Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Georgia vs. Russia

It's a bizarre bit of synchronicity that the Russia and Georgia conflict should happen right in the middle of my series about world mythology, because the region of the current conflict - South Ossetia - is one of the most mythically significant bits of real estate in the world.

First, South Ossetia is right at the mouth of the Black Sea and is generally considered to be the site of the end of Jason's quest for the Golden Fleece. Also, the Ossetians are descended from the Alanii, cavalry barbarians that were frequently employed by the Roman Empire. The Alanii loved to make use of tactics like defeating horses with huge dogs not unlike modern great danes. But more significantly, an Alanii cavalry force was dispatched to Britain led by a fellow named Artorius, who may or may not have been the inspiration for King Arthur. I should go into my theories about the origin of Arthurian legend in the future, but it would suffice here to say I'm not as convinced of the Artorius origin as Hollywood is.

The conflict is shaping up to be a bloody mess. First, it has to be remembered there are THREE actors here: Russia (obviously), Georgia, and the Ossetians. The Ossetians are an independent tribe with a long history that want independence from Georgia, and they've cozied up to Russia, who have never liked the Georgians ever since they rerouted an oil pipeline to the West to compete with the Russians. Also, Russian politicians love to scapegoat Georgians and Georgian immigrants the same way American politicians love to pander to Mexiphobic sentiment. Georgia on the other hand, won't stand for a loss of its territory, and politically giving the finger to the Russians plays well with the voters.

In essence, both sides in the war have decided to be assholes, and it looks like this is shaping up to go the distance. Like the Lebanon conflict, this is a war where everyone sees the advantage in continuing, and it would be political suicide at the polls for Russian and Georgian politicians if they back down. The big fear here is, naturally, genocide: if the Ossetians are creating a problem, a solution, for the Georgian side, is just to wipe them out. In fact, the recent U.N. Security Council meeting used the most hilarious euphemism yet for genocide when they expressed "concern for future demographic shifts in the region."

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