One of the challenges in the Russo-Georgian War is that is has characters we’re inclined to lionize and characters we’re inclined to villify. Hence, we have sweet innocent Georgia being bullied by big mean aggressive Russia, and this is the accepted wisdom in the American corps of flappy heads on TV news. The reality, of course, is substantially more complex, with neither country being properly villain or victim.
The Economist is running a series of people offering their analyses of what went wrong, and how we should be framing this conflict. I was a bit surprised to see David Axe appear in this debate, not because he said anything I find disagreeable, but rather because he just isn’t who I’d expect such a snooty publication to highlight. It turned out to be a great pick, however:
It is wrong to read the South Ossetia conflict as Russian aggression, and it is equally wrong to conceive of the West’s reactions—and planned reactions—as containment. We have been reading South Ossetia all wrong since the beginning, and the consequences are enormous and potentially tragic.
The bottom line: Russia’s incursion into South Ossetia was justified, both in the particulars of Russia’s relationship to Georgia, and in light of Russia’s evolving, but troubled, relationship with Europe and the United States.
His essay is worth reading in full. Axe’s work in examining the propaganda behind the war has aligned nicely with my own, and this is probably why we’re both more willing to challenge the traditionalist view of Imperial Soviet Russia versus brave and defenseless democratic Georgia.
Of course, this makes him (and, given the similarities of our analyses, me) nothing more than a Russian Dupe, according to some 2-bit Pajamas Media blogger. Axe contextualizes it as “a disagreement over Russia,” and in that he’s largely right. But what a weird agreement!
It is important to realize that the Right, still slowly realizing that our current war is not simple, easy, or quick, is longing for the simple old days of an easily identifiable enemy in the form of the Soviet Union. That’s why there was such eagerness to declare the new cold war, even as Robert Kagan announces his fondness for ignorance in favor of ideology.
Alas, such a simple framework won’t cut it anymore. Too bad a big chunk of the punditocracy still thinks it does.