Blake Gilson" />
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Monday, October 2, 2023


Freedom just another word

In the Russian-Georgian conflict in South Ossetia, blood is on the hands of all parties. There are no "good" or "bad" guys in this conflict, and the killing of innocents is universally wrong – be that Russians against Georgians or Georgians against South Ossetians. But this conflict can tell us something deeper about U.S. foreign policy.

If there ever was a question of whether American foreign policy was shaped by the defense of the individual’s right to freedom and self-determination, U.S. action in Georgia has ended the debate.

Abkhazians and South Ossetians have been seeking political separation from Georgia since the breakup of the USSR in 1991. Recognition of their independence has never come, until now, and has subsequently been followed by ethnic and regional conflict between Abkhazians and Ossetians against the native Georgians.

The internal state violence rarely broke news in the U.S., so when Georgian forces launched an offensive into South Ossetia early this month the conflict was not headed for front-page news. But when Russia counter-attacked – sending forces into Georgia, violating what the West views as Georgian’s legitimate sovereignty, claiming to defend Russians in the provinces – the media went ballistic.

The U.S. has sided not with the small provinces trying to escape the growing, strong-armed rule of Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, but with powers that be: The powers that be who responded to allegations of corruption and large-scale protests by launching an aggressive crack down, shutting down private media, throwing opposition leaders into jail and assaulting non-violent demonstrators. The powers that be who have a great relationship with President Bush and Sen. John McCain’s chief foreign policy adviser. The powers that be who increased Georgia’s military commitment to Iraq when other nations were backing down. The powers that be who are attempting to unite all of Georgia through militarism with guns funded by the U.S. taxpayer.

And we watch our telivisions as the administration, and both political parties, describe Saakashvili as a young democrat leading the nation to the path of democracy.

On Tuesday, Russia recognized South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states, which immediately drew opposition from the Bush-McCain-Obama team. Their united front exclaimed its support of Georgia’s territorial integrity and called for Russia to be further isolated from the political community.

The buck must stop here. When the U.S. came to the defense of Albanians in Kosovo when they tried to break from Yugoslavia, the U.S. helped out the little guy and came in-a-bombing – a move Russia opposed. But now the roles are completely opposite.

How can the U.S. stand up for independent self-determination in one instance but now defends a mini-authoritarian in Georgia? The easy answer is staring us in the face: U.S. foreign policy has not and will not be shaped around lofty ideas of freedom, self-governance and democracy. What matters is power politics – the international chess game of divide, contain and conquer, that all aggressive hegemons like to play.

Don’t be fooled. Lip service to "freedom" will be used to justify its exact opposite: governmental control and restriction. "Democracy" will be used to embrace its exact opposite: global authoritarians (as long as they can serve U.S. interests). And the term ‘right to self-determination’ is only legitimate if the U.S. deems it OK.

An application of the commitment of freedom to this situation would point to the real culprit in this conflict: every government involved. Russia must pull out of Georgia now, and Georgia must pull out of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, applying the original 1990 USSR rules allowing each province to decide its own political sovereignty, and the U.S. needs to stop trying to rule the world.

Sheldon Richman, a senior fellow at The Future of Freedom Foundation, best summed up what need to be done when he wrote, "Enough big-power politics, client states, and cynical Orwellian lies! Innocent people have suffered too much to let this go on another moment…. Freedom should always take precedence over ‘territorial integrity.’ Secession is the indispensable check on government power." Sadly if history is any guide his advice will fall of deaf ears.

Gilson, a business sophomore, can be reached via [email protected]

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