Friday, August 15, 2008

Apples to Apples?

History doesn’t really repeat itself. People just make comparisons between the present and what has gone before, and there are similarities. Learning from the past is important but difficult because of faulty memories and biased interpretations. More often the past is used for justification.

For example, this week Russia is attempting to deflect criticism of its invasion of Georgia by creating a moral equivalence to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Regardless of the justifications for either invasion, one must ask: are the two events really similar?

Here are the bare facts:

South Ossetia is a region of Georgia that has tried to secede from the country for over a decade. On August 7, 2008, Russia invaded the region claiming that it was interested in protecting Russian citizens who live in the area.

Iraq spent the nineties under a conditional cease-fire dependant on their cooperation with the United Nations. In 2003, multiple countries, led by the United States, invaded the country to remove the governing forces, thereby enforcing United Nations Security Council resolution 1441.

The merits of both invasions can be debated endlessly. The attempt here is not to judge either action, but rather to compare them. Russia’s attempt to justify its invasion by comparing it to the 2003 invasion of Iraq doesn’t work because there is little similarity.

If Russia is looking to history for an historic precedent, perhaps it should look to Germany’s 1938 invasion of the Sudetenland. The claimed reason for both invasions is exactly the same. Then again, they would have a hard time deflecting criticism by appealing to that event.

Here’s hoping history is not repeating itself this time.

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