Thursday, August 14, 2008

Well, it sounds like the Russians aren't exactly backing down. On Wednesday President Bush made statements demanding that "the sovereign and territorial integrity of Georgia be respected," but today the Russians fired back with defiant statements, declaring that they are dedicated to supporting the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetian in their quest for independence. So it sounds to me like the Russians might be camped out in South Ossetia for awhile, despite demands for their withdrawal.
This whole thing is so confusing that it's honestly hard to tell who's in the right.
I have some sympathy for the Russians in wanting to lend protection to these separatists, whom the Russians seem to sort of relate to as some sort of subset of the Russian people. There's part of me that thinks that people ought to be just cut free and allowed to follow their own destiny if the people of that region have, as a whole, expressed a desire for independence.
On the other hand, the Russians weren't nearly as quick to support liberty and the desire for independence when Chechnya tried to break away from Russia as a separatist state back in 1999 (i.e., this turned into the Second Chechen War, as Russian troops successfully fought to suppress the Chechen separatist movement and put a stop to the Chechen drive for independence). This move to sternly suppress the separatist movement in Chechnya (without much apparent concern for the will of the people living within Chechnya) sort of lends itself to a serious questioning of the Russians' motives in their dealings with the separatists in Georgia. It seems a bit hypocritical for the Russians to profess so much concern at this point for the independence seeking people of South Ossetia when Russia recently demonstrated how little concern it had for the wishes of the independence-seeking people of Chechnya. It also seems a little crazy that the Russians are taking such a strong stand in demanding that Georgia give up these separatist regions when Russia was so resolutely unwilling to give up any territory of its own while dealing with Chechnya.
So I think that in actuality the whole thing is really just a border/territory dispute and a sort of power grab by the Russians. But who knows? They seem to really feel some sort of affinity for those South Ossetians. But I'm very skeptical.

What else? Well, in terms of the Olympics, at the moment the U.S. is only one medal behind China in the medal count, but China has about 22 gold medals to our 10. I guess it's pretty hard to compete with a country that has state-funded training programs for athletes who single-mindedly train to achieve national sports glory from the time that they're like 3 or 4 years old (I even heard someone on a radio talk show last night saying that the Chinese engage in state-planned marriage and breeding programs to produce better athletes, but this radio guy sounded like he a touch of the conspiracy nut about him. Still, having seen photos of China's monstrous, government-run athletic training facilities, the idea of China breeding people to be athletes doesn't seem absolutely impossible).
Anyway, our country may not have government-sponsored Olympian farms, but we have small armies of half crazy athlete parents who can get pretty fanatical in their own right (I remember this little girl who lived behind us in Houston when I was a kid who trained at Bela Karolyi's gym. She woould miss school to go to meets all the time, trained all day and all night, 7 days a week, and she was never allowed to eat a cheeseburger. She was in about second grade). There's a certain tendency to want to get caught up in the madness of competition, but at some point we've just got to let it go and do the best with the system we've got. I just don't think we should try to compete with a government athletics system like China has. It creates athletes who are sort of warped as people, and a nation which somehow equates winning medals with domination and national self-esteem.
It's fun to see American athletes do well at the games, of course, but we need to keep the whole thing in perspective, and the images of the endless scores of fungible Chinese athletes whiling away countless practice hours in their state-sponsored practice facilities (engaged in what's probably state-mandated practice) sort of makes me realize exactly what it means to have too much of a good thing. When the desire to win kills the joy of competition, one can't help but begin to ask, "Why compete in the first place?"
Anyhoo, I'm still rooting for our athletes, but now, more than ever, I'm rooting for them to enjoy their moment in the spotlight, to cherish their Beijing experiences, to set a world class example in terms of sportsmanship and grace, and most of all, to have some fun.
U-S-A!!!!!!!!!!!!

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

According to en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Chechen_War, "the First Chechen War ... resulted in Chechnya's de facto independence from Russia". So, separatists got what they wanted. But then they wanted more and attacked Dagestan. As I see, it stopped to be a separatist movement.

Anonymous said...

Besides, don't forget that in 1999 the russian president was Eltsin - definitely not the best/smartest/diplomatic person.

Steanso said...

Well, first of all, Chechnya as a country didn't really attack Dagestan. It was the IIPB (which was essentially an Islamic paramilitary group that had some Chechens in it, but also had Turks, Arabs, and other foreign fighters, including some from Dagestan itself). Second of all, the Russians didn't just defend Dagestan, they went ahead and used the problems in Dagestan as an excuse to put an end to Chechnya's independence- an independence that they never really accepted after the First Chechen War. It wasn't enough for the Russians to just go after the IIPB- they had to go after all of Chechnya b/c in actuality, putting an end to Chechen independence was their goal the entire time.

To say that the Russians weren't trying to put an end to the Chechen separatist movement seems pretty ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

Do you think that it would be better just to repulse the attack and wait for another one to happen? It was a real threat right at russian borders, and it would not dissolve by itself. And, as I see it, government of Chechnya was not able to eliminate this threat. And probably would not be able to do so in the future.

Let me say that America attacked independent state of Iraq on much weaker basis.

Anonymous said...

Or, may be, no serious basis at all.

Anonymous said...

I have reread my post and decided to add a few words to be more clear. If government of independent Chechnya is not able to maintain order in it's country (in order to stop being a home for IIPB, to prevent kidnapping, etc; en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chechnya) and exists on russian money only which it actually steals (Russia continued to send money for the rehabilitation of the republic; it also provided pensions and funds for schools and hospitals. Most of these transfers were stolen by Chechen authorities and divided between favoured warlords. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chechnya), then is it really ready (or even deserve) to be fully independent?

Anonymous said...

I don't think so.

Steanso said...

Well, I agree with you that the American invasion of Iraq had very little justification. I was against that war from the beginning and it has been my opinion throughout the Iraq war that it was a bad idea and that it amounted to a war of aggression (we had no evidence of weapons of mass destruction, and even if Iraq had possessed WMDs, I'm not sure we would have been justified in our invasion unless we had solid evidence that they were planning to attack the U.S.). I participated in protest marches opposing America's invasion of Iraq because I wanted to send a message to George Bush's cabinet and the American leadership that I thought the Iraq invasion was immoral and a very bad idea.

Look, we can argue all day long about whether Russia was legitimately just trying to defend the people of South Ossetia, or whether Russia has had a deeper, darker purpose in this. Russia isn't stupid, and they've got their arguments lined up for what they're doing, but I guess the basic question is whether we really believe that their only purpose in invading Georgia was to help the separatists. I no longer believe that was the main purpose in the Russian invasion. If that was the main purpose, the Russians would have entered South Ossetia, demanded an international peacekeeping force to ensure the safety of the South Ossetians, and then left when a UN or other international force was in place. Instead, the Russians are still digging in and roaming around Georgia after the cease-fire has been put into place.
The bottom line is that Russia isn't justified in using its military except as a means of defense (and I believe that the U.S. should be held to the same standard). But the Russians seem to have abandoned their defense objective when the Russian military left South Ossetia to wander around Georgia in their tanks, and every day that the Russians remain in Georgia, digging in and reinforcing their positions, it seem less and less believable that Russia is truly interested in only defending itself and its people.

I do not mean to sound judgmental or as though I think the U.S. is better than Russia. I just think that the people of BOTH countries need to demand that their leaders do the right thing and make the preservation of peace one of their top priorities. You Russian folks are welcome to come visit America any time as far as I'm concerned. You can come over to my house and we'll have dinner and drink some beer! But we need to demand more from our leaders in terms of making the world a safer, better place to live.

Anonymous said...

the Russians would have entered South Ossetia, demanded an international peacekeeping force to ensure the safety of the South Ossetians, and then left when a UN or other international force was in place. Instead, the Russians are still digging in and roaming around Georgia after the cease-fire has been put into place.
But a UN or other international force is not in place yet, right? So, it's too early to leave.

Thank you for your invitation :) I did not mean to make this dispute personal, it's just an exchange of opinions. And you know, after playing Hearts of Iron 2 Doomsday computer game I started to think that many leaders behave themselves as if they play some sort of computer game like HoI2D :)

Steanso said...

I've never played Hearts of Iron, but now I will be tempted to go look for it at the store.
And, yes, any time you have a chance to come to Texas, my invitation remains open! We Texans love to argue, but we love to eat and drink even more!