Monday, August 11, 2008

With little to gain, US favors Russian-Georgian ceasefire

International reaction to the conflict between Georgia and Russia has been unanimously in favor of a ceasefire, which offers the best hope for the region's affected civilian populations.

The consensus stands in contrast to other regional conflicts in recent years. In 2006, the United States backed Israel's massive bombing campaign against Lebanon, killing over a thousand Lebanese under the pretext of "existential" self-defense against rebel rocket attacks which killed 44 Israelis. The ceasefire agreement, had it arrived earlier, could have reduced both figures substantially. However, absent pressure from the US, Israel was given broad license to keep civilians on both sides in harm's way as the country's leadership tried vainly to impose a political solution by force. Capitalizing on this power advantage was called exercising "Israel's right of defense" by the American intellectuals and officials who helped prolong the bloodshed.

In the current conflict, the United States is allied with the weaker nation, making protracted hostilities much less attractive. Georgia is neither strong enough to stand up to Russia, nor perceived as valuable enough to risk igniting a wider conflict, so the US favors an end to hostilities and a return to the status quo. Fortunately, this gives the international community more leverage with Russia, who, as the stronger party in the conflict, doubtless sees an advantage in sustaining its campaign, much as the US and Israel did in 2006.

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