Friday, August 8, 2008

Guns of August?

Curiously enough, I was recently pondering the question of whether granting autonomy to seccessionist movements increases the security and stability of both the break-away entity and the state from which it is seeking independence.

Certainly the latest developments in South Ossetia would appear to lend some credence to this line of thinking; attempting to maintain control over such a state, especially when they are backed by a regional hegemon appears likely to lead to conflict.

Georgian forces attacked to "restore constitutional order" in the separatist republic, shelling the capital of Tskhinvali with Grad Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS).

Russian tanks and aircraft have retaliated, ostensibly to protect Russian peacekeepers on the ground in South Ossetia. At least 10 of those peacekeepers were apparently killed by the "steel rain" that fell on Tskhinvali, giving the Russian Bear the perfect excuse to flex its military muscle.

U.S. forces have been engaged in military exercises in Georgia recently, and there are at least 127 US advisers still in the country. Georgia has participated in the Coalition of the Willing, providing the 3rd largest contigent of forces in Iraq; 2000 troops, which is more than twice the South Korea presence and an order of magnitude greater than Australia. One might be tempted must evaluate this involvement with a realist view that with such a contribution, they have sealed the loyalty of the U.S. to back them in any conflict with Russia.

For the time being, the U.S. and Russia are vowing to seek a negotiated end to the conflict, whose timing, as the world focused it's intention on the opening of the Olympic Games, was hardly a coincidence.

The outcome of this struggle will have repercussions both locally, (for not only the South Ossetians, but also for Abkhazia) and around the world as separatist entities, including Kurdistan, Southern Sudan, and the Sri Lankan Tamil movement evaluate their positions relative to the states from which they are seeking independence.

One is also obliged to wonder at the difference between Kosovo, a recognized separatist region, and South Ossetia; is recognition in the international community merely a Hobbesian matter of expedience to the greater powers? Or is there a Grotian "rule of law" that would apply to all those seeking independence, whether they be African, Slavic, Islamic, or Sikh?

1 comment:

Charli Carpenter said...

I think the international law on this hasn't really been written yet. There is a limited right to recognition for national liberation movements. But the emergence of a norm of justified intervention to protect a civilian population from counter-attacks during a secessionist conflict is still contested.

In Kosovo, Russia was on the anti-intervention, pro territorial-integrity side of the debate. It's interesting how consistent their rhetoric remains. Even now, they claim they are defending their co-nationals, not intervening in an internal affair on human rights grounds.

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