Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Media, and a possible Aftermath

Things to Ignore in the Coverage:

1) Anything Russia says. Take note of it, perhaps, but they are basically just saying whatever they think will work. I've even become a little skeptical that the civvy toll is anywhere near 1500 -- even if it is accurate, it's likely Russia just made up that number to defend their incursion.
Of course, there is the possibility that Russia is taking the opportunity to pay back Georgia for its "genocide" before anyone can react. But given Russia's hand in starting this, it seems unlikely.

2) Any note of a "cold war mentality". The only people with a "cold war mentality" are the russia-mongers in the US who have viewed places like Georgia and Ukraine as anti-russia battlegrounds for years. Seriously, Russia realizes that the cold war isn't around anymore. The sooner we stop trying to link this stuff back to the war, the sooner we can understand what Russia is and isn't trying to do. The "cold war mentality" schtick is just a piece of anti-Russia rhetoric.

Those are my two pet peeves with the current reportage. That said, no one really knows what Russia's plans are, or what their attitude really is. Sure, there are a lot of educated guesses, and educated guessors, but these are mostly "see...I was right the whole time" sort of statements, since now that something's actually happening with Russia everyone wants to be right about it, and have their own theory ready about what this conflict shows.

Here's a hypothetical question: if Russia captured Georgia, what would the consequences be? A short-term economic embargo of Russia isn't really an option for Europe, which depends on it for natural gas. On the other hand, it's possible Europe could embargo everything else and cut back on its natural gas usage -- it's Russia's biggest market, so this would definitely be some sort of stand.

The problem is that the west, and particularly Europe, isn't used to making actual sacrifices, and this would be a real sacrifice. And the response would be somewhat disproportionate to the conflict itself -- neither Europe nor the US wants a return to a cold war-esque division of the world.

The other drastic option for a response would be to induct Ukraine into NATO in the next month or so. Again, this is the sort of "escalation" the US and Europe may want to avoid.

The last option? Doing nothing at all.
This is actually better than it sounds. If the US and Europe do something to deter Russia in eastern Europe and weaken it economically, but avoid escalation, it's possible that Russia will merely suffer undesirable economic consequences. Economic punishment seems to work best when it is subtle, almost offhand. The problem, though, is that any action by the west is going to be coupled with language that makes it seem like a major response.

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