By who-started-it standards, I think the Russians are basically in the right and our/Europe’s friends the Georgians basically wrong in the current fighting (though I hope it ends soon regardless), but given the size and brutality of the Russian attack, the following Telegraph paragraph from a few days ago, when this round started, can’t help but sound Orwellian:
Russian peacekeepers have suffered 12 dead and 150 wounded, the peacekeeping forces were quoted as saying by Russian news agencies, while over 1300 civilians are reported to have been killed.
“Now our peacekeepers are waging a fierce battle with regular forces from the Georgian army in the southern region of Tskhinvali,” a representative of the Russian force was quoted as saying by Interfax.
But then, the older I get, the less I think it matters who started it in these situations and the more it matters that both sides work to resolve things civilly — something to keep in mind, perhaps (neutral though I shall scrupulously remain as host), during our Debate at Lolita Bar tomorrow night (Wed., Aug. 13, 8pm) about the Israeli/Palestinian situation — a debate that will now feature filmmaker Muhammed Rum vs. former Hudson Institute, Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, and John Faso staffer Hannah Meyers (Pamela Geller having had to drop out).
At the risk of sounding all Pat Buchanan/Ron Paul (when at least one valve of my heart is closer to William Kristol, or at least Ronald Reagan), we may not recall having assured Russia two decades ago that NATO would not expand eastward to include breakaway former Soviet republics, but Russia certainly does — and if we respect secession enough (as I certainly do) to applaud nations for fleeing the Russian orbit, we can hardly condemn Ossetians for wanting to break away from Georgia and (in all likelihood) drift back toward Russia, even if Georgia is our pro-Western, pro-NATO, pro-EU pal.
If all this ends up playing out like World War I, you’ll all be wishing you’d voted for Ron Paul.