Georgia on our minds
Deaglán de Bréadún
When you are in the vicinity of a hammer, try not to act like a nut. That’s probably the main lesson to be derived from the nasty little war between the Georgians and the Russians.
What did Georgia’s Mikheil Saakashvili think he was doing? It’s one thing to shake your tiny fist at a bear but to strike the first blow yourself is just plain daft. It is all sadly reminiscent of Argentine ruler General Galtieri’s attack on the Falklands/Malvinas back in the early 1980s which ended in disaster for him and Iron Lady status for Margaret Thatcher.
Imagine if Jack Lynch had followed up his “Stand (idly) by” speech in August 1969 with a military incursion to the North. It is not beyond the bounds of possibility that an Anglo-Irish war could have ensued, with untold consequences for the entire island. Certainly if a right-wing government had been in power in Britain at the time that could have been a real danger.
The present writer covered the inauguration of Saakashvili as president in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, back in January 2004. Ireland held the EU presidency at the time and Brian Cowen, then our minister for foreign affairs, was among the attendance.
It was a time of hope. Saakashvili had come to power by means of the “Rose Revolution” which was Georgia’s version of the “Velvet Revolution” in the former Czechosolovakia. I was present at a meeting between Cowen and Saakashvili and wrote, with more prescience than I realised at the time, that “The new President looks vulnerable: a big man but not meant for the scrum.”
Thank goodness the Georgians were not already members of NATO or we could have a new world war on our hands because NATO membership requires that an attack on any member-state is an attack on all of them. There is nothing to stipulate that all heads of state possess sound judgment and basic commonsense — as the Marx Brothers used to say, “There ain’t no Sanity Clause”.
Thank goodness also that Ireland is not and never likely to be a member of NATO. Serious doubts must also arise about the desirability of having a Saakashvili-led Georgia as a member of the EU. Who needs trouble?
Already the conspiracy theorists are out in force, arguing that the entire conflict was dreamt up by the Republican right in America to enhance John McCain’s chances of getting to the White House. Check out Robert Scheer’s analysis at http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/20080812_georgia_war_a_neocon_election_ploy/ and a letter in today’s Irish Times from Frank Schnittger at http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/letters/2008/0819/1218868108905.html
Deaglán de Bréadún, Political Correspondent, The Irish Times and author of The Far Side of Revenge: Making Peace in Northern Ireland, recently published in a second edition by Collins Press, Cork www.collinspress.ie