possessing seaboard cities and desertification problems. And finally, China cannot complete its transition to a modern economy (right across its 1.3 billion people) because there are not enough resources left in the world to complete the project. However, perhaps the Chinese leadership are well aware of this and is not aiming impossibly at a middle class of 1.3 billion but simply at having a tiny wealthy elite, 300 million middle class citizens and 1 billion who remain at peasant, serf and servant status.

    I wonder how much manufacturing capacity is left in the world outside China. It seems to me (anecdotal evidence I know) that I cannot buy a textile or an electronic item that is not made in China. It seems that soon we will struggle to buy a car that is not made in China. Is it overstating the case to say that the world’s manufacturing base is being moved to China? What is the end game if only China retains significant manufacturing capacity in the heavy industries and electronics? Is this the end game for which China is playing?

    China is encircled and contained by Russia, Japan, the USA, India and even to some extent by the Islamic world. Even though some in this encircling group are not natural allies among themselves, none of them are the natural allies of China. China knows this. China will remain solid in its continental Empire heartland. China will simply wait for the rest of the world to crumble before it does.

    A certain level of paranoia is always necessary when considering the goals of Empires. The Romans, The Germans, the British, the Soviets, the Japanese and the Americans (to name a few) have all been completely ruthless when seeking an empire. Does China, though no less ruthless, see conquest and empire in a rather different light to the West? Does it perceive that it does not need to send armies abroad but merely to arrogate all manufacturing power to itself and once again become the greatest and perhaps only major centre of industry and culture in the world? China IS civilization and the rest are barbarians. This is an ancient Chinese view.

  5. August 13th, 2008 at 08:44 | #5

    Saddam (on listening to the then US Ambassadaor before the Kuwait invasions) also thought they had backing/support/assent somewhere in the US for his decision to go to war. Saddam had some reason to believe in it too as he had support against Iran.

    Indeed without such support early in his reign, would he have gone on to live in a spider hole.

    Neocon help is not what it seems.

  6. Lord Sir Alexander “Dolly” Downer
    August 13th, 2008 at 09:59 | #6

    Another glib, half-baked assessment from The Professor. My bet is that idiots like Robert Kagan assured Saakashvili that
    Russia would do nothing. These guys do nothing but stuff the world up

  7. gerard
    August 13th, 2008 at 10:39 | #7

    The Russian government may seem to have triumphed, but the costs of this action will far outweigh the benefits.

    I couldn’t disagree more!! The costs to Russia have been minimal, and now not only have they asserted their military ‘credibility’ so to speak, but they control two client states, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, in the very strategic Caspian Basin. Russia will probably push for the de jure independence of these two breakaway regions and point to Kosovo if anyone raises an objection. On the other hand, if Russia, which had a peacekeeping mandate in South Ossetia, NOT responded to the Georgian offensive, they would be considered a complete geopolitical lame-duck and laughing stock, unable to even defend their internationally recognized mandates against a piddling little country like Georgia. What would be the benefits of that?? The ‘goodwill’ of the ‘West’, which itself has no hesitation in invading and bombing remote countries on the flimsiest of excuses, wants to expand NATO (i.e. locked-in armaments markets) into Ukraine and elsewhere REGARDLESS of what Russia does, and has been sponsering ‘color revolutions’ around and inside Russia for the past several years? Russia knows that the West only understands the language of force – if anything the West will probably treat Russia better hereafter as a result of this. I think Russia realizes that it has nothing to lose by telling the West to shove it – they hold the energy cards in the post-peak world, and what are the ‘alternative’ energy suppliers that would recieve a ‘premium’ from Europe anyway? Russia will have no shortage of energy customers, even less if it controls the Caspian routes in the caucasus. Russia is sick of being bullied and humiliated in its own backyard and did what any ‘realist’ government would do. Not that I’m saying it’s a good thing what they did – just that it would be crazy to expect them to do otherwise (although the neocons are crazy in fact). I think that speaking objectively and putting aside the reflexive anti-Russian sentiment it is obvious that for Moscow the benefits of this operation clearly exceed the costs.

  8. gerard
    August 13th, 2008 at 10:44 | #8

    Virtually everything the Russian government has done here has precedents in the recent actions of the US.

    I would hardly say that this was remotely comparable to the invasion of Iraq, or any recent American offensive in fact. Maybe if Russia launched an unprovoked full-scale invasion of Colombia that might be comparable.

  9. FDB
    August 13th, 2008 at 10:54 | #9

    Gerard – precendence does not imply equivalence in outcome. A large precedent can have smaller antecedents.

  10. Ikonoclast
    August 13th, 2008 at 11:04 | #10

    Gerard says, “Russia knows that the West only understands the language of force.” Correct!

    The West also knows Russia only understands the language of force. The Islamic world knows the West only understands the language of force which is what the West also knows about the Islamic world. China knows the rest of the world only understands the language of force and the rest of the world knows the same applies to China.

    It’s an interesting face-off considering the other trouble we are in. We are at a point where our global problems centre around gloabl warming, climate change, sea level rises, mass extinctions, pollution, deforestation, desertification, loss of arable land, salination and depletion of fresh water supplies not to mention peal oil. It’s pretty much peak everything in fact.

    How is man reacting to these fearsome challanges? Well last time I checked the statistics, the world’s largest trade commodities in money values were 1. aramaments, 2. illegal drugs, 3. oil and 4. coffee.

    So when we are not blowing each other up, blowing our minds, blowing out pollution and or trying to wake ourselves up for another round of these edifying pursuits… we are actually trying to figure a way out of this mess?

    Yeah right… I wish. It truly is difficult at times to maintain a positive view of our species. On the other hand, I guess it’s just our nature as species with certain abilities and proclivities. It’ll never change…. er um until we go extinct.

  11. gerard
    August 13th, 2008 at 11:36 | #11

    I get what you’re saying FDB but I think that the difference is not just of scale; this case is qualitatively different in that Russia’s act is retaliation against a Georgian offensive that killed Russian peacekeepers and broke a ceasefire agreement. I daresay that if America was in the same position (having its peacekeeping mandate attacked) and did the same thing that many of the people now criticising Russia would be all for it. afterall, a lot of so-called ‘liberals’ supported the bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999, which was a much purer case of aggression than what Russia has just done.

    more comparable to recent American acts would be if Russia, without having any prior peacekeeping role in the region, just one day decided to invade and occupy Georgia. they would have a choice of Clinton-style or Bush-style lies; they could either say it was a humanitarian intervention to protect the Ossetians, or absurdly claim that Georgia somehow posed a threat to Russia.

  12. gerard
    August 13th, 2008 at 11:40 | #12

    also if Putin was Clinton I think you could say that Tblisi’s civilian targets would have come under full scale bombardment, as happened in Belgrade.

  13. Lord Sir Alexander “Dolly” Downer
    August 13th, 2008 at 11:42 | #13

    I repeat: how on earth can the actions of the Georgian president be understood? What world does he live in? What did he think would happen?

  14. August 13th, 2008 at 11:52 | #14

    He thought that with Vladimir in Beijing, Dmitri would be asleep at the wheel?

    I think it was what JQ has already noted, the fundamental and ubiquitous problem of military adventurism – it seems to be inseperable from unbridled optimism.

  15. August 13th, 2008 at 12:02 | #15

    Downer,
    I think he lives in this world – the one where Russia has been steadily been trying to ensure that Abkhazia and South Ossetia are never going to be able to re-join Georgia, having been ethnically cleansed of Georgians and integrated into Russia. The one where Russia has a veto at the UN, and is thus able to stymie any “legal” or diplomatic action by anyone else to stop it.
    He was left with accepting it or trying to do something about it. Diplomacy had failed over the last decade and a half and this was probably the only way he could see to get it back on the agenda. In that, it worked.

  16. August 13th, 2008 at 12:24 | #16

    “The Romans, The Germans, the British, the Soviets, the Japanese and the Americans (to name a few) have all been completely ruthless when seeking an empire”.

    Actually, the British pattern was that empire builders at the periphery were like that, but groups at the centre, e.g. “knights of the shires”, continually dragged against that for fear of overstretch and because the centre was the profit centre that would have to pay directly for keeping the gains. Even though early gains indirectly helped that enough to pay for it, and later ones almost did, the central groups were bound to lose out from imperial gains – they weren’t part of any military-industrial complex. These groups even managed to give up certain gains, e.g. the East Indies and the Ionian Islands. The result was that the Empire only grew on the (frequent) occasions when there was a suitable combination of local support and/or power vacuum, a need to head off other powers who could increase their direct and indirect threat moving in instead (typically the French, e.g. at Fashoda and in New Zealand, and sometimes the Russians) and an ability of empire builders to reach a fait accompli (they didn’t in the Basutoland Gun War or the First Boer War). This meant that Britain was – accurately – not seen as being as ruthlessly expansionist as it otherwise might have been, which reduced blowback except from other, thwarted, would-be imperialists.

  17. August 13th, 2008 at 12:41 | #17

    Probably correct PML. Exhibit one would be the move into China in the opium wars. China could easily have been taken after their serial defeats in those wars. The fact they did not was unusual at that stage.
    Perhaps, though, considering what happened after it may have been better if they had.

  18. Lord Sir Alexander “Dolly” Downer
    August 13th, 2008 at 13:15 | #18

    I think Andrew Reynold’ explanation is crazy. Quite apart from the one-eyed and simplistic Kagan-esque analysis of the situation, the idea that he was anticipating the outcome that did occur makes no sense.

    Possibly as Michael said, he thought Vlad would be too busy watching the gymnastics. Perhaps some silly Americans were in his ear telling him that Putin and Medvedev are paralysed in a power struggle or something like that.

    And to bolster his internal position.

  19. gerard
    August 13th, 2008 at 13:44 | #19

    yes what andrew is saying makes no sense. Georgia has gotten South Ossetia and Abkhazia back on the agenda – but at the cost of irreversibly consolidating Russian control over these regions and subjecting his own country to a totally predictable military defeat. it’s as if Serbian forces had invaded Kosovo after the NATO occupation was in place – totally crazy and doomed to fail from the outset. one thing is for sure – he wouldn’t have done it without a green light from Washington – who also presumably knew the likely outcome. it’s a strange series of events all round. maybe the neocons just wanted a confrontation with Russia for old times’ sake.

    and it’s off topic, but the unequal treaties in china gave the european powers all of the commercial benefits of empire without the costs of imposing order over an absolutely enormous and largely hostile population. as for Andrew’s stupid racist garbage that ‘perhaps it may have been better’ if the Europeans had taken over China: yes then today it might be doing as well as Africa is.

  20. August 13th, 2008 at 13:52 | #20

    I did not say that he was expecting to get his butt whipped. What I did say is that he put it back on the agenda – as this thread makes plain. A lot more people are now worried about Abkhazia than were worried about it a week ago.
    The loss of the regions was certain last week. Now he has more attention on the issue. From that POV he has succeeded. Now he just needs to see if he can win the “peace” after the war.

  21. Ian Gould
    August 13th, 2008 at 14:11 | #21

    “Accordingly, China acts to keep its core continental empire secure and seems to display only modest expansionist ambitions against much weaker opponents. Tibet is the modern example of this.”

    Well yes if you ignore the fact that Tibet has been a Chinese dependency for about the past 500 years with the exception of a couple of decades in the early 20th century when the British forced the Tibetans literally at gunpoint to claim independence from China.

  22. Spiros
    August 13th, 2008 at 14:12 | #22

    “I did not say that he was expecting to get his butt whipped.”

    He expected the Georgian army to beat the Russian army?

  23. Sean
    August 13th, 2008 at 14:13 | #23

    Prof Q, you said “I imagine most of Russia’s customers will now be willing to offer a premium to alternative suppliers.”

    Can I ask why?

  24. Ian Gould
    August 13th, 2008 at 14:20 | #24

    Two thoughts about Saakashvili’s motives.

    Firstly, the western media accounts pretty much start out. “Georgian tanks attacked South Ossetia.” In fact, there’s been months of attacks and counter-attacks by both sides. Saakashvili’s attack on the South Ossetian capital was a clear escalation of the conflict but he may not have expected the Russians to use it as a pretext for an attack on this scale.

    2. Virtually the only ground route from Russia to South Ossetia is via the Roki road tunnel. (Russia’s interest in South Ossetia has a lot to do with maintaining control over this route into the Caucasus.)

    If the Georgians had managed to capture the tunnel’s southern exit, they might actually have gotten their short, glorious war.

  25. Ian Gould
    August 13th, 2008 at 14:31 | #25

    “Probably correct PML. Exhibit one would be the move into China in the opium wars. China could easily have been taken after their serial defeats in those wars. The fact they did not was unusual at that stage.”

    China’s eastern provinces were effectively partitioned between several European powers – in particular the British, the French and the Germans – and the Japaanese (after 1905 when they took over the Russian “concessions” in addition to their earlier gains from the Sino-Japanese War).

    Continuing nominal Chinese independence was mostly because the the Concessionary powers weren’t prepared to fight a full-scale war with each other. Especially since the US and other non-concessionary powers were pushing for an “Open Door” policy to get access to Chinese markets outside the concessions.

  26. August 13th, 2008 at 14:31 | #26

    Ian,
    The Tibetans would debate the “dependency for 500 years” bit. To the extent that anyone cared about it (too cold, too distant and on no significant trade routes) it was largely left alone – with the occasional Chinese incursion when they were feeling bullish.
    On the strategic point I would agree with you though – the Georgians had a chance. The only real downside (prior to a full Russian invasion) was that it would go back to the status quo pro ante. I do not think the Georgian government expected that Russia would launch a full invasion so quickly. As noted elsewhere, the plans must have been sitting on the shelf and the troops already mobilised.

  27. gerard
    August 13th, 2008 at 14:39 | #27

    Andrew, if the loss of the regions were certain last week, now they are even more certain. Saakashvili certainly paid a heavy price to put these regions on the international ‘agenda’ – he turned a small Russian peacekeeping force into a massive Russian blitzkreig, and basically ensured that these regions will never be under Georgian control again. What does the scoreboard look like to you?

    the fact is that the majority of people in Abkhazia and South Ossetia don’t want to be reintegrated into Georgia – they favor independence. Some months ago at a press conference in Europe, Putin pointed out (quite legitimately) that if the Kosovar Albanians have a right to secede from Serbia, then minorities in Georgia have similar rights. Previously Russia might have been content to allow de facto independence, but after the de jure independence of Kosovo they will probably want to pay the West back in kind.

  28. Ian Gould
    August 13th, 2008 at 14:41 | #28

    “The Tibetans would debate the “dependency for 500 yearsâ€? bit. To the extent that anyone cared about it (too cold, too distant and on no significant trade routes) it was largely left alone – with the occasional Chinese incursion when they were feeling bullish.”

    Not exactly – the Ming dynasty first got involved in Tibet when it was being attacked by the Mongols.

    Chinese troops were largely responsible for installing the first Dalai Lama as the ruler of tibet.

    There was a continuing Chinese military presence in Tibet for a couple of reasons.

    The first was to prevent the re-emergence of the pre-Mongol strong Tibetan states that had been serious rivals to China in what’s now western China.

    The other was the Dalai Lama’s prestige and influence over Lamaistic Buddhists in Central Asia and Mongolia and amongst ethnic Tibetans within China.

    There’s a reason the current Dalai Lama has repeatedly said he doesn’t want Tibetan independence just autonomy within China.

  29. Ian Gould
    August 13th, 2008 at 14:44 | #29

    “the fact is that the majority of people in Abkhazia and South Ossetia don’t want to be reintegrated into Georgia – ”

    Well yes, the systematic murder and ethnic cleansing of Georgians and local opponents of secession over the past 16 years have pretty much ensured that.

    “. they favor independence”

    Pity they won’t get it. Russia will see to that.

  30. gerard
    August 13th, 2008 at 14:44 | #30

    Russia would definately have had these plans on the shelf for a long time, since the Rose Revolution at least, and the Georgians must have known this.

  31. gerard
    August 13th, 2008 at 14:50 | #31

    the systematic murder and ethnic cleansing of Georgians and local opponents of secession over the past 16 years have pretty much ensured that.

    yes, pretty much.

    as for independence, well I doubt that Russia will annex these territories. Moscow will be content to have a couple of small Kosovo-style puppet micro-states.

  32. Ian Gould
    August 13th, 2008 at 14:53 | #32

    The key differences between Kosovo and Ossetia and Abkhazia are as follows:

    1. Yugoslav-era Kosovo was approximately 90% Albanian. Soviet-era South Ossetia and Abkhazia were 50% or more Georgian or other nationalities.

    2. Kosovo was guaranteed autonomy under the Yugoslav constiution. Milosevic unilaterally revoked that autonomy and conducted a decade-long campaign of murder, torture and intimidation against the Kosovars culminating in the attenpted ethnic cleansing of hundreds of thousands of Kosovars.

    The Soviet-era “Presidents” (i.e. Communist dictators) of Abkhazia and South Ossetia declared independence within hours of Georgia seceding from the Soviet Union. The Georgians never got the opportunity to make good on their offer of autonomy and equal treatment.

  33. gerard
    August 13th, 2008 at 15:43 | #33

    The USSR was divided into ethnically based ‘Republics’ which were themselves divided into ethnically based regions, which as in the case of Yugoslavia, were to become the fault lines of ethnic conflict once central authority collapsed in 1991. It is an interesting point to consider that far from quashing sectarian nationalism, the Soviet and Yugoslav systems of ‘autonomy’ actually encouraged it. But is there a certain level of ethnic homogeneity at which secession becomes legitimate?

    As for Kosovo – it is a complicated story. there was a civil war between Yugoslav forces and the KLA (designated a terrorist organization by the US and UK) but there has never been any forenzic evidence of genocide. Milosevic described his campaign as a “War on Terrorism”, which is no more ridiculous than NATO-member Turkey’s similar description of its brutal contemporaneous campaign against the Kurds. there were atrocities committed by Yugoslav forces in Kosovo (and also by the KLA) but there was no “attempted ethnic cleansing of hundreds of thousands of Kosovars” prior to the NATO bombing. People tend to conflate what happened in Bosnia with what happened in Kosovo.

    Also, during the negotiations in Ramboulliet prior to NATO bombing, Russia brokered an agreement that would give full autonomy to the Kosovar Albanians – Milosevic accepted this, but NATO instead demanded that Yugoslavia agree to what essentially amounted to NATO occupation of the entirity of Yugoslavia. In the end, the final agreement was very similar to the one that NATO initially rejected. Oddly enough, the Serb population of Kosovo thereafter became the targets of ethnic cleansing at the hands of the Albanians, all under the noses of NATO peacekeepers.

  34. Ian Gould
    August 13th, 2008 at 16:16 | #34

    http://www3.baylor.edu/~Charles_Kemp/kosovo_refugees.htm

    “In 1998, Serbian aggression or ethnic cleansing against the Kosovar Albanians caused hundreds of thousands of people to leave their homes. It is estimated that approximately three-quarters of a million Kosovo refugees fled to Macedonia, Albania, Montenegro, Bosnia, and other countries abroad.”

    Not only was this a war crime but the dumping of hundreds of thousands of ethnic Albanians on Mecedonia (which was already about 40% ethnic Albanian) would probably have precipitated a war there if they had been unable to return to Kosovo.

  35. Ian Gould
    August 13th, 2008 at 16:22 | #35

    And here’s a contemporaneous eye-witness report of the ethnic cleansing that you say never happened.

    http://www.abc.net.au/7.30/stories/s21350.htm

    “ERIC CAMPBELL: It was like opening the gates of hell.

    After days of incarceration in a filthy unsewered holding camp, Kosovo’s refugees were finally allowed to leave.

    By 1am, the border police had moved out the entire camp of 45,000 people, some of them trapped here since Thursday, and loaded them on to buses.

    It should have been the final relief for these victims of Serbia’s ethnic cleansing. But for some ethnic Albanians, even worse was to come.

    PAULA GHEDINI: As the queues were being loaded on to buses, let’s say a family of six would be loaded on to four different buses, so two members would be one place, another would be another place.

    ERIC CAMPBELL: The United Nations says the refugees weren’t told where they were going, or asked if it was where they wanted to be.

    They were just driven out, in some cases to other countries. Ten thousand people found themselves bused to Albania and Greece. One-thousand-five-hundred were taken to the airport and flown to Turkey.

    Those who resisted were forced to leave.”

  36. gerard
    August 13th, 2008 at 17:21 | #36

    From your link:

    The UN High Commissioner for refugees, UNHCR, estimates nearly half a million people, the vast majority of them ethnic Albanians, have now fled their homeland since NATO began its air assault on Yugoslavia on March 24.

    I said that ethnic cleansing didn’t take place before the NATO bombing. it certainly did take place AFTER the bombing started – and NATO commander Wesley Clark actually predicted that it would be a consequence of the bombing.

    so the question is – was there a campaign of ethnic cleansing prior to the bombing by NATO?

    there was certainly a civil war between the KLA and Yugoslav forces, which certainly involved atrocities committed by both sides (notably the Racak massacre) – but there was no systemic campaign to ethnically cleanse Kosovo of its Albanian inhabitants. the scale of the atrocities was always exaggerated by pro-NATO propaganda – Clinton spoke of hundreds of thousands of people missing, presumably murdered and buried in mass graves. after the war, the UN war crimes tribunal and FBI carried out the largest forenzic investigation in history and failed to uncover a single mass grave – they exhumed 2788 bodies – including Serb, Roma and Albanian, civilian and combatants. after the war, the Red Cross reported 3368 civilians missing, and statistical methods estimate 10,000-12,000 deaths above ‘normal’ rates attributable to war – including combatants. Notably, most of the civilian deaths occured AFTER the NATO bombing and cannot be retrospectively used to justify it. During the height of the NATO bombing, half a million refugees fled Kosovo, although after the war, 200,000 Serbs were driven out of Kosovo, which represents a much higher fraction of the population, and could indeed be described as permanent ‘ethnic cleansing’.

    the most ironic thing about it was that Yugoslavia campaign against the Kosovars absolutely paled in comparison with what the Turks were doing to the Kurds at exactly the same time. So NATO doesn’t tolerate ethnic cleansing near its borders, but ethnic cleansing WITHIN its borders is JUST FINE, as long as it is being done with Western armaments. Typical hypocrisy.

    Wikipedia has an unusually detailed entry on the Kosovo War.

  37. gerard
    August 13th, 2008 at 17:24 | #37

    the best account of the situation in Kosovo prior to the NATO bombing that I have read is ‘Saving Strangers’ by Nicholas Wheeler (Oxford University Press 2000).
    http://books.google.com.au/books?hl=en&id=XBBBwis6VtwC&dq=saving+strangers&printsec=frontcover&source=web&ots=0TMRQJ8Bu1&sig=_AV6e83flIijegkoj_25n9rZ1bM&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=5&ct=result

  38. August 13th, 2008 at 18:32 | #38

    One thing to bring out is the proportion of residents of South Ossetia who are only there as a result of past generations’ conscious ethnic replacement, much like the Russians in Lithuania. The true test is to compare ethnic Georgians and Ossetians, not Georgians and others.

    Curiopusly, something similar only more complicated happened in Kosovo. If you start the clock a few centuries ago, you find it was Serb and then infiltrated by Albanians who also grew in numbers with the “revenge of the cradle”; Turkish power favoured this. But if you go back all the way to when the Slavs arrived in the Dark Ages, you find that they entered a region that was Illyrian from Italy to Greece and the Danube; these were the people from whom the Albanians came. It was only deliberate Byzantine consolidation (with ethnic cleansing) that restored the Greek character of Greece and stopped it from going Slav too, albeit at the price of losing the Greek character of southern Italy and parts of the Levant.

    On the USA as a non-concessionary power in China: this was solely because the USA didn’t play along but opted for trying for a Cuba-style relationship in which it would sweep the pool. It wasn’t playing catch up. There was certainly no US objection to being a concessionary power; in fact it was the last power to give up its concessions and capitulations in Morocco in the 1950s, even after the French and Spanish. And, of course, that is just precisely what its bases and status of forces agreements impose now, even on Australia (their troops routinely do not get charged even when they grievously wound locals – even here, not just in Okinawa etc.).

  39. Ian Gould
    August 13th, 2008 at 19:32 | #39

    Gerard, the prior history of the Milosevic regime and the smaller-scale ethnic cleansing that preceded the bombing makes it pretty obvious that the ethnic cleansing was planned well in advance – as does the fact that it’s pretty much physically impossible to move 500,000 people in a matter of days without extensive planning and preapration.

  40. Jack Strocchi
    August 13th, 2008 at 21:00 | #40

    Pr Q says:

    * Virtually everything the Russian government has done here has precedents in the recent actions of the US. Of course, the precedents have been stretched, but the Bush Administration set the (meta)precedent here as well.

    As if Russia, as either the Steamroller or the Red Peril, ever needed a foreign precedent – let alone a recent US one – to invade a neighbouring country. They have been doing it constantly for about a millenium.

    Thats how come the leaders of Russia came to control 1/6 of the worlds land surface. They just kept on rolling until they ran out of room or came up against a tougher customer.

    And its not as if the interim b/w the fall of the Berlin Wall and the 911 attacks sinalled a stop to Russian militarism. Yugoslavia and Chechnya anyone?

    In fact recent American militarism, in both Iraq and Afghanistan, have little in common with the Russian actions in the Caucasus. Iraq-attack was a regime change to enlist a client state. Afghan-attack was a punitive mission. Which has developed into an open-ended commitment to stabilise Pakistan.

    I am betting the Russians will not likely attempt to install a client-state regime in Georgia. Probably try a Finland-style solution.

    What the Georgian war does do, from the point of social analysis, is to re-emphasise the lethal nature of intra-state ethnic conflict, especially in the context of regional hegemons and their fifth columnists. They are like long-running sores in the body politic, that just keep on festering, regularly breaking out into full-blown infection.

    Ethnic separatists or sectarian disputes seem to be a necessary, and frequently sufficient, condition for military conflict in the post-Cold War era.

    Inter-state economic disputes can be rationally resolved by concession. Intra-state ethnic conflicts tend to be resolved by cleansing or genocide.

    Lesson: In this country we must never allow the liberal fetish for ethnic identity politics to metastasize into ethnic militancy. National unity is our most precious form of political asset.

  41. August 13th, 2008 at 21:14 | #41

    I believe that there is not a single topic that Jack cannot turn towrds his on-going ethnic/immigration obsession.

  42. Jack Strocchi
    August 13th, 2008 at 21:36 | #42

    # Michael Says: August 13th, 2008 at 9:14 pm

    I believe that there is not a single topic that Jack cannot turn towrds his on-going ethnic/immigration obsession.

    Google gives 258,000 page hits for the search string “Georgia + Ethnic + Conflict”. So perhaps I am not the only one examining this issue who dwells on this “obsession”. Which, FMPOV, is with integration, not immigration, per se.

  43. Jack Strocchi
    August 13th, 2008 at 22:13 | #43

    Speaking of embarassing political obsessions and the “ethnic question”, I see that the Northern Territories intervention has reduced the incidence of STDs amongst children.

    Still lamenting Howard’s heavy handed approach, eh Michael? There’s still time to admit you were wrong on this issue and salvage some personal honour from the general political fall-out.

  44. Ian Gould
    August 13th, 2008 at 22:18 | #44

    And typing “John Howard serial killer” into Google turns up 171,000 page hits.

  45. Ian Gould
    August 13th, 2008 at 22:25 | #45

    Also Jack despite the headline in the Australian, the writer (and you)are committing the logical error known as prost hoc ergo proctor hoc.

    Considering that one of the components of the intervention was supposed to be large-scale health checks on Aboriginal children, you’d expect the number of cases of venereal disease diagnosed to increase.

    Unless, you know, the change in the number of diagnoses was statistically insignifcant and/or there was a massive beat-up abouy the alleged level of sexual abuse in inidgenosu communities.

    Oh and let’s note that over a decade into Howard’s administration:

    “Diagnoses of STIs in the Aboriginal population was massively higher than for other ethnic groups, the surveillance report said.

    The rate of notification of gonorrhoea among Aboriginal people in the Territory was 51.7 times the national rate.

    Among the non-Aboriginal population, the rate of gonorrhoea notification last year in the Territory was twice the national average. Among the cases of syphilis diagnosed last year, 90per cent of new diagnoses occurred in the Aboriginal population, whose rate of syphilis infection was 26.9 times the non-Aboriginal rate.”

  46. Ian Gould
    August 13th, 2008 at 22:29 | #46

    Oh and Jack if we’re goign to resort to argument by link:

    http://news.smh.com.au/national/aborigines-healthier-living-in-country-20080811-3td3.html

    Aborigines are healthier, happier and cost governments less money when they are living on their traditional lands, according to new research.

    Keeping Aboriginal people actively involved in homeland settlements also offers significant benefits to the environment, said senior economist David Campbell.

    “We’re finding clear evidence that working `on country’ has benefits for the health of Aboriginal people and for the nation,” said Dr Campbell from the Desert Knowledge Cooperative Research Centre.

  47. Ian Gould
    August 13th, 2008 at 23:09 | #47

    Returning to Georgia for the moment, the Russians are continuing to advance despite the supposed ceasefire.

    http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5g8-DEMtAE9q4i4ySQ0eV_qZefmRQD92HD0HO0

  48. swio
    August 13th, 2008 at 23:26 | #48

    “at the expense of any likelihood of being treated as a friend by the rest of Europe, not to mention the US.”

    Anyone who has been following the politics of this region closely enough would realise that this statement is way off the mark. The US hostility to Russia is hidden to the general public but easily visible if you look closely enough. It is well understood in Russia that US friendship to Russia is a laughable concept (for this US administration, at least, but probably for the next one too)

    “That won’t stop them selling oil and gas, for example, but I imagine most of Russia’s customers will now be willing to offer a premium to alternative suppliers. Implicitly, that means a discount on the price received by Russia”

    That’s an economist view of the situation. The reality is that Russia is well on the way to producing a gas cartel that will reduce Europe’s choice to essentially just Russia. Sending in the troops was part of the same geostrategic thinking that got them their strong position in gas today. Geostrategic logic means there will be no discount.

  49. Socrates
    August 13th, 2008 at 23:41 | #49

    I also agree that this is a regrettable development but not surprising. I question if it will cost Russia that much. The trouble is, US policy has been so hostile to them that they probably felt they had little to lose. Europe will still be anxious to keep the peace. We also shouldn’t underestimate the power of resentment. When Gorbachev was last in Australia a few years ago he made some prescient statements about the sort of precedent unilateral action in Iraq represented. He was right. We can hardly expect
    Russia to care about international opinion now when the most powerful nation hasn’t for 8 years.

    I don’t pretend that Putin is anything other than a ruthless politician but he has been handed the perfect excuse to do what he wanted anyway and grabbed it. Putin did his masters thesis on the geopolitics of the oil and gas industry – he knows what he is doing! By contrast we have hamfisted Georgian and US presidents. The statements by Bush and Cheney since the crisis have also been incredibly unhelpful, simply faning the flames of Russian nationalism and actually helping Putin domestically. They are idiots.

  50. Jill Rush
    August 13th, 2008 at 23:53 | #50

    The Olympics start and so does a war in Georgia so our front pages are taken up with sports people.

    The two events are enough to show that authoritarian regimes don’t really care about the average citizen as they play out their power games. It is a lesson to those of us in the west who underestimate the motives, values and pride of other nation’s regimes as they will mask their true intentions behind smoke and mirrors.

  51. Ian Gould
    August 13th, 2008 at 23:54 | #51

    “They are idiots.”

    No, they’re cynical amoral political operators who don’t give a damn what effect their statments have abroad if they increase the chances of McCain winning in November.

  52. Socrates
    August 14th, 2008 at 00:00 | #52

    Ian

    You are probably right but do you really think this will help McCain? Doesn’t it just illustrate the dangers of precipitate military action? The US comedian Letterman is on TV in the background here now and he just made a joke about Bush’s plan to solve rising milk prices: invade Wisconsin. Everyone laughed. I don’t think the Republican reputation for being strong on foreign policy has much cred left.

  53. August 14th, 2008 at 00:04 | #53

    To see the recent weekend of pointless slaughter of common humanity in geo-political strategy outcomes is one form of dispassionate,intellectual exercise. The hopeful sign, present in the periphery of commentary, was the suggestion that war crime indictments should be made. Proper trials would establish the truth of the matter and set standards for conduct that might help to prevent future occurrences, or at least establish consequences. War is part of the game of nations, based on a premise that one person’s life is more important than another’s, and seen through the lens of abstraction people become inconsequential.

  54. Ian Gould
    August 14th, 2008 at 00:11 | #54

    Socrates, “cynical” and “amoral” don;t necessarily translate to shrewd or effective.

    Especially not when George W Buch is involved.

  55. observa
    August 14th, 2008 at 02:22 | #55

    “I believe that there is not a single topic that Jack cannot turn towrds his on-going ethnic/immigration obsession.”

    He’s not the only one Michael-
    http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Central_Asia/JH13Ag01.html
    Food for thought for those who want to weld Hamas and Fatah into a one state solution too.

  56. observa
    August 14th, 2008 at 02:29 | #56

    The money quote-
    “There is no longer any reason to put up with the tantrums of long-redundant tribes. If 3.7 million ethnic Georgians have the right to break away from the 142 million population of the Russian Federation, why shouldn’t the 100,000 Ossetians living in Georgia break away and form their own state as well? Most of them have acquired Russian passports and want nothing to do with the Georgians. The Ossetians have spoken their variant of Persian for more than a millennium and had their own kingdom during the Middle Ages.

    If the West is going to put itself at risk for 3.8 million ethnic Georgians, roughly the population of Los Angeles, or 5.4 million Tibetans, or 2 million Albanian Muslims in Kosovo, why shouldn’t Russia take risks for the South Ossetians, not to mention the 100,000 Abkhaz speakers in Georgia’s secessionist Black Sea province? Once the infinite regress of ethnic logic gets into motion, there is no good reason not to pull the world apart like taffy.

    Forget the Kosovo Albanians, the South Ossetians, the Abkhazians, Saakashvili and the Dalai Lama. These are relics of an older world that might deserve their own theme park, but not their own state.”

  57. gerard
    August 14th, 2008 at 08:52 | #57

    alas, my last response to Ian on the subject of Kosovo seems to have been lost in the internet miasma. that is always extremely frustrating. I’ll just limit myself to the main point – being that since Milosevic had already offered Kosovo up to NATO control prior to the bombing, we can’t take the official reasons for the NATO operation seriously. it was in fact a textbook case of criminal aggression on NATO’s part. of course there are differences between Kosovo and South Ossetia, but enough similarities for Russia to want to make a point out of it. observa if I knew that article was by the idiot spengler I never would have clicked it – however it did lead me to this much more worthwhile (prescient) article from July – “A War Waiting to Happen” by Engdahl. http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Central_Asia/JG16Ag01.html

  58. August 14th, 2008 at 08:59 | #58

    It’s fair to say that the idea of the state as a ‘reduced universal’ has gone past the high water mark and is receding in the face of ‘enlarged particularities’ that are challenging the notion of the state being an effective and impartial representative of its constituents.

    It seems to be a mixture of the states in question handling such tensions poorly, and others manipulating and promoting seperatist tensions for their own percieved gain.

  59. Ian Gould
    August 14th, 2008 at 10:29 | #59

    “I’ll just limit myself to the main point – being that since Milosevic had already offered Kosovo up to NATO control prior to the bombing, we can’t take the official reasons for the NATO operation seriously.”

    Yes we can becasue Milosevic had a decade long history of violating agreeemnts and of agreeing “in principle” while somehow never actually acting on his commitments.

  60. Sean
    August 14th, 2008 at 10:29 | #60

    I stll want to know why the oil & gas market customers will pay a premium for non-Russian product. Not on moral grounds, surely?

  61. Ian Gould
    August 14th, 2008 at 10:31 | #61

    I note that the quote Observa so approves of doesn;t mention the 3.5 million Israeli Jews or the one million or so Kuwaitis.

  62. Ian Gould
    August 14th, 2008 at 10:34 | #62

    Sean, presumably because other suppliers are less likely to stop supply for political reasons.

    Russia has on several occassiosn cut off gas and oil supplies to ex-Soviet states.

    The western Europeans have to wonder if the Russians will do the same to them in the event of any future diplomatic spat.

    Of course, rather than shifting to new gas suppliers the western Europeans will simply accelerate their rush to wind and nuclear.

  63. gerard
    August 14th, 2008 at 10:57 | #63

    “Yes we can becasue Milosevic had a decade long history of violating agreeemnts and of agreeing “in principleâ€? while somehow never actually acting on his commitments.”

    Which agreements? the Dayton accords? I don’t actually think what you’re saying is valid, otherwise the war would never have ended, since it did indeed end with an agreement from Milosevic (brokered by Russia), and the interesting point is that the final agreement that ended the war was almost exactly the same as the offer that NATO had rejected before the war!! it was almost as if NATO just wanted an excuse to flex its muscles and murder some Serbs, and then, as though satiated after an org@sm, decided that it didn’t actually need what it had previously demanded.

  64. August 14th, 2008 at 10:58 | #64

    Ian,
    It also missed the 300,000 or so Georgians that were ethnically cleansed from South Ossetia and Abkhazia in the early 1990s. Odd that.

  65. gerard
    August 14th, 2008 at 11:01 | #65

    plus, if you think you can take NATO’s argument that it was acting against ethnic cleansing seriously, what of the fact that a much worse campaign of ethnic cleansing was, at the precise same time, taking place inside NATO? to say nothing of all the non-NATO regimes to which NATO countries was selling armaments.

    No, the whole thing was a bloody fraud. I don’t blame you for supporting the NATO campaign because I did too at the time – but I changed my mind after I read up on the details and realized that I had been a victim of propaganda.

  66. August 14th, 2008 at 11:03 | #66

    Most of my knowledge of this war is based on either media reports, or wikipedia, so I could be completely wrong.

    It initially seemed rather strange that when Georgia started to invade South Ossetia, that it didn’t try to destroy or otherwise block the Roki Tunnel, which is the sole land route through which Russian forces can enter South Ossetia. Instead, it seemed that Saakashvili gambled on Georgian land forces being able to get there before the Russians attacked.

    Reports suggest that at the start of the war, there was a massive artillery and rocket attack on Tskhinvali. There are conflicting reports about the number of casualties from that, it could be anywhere from less than 100 to over 2000. In any case, the attack on Tskhinvali lead to large amounts of people fleeing to North Ossetia through the Roki Tunnel. This is why I think that Georgia did not try to immediately close the tunnel – when people flee the war zone, there is less of a hostile population to deal with.

  67. Ian Gould
    August 14th, 2008 at 11:26 | #67

    “It initially seemed rather strange that when Georgia started to invade South Ossetia, that it didn’t try to destroy or otherwise block the Roki Tunnel, which is the sole land route through which Russian forces can enter South Ossetia. Instead, it seemed that Saakashvili gambled on Georgian land forces being able to get there before the Russians attacked.”

    I suspect they wanted the tunnel intact because of its commercial importance to Georgia.

  68. Ian Gould
    August 14th, 2008 at 11:33 | #68

    “plus, if you think you can take NATO’s argument that it was acting against ethnic cleansing seriously, what of the fact that a much worse campaign of ethnic cleansing was, at the precise same time, taking place inside NATO? to say nothing of all the non-NATO regimes to which NATO countries was selling armaments.”

    Stopping ethnic cleansing was a valid legal rationale for the action.

    The real reason was probably, as I’ve suggested already, to stop a mass exodus of Kosovars leading to the larger Blakan war everyoen was worreid abotu at the time.

    If the ehads of NATO were the murderous psychotic thrill-killers you think, why didn’t they use Bosnia as an excuse to do the same thing years earlier.

    Assuming US and western benevolence is a bad guide to interpretting world events, assuming their malevolence is an equally bad guide.

    Having said that, I’m going to do some further reading on this topic when I have more time.

  69. gerard
    August 14th, 2008 at 11:52 | #69

    stopping ethnic cleansing was not a valid legal rationale – one, because there wasn’t actually ethnic cleansing taking place (at least on anything near the scale of what NATO-Turkey was doing to the Kurds at the same time.

    and two, because there was no UN Security Council authorization, so it was illegal.

    the mass exodus of Kosovar Albanians occured after the bombing started, not before. NATO actually predicted that its bombing would cause this to happen – and it did! and it stopped when NATO agreed to the Serbian offer that they initially rejected. so that can’t be the reason.

  70. gerard
    August 14th, 2008 at 11:53 | #70

    and one more thing, if NATO was so anti-ethnic cleansing, why did they allow the KLA to totally cleanse Kosovo of its Serbian inhabitants once it was in charge of the region?

  71. wilful
    August 14th, 2008 at 12:36 | #71

    What has been a bit amusing with the recent Georgia/Ossetia/Russia thing has been the number of instant experts ready to opine loudly about it. Funny, because I would have thought it was a bit of a specialist subject.

  72. Jack Strocchi
    August 14th, 2008 at 12:41 | #72

    #44 Ian Gould Says: August 13th, 2008 at 10:18 pm

    And typing “John Howard serial killer� into Google turns up 171,000 page hits.

    And we all know the evidence for the Caucasus’ ethnic nastiness – that oasis of harmonious diversity! – is just as flimsy as the evidence for John Howard’s serial killing.

    Which just goes to show that all political “obsessions” are equally worthless, at least if we were to take Ian Gould’s analogical argument seriously.

  73. Ian Gould
    August 14th, 2008 at 12:58 | #73

    So Jack how many of those 200,000+ hit are for stuff like a conflict over zoning in the US state of Georgia or “ethnic dances of Georgia”?

  74. Ian Gould
    August 14th, 2008 at 13:16 | #74

    “Tomato knitting plumber” turns up 181,000 hits.

    Gee maybe any string of three reasonably common words generates around that many hits?

  75. Mikheil Saakashvili
    August 14th, 2008 at 14:10 | #75

    Hi all,

    This is what happened. The Russians and Ossetians were harassing me and my citizens, and in any event I’ve been under political pressure. Ok, the Russkis were goading me and I fell for it.

    Some so-called “friends” in the US – who have the ear of President Bush and soon-to-be President McCain – assured me that if I took over South Ossetia quickly and cleanly, it would be over before Boris knew what had happened.

    (They didn’t explain what would happen after that: how we would keep control.)

    They also strongly implied that the Americans would send over some divisions to kick Boris’s ass if necessary.

    “You’re our guy, Misha”, they said several times.

    OK, I stuffed up, it was stupid, I played into the Russians’ hands, but I was actually in danger of going to prison here in Tbilisi anyway, so I had little to lose.

    Sorry about this everyone. Hope I haven’t started WWIII!

    Regards,

    M.

    PS. That Eduard Shevardnadze is keeping very quiet. He’s around here somewhere.

  76. Jack Strocchi
    August 14th, 2008 at 15:02 | #76

    # Ian Gould Says: August 14th, 2008 at 12:58 pm

    So Jack how many of those 200,000+ hit are for stuff like a conflict over zoning in the US state of Georgia or “ethnic dances of Georgia�?

    You seem to be missing something umm, could be the word “conflict” might be pertinent to an “ethnic” war in “Georgia”?

    But its easy to see how someone who dismisses the impact population growth has on greenhouse gas emissions could miss such a minor detail.

    OTOH, I see your general point, that google hits on specific search strings are not the last word on measuring popular concern. For example, the search string “Ian Gould + pointless + nitpicker” seems to draw a blank on google. Yet it is clearly a real problem for those who are trying to clear some of the debris on the path to knowledge, that half-educated slobs have carelessly strewn in the way.

  77. Ian Gould
    August 14th, 2008 at 15:12 | #77

    “OTOH, I see your general point, that google hits on specific search strings are not the last word on measuring popular concern. For example, the search string “Ian Gould + pointless + nitpickerâ€? seems to draw a blank on google. Yet it is clearly a real problem for those who are trying to clear some of the debris on the path to knowledge, that half-educated slobs have carelessly strewn in the way.”

    Jack, you’re the one who chose to use the argument from stupefaction to bolster your position.

    I’m sorry I embarassed you by pointing out how silly your argument was.

  78. Jack Strocchi
    August 14th, 2008 at 15:23 | #78

    #74 Ian Gould Says: August 14th, 2008 at 1:16 pm

    Gee maybe any string of three reasonably common words generates around that many hits?

    OTOH, it might be because their rational conjunction is of real interest to the public. Rather than it just being a random coincidence that null hypotheses are designed to test.

    The former inference would be favoured by Mr Ockham. But we cannot assume his economy of thought when dealing with the Byzantine mental pathways of Mr Gould.

  79. August 14th, 2008 at 15:43 | #79

    Ian,

    Jack may have a point.

    The “rational conjunction” of Georgia+Jack+nuts gives 202,000 hits on Google.

    Surely it’s no random coincidence?

  80. Jack Strocchi
    August 14th, 2008 at 15:52 | #80

    #77 Ian Gould Says: August 14th, 2008 at 3:12 pm

    Jack, you’re the one who chose to use the argument from stupefaction to bolster your position. I’m sorry I embarassed you by pointing out how silly your argument was.

    My “position” was to use googles common sense to show that correlating “ethnic” with “Georgian conflict” was not some private crankish “obsession” of mine. As if the fact that many people take the same view is somehow “stupefying” evidence against it.

    I am mildy depressed, but not surprised, that a couple of solipsistic post-modern liberals like Michael and Ian Gould would abuse logic in a vain attempt to challenge this. Its sobering to see how easily the ideological can overpower the logical when this degenerate and disingenuous form of liberalism is let loose in the polity.

  81. Ian Gould
    August 14th, 2008 at 16:12 | #81

    “My “positionâ€? was to use googles common sense to show that correlating “ethnicâ€? with “Georgian conflictâ€? was not some private crankish “obsessionâ€? of mine. As if the fact that many people take the same view is somehow “stupefyingâ€? evidence against it.”

    Of course, it is wholly irrelevant that if I wished I could use the exact same argument to prove that many peopel obviously support my theory that Jhon Howard is a serial killer.

    For the record Jack, ethnic conflict in Georgia is a real and serious problem.

    Your attempt to “prove” the bledding obvious by way of google page hits is roughly equivalent to me tryign to “prove” the Earth goes round the sun by reading the entrails of a goat.

    Less clear is the logical basis for your belief that this conflict has any direct relevance to Australian public policy in the spheres of immigration, multiculturalism or indigenous affairs.

  82. Jack Strocchi
    August 14th, 2008 at 16:19 | #82

    #79 Michael Says: August 14th, 2008 at 3:43 pm

    Surely it’s no random coincidence?

    The world of Michael & Ian Gould appears to be full of “random coincidences”, so much so as to induce a form of intellectual paralysis. It didnt take long for the underlying intellectual pathology of this ideological disease to emerge.

    This is a textbook case of what Stove called the “epistemology of the silent scream”. The sufferer is stung by the waspish teachers as an undergraduate. Henceforth unable to make intellectual progress but still apparently alive. Presented by post-modernists who cannot draw a conclusion if it involves connecting two or more dots.

    Surely its “no random coincidence” that HOward’s federal intervention designed to arrest the child rape crime wave has apparently made some progress towards this goal. Apparently our resident solipsists think that it was all just good luck.

    Pity about any kids who might linger endlessly in purgatory whilst post-modern liberals endlessly turn the problem over – one that they helped to conceive, create and cover-up. But hey, better child abuse continues unchecked rather than they learn their lesson or at least get off their high horse.

  83. Jack Strocchi
    August 14th, 2008 at 16:33 | #83

    Ian Gould Says: August 14th, 2008 at 4:12 pm

    For the record Jack, ethnic conflict in Georgia is a real and serious problem.

    Your attempt to “prove� the bledding obvious by way of google page hits is roughly equivalent to me tryign to “prove� the Earth goes round the sun by reading the entrails of a goat.

    I did not attempt to prove my “ethnic” point by reference to google. The google reference was presented to prove that my “obsession” with ethnic conflict was not crankish or idiosyncratic, as stupidly suggested by Michael.

    I did not use google to demonstrate substantive veracity. THis, as you concede, is practically self-evident. Which was my original substantive point.

    I have already made the logical point several times. I am embarrassed on your behalf for your dazzling display of incomprehension skills.

  84. Ian Gould
    August 14th, 2008 at 16:52 | #84

    So a vast program of health checks specifically intended to detect evidence of child sexual abuse resutls in a reduction in the number of reprots of sexual abuse and this is proof that the program is working?

    You’re a sad, sad little man Strocchi.

  85. August 14th, 2008 at 17:24 | #85

    The google reference was presented to prove that my “obsessionâ€? with ethnic conflict was not crankish or idiosyncratic, as stupidly suggested by Michael. – Jack.

    And didn’t that work a treat!

    Back to the real war……

    Given this is likely to yet again demonstrate the shortcomings of the Security Council, is there any chance of its anticipated failure stimulating reform of the SC? Personally, I can’t see how. Remove the veto and most of the veto-weilders are likely to jump ship. It’s a common enough diplomatic paradox – measures designed to ensure agreement/participation (as the veto was) at the negotiation stage then, by their very nature, become obstacles to agreed action.

  86. Ian Gould
    August 14th, 2008 at 18:22 | #86

    Based on Jasck’s impeccable logic regarding the NT intervention I have concluded that Labor’s ratification of Kyoto has been a great success since in the subsequent six months, the temperature where I live has fallen substantially.

  87. smiths
    August 14th, 2008 at 18:30 | #87

    As noted elsewhere, the plans must have been sitting on the shelf and the troops already mobilised.

    July 15th (Associated press)
    TBILISI, Georgia (AP) — Georgian and U.S. troops started a joint military exercise Tuesday amid growing tensions between the ex-Soviet republic and Russia, a Georgian defense ministry official said.

    Also Tuesday, the Russian Defense Ministry started a military exercise in the nearby North Caucasus region. Ministry spokesman Yuri Ivanov said the drill had “nothing to do� with the Georgian-U.S. maneuvers.

  88. Jack Strocchi
    August 14th, 2008 at 21:24 | #88

    #84 Ian Gould Says: August 14th, 2008 at 4:52 pm

    So a vast program of health checks specifically intended to detect evidence of child sexual abuse resutls in a reduction in the number of reprots of sexual abuse and this is proof that the program is working?

    You are showing off your dazzling incomprehension skills again. Obviously if the incidence of child STDs ex-post intervention is lower than what it was ex-ante then, yes, this is “proof that the program is working”. Unless you are a solipsist, an assumption that it would be rash not to make when dealing with people like Ian Gould.

    The article makes it fairly clear that the intervention reduced the rate of child-rape and therefore the rate of child STDs.

    THE federal intervention in the Northern Territory has led to a decline in new notifications of sexually transmitted infections among children.

    The Northern Territory Government’s latest surveillance update on sexual health and blood-borne viruses revealed that 62 children aged under 14 were diagnosed with sexually transmitted infections in the Territory in the first six months of the intervention. Three of the children diagnosed with chlamydia between July and December last year were under the age of 10.

    The figures also showed that total diagnoses of chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis and trichomoniasis declined in the second half of last year, compared with the first half, following the intervention.

    [emphasis added for the morally obtuse]

    THere is no other plausible explanation for the recently improved health and safety of these children. Unless perhaps you are suggesting it was one of those random strokes of good fortune that just keep happening after Howard’s cultural shake-ups – you know, war on drugs, border control, clampdown on terrorists,

    Howard’s introduction of adult supervision, including more cops on the beat and more docs on the rounds, did the trick. Most of the general populace (60%+) are happy with the outcome, as are aboriginals “on the ground”, especially the women. They have too much at stake to let the po-mo liberals ruin and rort things again.

    THis is good news for kids at risk. Bad news for die-hard opponents of the intervention who, having lost control of their failed social experiment, now have only the curses of their subjects to keep them amused.

  89. Ian Gould
    August 14th, 2008 at 21:49 | #89

    “You are showing off your dazzling incomprehension skills again. Obviously if the incidence of child STDs ex-post intervention is lower than what it was ex-ante then, yes, this is “proof that the program is workingâ€?. Unless you are a solipsist, an assumption that it would be rash not to make when dealing with people like Ian Gould.”

    No Jack it proves that the supposed underground epidemic of undiagnosed sexual abuse which justified spending one billion dollars of public money never existed.

  90. Ian Gould
    August 14th, 2008 at 21:54 | #90

    “The figures also showed that total diagnoses of chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis and trichomoniasis declined in the second half of last year, compared with the first half, following the intervention.”

    For soemone who claism to right abotu science for a living you display a worrying level of ignorance about how it works.

    Ever stop to think that there might be other factors at work?

    Like for example seaonsal variation in the rate of diagnosies linked to the school year or to the wet season?

    What happened in the prior year and the year before that?

    Is the decline a new phenomena or the ocntinuation of a trend which precedes the intervention?

    what’s the latency between infection and detectable symptoms?

    How long do kids remain infected on average?

    If there was a sudden abrupt decline in the rate of sexual offences immediately following intervention how long would that take to reduce the overall incidence of infection?

    Now why don’t you go look up the word “sollipsist” and try to use it correctly in future?

  91. Ian Gould
    August 14th, 2008 at 22:46 | #91

    I will not be wasting my time by respondign to Mr. Strocchi further on this thread.

    He will, of course, interpret this as a sign of victory.

    But then if Mr Strocchi had been the Captain on the Titanic he would have described the maiden voyage as a brilliant success (owing solely to his own unmatched brilliance) marred only by minor operational difficulties blown out of all proportion by theose damned post-modern liberals (who fill the same role in Strocchi’s cosmology as demons did in that of the medieval Chruch).

    Having explained all my points in minute and repeated detail I beleive that any reasonable and impartial reader will have comprehended them.

  92. August 14th, 2008 at 23:41 | #92

    I’m not sure I’ve seen anyone take such pride in their statistical incompetence as Jack.

    I guess he can blame the journalist who wrote the article, but he’ll have to take responsibility for choosing to take it at face value, when anyone with any familiarity with journalists and stats, would know better.

    First, lets just look a the numbers supplied by the Oz – 5 cases in Jan-June, 3 in July-Dec.

    Does this signify anything much at all? Hardly. Maybe a closer look at the data might show that in July-Dec, fewer tests were conducted in that age group. Or that this much variability might be nothing unusual in a condition with low incidence rates.

    But as Ian very sensibly asks “What happened in the prior year…”?

    To even begin to make sense of the numbers, we should at least look at the 2006 figures. And what was the incidence in Jan-June 2006? It was zero.

    Gee, how’s Jack going to massage that figure into his preconceived narrative?

  93. Ian Gould
    August 15th, 2008 at 05:32 | #93

    “Gee, how’s Jack going to massage that figure into his preconceived narrative?”

    He won’t he’ll just repeat his claim more loudly and more shrillly; accuse you of protecting paedophiles and throw in some other choice bits of personal abuse.

  94. Lord Sir Alexander “Dolly” Downer
    August 15th, 2008 at 07:33 | #94

    Give Jack a break, he’s still mourning the election outcome of last year.

    These things take time. He needs some space.

  95. Ian Gould
    August 15th, 2008 at 16:51 | #95

    I think the most reasonable theory I’ve heard so far is that shakaashvili conlcuded that whoever succeeded Bush as President of the US would be far less sympathetic to Georgia than Bush (who likes to claim the democratic (?) revolution there as one of his few foreign affairs successes).

    At the same time, Russia’s military position was continuing to get stronger as it pumps its oil price windfall into arms spending.

    So rather than some calculated act of aggression this was a last desparate attempt to expel Russia from Georgian territory.

  96. August 16th, 2008 at 09:39 | #96

    I’m just as worried for Poland, if they decide to allow the US to put the missle shield there who knows what Russia will do?

  97. Hal9000
    August 18th, 2008 at 11:48 | #97

    shane@96: The military significance of missile shields old and new is not to protect against an enemy strike, but to politically enable a first strike by mitigating the perceived risks of a devastating response. If I were a Russian military planner, I’d be very worried about Poland hosting any such US weapons system, the aims of which would be immediately apparent. If I were a Pole I’d be worried too.

    Meanwhile I see the Ukrainians are flexing their muscles over the Russian naval base on their territory at Sebastopol. Here as in Georgia the boundaries of the former Soviet Socialist Republics became the new international boundaries and here as in Georgia these boundaries favoured the seceding states. You might remember that the Russians and the Great Western Powers fought a war there in the 1840s over the status of the Crimea, which was nominally an independent Tartar monarchy under the ‘protection’ of the Ottomans. The Crimea was never part of historical Ukraine, but now because of Stalin’s loathing of small ethnic minorities and love of administrative convenience, it is Ukrainian. I’m sure we’ll be hearing more of Sebastopol, and that the US will claim the high moral ground on the issue notwithstanding its even more dubious tenure at Guantanamo.

  98. smiths
    August 18th, 2008 at 12:04 | #98

    i dont think that is possible ian,

    the same guy that advises mcCain on foreign policy, randy scheunamann, was/is an advisor to the georgian governemt on its foreign policy

    so i think the georgians would feel pretty safe with mcCain

    and Zbigniew Brzezinski is advising obama, and hates the russians and will do whatever he can to continue the encirclement

  99. August 18th, 2008 at 19:18 | #99

    Back to the main point (sorry for that).
    The reaction from the West, particularly from the US and Germany makes it more likely (IMHO) that Saakashvili’s plan (if that it what it was) is working. Merkel’s position on NATO membership for Georgia is becoming clearer – and in Georgia’s favour.

  100. Lord Sir Alexander “Dolly” Downer
    August 19th, 2008 at 10:49 | #100

    Great plan Mickeil, a touch of genius my boy!

    The nong Saakashvili will be impeached within 18 months – you mark my words.

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