Saturday, August 16, 2008

Footnote to the preceding

Something else that has disturbed me is the dismissive attitude some have taken, the verbal shrugs of the shoulders to be found around. I realize these discussions are focusing on the political aspects, but still it makes me uncomfortable. For example, Kevin Drum said this a couple of days ago:
I'm willing to bet that a decade from now, far from being seen as the first step in reassembling Russia's old empire, the Russo-Georgian war will be virtually forgotten, a tiny, weeklong border conflict over a couple of unimportant territories that had been in limbo for 17 years and were bound to blow up sooner or later.
As part of his remarkable 1980s 7-part TV documentary on "War," Canadian journalist Gwynne Dyer discussed some wars from ancient history, noting how even though they seemed to those living them to be all-consuming events that would shape the entire human future, now we would be hard put to find any difference that the outcome has actually made. That is, in terms of the world in which we live now, who won and lost those wars is by any discernible measure irrelevant - and thus so are the wars themselves.

Even in the event of more recent wars, the impact can be hard to find. Who remembers the "Soccer War" of 1969? Can anyone demonstrate a long-term significance? Even the wars over Kashmir between two bigger opponents - India and Pakistan - don't seem ultimately to have affected anyone beyond those in the region.

So I'm sure that Kevin is right: Ultimately, this really won't make much of a difference, if any at all. Still, the phrase "anyone beyond those in the region" echoes. Yes, it won't affect anyone beyond those in the region. But what about those in the region? On a geopolitical scale, this is a blip, a hiccup. But that doesn't change the fact that there are scores, maybe hundreds, of people dead, hundreds, maybe thousands, wounded and maimed, whole families destroyed, whole villages burned down, whole city neighborhoods leveled.

Even as I agree that on a world scale this is small potatoes, even as I agree that there are places, many too many places, where things are as bad if not worse and many where people suffer outside the gaze of the world media, still, still, I can't think about this and go "hey, BFD."

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