Lessons from the war in Georgia
By Herbert Bix - Asian Times
October 22nd, 2008
The five-day Russo-Georgian war in the Caucasus brought into sharp focus many conflicts rooted in the region's history and in aggressive US-North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) policies since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Notable among these were the military encirclement of Russia and attempts to control energy resources of areas previously dominated by the Soviet Union.
The net effect of the conflict has been to hasten a dangerous new era of rivalry between the world's two most powerful nuclear states, one that will be shaped hereafter by the current global recession and the changes it is bringing about in the economic practices of all states.
Former US president Bill Clinton's use of force in Kosovo in 1999 was crucial in precipitating this situation. At the time, the United States thrust aside international law and the primacy of the UN Security Council, with Clinton justifying war as a means of establishing a more humane international order. Every civilian death that resulted from it became "unintentional collateral damage", morally justifiable because the end was noble.
By substituting a quasi-legal, moral right of humanitarian intervention for the long-established principles of national sovereignty and respect for territorial integrity, US-NATO aggression against Serbia prepared the ground for US President George W Bush's unilateral military interventions.
Now, bogged down in illegal, unjust wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the US government suddenly appears to have rediscovered the usefulness of the international law norms it defied in Kosovo. But it has invoked the principle of state sovereignty selectively, attacking Russia for its intervention in Georgia while simultaneously sending its own armed forces and aircraft on cross-border raids into Pakistan.