A Bitter War, with No Heroes

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by Joshua Foust on 8/7/2011 · 26 comments

Today marks the third anniversary of the Russo-Georgian War. Georgia has a famously fraught relationship with its two separatist regions, Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Since before its independence from the Soviet Union, Georgia had fought with the two, even sending a militia into Sukhumi, the capital of Abkhazia, in 1989, which was later put down by Soviet troops.

Because those two provinces have reached out to Russia for help, there is a tendency in American politics to side with the Georgians because… well, Russia is kind of bad, you see, and Mikhail Saakashvili won a revolution against that nasty old Soviet holdover Eduard Shevardnadze, and he speaks English and likes democracy and stuff. Missing from the American narrative about Georgia’s territorial integrity is any acknowledgment that before Stalin Abkhazia actually was its own country, with its own culture, language, government, and traditions, or that South Ossetia also had its own language and distinct culture before 1921. Indeed, the same arguments American politicians use to justify the independence of Kosovo from Serbia should justify the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia (that is, if you believe in the right of self-determination from a distant and hostile government), but for some reason it doesn’t.

In the meantime, under Saakashvili, the government of Georgia has adopted an expensive, high-profile information operations campaign against the U.S. public and the U.S. government. They have found a receptive audience in the American Right, where Senators go on junkets to Tblisi and declare Russia the new villain America must face down.

Since most Americans over the age of 30 were raised to more or less mistrust Russia, it can be easy to fall into the old trope of hating Russia and assuming anyone who resists them is automatically good. And the Russian-Georgian rivalry certainly lends itself to that mindset: at a superficial level, Russia invaded Georgia, killed a bunch of people and destroyed a bunch of buildings, then occupied Georgian territory. That this narrative of the war is simply wrong—Georgia’s claims that Russia started it are wrong, and have been investigated by independent commissions which have concluded that Georgia actually started a war it could not possibly finish because it felt America would side with it and attack Russia—hasn’t materially affected the fever-pitch of pro-Georgia anti-Russia screaming that’s taking place in Washington these days. Russia behaved unjustifiably when it entered Georgia proper and occupied cities. There is no excuse for it. But there is no excuse for Georgia’s indiscriminate shelling of Tskhinvali, either, especially because that shelling killed several Russian troops participating in a UN Peacekeeping operation.

Alas, the two sides remain at each others’ throats. Ultimately, America took Georgia’s side in its war with Russia, yet Americans act surprised when Russia treats American interests in Georgia as suspect and targets of harassment. Go figure.

So it was with great interest that I sat down with a copy of “5 Days of War,” an action movie directed by Die Hard 2’s Renny Harlin. It is about the 2008 war in Georgia, and stars Andy Garcia as President Saakashvili. Is it important that the film was co-produced by a member of the Georgian parliament, while the Georgian military provided the hardware? Actually yes.

This is a film that makes no pretense at neutrality, balance, or fairness. All of the Georgians are clean cut professional soldiers. All of the Russians are grizzly blood thirsty sociopaths who delight in butchering innocents. The opening scene, where journalists being attacked by two dozen Iraqi innocents are rescued by flawless Georgian marksmen-soldiers, sets the appropriate tone: Georgians are heroes of freedom, democracy, and truthful journalism.

Of course, when watching this we should probably ignore the Georgian government’s relentless harassment and imprisonment of the journalists who criticize Saakashvili’s government. And the news segment that presents Georgia’s plea for joining NATO (its few dozen soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan), and Russia’s evil quest to rebuild the Soviet Union. Balance, this is not.

Of course, one could try to divorce a message movie from its message. But when the thrilling combat scenes are ignored, the story just isn’t there. The movie’s timeline of the start of the war is at direct odds with the OSCE and EU accounts of how the war began: Georgia is interested in diplomacy, in this movie and those horrible Russians are hiding behind civilians to launch attacks on innocent Georgian villages (the reality of South Ossetia, sadly, far more complex). There’s no mention of the Russian peacekeepers Georgia killed in South Ossetia before the official start of hostilities, which was an important milestone in Russia’s decision to move into the province.

There is some interesting rumination on how war journalists are both obsessed with and bored with war, but that’s not really a new thing, either. For example, the movie makes a big deal of how the media ignored the war, but that’s simply not true: the first day of the war was overshadowed by the start of the Olympics, but the war in Georgia dominated global news for most of August. The acting is decent—Val Kilmer’s nuanced cameraman is actually a pleasant surprise—but the story’s gross imbalance with the war distracts too much from what would have been the outlines of an engaging movie.

“5 Days of War” does have a great many things going for it: the Georgian countryside is famously beautiful, and Renny Harlin lingers over it like a long lost lover. Tblisi comes off as a cosmopolitan city composed of brilliant architecture. And the action scenes are really well done—perhaps a bit cartoonish, but that’s certainly not a bad thing in an action movie. It’s left as a subtext, but Andy Garcia’s Saakashvili has a slavic-esque drawl when he talks; yet his advisers all speak in flawless American English. It could simple be a trope of Hollywood. But it could also be a subtext: Saakashvili’s government employs scores of Americans, as advisers, trainers, and workers in its ministries (Saakashvili himself went to Columbia University and maintains a vast social network among New York City elites). It’s not clear if this is intentional or not.

So, if you can ignore the politics, and ignore that this is essentially Georgian propaganda, “5 Days of War” is an engaging take on the war, especially on the war’s third anniversary. But it not an accurate portrayal of what happened, nor is it an especially honest analysis of the issues that led up to it. Kept strictly as entertainment, it’s great. Just… ignore what it wants to say.

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This post was written by...

– author of 1848 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from Registan.net. His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

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CE August 7, 2011 at 7:58 pm

Wow…Kilmer has really let himself go.

(I recommend Medvedev’s recent interview with RT for some decent insight on the conflict.)


anan August 7, 2011 at 11:51 pm

Nicely written.

America should have been neutral or tilted towards Russia.

To clarify, Georgia had a combat maneuver brigade in Wasit province Iraq when the war broke out and were caught completely by surprise by the Russian incursion. The Georgian performance in Iraq wasn’t terrible. They were given arguably the worst brigade in the Iraqi Army [the old 1-10 IA, created and mentored by the British in Basrah] to fix up. 27-8 IA brigade from Wasit [which the Georgians had been working with] was sent to Basrah in its place. This happened to be one of the best in the IA, although arguably mostly not because of the Georgians.

Georgia has 2 combat maneuver battalions (minus) equivalents in Afghanistan; 1 bn work with 2-215 ANA bde near Delaram. Another company or two works with 2-215 ANA and the Marines near Sangin.

In both Afghanistan and Iraq [but especially in Iraq], Georgia’s contributions have been significant.

This said, Mikhail Saakashvili manipulated Europe, America and the international community and was took excessive risks with Russia. Russia matters with most global challenges, including Takfiri extremism in Pakistan/Afghanistan. Supporting Goergia against Russia is irrational.

Pol-Mil FSO August 8, 2011 at 12:31 am

Leaving aside the issue of whether it was a good idea to recruit Georgian units to serve in Afghanistan, they are playing a significant role there. As a previous poster noted, two maneuver battalions (minus) is a significant addition to the combat power of RC-SW; the Georgian battalions are basically operating under Marine Corps control and direction. Among the non-U.S. foreign forces in Afghanistan, probably only the British, French, and Danes have general purpose forces engaged in an equivalent level of combat operations.

anan August 8, 2011 at 1:15 am

There are many other countries with comparable commitments to Afghanistan. Polish combat brigade in Don Anderson’s neck of the woods that I hear negative things about. The Greeks have a tank battalion that works with the French, Turks, 3-111 heavy ANA and ANATC. The Turks have a 2 K commitment on paper, but it is officer, NCO, combat enabler, advisor, trainer, heavy. The Italians, Germans, Spanish, Romanians, Czechs, Bulgarians, Aussies, Jordanians and others also have large commitments. Even the Dutch are redeploying to Kunduz, which isn’t a completely safe AO. The 950 officer/NCO heavy Canadians deploying to NTM-A are more valuable than their numbers imply due to their quality. The UAE is making a major contribution to ANA Commandos.

There are paper contributions and actual affects, with huge quality variations between different ISAF OMLTs and POMLTs.

“The Georgian governments actions in South Ossetia, while military, certainly do not meet the criteria of ethnic cleansing or genocide.” True. For that matter most of your comments are accurate and also besides the point. Russia is a great global power. Georgia is a tiny country dependent on multiple foreign powers for national survival. Mikhail Saakashvili should have tried harder to reach an accommodation with Russia.

Even before the war with Russia, I remember seeing Mikhail Saakashvili shooting his mouth off criticizing Russia. There is no excuse for that kind of stupidity.

While the shelling of Tskhinvali might not have been “indiscriminate,” it was foolish, partly because that shelling killed several Russian troops. Why didn’t Mikhail Saakashvili appear on Russian TV crying in pain next to the families of the fallen Russian troops?

Dishonesty? August 13, 2011 at 6:09 pm

The Marines and sailors of 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion,
assisted by the Republic of Georgia’s 33rd Light Infantry Battalion, leveled the Ladar Bazaar recently
Second CEB decided to launch 35 line charges strategically throughout the bazaar, each comprising of 1,750 pounds of C4 along a 350 – foot rope while planning for the operation. A rocket fired from an assault breaching vehicle, a modified M1A1 Abrams Main Battle Tank, primarily used for clearing obstacles for following tactical vehicles and dismounted infantry units, extends the charges 100 meters in front of the vehicles before the Marines detonate the charges….
The insurgency had its roots dug deeply within the Ladar Bazaar, but the Marines of 2nd CEB effectively displaced their foothold in the area. The former IED-laden bazaar now lies in ruin, a shattered message to the insurgency that the people of Afghanistan will no longer be ruled by fear. Among the rubble lies a beacon of hope and the opportunity to bring families, trade, and economical growth to the region.


Good job Georgians!!!

Jeffrey August 8, 2011 at 12:38 am

As a participant monitoring events on the ground for an the international organization tasked with that thankless mission, I witnessed first hand the brutality that occurred to civilians on both sides of the conflict. As in all wars, both sides were responsible for terrible violence against civilians as well as peacekeeping forces.

However Mr. Foust commits a grave error in the conflicts in Georgia with Kosovo. The fact that these conflicts involve secessionist movements in regions with autonomous political status within nations is where the similarity ends. The US government does not qualify support simply because a secessionist movement declares its right to self determination. Rather the US government supports the territorial integrity of states that is only forfeit in case a state’s systematic brutality against its own citizens, as in the case of Kosovo, results in the state losing legitimacy to rule, with nearly 800,000 Kosovar Albanians fleeing a systematic attempt to drive them from the province. The US put its weight behind the victims of systematic aggression by the state against its own people. The Georgian governments actions in South Ossetia, while military, certainly do not meet the criteria of ethnic cleansing or genocide.

In the case of South Ossetia, August 2008, 30,000 Georgians were expelled from the province. Their homes were first systematically looted, bulldozed, leveled and their villages renamed. These people are now Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) living in purpose built settlements close to the conflict zone.

In both Kosovo and South Ossetia, the Russian government has supported ethnic minority groups expelling another group, ethnically cleansing them from their own ancestral homelands in pursuit of ethnically cleansed “democracies”. I can’t counter-factually argue that the Georgian military, if they had succeeded in capturing Tskhinvali, would have avoided the looting, killing and ethnic cleansing that the Russian backed Ossetian irregulars did. We just don’t know. But what is clear is that the Georgian government has a internationally recognized legal right to a monopoly on the use of force on the territory of the state. Restoring constitutional order in South Ossetia is fully within Tbilisi’s government mandate. And Furthermore there are plenty of regional precedents nearby, with Russia’s restoration of Moscow’s authority in Chechnya being one of the clearest, with an estimated 100,000 civilians (10% of the population) killed in that conflict. Surely against that background, Russian accusations of genocide against Georgia ring hollow. According to official sources, less than 150 Ossetian civilians were killed in the battle for Tskhinvali. Even one civilian death is a tragedy of course but it certainly does not meet the definition of wholesale slaughter or expelling of the Ossetian population.

While we can say that national self-determination conflicts all share characteristics, we have to delve into the details to understand the nuances of the conflicts. Otherwise, as here, we may miss key parts of the story.

Joshua Foust August 8, 2011 at 7:59 am

But Jeffrey, your own standard shows how little of a standard this is: Russia’s behavior in Chechnya should mean, going by the Kosovo precedent, that it lost the legitimacy to rule there. Similarly, the behavior of the Kosovars since 1999 — including the mass graves filled with Serbians, religious desecration of churches, and well over a hundred thousand deported (NATO just had to re-up its KFOR deployments) should say, by your standard, that Kosovo, too, has lost its legitimacy. Let us not forget that the majority of IDPs left over from our war for Kosovo’s independence are not Albanian but innocent Serbian civilians.

The challenge with saying atrocities delegitimize a regime such that the international community then has the right to topple it is that such a standard can never be employed consistently in global politics. The decision to intervene is always made based on an assessment of ease, not of moral, political, or philosophical principles. That’s why we’re involved in Libya but not Syria.

I never once argued or suggested that Georgia engaged in wholesale slaughter or expulsion of Ossetia. That was Russia’s line, not mine. But Georgia did engage in indiscriminate shelling of populated areas to include Tskhinvali, and over 5 days killing 150 civilians in such a small area is actually quite a lot of killing.

To repeat: I do not and have not ever supported or defended Russia’s decision to occupy Gori or Poti. The moment they moved their troops into Georgia-proper is the moment they lost their legitimacy in the conflict (and they then compounded it by behaving toward the Georgians almost as brutally as the Georgians behaved toward the Ossetians).

My only point in pushing against Georgian propaganda over the war is precisely because it is propaganda—it is inherently misleading by portraying Georgia has a hapless victim instead of a co-equal party to a brutal conflict. Georgia got a big head and misjudged American military support, and then started a war against a neighbor it had no chance of ever defeating. Despite Russia’s abhorrent behavior, Georgia should still be condemned for it!

Think of it this way. If you’re a nerd in school and you keep taunting the bully, and then finally slap him in the face, and then that bully responds by beating you up, then yes the bully is wrong to have hit you, but you are also wrong for being stupid and picking on a bully you know will hit you back. Georgia is the nerd.

Maja August 8, 2011 at 6:56 pm

According to Human Rights Watch in August there were killed from 300 to 400 in South Ossetia. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/7692751.stm Let’s say 150. What the reaction would have been, if these had been 150 Americans?

Maja August 8, 2011 at 6:59 pm

By the way – 300-400. “That would represent more than 1% of the population of Tskhinvali – the equivalent of 70,000 deaths in London.” from BBC.

Osman August 9, 2011 at 5:44 pm

I thought only Zionists were the ones who put deaths into those kind of ratio’s.

Randy McDonald August 10, 2011 at 5:27 am

I’m sorry, what?

Araki August 10, 2011 at 11:36 am

This 300-400 that Human Rights Watch at first reported turned out to be incorrect. And as most of the civilian population was evacuated from Tskhinvali in the days before the war, it was rather difficult to distinguish civilians from fighters (i.e. many of these “civilians” were in camoflage clothing and held kalashnikovs).

This was written recently by Andrei Nekrasov, the Russian documentary filmmaker who made the film “Russian Lessons” about the August war (http://grani.ru/blogs/free/entries/190537.html):

“Even Human Rights Watch at first exaggerated the number of those killed (at more than 400). The Russian Military Prosecutor counted less than 170, while honestly admitting that it was not able to distinguish peaceful civilians from armed militants.

“In several months of working on the film my co-author Olga Konskaya and I were able to get concrete information about only one victim of the female sex (although, of course, this does not guarantee that there were no more).

“But on the Georgian side there was a great deal of concrete information. We heard and recorded testimony about the murder of peaceful residents, with names and addresses. The majority of these materials did not make it into the film because of space concerns, but what did go in speaks about the multitude of murders of Georgian civillians and, of course, about the ethnic cleansing and looting of the Georgian villages of South Ossetia that were almost completely destroyed.”

Randy McDonald August 11, 2011 at 1:07 pm

I was reacting to the Zionist quip by Osman. What’s up with that?

Araki August 10, 2011 at 9:12 am

A necessary corrective from Cyxymu: 8 Myths of the Russia-Georgia War of 08.08.08 http://cyxymu.livejournal.com/1001111.html

N.K. Kekelidze August 12, 2011 at 1:28 pm

Thank you for the link, Araki. The Captain Sidristy text is interesting.
I fear it is hopeless, though. Americans live in a world with no monsters. Even the faults of others they attribute to themselves. Such a world! Such a people! How can you not love them? — Nina

N.K. Kekelidze August 11, 2011 at 1:05 pm

Mr. Joshua,

For the movie review you get a B.

For the rest, you are reprimanded to a term of education. May I suggest you begin by learning a foreign language? (Spanish doesn’t count.) If you want to be credible on the Caucasus, you’ll need more than one. Above all, read history, lots of it. Many things here are complicated. History is also the best protection against myopia. If you take my advice, I think you’ll quickly find that events cannot be reduced to ‘America bad’, ‘Bush really really bad’, and ‘Russia good’.

When you have finished your preparations, go get a passport, which you’ll need to leave the U.S., and then purchase a backpack and a pair of boots, and come visit us. If you really want to say important things about exotic places, and be regarded as credible, and not perhaps cause further suffering, hanging out in the capital and going to cocktail parties isn’t enough. You’ll have to get your shiny new boots a little dirty. Plan on 12 months, minimum; more, if you’re interested in the international situation.

If you can’t do all of this, at least learn how to pronounce a few of the more important names. Please!?

Hugs and Kisses,
Your adoring fan, Ms. Nina

Joshua Foust August 11, 2011 at 1:09 pm

Miss Nina.

Aww, that’s adorable! But what on earth makes you think I speak Spanish? Why don’t you drop the affect and do your own reading before trying to contribute, yes?

Stiletto Kisses,
Mr. Joshua

Randy McDonald August 11, 2011 at 1:17 pm

Nina, you don’t necessarily need particular expertise in an area to demonstrate the falsity or not of claims made. Did one side in a dispute make specific claims which are provably true, or not?

In this particular case, Georgia did take a much more aggressive stance than is claimed in works of pro-Georgian propaganda like the above, with the film additionally introducing a non-trivial amount of bias (Georgians the clean noble ones, Russians neither).

N.K. Kekelidze August 11, 2011 at 4:48 pm

My dearest Mr. Joshua,

Perhaps you’ve mistaken me. I only wish for you to grow, to expand your horizons, to learn. This is a good thing that I wish: you’d benefit, those about whom you write would benefit, and those for whom you write would benefit. The world is complicated. And one cannot even begin to understand it without some basic tools.

First, though, to clarify. I doubt you know Spanish. I added the caveat because it’s an easy language, and I know Americans, and I didn’t want you shirking the difficult languages you really need.

Now then, tell me. You claim to be an expert. Your balliwick is Afghanistan, but you’re also qualifed to address the entirety of Asia. If we were thinking of hiring you, we’d investigate your qualifications.

And we’d find that your expertise is founded on three months teaching English in among Kazakhs, followed by a BA in international affairs at a second-rate American university, and then a career doing ACT prep for American high-school students.

It’s then 2006, and lo, you’re now qualified to pronounce on matters of grand strategy in Central Asia. Since then, you’ve worked for U.S. government contractors making a killing from the killing in Afghanistan, a little cog in their very big wheels.

Isn’t war grand!

I see nothing here to justify a claim of expertise, and little to suggest that you’re even capable of independent analysis in Afghanistan, let alone Central Asia or the Caucasus. I doubt you could even get into a good doctoral program in Europe or the United States — not without additional training.

But am I wrong?

You’ve no languages and no education beyond your undergraduate degree?

You’ve spent no time in your younger years, getting boots dirty — slumming around Central Asia, talking to folks in their own languages, and getting a feel for life?

You’ve no first-hand acquaintence with the history of the region, as you can’t read texts and documents in the original? You can’t even read the secondary literature, unless it’s in English? (Most of it is not.)

Perhaps you were once a spy, or maybe you were in the military, or perhaps you grew up as an expat. If so, I’d qualify my remarks.

As an aside, let me state that I loathe stilettos. They make my calves cramp. I’ll wear them, but only at the disco, and then only because they are useful for beating the heads of drunken Georgian men who refuse to behave themselves.

And so, Mr. Joshua, as always, I remain your eternally devoted Kartveli servant, and wish for you many kisses on your manly cheeks.

Your gentle Ms. Nina

Joshua Foust August 11, 2011 at 5:02 pm

Oh Gentle Ms. Nina,

Still, rather than engaging with my words, you make arbitrary judgments on my background and assume I pasted my entire CV into my blog’s about page.

If this is all you can respond with, I pity you. Rather than attacking me and my obviously low qualifications (nice dig at the doctoral program, by the way) try attacking my ideas — you’ll get a much warmer response than with this pedantic bullshit.

Mr. Joshua

N.K. Kekelidze August 12, 2011 at 12:46 pm

My dear, sweet Mr. Joshua,

I dreamed last night that you’d sent me roses. But no. It was only a dream. You’ve decided to be unkind to me instead. I know you only abuse me because you love me, and just don’t know how to express your still confused feelings. I forgive you.

You have admitted that your answers to my three questions are no, no, and no.

Or so it seems. It’s difficult to tell, as you’re being defensive.

Look, my dear, I’m trying to help you. Think of this as one of your interventions. This is the first step on the path to wholeness — to recognize that you’ve got a problem.

In that you’ll not tell me about yourself, please allow me to tell you about yourself.

Do correct any points where I’m mistaken. Keep in mind, I haven’t worked much with Americans. And remember, it’s your fault if I’m wrong: You’re not confessing your sins to me, so I’ve got little data.

Here it goes:

You are white, male, from a family that is middle class, perhaps upper middle class.
You grew up in a suburb.
In school, you were not unpopular, but inclined to be a ‘nerd’, with no interest in sports, and a preference for video games.
Your struggles with self-image and weight probably began shortly after the onset of puberty.
After a slow start following graduation, eventually you attended university. Grades were acceptable, but not stellar. B or B-.
You have never worked manual labor.
Since graduation, you’ve been employed in a series of office jobs, eventually one that involved reading and writing for a defenses contractor, which proved to be something you enjoy.
That was approximately five years ago.
No significant time overseas.
No fluency in any foreign language.
Currently aged 35.
Annual income $42,000.
Single, or possible gay — in either case, no permanent relations of significance.
Consumer of generic porn, no fetishes
Embarrassed about your weight.
The preference to wear a beard may be an affirmation of masculinity (because uncomfortable with attraction to men) or an attempt to make yourself look thinner and older.
Intimidated by strong men, perhaps because once a victim of bullying
Center left, with slight leanings to the harder left, not so much for ideological reasons as for the company and feeling of excitement that comes with being an activist.
In your heart of hearts, though, you’re a Yankee who believes in right and wrong, good and bad, reward for hard work, and the American way of life.
Two to three hours of television per night, with a preference for programming about men who perform heroic deeds, not with brute strength but their cleverness and intellect.
Not yet a heavy drinker, but you worry that you might become one, especially if you continue to drink alone.
Mildly introverted.
Insecure and apt to overcompensate, both by being overly accommodating and by behaving aggressively. The aggression is always verbal, though, and never employed when there’s a risk of actual physical violence.
Never serious trouble with the law.
Not a drug user.

So, my dear, am I full of presumption? Or have I pinned your wings to the board like a pretty butterfly?

When I read your response, we’ll progress to deeper matters, such as what’s wrong with the way analysts are trained in the U.S., why your analysis of Georgia is both juvenile and dangerous, but so typically American as to be a caricature of itself — well worthy of the trash the CIA produces.

I’ve got to run now. Boss-Man is in a foul mood. And he’s beginning to debate the order in which he’ll execute our hysterical clients, and whether Comrade Stalin’s method of dispatch is too good for them. It seems there’s an implosion of the global economy, or an apocalypse, or something. Silly Europeans!

I check back later today.

Can you see the red kisses floating by your left ear? Those are from me, your eternally devoted servant,

Ms. Nina

CE August 13, 2011 at 12:15 pm

That’s some straight-up Hannibal Lecter shit right there…

…I think I’m in love.


N.K. Kekelidze August 14, 2011 at 4:10 am

Why won’t he play with me? It makes me sad. I hope I wasn’t mistaken about the beard. — Nina

Boris Sizemore August 14, 2011 at 2:54 pm

Dear NKK,

On behalf of a very small cell of Registan Readers, I do second the request for some non personal discussion here. It is really boring to waste such time on discussing absolutely uninteresting personal details of anyone at all. Much less, Mr. Foust.

I do entreat you to use your only remaining card, and explain to us rather simple Americans why we should be so ever interested in your passionate defense of the Georgian Republic against the cruel and oppressive ex RSSR.

Please save us the details of Comrade Rykov, Nadya, Yagoda and Beria as well the cruel exile of one of your family members during the first Five Year Plan. Discussion of Lenin is always permitted however.

… Our only contribution to any of this was allowing Solzhenitysn a decent exile during Brezhnev.

Do explain why these color revolutions, the cruel Azerbaijanis and the unique beauty of the Abkhaz coastline must be of such interest to anyone outside of yourselves and the Tartars and Chechens who have vowed to revenge themselves on all of you?

We do want to understand, in an age of budgetary limitations why we want to turn the clock back to before the year 1612, and stop the inexorable and efficient Russianization of these “New” Repubics with very old neighbors and ossified memories, selling “commodities” to the Spartak Fan Clubs everywhere.

Fire away, with Stalin’s Organs as you wish…Spetnatz never cry.

Best Regards…from the Front ..Boris.

DeOpressoLiber August 14, 2011 at 5:19 pm

Considering we’re building a major BSL lab there, and will deploy US Army medical PAX to partially staff the lab, I believe we’ve already announced the “side” we’re on. We hope Russia won’t take offense. On the other hand, properly executed, there’s a possibility that the lab will serve an integrative function and promote Russian public health, and that of other neighbors, as much as that of Georgia.

I visited with two Georgian troops at Landstuhl wounded in Afghanistan. They were very proud of their service, and cognizant of the lab as a visible symbol of bilateral US-Georgia cooperation. Here’s hoping.

araki August 20, 2011 at 3:42 pm

Regarding the actual mistakes Mr. Foust makes in this article, the below is a concise summation from the comments section for the same article in The Atlantic. Anybody who really knows anything about Georgia will know precisely who JKulick is:

JKulick 1 week ago

Foust commits so many basic errors of fact that it’s difficult to take his analysis seriously. (1) Abkhazia was not “its own country before Stalin”; Stalin downgraded its status from a union republic to an autonomous republic within the Georgian SSR. (2) Nothing happened in 1921 to change the language and culture of South Ossetia, which was a region of Georgia with a mixed population of Ossetians and Georgians; there had never been an Ossetian state south of the Caucasus ridge–the South Ossetian Autonomous Oblast was created in the Georgian SSR in 1922. (3) The capital of Georgia is Tbilisi, not Tblisi (misspelled twice). (4) The Russian troops in Tskhinvali were not part of a UN peacekeeping operation; they were part of a tripartite Joint Peacekeeping Force, under a quadripartite Joint Control Commission. There were OSCE observers in Tskhinvali, but the UN played no role. (5) Georgia did not have “a few dozen soldiers in Iraq”–it had some *2000* at the time of the 2008 war. And (6) the Georgian Government does not employ “scores of Americans, as advisers, trainers, and workers in its ministries”; the US Government, directly and through contractors, does employ many Americans to assist Georgia in its development.

As for the movie, I don’t know what cut Foust saw, but Saakashvili’s advisers did not “all speak in flawless American English.” The character played by Dean Cain was clearly meant to be Daniel Kunin, an American who was a key adviser. The rest (Defense Minister Kezerashvili and Reintegration Minister Yakobashvili are the only ones whom I recall having any significant lines) had preposterous Slavic accents, as did Garcia’s Saakashvili.

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