Sunday, July 17, 2011

Andrei A tale of two peacekeeping missions





The photograph at the top was taken in North Ossetia just shy of two years ago. The picture below it is more recent, it was taken in Amsterdam a couple of months ago. What they have in common is that they are both pictures of contemporary soldiers, Russian soldiers at the top and Dutch soldiers below. The top are peacekeepers deployed to South Ossetia, the bottom are participating in a Gay Pride parade.

There was a little tizz a while ago during the hearings into repealing "Don't ask don't tell". Retired General and ex Nato Commander General John Sheehan was called upon to testify and to comment upon his experience with military forces who have integrated gays into their forces. He testified about reduced combat effectiveness in such forces hiss and reminded the congress about the Dutch experience at Srebrenica. Meltdown and outrage followed, the typical liberal response to being given unpalatable truths from real world examples.

The Dutch were not responsible for Srebrenica of course, that belongs entirely somewhere else but they were tasked with preventing it happening but instead of holding the line they fled to Zagreb. When the rubber met the road they were not up to the job.

What of the top photograph?

The Russians have had peacekeeping forces in South Ossetia and Abkhazia since 1994. This is because the citizens of those regions do not feel safe without their presence (and with valid reasons perhaps).

In any case in 2008 the President of Georgia, Mikhail Saakashvili, was desirous of Georgia joining NATO. And the USA under George W Bush was very supportive. Not so his European allies, they were somewhat squiffy about this proposition. In particular they raised the issue of two particular stones in Mikhail Saakashvili's shoe, South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Or to put it in stark terms they were worried about getting themselves into a situation where they might have to deploy troops like those in the bottom picture against troops like those in the top.

Mikhail Saakashvili not being the sharpest knife in the block responded by attacking South Ossetia, thereby confirming why European reticence to him joining their club might have been wise.

Vladimir Putin responded by saying he was "going to hang Saakashvili by his balls"

While the men in the top photo responded by kicking butt.

And Mikhail Saakashvili responded by eating his tie.

You can argue the rights and wrongs of all of this until you are blue in the face but thems the facts on the ground.

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