Dear Readers: I’m sorry I haven’t been as helpful the past few days over the Georgian conflict as I could have been. I mean, obviously if you’re reading this tumblr for information on international affairs, we’re in trouble. But still.
I spent a day searching YouTube and then RuTube, the Russian YouTube, for this old video that some neo-Nazis had made a few years back during a diplomatic spat between Russia and Georgia that resulted in the expulsion of most Georgian passport-holders from Moscow. The video consisted of vicious attacks on unsuspecting dark-skinned people in Moscow (Caucasians) set to a hard-rock soundtrack, Ramstein I think. It was really nasty. In the process of looking for it I watched just about every RuTube video of fistfights between Russians and Caucasians. There are many, many such fights. I guess what I’m trying to say is that in addition to all the geopolitical stuff everyone likes to go on and on about, there’s also a race war going on.
I finally found the footage I was looking for here, though you’ll have to log in. You can use login keithtumblr, password rutube. It’s a pretty nasty video, like I say, though slightly less nasty now that it’s hosted by Kavkaz Center, which is a Chechen propaganda site that usually posts Chechen mujahideen videos—anyway, they’ve replaced Ramstein (which cheered on the beatings) with the Russian national anthem (which, you see, comments on them sarcastically). And they’ve added a little tagline at the bottom that explains that what we’re watching is “Russian Racism.” Thanks.
Anyway, the war. For a while yesterday I was pretty firmly in the pro-intervention camp, alone perhaps among responsible Western commentators but shoulder to shoulder with the many YouTube commenters who kept assuring the Georgians that “help is on the way.” It was not on the way, but why not? I kept looking at that map. Sure our troops were stretched thin in Iraq and Afghanistan, but at the same time they’d love to actually fight a war again instead of going on “patrol” and taking sniper fire. And it’s not far! Look—Georgia is so close to Iraq! Now, Turkey wouldn’t let us use its air bases when we were invading Iraq, but this is different—the Turks hate Russia! They’d gladly let us play through.
Then I read a transcript from good old Democracy Now in which a retired air force general said that Russia had deployed short-range tactical nuclear weapons to South Ossetia. It suddenly seemed like helping the Georgians by getting them nuked was maybe not the best way of helping them, after all.
Beyond that, politically speaking, I don’t have much to add to the countless editorials I read over the past two days. The most honest piece I read was at Vpered.org.ru, the website of the tiny socialist movement Vpered, which declared itself simply against the war, which it interpreted as a bourgeois capitalist war on the part of the Georgians and an imperialist war on the part of the Russians, which was about exactly right. That site, incidentally, which I imagine very few people read, got hacked—if you go to vpered.org.ru right now you get a warning from Google telling you that loading the site might infect your computer.
Anyway, a few more observations:
Informationally, you quickly feel the inadequacy of the traditional media. The newspapers are still set up I guess you might say vertically with regard to their readership—the idea is that people in Washington DC have their newspaper, and people in New York theirs, and so on, and each of these papers needs in essence to recreate the world. So in this instance each had front-page original reportage on the conflict, then editorials from notable commentators, then staff editorials. Every single newspaper had this, and they were all redundant. Once you’d mastered the basic narrative, you wanted to get constant updates and much deeper background, and that simply didn’t exist—and it wasn’t an American problem, either, the Russian papers were the same. I’m sure there was a blog somewhere sifting through all the information and updating it constantly, but I didn’t find it.
So information moves very quickly. But Russian fighter planes—even more quickly.
The war will have many geopolitical consequences, as everyone has already pointed out, and I can’t imagine it won’t also serve as further proof of the utter bankruptcy, cowardice, and incompetence of this presidential administration.
But the amazing thing to me—and this is a geopolitical consequence too, if you want—is just how much of a *war* this was. (Exile’s amoral War Nerd was getting at something like this when he celebrated all the fighter planes.) There hasn’t been a war in Europe since Yugoslavia, and that was a civil war, those people all spoke the same language, and a civil war is ultimately something comprehensible, a property fight. In the American wars since WWII there has been a fundamental asymetry (the same went for the Israeli conflict with Hezbollah last year)—and here, though the Georgians of course were badly overmatched, there at least were two legitimate armies in the field. They fought a war, and one side lost.
We haven’t seen anything like that in a very long time. Bush was onto something when he said this sort of thing shouldn’t happen in the 21st century. He’s exactly right—we feel, intuitively, or perhaps we’ve been made to feel that way, that this stuff ought to have been emailed and social networked out of existence by now. Some of those people were Facebook friends! And yet: *There it was*. It turns out war is still a way to resolve disputes; and war is not just something that happens to other people, far away. Though I guess if you look at that map for the moment it is still confined to a pretty narrow geographic area. But not for long, maybe, is the point.
In other news, Moe at Gawker has suggested that the n+1 internship should be made into a reality tv show. We’ve been saying this for years. Moe is at a loss to know what the interns would actually do on the show, but in fact they’d just do what they usually do: Call bookstores, go to the post office, read submissions, go to Ubiquity, transcribe interviews, keep up with subs, fix the website, break the website, order totebags, look for poetry, pick up beer on 3rd Avenue under the BQE, go outside and sell issues on the street, TAKE OUT THE TRASH JUST ONCE PLEASE REALLY JUST ONCE, and bartend. That would be a pretty good show, if you ask me. And once in a while of course someone would be forced to go home in disgrace.
We’re taking applications for fall internships now. More info here.