Previous article about a similar topic: Abkhazia
South Ossetia eventually became the first region, ahead of Abkhazia (that is of course also getting ready), where the conflict erupted a few hours ago.
The region won the independence from Georgia after the 1991-1992 War for Independence. In 2006, the de facto independent republic of South Ossetia held a referendum about the independence. 99 percent of the votes were in favor of the independence from Georgia.
Now, the Georgian government launched attacks against South Ossetia: see Google news. A few hours later, Georgia announced full military mobilization and declared a 3-hour ultimatum in which the civilians are demanded to leave their capital city.
You can see that pretty much all the events are isomorphic to the situation in Kosovo a decade ago except that the Albanians' claims for the territory of Kosovo are much weaker, both from the democratic as well as historical perspective, than the Ossetians' own claims for their independence.
Nevertheless, there exists a stunning degree of hypocrisy and double standards among most Western journalists and even the politicians. So don't expect that these folks will be celebrating the new Ossetian independence or organizing international tribunals for the Georgian aggressors.
When two peoples are doing the same thing, it's not the same thing, is it? Everyone has the same rights but some people are "special", aren't they?
As in most cases, the U.N. is useless. Even Russia's modest recommendation to both sides "to renounce the use of force" (a declaration that would be useless, anyway, but at least something for peace) has failed because the U.S., the U.K., and a few others joined Georgia in arguing that it is suddenly a great idea to use force. Wow. ;-)
Thank God, NATO has a more sensible (and peaceful) opinion and demands an immediate end to the Georgian aggression.
I kind of admire the Russian relatively calm approach and calls for peace on both sides - only a small region (with population of 70,000 only) is at stake, after all - but I would fully understand if they use jets to neutralize the aggressive portions of the Georgian "police" who are killing peacekeeping troops, among others. And maybe even the tanks.
I normally oppose most separatists but there is no God-given degree to which the separatists should be allowed to achieve their goals. The degree depends on immediate power and international conventions. Some recent events have (unfortunately) increased the rights of the separatists, as defined by the international conventions, and I consider self-consistency of the rules to be much more important than particular values of the "rights" that are assigned to the separatists. That's what precedents are good for.
Why is it sensible to assign importance to precedents? Because in legally complicated situations, it helps the expectations of various sides to converge. And if different sides share their expectations what would happen in a given conflict, they don't have much interest to start the conflict - at least not both of them. ;-) If they have similar expectations, it is much more likely that they will agree upon a peaceful solution.
Precedents help to define the rules of the game and maintain the stability and peace. On the other hand, any "adjustment" to the unwritten rules can lead various sides of conflicts that had stopped to recalculate and reopen their old conflicts. Of course, there can be a few other places where the Kosovo precedent will lead to new violence but I hope that some of the people will learn their lesson afterwords.
The president of Georgia ate his tie on live TV. It seems rather likely that when Saakashvili was a student at Columbia University, Peter Woit was his lecturer in discipline.
At this moment when it is clear that Georgia can't treat South Ossetia in a human way, it is becoming logical that Georgia will have to sacrifice this region. Let's hope that the casualties will be low.