Daily Archives: June 20, 2009

Russia/Georgia: Slide to war?

Today’s New York Times has a story on a Georgian defector who is getting a lot of play in the Russian media with claims that Mikhail Saakashvili is mobilizing for a new war with Russia.

Does this lend credibility to speculation, which I reported yesterday, that Russia may be gearing up for a Georgian War II — with the goal of bringing down the hated Georgian government, humiliating the Americans, distracting the public from bad economic news, and justifying an authoritarian crackdown at home?  (Adrian Piontkovsky, one of the commentators I mentioned, also believes that this is a move by the “Putin faction” in the Kremlin to reverse the drift of real power from ex-President and current Prime Minister Putin to his appointed successor, Dmitry Medvedev.)

Perhaps; at least, the defector story certainly fits with a campaign to prepare public opinion for a new armed conflict with Georgia.  And it does coincide with imminent large-scale Russian military exercises in the Northern Caucasus, specifically in the annexed Georgian provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, where the only possible opponent for Russian troops is Georgia.

That said, I stand by my view that a new war is highly unlikely.  It would mean a major, long-term rupture with the West, and I don’t think the Kremlin boys really want to find themselves locked into Cold War II with no one but Hugo Chavez, Raoul Castro, Hamas and (if he’s still around) Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for company.  If Russia did succeed in installing a puppet regime in Tbilisi, it would mean de facto occupation, with a very high risk of getting bogged down in a protracted guerilla war.  This, at a time when nearby regions within the Russian Federation (Dagestan, Ingushetia) are already a powder keg, and things in Chechnya are not as stable as they’re reputed to be.  In short, it seems like so colossally stupid a move that even the Putinistas would (I hope) know better.

As I said yesterday, a far more likely scenario is long-term, low-level undeclared warfare aimed at intimidating, destabilizing, and discrediting the Georgian government.  The latest incident with the defector certainly fits with that pattern as well.  Barack Obama’s trip to Russia is coming up on July 5-6 — at the same time, as it happens, as the military exercises in the Northern Caucasus.  A strong message of respect for the sovereignty of Georgia (and Russia’s other neighbors on “post-Soviet space”) would be essential.

(Cross-posted to RealClearPolitics blogs.)

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Filed under Russia, Russia-Georgia conflict

Thank you, Lord, for not making me politically correct

The other day, I was browsing Lisa Belkin’s “Motherlode” blog on the New York Times website when I stumbled on this post, discsussing the saga of an alleged racial faux pas by “momblogger” Jackie Morgan MacDougall.  Apparently, a year ago MacDougall shared the story of how her three-year-old son, brought by her husband to see her at the office, saw her African-American co-worker and blurted out, “Mommy, why is her face brown?”

MacDougall wrote:

I was completely mortified. What was I doing wrong that he would he say something like that? Aren’t we all supposed to be colorblind and not notice the differences in people? But as soon as I got over myself, I quickly realized that his asking about her skin was no different from him pointing out I have blue eyes, and not hazel like his or why I have “dots” (aka freckles) on my arms.

I asked my co-worker to field the question because I was interested in hearing how she’d like it answered. She explained to him that people come in all colors and her skin is just darker than his. He waited a beat–thought about what she said–and then asked if we could watch Toy Story 2 for the ten thousandth time.

What I learned from my preschooler that day is that recognizing differences in each other is not harmful, racist, or prejudice–it’s natural. It’s when you judge or treat someone differently because of those differences that’s hurtful. And that was the furthest thing from his sweet three-year-old mind.

The post sat there quietly for nearly a year with only two comments (the first quite positive, praising MacDougall’s wisdom, the second neutral), until it was discovered by another blog in May and became fodder for debate.  Champions of “anti-racist parenting” flocked to MacDougall’s blog to accuse her of “white privilege” and call her post “disgusting.”  She was castigated for everything from punting the question to her co-worker — and thus forcing a person of color to be a spokeswoman for her race — to having the temerity to think that being “colorblind” is a good thing.

There was more criticism after Belkin publicized the debate.  Well, now, MacDougall offers profuse apologies that brings to mind the “self-criticism” sessions of the Chinese Cultural Revolution, as well as the horror of a character in George Orwell’s 1984 who learns he’s been guilty of  “thoughtcrime.”

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Filed under motherhood, political correctness, race