Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Why Georgia Is Prague 68 and Not Hungary 56

As the 40th anniversary of the Prague Spring breaks, it's instructive to see what its influence is on contemporary politics.

To wit, I've been wondering why Georgia -- after its harebrained and failed attempt to retake South Ossetia -- has completely backed down from any military response (even a guerrilla response) to Russia's invasion, blockade of its ports and extension of influence into Abkhazia. According to the New York Times' interview with Georgia's president, Mikheil Saakashvili, we have an answer:

He also said that he had made a decision not to continue to fight Russia during the invasion, and not to have his army organize an insurgency against Russia, because he hoped to save the country.

“We had a choice here,” he said. “We could turn this country into Chechnya — we had enough people and equipment to do that — or we had to do nothing and stay a modern European country.”

He added: “Eventually we would have chased them away, but we would have had to go to the mountains and grow beards. That would have been a tremendous national philosophical and emotional burden.”

I'll have more to say about the Prague Spring in the next day or so, but this seems to me a case in which a president assesses the available resources and makes a tactical decision not to fight. One wonders if President Saakashvili will be summoned to the Georgian equivalent of Čierna nad Tisou before it's all over.

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