Available Now! (click cover)

America's Counter-Revolution
The Constitution Revisited

From the back cover:

This book challenges the assumption that the Constitution was a landmark in the struggle for liberty. Instead, Sheldon Richman argues, it was the product of a counter-revolution, a setback for the radicalism represented by America’s break with the British empire. Drawing on careful, credible historical scholarship and contemporary political analysis, Richman suggests that this counter-revolution was the work of conservatives who sought a nation of “power, consequence, and grandeur.” America’s Counter-Revolution makes a persuasive case that the Constitution was a victory not for liberty but for the agendas and interests of a militaristic, aristocratic, privilege-seeking ruling class.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

What About the Ossetians?

If Russia exited Georgia — as it should — and the Bush administration dropped its wish to expand NATO to Russia’s border — as it should — there would still be an issue to be dealt with: the secessionist ambitions of the majority in South Ossetia — the Georgian military response to which was the immediate cause of the current war. They are the forgotten party in the current conflict. When President Bush says the “territorial integrity of Georgia” must be respected and GOP presidential candidate John McCain declares, “Today we’re all Georgians,” they are putting politics above justice.

One need not side with Russian Prime Minister Putin, a cynical opportunist if ever there was one, to understand that the Ossetians south of the Russian border are an aggrieved party. Defenders of liberty will sympathize with the Georgian victims of Russian brutality, but they should also champion the cause of the brutalized Ossetians, who (like the Abkhazians) demand independence from Georgia.

The rest of this week's op-ed, "What About the Ossetians?," is at The Future of Freedom Foundation website.

19 comments:

August said...

You may find this interesting:

http://www.michaeltotten.com

Belinsky said...

Well said.

Anonymous said...

What about North Ossetia? Why not remove foreign troops from all of Ossetia, North & South and then let them declare themselves neutral, like Switzerland; or make a national army illegal, like Costa Rica? The problem is monopoly sovereignty enforced through violence... Russia, Georgia, NATO, the EU, the US; all of them are just organized criminal gangs.

littlehorn said...

august -> The fact that the guy has a picture with "I am Georgia" on it does not concern you ? Does he not do simple propaganda ?

Regional expert, German native, and former European Commission official Patrick Worms was recently hired by the Georgian government as a media advisor, and he explained to me exactly what happened when I met him in downtown Tbilisi

Oh right ! Some guy hired by the Georgian government as a media advisor is telling the truth to some guy on the internet !

Hurray ! But still, it was good to see some guy defend Georgia by quoting some guy who works for Georgia.

littlehorn said...

Next we're gonna hear it all from McCain's foreign policy advisor, who earned his insight by working as a lobbyist for Georgia.

That seems reliable.

Sheldon Richman said...

Anon, of course. But I haven't heard that the North Ossetians are trying to break away from Russia. If anything, the South Ossetians apparently want to join their brethren to the north as part of Russia. Laissez faire!

Anonymous said...

And what about South Ossetia's 30% Georgian minority? Ethnic cleansing is sooo '90s.

Sheldon Richman said...

Anon, the right of secession applies to them too. This leads us logically to overlapping and competing jurisdictions. Legal polycentrism!

Anonymous said...

Wouldn't it be nice... However, I suspect that legal polycentrism is highly incompatible with Georgia's, Russia's and Ossetia's form of government and society and will therefore horribly fail in that part of the world (Again, look to '90s Yugoslavia if you want to see how that can turn out). Bastions of liberal thought these regions are not.

Sheldon Richman said...

Of course. But the ideological effort has to begin somewhere sometime. I am not saying there are any ideal short-run scenarios. But I do not see how libertarians can favor a central state's holding "its" territory together. We should support secession on principle, which by logic extends to the individual level. Maybe the idea will start to catch on.

Anonymous said...

Secession, as it happens in the real world, replaces one armed band of thugs by another. Without further qualifying circumstances, it's hard to support that on principle. Furthermore, secession tends to amplify nationalism, identity politics and collectivism in both the seceding state and the government it secedes from, so that it actually stabilizes governments' stranglehold over society.

Sheldon Richman said...

No argument with the first sentence. Amplified nationalism can be the consequence when a group feels oppressed by another national group. That's unfortunate. I said there were no ideal outcomes in the particular case. The reason to support secession on principle is that a bigger state is made smaller and it could plant the seed of further secession. That is worthwhile, especially when the alternative has nothing to recommend it.

By the way, it feels odd discussing this with someone who is effect wearing a mask. Why not identify yourself?

luke said...

Well, I was wearing the mask so kindly provided by you :)

Anyway, I still don't see the merits of (non-individual) secession.

Of course, bigger states are made smaller by this process, but the limited geographic reach of a government does not limit its impact on people's lives. In fact, local governments of all kinds can be much more oppressive than remote administrations.

And, in this particular situation, I think the alternative to secession does have something to recommend it. Georgia's economy is developing at a staggering rate, and it is well on its way to become a European-style democracy, which is not ideal but a lot better than anything Russia has to offer to South Ossetians. Introducing even more barriers to free trade and mobility will hardly improve the impoverished region's situation.

Sheldon Richman said...

Well, good to have you here, Luke. (It's Blogger that provided the mask.) I think we've gone around in circles here. Given the state system, justice is bound to result either way. But I can see no libertarian justification for cheering on the Georgian government's action. At least we can agree that the U.S. government should stay the hell out.

Belinsky said...

You make some good points, Luke. This reminds me of Southern secession in the U.S., which I wouldn't have supported. It's notable that the South Ossetians have performed a lot of ethnic cleansing.

Sheldon Richman said...

Belinsky, there has been brutality and scores to settle on all sides. The Americans weren't very nice to the Tories among them. This is not to forgive brutality on anyone's part. All violence is to be condemned.

luke said...

The US government, and any government really should keep their fingers out of this mess. Why anyone would even want to involve himself in that godforsaken place is a complete mystery to me.

In most cases of secession in history, including IMHO the secession of Britain's American colonies, the supposed cure has turned out to be worse than the disease.

Jimi G said...

"Why anyone would even want to involve himself in that godforsaken place is a complete mystery to me."

If you are interested, you need to read the backstory. The Baku-Ceyhan pipeline (supported by the U.S.) was designed to bypass Russia by going through South Ossetia and Georgia on its way to Turkey. It's all about petroleum geopolitics, blunting Russia's influence and EMPIRE.

Whenever something seems mysterious, I apply the following:

"Cui bono?" and "Follow the money."

luke said...

jimi g, the BTC pipeline doesn't even come close to running through South Ossetia... see Georgian Pipelines on Wikipedia. If anything, separatist Kurds in Eastern Anatolia, Turkey are going to cause problems on the BTC. Now the Baku-Supsa pipeline does come close to Ossetia, but it is nowhere as important as the others.