Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Conflicts: Then and Now

The beginning of the Russian/Georgia conflict of 2008 reminds me of the Falklands Conflict in 1982

Back then there was a 39 year old scrap dealer by the name of Constantine Davidoff, an Argentinean, who wishes today he could take back an innocent action.

Davidoff heard about three abandoned whaling stations on the British owned Georgia islands. It was a chance to make some salvage money with scrap parts. In December of 81, Davidoff, and seven crewmen, got permission from the British to inspect the stations. In March he started salvage operations. His Argentinian salvage men raised a blue and white Argentine flag over the salvage operations.

The flag was spotted by a group of British researchers camped about 5 miles away. They got their British dander up about an Argentinian flag flying on British territory and got on their radio and called London.

Word spread and in the British Falkland Islands 800 miles to the west, a group of patriotic islanders broke into the Argentinean National Airlines office in Port Stanley, put up the British flag and wrote, on the wall '"Tit for tat".

More words were exchanged. Argentina complained. The British Government protested and said that the Davidoff crew landed illegally. They didn't, but distance and time and inter-department bureaucracy, didn't get permits to the right people at the right time.

Argentina said the Davidoff Salvage crew had a right to be there. Britain responded by sending in an Ice Patrol Boat. Argentina then sent a navy ship to protect the crew from forcible removal. More meetings were held between the British and Argentina. Words became angry. Ownership rights were stated and demanded and days later the Argentinians invaded and the Falkland’s war began. You know the rest.

Something different happened in Georgia, but the result is the same. Georgia has always wanted to regain control of South Ossetia. South Ossetia does not want to be part of Georgia, they are happy being aligned with Russia as it was when they were part of the old Soviet Union.

The fighting apparently began when some South Ossetia militiamen fired across the border at Georgian troops. This escalated to a Georgian invasion, and then Russia sent in reinforcements to expel the Georgian troops; fighting continued and people on both sides died. The super-powers got involved, exchanged words, demands, edicts and threats and here we go again.

Ill-thought out, if not stupid actions lead to armed conflict and then ego centered certainties amplified old and new emotions into a global pissing match and people died. You'd think that humankind would have learned that lesson by now on the graves of the innocent.

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