Monday, October 09, 2006

Sovereignty Struggle: Georgia

To Georgia, Russia is their Syria.

The deepening crisis in the Caucasus has highlighted the similarities in the struggles both Lebanon and some former Soviet Republics have been engaged in, for the past several years, in their efforts to break free from the imposed domination (political, economic, and social) of their larger neighbours. It also highlights, to some extent, the reliance on western support (both American and European) needed in order to make the break a successful one.

In Georgia, a recent crisis has captured world media attention as Russia has moved to impose punitive measures on its much smaller (and weaker) neighbour for moves it views as being provocative and disrespectful, but which I think we can all agree are simply moves aimed at strengthening Georgia’s sovereignty in the face of a larger, domineering Russia.

These punitive measures have evoked a sense of sympathy in me for the Georgian cause as the more I read about the closer it becomes to those causes we in Lebanon are striving for. In particular, I am particularly empathetic towards: Georgia’s desire to break free of the choking control of its autocratic neighbor; the Georgian people’s rallying street revolution – dubbed the Rose Revolution – in the face of a great injustice perpetrated on them in the name of greed, corruption, and servitude to a larger country; their steadfastness in the face foreign troops whose bases have implanted on their soil and whose removal they strive for; their resoluteness in the face of the arming of internal factions by their larger neighbor; their endurance in the face of the violent instability their larger neighbor has stirred on their soil; and their unyielding determination in the face of economic sanctions, gas and electricity limitations, and border closures by their larger neighbor.

There are other similarities between the situation we face in Lebanon today and that faced in Georgia. Some not so pretty ones revolve around the internal political gains the ruling party in Georgia is trying to push through the precipitation of a conflict with its larger neighbour (e.g. the rise in tensions with Russia has helped the ruling party secure large electoral gains in its recent municipal elections), and around the heavily steeped western interests (in the form of oil pipelines passing from Azerbaijan through Georgia to Turkey) pushing for the realignment of Georgia along western lines. More superficial (perhaps) similes could be drawn between the arrest of four Russian intelligence agents in Georgia and the arrest of our 4 generals in relation to the Hariri assassination, and the fact that the new Orange insignia of former Army General Michel Aoun’s LFPM (along with the term “Cedar Revolution”) was wholly inspired by the Orange Revolution that swept through Ukraine in its struggle to break free of Russia’s grip – and which was itself inspired by Georgia’s ‘Rose Revolution.

Differences – there are a few. For one, Lebanon’s economy isn’t as reliant on Syria as Georgia’s is on Russia, in fact, it is Syrians who come to Lebanon in search of work and money in order to send back to their waiting families in Syria. Georgia, although embroiled in several other (smaller) regional disputes with its neighbours does not have to contend with having Israel as its neighbour and all the baggage that that entails. But anyway, that’s a topic for a different post.

It should suffice to say, for now, that our struggle is one with the Georgians’ struggle and that of all smaller nations striving to be sovereign and free of the meddling and domination of their neighbours, whether it be in Georgia or Ukriane, Lebanon or Taiwan, we must all stand together for the right to self-determination.


  1. Anonymous3:08 PM

    Yeah I noticed similarities too...but at least the US gets an oil pipeline out of Georgia, what do they get out of Lebanon?

  2. Sakashvili and his government has a very west orientation and Georgia is actively seeking partnership in NATO and EU. It doesn't have a russian face even though most people there speak Russian.

    Lebanon on another hand is a messy country with unclear orientation that can't decide whether it wants to be a part of the west, a part of the Arab world and which face to have. And it pays price for it and it's there where all similarities end.

  3. Ah wrong my dear Nobody!

    Seniora's government is very western oriented - while at the same time being Arab - to the degree that Seniora's Mustaqbal (Future) Movement has been actively working towards the complete realignment of Lebanon away from the Syrian sphere of influence and into the orb of the more moderate Sunni and West-friendly Arab nations of SA, Kuwait, UAE, Jordan, and Egypt.

    Like Georgia, Lebanon is today to receive military aide in the form of training and re-armament from the very same western elements. Like Georgia, Lebanon has had to endure economic hardships from those it is trying to break free from.

    I thought I made those all pretty clear in the post...

  4. BS

    West oriented doesn't mean realigning onself with Kuwait or Egypt. In the same way the fact that Kuwait, SA and Egypt have reasonable relationships with the West doesn't mean that these are western countries or west oriented countries.

    Georgians over the last years carried out a very radical free market reforms program. The country wants to be a part of the west and join NATO and EU. Georgia sees itself or wants to see itself as a european country not only politically but culturally too. You may be surprised but this is what Georgians like to think of themselves - that they are culturaly a part of Europe.

    "Completely realigning" onself with stagnating S.A. or half stagnating Egypt is anything but being West oriented. Reclaiming to oneself an arab face is anything but seeing onself a part of European culture's domain.

  5. Nobody, Lebanon LEADS and not LAGS Kuwait or SA in terms of the freedoms and cultural traits you attribute to western culture. What I was referring to was a regional political alignment not a cultural one.

    I never said Lebanon wanted to be European - that would be almost ridiculous as Israel saying it wanted to be European or France saying it wanted to be a muslim north african country.

  6. BS

    Let me say it clear and simple

    Sakashvili would have had no trouble to decide what to do during the last war. Even if by chance he were engaged at that time in a national dialog with a fundamentalist pro iranian movement, on the very first day of the war he would have immediately declared his own war on Hezbolah from another side.

    Sakashvili and many people around him are well known for their open hostility to Russia and their pro west pro US orientation. Georgians played a prominent role in anti communist dissident circles of the former Soviet Union. These people have a very strong ideological committment and a very clear beliefs system.

    The first post on your thread is a good example why Arabs are no Georgians. Arabs are always stuck in their paranoia of moronic conspiracy theories. For them politics are oil pipelines and little else. Unless it comes to Islam they know nothing about strategic partnerships based on sharing the same system of values or the same ideological orientation. They simply don't believe that such things exist at all. And for that very reason they can't make such decisions or committments like Georgians do.

    Maybe remotely Georgia looks like Lebanon. But practically Georgia is a country that defies huge Russia against all odds, while Lebanon is just relatively more developed Arab country trying to seat on two chairs simultaneously without understanding that the price to pay for it over time would be much higher than just to get up one day, make up its mind and decide where it wants to be.

  7. Nobody, your agglomoration of the Lebanese population into one coherent mass with a schizophrenic personality and political outlook is your first mistake.

    Your second is to venture the proposition that Saakashvili would be in a national dialogue with a "fundamentalist pro-Iranian movement". If you really wanted to compare Lebanon to Georgia you would have Saakashvili sit down with the seperatist leaders of South Ossetia, Abkhazia, or Ajaria, who make up ethnically diverse minorities within Georgia. Far from declaring war on those groups he acquiesced to their demands for autonomy.

    In the world of Arab politics Lebanon has been the refuge of free-speech and despite the severe thrashing the country has taken over the years, it has remained a bastion of liberties unmatched in the Middle East - yes including Israel.

    As to the rest of your comment, it is undeserving of a reply.

  8. well BS

    About Sakashvili seating with leaders of Osetia or Abkhazia you are plainly wrong. Also they are hardly comparable to Hezbollah. You are flattering Nasrallah too much with this.

    And probably yourself too when you are talking about bastion of liberties unmatched in the middle east, incl. Israel. The lack of central authority in a country fractured by sectarian divisions like Lebanon shouldn't be confused with being a bastion of liberties. In the same way that fear of civil war shouldn't be confused with tolerance and mutual respect. But i would agree that Lebanon is an exception among other Arab countries. Forgive me Vox and other lebanese who hate being called Arabs.

    As to the rest of my comment undeserving reply i just reiterate my point - Lebanon is just messing its way to some unclear destination unable to take any decision. And if talking not about whole Lebanon then it's certainly true about that part of it that considers itself more modern and advanced than that in the south.

  9. It is my right to define myself as I want, but I am not going to debate with you.

    Concerning Georgia, I wanted to write about the issue. It is worth reminding that, pro-western or not, the current Georgian government was ELECTED, and if the Georgians want to join NATO, it is their decision to make and not Russia's. Contrarily to what Nobody claims, the majority of Georgians speak and are ethnical Georgians and Abkhazia had a Georgian majority until the Russian sponsored an ethnic-cleansing in the early 90's.

  10. "It is my right to define myself as I want, but I am not going to debate with you."


  11. by 'most georgians speak Russian' i meant that they are bilingual

  12. Vox Populi - Agent Provocateur said...

    It is my right to define myself as I want, but I am not going to debate with you.


    Ok. Arabic speaking countries. I didn't know how to say it better

  13. let me put it this way B.S.

    if there is anything in Lebanon that resembles Georgia and its current leadership it's probably march 14at its very beginning. But the closest thing to Georgia in terms of determination, clarity of vision and the will to stand for it that Lebanon ever had probably comes from the time when lebanese christians made a clear anti arab stand, cooperated with Israel and so on. Without this the only thing that Lebanon may be sharing with Georgia is being a victim, but only in the sense of sharing the situation of it , not the mentality

  14. Sorry Vox Populi, maybe I'm being a bit slow but I don't get the point of that sentence and its relation to the post or the rest of your me out here.

    Nobody: Well I don't think I'll change your opinion on this topic, and so far you haven't changed mine, so this is becoming a bit circular. But I wanted to say that aligning with Israel is not equivalent to aligning with the West culturally, morally, or politically. Witness the divergence in foreign policy between Europe and Israel for example. The moral and cultural equivalencies are debatable although I doubt we would agree on which characteristics they have in common.

    By the way, did you check out that Jewish Conscience site? What did you think? Too far to the left for your taste? I guess we should continue this part of the converstaion in that post's comment section.

  15. BS

    there are things that should be stated openly. Its a waste of time to be posting for months and mentioning everything from cluster bombs to Shebaa farms except one obvious and simple truth - Israel and Lebanon are natural allies.

    Both countries share western orientation in the sense they are parlamentary democracies and their economies are based on free market and fee trade. Both have the same enemies - Iran, Syria and muslim fundamentalists of Hamas/Hezbollah.

    In case fundamentalism will take another surge both countries may pay dearly for this.

    The idiotism of the situation is that the enemies of the two counties see themselves as an alliance and so iranian weapons flow to Hezbollah thru Syria, while Hamas has its headquarters in Damascus and recieve military training and advise from Hezbollah. Syria Iran and Hezbollah/Hamas see themselves as allies without going into intricacies of the divergence in foreign policy between Europe and Israel and other issues of purely academic interest. At the same time even in the blogsphere Lebanese and Israelis can't acknowledge something that is evident to any outside observer. For sure from Montreal it's easy to see it.

    You mentioned Georgia. Ok. Let's say with Georgia. Georgia indeed is paying a high price for making a strategic decision. But it did it and stayed alive. Maybe it's time for the lebanese, at least for those of them who consider themselves modern and advanced, to make up their mind and make a strategic decision instead of zigzaging all the time.

    It's irrelevant what happen 20 years ago and 10 years ago. It's even irrelevant what happened two months ago. Because we are not living in the past. We are living now.

  16. I think nothing about this Jewish conscience site because in the good old days of the left something like 20% of israelis were thinking like this. Israeli academy used top be 90% of these people. I have friends who think like this.

    I don't know how the things are in that bastion of liberties to the north but here it's normal and acceptable that people have old sorts of views and nobody gets particularly excited about it. This kind of arguement like 'oh. there are even israelis who think israel is bad' ... It's like i would start quoting muslims who say that islam is vicious in the sense that 'oh..there are even muslims who say that islam is bad'.

    It just shows what Lebanon really is in terms of pluralism of opinions. Come to Israel. I will show you what it means to be a pluralistic society.

  17. here it's normal and acceptable that people have old sorts of views ..

    all sorts of views

  18. Hey Nobody,

    I have an answer to your Jewish Conscience comment ready but I'd rather keep this comments section on topic and post my reply under the appropriate post. So could you possibly repost your comment under the 'sites that made me go hm...' post and delete from under this post (or leave it that part is up to you).


  19. Reading your discussions, won't intervene.
    Just allow me one off-thema comment

    Nobody said: "Ok. Arabic speaking countries. I didn't know how to say it better"

    thank you for correcting that.

    Veritas Vos Liberabit, Veritas Lux Mea..

  20. I always got in troubles with lebanese posters because of this arab thing ... if arabic speaking is good enough then i would use it .. looks to me like another version of politically correct

  21. Nobody, I am going to comment outside this thread. I know this upsets BS, but it has to be said.

    Nobody, are you insane? Is that what they teach you at your local kibbutz?
    That Israel and Lebanon are natural allies?

    Maybe, theoretically, we could be natural allies. But then you marched into our country and demolished it....time after time after time.

    Oh you great ally. Thank you for the gift of half a million Palestinian refugees. No really, thank you.
    Those people weren't radicals before you set foot in the Middle East and robbed them of all hope of a normal life. You made Hamas my dear friend.

    We also would like to give thanks for destroying our country in the 80's and wreaking havoc on the population of the South. After all, Hizballah was created as a reaction to your "friendly" behaviour.

    But of course, Nobody, you know all of this.
    You know that you Israelis come in, with your inability to pronounce a proper "r", upset a whole lot of people and then expect those very people to shower you with hugs and kisses.
    Truly insane.
    True, Syria, SA, Iran etc are backward countries....but Israel is probably the most morally backward country in the world.

  22. Wissam Chamseddine said...

    You made Hamas my dear friend.

    After all, Hizballah was created as a reaction to your "friendly" behaviour.

    But of course, Nobody, you know all of this.


    yep.. i know ..

    i actually have more bad news for you, wissam .. we also created Arabs

  23. Anonymous3:26 AM

    "Israel is probably the most morally backward country in the world."

    True, now that South Africa (the other SA by the way) is gone!

  24. Well it looks like the subject of Lebanon and Israel's "similarities" is going to be an interesting one, so I'll try to get a post going about to (attempt to) attract a wider audience. In the meantime I guess you guys can carry on the discussion, we'll move it to the proper section when its up.

    Control freak?

  25. I was curious about one thing. Maybe B.S. you will shed some light on this for me.

    These Israeli sites that you wanted to hear my opinion on. As i told you its a common thing in Israel. We have more than our share of these people.

    But on another hand the Lebanese as I understand were killing each other by thousands, sometimes in the most incredible way. They killed times more of their own people than we palestinians.

    And by far what the sunnies are doing to the shiites in Iraq is beyond anything we could have imagined. Until now i was sure suicide bombings is something reserved for Israelis and Yankees. Watching zarkawi there blowing up weddings, funerals and whatever many people here started thinking that the Arabs apparently got some additional unused reserves of madness that we didn't know about before.

    It's said that in Darfur 300 000 people died over the last three years. Without going into details of Sudan's ethnic composition i understand that it's considered to be an arab country.

    So in light of what wissam is posting here about us being morally the most backward country on earth i am interested to know if Arabs have anything like our left. I mean people who condemn their own nations for the holocausts they organized to each other, for the whole villages that were put down to death in Algere by slitting people's throats. For the same palestinians that the lebanese keep in cages of their refugee camps.

    How actually the Arabs see themselves in moral terms? I don't mean blaiming each other in indifference and failing to join the fight against Israel. I mean the stuff like our leftists are posting on their sites.

    And if the arabs have anything like this how much voice these people have in their societies?

  26. Teapot10:09 AM

    I was also wondering, Wissam Chamseddine, how do u explain Arabs killing other Arabs at higher rate than Israel is.

    Kinda kills your argument that:
    "Those people weren't radicals before you set foot in the Middle East and robbed them of all hope of a normal life. You made Hamas my dear friend."

    Compare deaths of Iraqis during the Lebnon war to death of Lebanese. It will shock you!

  27. Dear Nobody....I would like to more thoroughly explain my point of view.
    First I did state that most (i.e all) Arab countries are overall backwards. It is true, we all know it so I use it as a fact.

    Second, you might be surprised that I agree with you on Lebanese backwardness.
    We are very close up there with Israel due to the reasons you mentioned. All the sects praise religious tolerance and diversity, but 90% of the people are deeply sectarian bastards nonetheless.

    The thing I detest most, is Israelis coming and praising their country calling it modern and open.

    Once they stop treating Israeli Arabs as second class citizens, stop building settelments in the West Bank (in the manner of Hitler's concept of furthering the Lebensraum for the Third Reich), withdraw to '67 and all the stuff that would seem fair then we can call Israel the most advanced country in the Middle East.

    Before all that you are just as backward as the rest of us.
    Now I might have upset some Lebanese by grouping Lebanese and Arabs together. Well, see, as long there is "takhalluf" (i.e lack of respect for authority, following respective political and/or religious leaders without questioning, deep religious feelings of superiority regarding ones own religion, lack of freedom of speech (this lack of freedom which is enforced not by the state but rather by the normal citizen, etc etc...) I will fully regard Lebanon no different than KSA or Iran....
    What we pride ourselves on being marginally better? No pride in that. It's not enough that you can have a really good time enjoying our nightlife...really it's not.

    I will write a post someday about Lebanon's will take forever but it has to be done.

  28. Wissam said...

    Before all that you are just as backward as the rest of us.


    Ok. Got your point

  29. Blacksmith Jade said...

    In the meantime I guess you guys can carry on the discussion, we'll move it to the proper section when its up.

    Control freak?


    Yes.. You've got something of obsessive compulsive disorder in managing your blog D:

    It's probably counter productive because what makes blogs so interesting is that they are informal and people can veer from topic to topic, ask each other personal questions (checking each other's hobbies is a fascinating thing), issue death threat to each other and then move to the other side of love hate relationships. Without this it's not a blog , it's an online newspaper and there are enough of them

    Also there is a story of Zen novice monk who was assigned a task of sweeping the ground of the monastery backyard. After several hours of hard work the master was still dissatisfied. Finally the monk dispaired and complained to the master that while there is left not a leave or a stone on the ground, the master still claims that it's not perfect. The master silently came out , approached one of the trees and struck it with its stick. A few leaves fell to the ground. "Now it's perfect' - said the master.

  30. By the way wissam you are wrong about kibtuz .. I didn't grow up in kibutz..

    My 'r' is perfect and i am not expecting arabs to shower me with kisses and hugs..

    In fact whenever i had to go through the ritual of the four way palestinian kiss with a man, it sends shivers down my spine.. Also i am regularly messing the situation up by trying to kiss the woman instead, because in Israel and Spain, where i lived for two years, when you meet a couple you shake hands with the man and kiss the woman. And not the other way around.

  31. Hey Nobody...

    ...the habits question!! Haha, I made a mental note to come back and answer that question...of course that note got lost in the jumble for the better part of a week but here it is now!

    Yes, habits, um, well I would have to say that I spend most of my leisure time reading books (just finished 'Red Badge of Courage', just started 'My Life as a Quant'); going out to restaurants, pubs, clubs, and lounges; watching movies - be they at the cinema or at home (I think the last one was Total Recall at home..haha, I know); I enjoy playing computer games to relax every once in a while; and I like to play sports (squash, american football, soccer, ball hockey). I love talking, reading, and watching politics; but I consider that more of an affliction than a hobby.

    Et voila. Should I bid you to reciprocate?

  32. As the zen master from 'zen in the art of archery' would have probably said – now the string of the great bow of the zen teaching finally cut through your soul.

    Also you have no idea how many people, on hearing that i ve been to the blacksmith's blog, are asking me all sorts of questions about your hobbies. People are hungry for any peace of information about this rising star of the Lebanese politics called Blacksmith Jade. Some people even expressed desire to give you their votes, so in case you are planning to run for presidency or something we may bus them to Bint Jbel or somewhere close to the border so that they can cast their ballots.

    Going personal I can say that my hobbies are changing every few years and i used to be a party beast of the Tel Aviv style a few years ago. I mellowed recently and settled for Linux and Open Source, politics and news which I call modern history. There is also a hard to define subject that i may call human nature. My interest in it includes psychology, oriental religions and mostly self introspection (with highly negative insights!!!).

    Blogging also. Though i am blogging mostly as a way to sharpen the way i express myself and to learn to formulate better what i have in mind. The audience that i target in my blog is outside of the blog sphere but i prefer to face it when i am prepared.

  33. Well for me the blogging has been an extension of my political discourse.

    Last March, after the Hariri assassination, I also started an online message board/forum and many of the contributors on this blog date back to it (its now closed). I disagreed with many of them then, and I still do today, but I felt it important provide a diverse base of opinions.

    So Tel Aviv is a party town is it? Is there generally one party street or area everyone goes to or are there a multitude of such streets? Is there a ton of security to get into a club there? Does the city have a completely American-consumer-oriented feel or are there nice old neighborhoods?

  34. Tel Aviv is one big party and it's Israel's city of sins. There are places here where after-parties are held almost every single day of the week and on some occasions a party can start on friday and run thru the whole weekend. Only people change, the party is going on.

    I don't think there is something out of ordinary with the security compared to what i saw in spain. They don't check you so much if this is what you mean. At the height of the palestinian suicide attacks there was a guard at every door in Jerusalem (not that it helped so much) and it's still like this there . But not in Tel Aviv.

    I ve never been to America so i don't know how it compares but i assume it's very different. It's not America here


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