I am not proposing answers at this point, because I haven’t had time to study the situation in any detail, but it seems to me the right time to point out some problems with the questions.
It appears to me that almost everything I read about the situation with Georgia, Russia, and Ossetia involves ad hoc justifications for something someone wanted to do in any case. One of the major problems with American foreign policy, in my opinion, is that we really don’t have one, that is, other than attack the people we don’t like (sometimes), support the people we do like (sometimes) and blather a lot about everyone else.
In addition, the justifications for what we do seem to have very little relationship to the actual reasons. Publicly, during the first gulf war, we heard about atrocities and about defending poor little Kuwait. I’m not denying the atrocities, nor am I even saying that Kuwait was undeserving of defense, but we did not similarly take a military position on East Timor, where atrocities were also happening. Unfortunately for the folks on that piece of an island, they lacked oil.
In the case of Ossetia, I suspect that if we moved some of the players a bit, but kept all other factors the same, our reaction would be substantially different than it is.
Here are some questions:
Just how small does a territory have to be before we no longer think it deserves independence from the surrounding country? Will we apply the same standard here?
What conditions must exist before one portion of an existing country can declare independence and receive support? (In this case, differentiate Kosovo wanting independence from Serbia and Ossetia wanting independence from Georgia.)
Do the conditions for independence of some region change if it’s the Russians that back up the breakaway region rather than the United States?
How big does a country have to be before it can be regarded as an oppressor?
How long ago must a territory have been conquered before it can be considered an integral and essential part of a country? (Remember that Kuwait was once part of Iraq, sort of, Georgia was part of Russia, while Ossetia was also a conquered territory. Then there’s that other Georgia that was once largely Cherokee country, because a British colony, became part of the United States, attempted to separate, but was forcibly kept in the union with military force.)
I don’t know the full history of Ossetia, and it will probably be some time before I might even imagine, probably incorrectly, that I understand the situation, but it seems to me that we are not working on the same set of principles in all of these various places.
It sounds to me like atrocities are military actions carried out by the other guys, and invasions are when other people’s armies enter a country that is not their own.
If we did that sort of thing, of course, we would demand that one consider the fact that we were merely defending the just desire of the local population for self-determination. Or something like that.
Some background from the BBC.