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Like a Sherman tank through Georgia

Imagine if the people of Garfield County considered themselves an ethnic group — Garfielders, let’s say — that was somehow different from everyone else in Colorado. That would seem pretty silly, don’t you think?

Next, imagine that Garfielders were so insistent on their differentness that they would do battle for two decades with the rest of Colorado in an attempt to secede and establish Garfield County as its own sovereign nation. That would be downright laughable if people weren’t getting killed as a result.

Then imagine that Colorado invaded Garfield County and started bombing the hell out of places like Rifle and Silt to teach the Garfielders a lesson and bring them back into the fold. That would just seem bizarre and cruel.

Now imagine that the rest of the United States sent tanks and troops rolling into Grand Junction and started slaughtering Coloradoans in defense of the Garfielders. That would be downright terrifying.

Lastly, imagine if all this happened and Russia actually gave a rat’s ass. You can’t, can you? The very idea is beyond the realm of rational thought.

By now, if you’ve paid any attention to international news lately, you’ve probably guessed that what I’m really talking about is the situation in the former Soviet republic of Georgia, where the attempted secession of a region called South Ossetia has lead to reprisals from the Georgian government, which in turn has provoked the ire of Mother Russia, which just last week essentially went to war with Georgia.

Admittedly, my hypothetical scenario is not entirely accurate. First of all, South Ossetia is roughly half the size of Garfield County, though its population is slightly larger, and Georgia is only about one-fourth the size of Colorado. Also, Georgia is a country separate from Russia, while Colorado still swears allegiance to the U.S.A. My hypothetical point, however, still stands and can be summed up thusly: How unbelievably stupid can all the parties involved in this mess be?

The idea that Ossetians, all 50,000 of them, consider themselves ethnically distinct from Georgians is, to my mind anyway, completely absurd. It’s almost like saying Basaltines and Aspenites are different races of people.

Part of the reason the United States has been so successful in becoming a world superpower is because when our ancestors first moved here, they were willing, to varying degrees, to put aside their ethnic differences and buy into the idea of simply being American. This notion has yet to take hold in most of the rest of the world, though.

Ossetians, Georgians, Chechens, Kosovars, Serbs, Bosnians, Croats, Montenegrans, Macedonians, Kurds. The list of tiny little ethnic groups who want to slaughter their neighbors over some perceived difference that dates back to the Dark Ages goes on and on. It’s infreaking- sane. No less insane is the idea that Georgians would care so much about holding on to South Ossetia that they would bother fighting for it. I mean, I could maybe see fighting to hold on to Garfield County — it has a nice hot springs pool and some oil reserves that are worth something — but South Ossetia has basically nothing of any value. If it were a country it would be one of the poorest nations in the world. The population survives on subsistence farming, and roughly one-third of the South Ossetian government’s budget comes via tolls it collects from freight traffic rolling through a tunnel that connects Russia and Georgia.

Why is Russia bothering to get involved in this inane war between Georgia and South Ossetia? Russian leaders say they are just protecting South Ossetians, whom they consider Russian citizens, but the president of Georgia claims that Russia is trying to regain control over former Soviet republics.

So who is the stupidest party in this ridiculous feud? Unfortunately, that would be us. Immediately after the Russian invasion of Georgia, Vice President Dick Cheney, who never met a war he didn’t want to get involved in, said Russia’s actions “must not go unanswered.”

Why on Earth would the U.S. want to “answer” Russia and risk re-igniting the Cold War? Well, that’s actually an easy question to answer.

The Bush administration will make a lot of noise about wanting to protect the people of Georgia and Georgia’s pro-Western democracy, but don’t be fooled. Our involvement has nothing to do with the people of Georgia and everything to do with the two pipelines that run across Georgia to ports on the Black Sea. Like everything else we get involved in, this is about oil, plain and simple.

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Todd Hartley

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08 2008

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