Posted by Brad @ 10:23 am on October 30th 2008

The Problemitization of Georgia-Russia

Glenn Greenwald has been in a fascinating blog feud with Reason’s Kathy Young over the Russia-Georgia conflict. At issue? Greenwald has claimed that American media and political figures are artificially massaging the conflict into a “Good vs. Evil” paradigm, overwhelmingly giving the impression of spunky freedom-loving democracy Georgia getting invaded by horrible fascist Russian empire, when the reality is a lot more convoluted, at best. Kathy Young contends this amounts to apologizing and making excuses for Russia (her article is titled “Sympathy for the Devil”). Greenwald fired back in this exhaustive piece making the case that it’s not excuse-making when you adopt a complicated perspective to a complicated state of affairs. I think it’s clear from both articles that young is desperate to hold things to a binary, and that Greenwald is indeed pushing for a problematization of Georgia’s media narrative (i.e. he probably leans against them as being the helpless victims here).

All of that is required reading on the subject. Greenwald, today, also adds an update.

Today, the BBC announced they believed they had evidence of Georgia committing war crimes in the attacks on South Ossetia,

Eyewitnesses have described how its tanks fired directly into an apartment block, and how civilians were shot at as they tried to escape the fighting.

Research by the international investigative organisation Human Rights Watch also points to indiscriminate use of force by the Georgian military, and the possible deliberate targeting of civilians.

Indiscriminate use of force is a violation of the Geneva Conventions, and serious violations are considered to be war crimes.

The allegations are now raising concerns among Georgia’s supporters in the West.

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband has told the BBC the attack on South Ossetia was “reckless”.

He said he had raised the issue of possible Georgian war crimes with the government in Tbilisi.

The evidence was gathered by the BBC on the first unrestricted visit to South Ossetia by a foreign news organisation since the conflict.

Be very, very wary of any “eye-witness” accounts of most anybody in that region, and it’s unclear to me they have any evidence beyond that. But still, truth usually isn’t served very well when it has to go through a narrative filter, particularly where the good/evil designations are already pre-ordained.


  1. Also, all hail Putin and Medvedev who are glorious leaders seek to restore mighty and power to the great Russian nation.

    Comment by Brad — 10/30/2008 @ 10:26 am

  2. I don’t think I have read anyone better than Glenn Greenwald in terms of ‘objectivity,’ if you believe in that sort of thing.

    He goes after whomever he things is wrong. He doesn’t let personalities, allegiances or politics cloud his views IMO.

    And so far, has not made a bad call, which is tough when you write that often.

    Kathy Young, however, has turned into a horrible little neocon. I remember when she had a lot of promise. But you can say that about Reason as a whole.

    Comment by daveg — 10/30/2008 @ 11:16 am

  3. I mostly think that Greenwald is a self-adoring bore, but it’s certainly true that looking for ‘good’ and ‘evil’ in terms of the actions of either side in this sort of conflict isn’t generally going to end well.

    The argument to make would either be on American interests or else on wider issues relating to future outcomes. Arguing the case over individual acts and collections of act, and even on general tactical guidelines, whilst humanising the conflict to maintain the interest of the public, is a serious mistake, I think. Greenwald’s right that the representation is misleading, although I think he’d have done better to then go on to argue more strongly that the framework in which this is presented, looking for ‘good’ and ‘bad’ through events on the ground, is itself a mistake (because foreign policy is to a large extent divorced from that, as it should be unless the events are extreme).

    Comment by Adam — 10/30/2008 @ 12:06 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.