Cato on Russia v. Georgia v. S. Ossetia

Email Print

Re What About the Ossetians?: Cato’s piece on the Russia-Georgia-Ossetia crisis is a bit odd. First, as Sheldon Richman notes, “the Georgian military response to … the secessionist ambitions of the majority in South Ossetia … was the immediate cause of the current war”; but the Cato piece blames Russia (“The war was a spectacular provocation that had been long prepared and successfully executed by the Russian ‘siloviki’”), without so much as mentioning Georgia’s own complicity, or Georgia’s status as neocon stooge.

Further, as Richman notes, “Defenders of liberty … should … champion the cause of the brutalized Ossetians, who … demand independence from Georgia. … When President Bush says the ‘territorial integrity of Georgia’ must be respected and GOP presidential candidate John McCain declares, ‘Today we’re all Georgians,’ they are putting politics above justice.” He’s right: any libertarian ought to favor decentralization, secession, and independence. Yet, the Cato piece seems to bemoan the possibility that the breakaway regions may actually succeed in gaining independence–it’s a “loss” (“Under the new situation, the idea of legitimizing the de facto loss of South Ossetia and Abkhazia may gain traction in Georgian society.”)

Interestingly, the Cato piece is linked to approvingly on the blog of a Cato vice president. And in the comments section, one of his commenters apes the neocon line in opposing Ossetian independence in the name of the international law doctrine of “territorial integrity“. But the libertarian aspect of this doctrine is its prohibition of invasions of one nation by another. To the extent the principle is opposed to secession, it is unlibertarian.

Update: The aforementioned VP has complained about this post. My post was not inaccurate or false; by contrast, his is, as usual, riddled with outright lies and falsehoods, and bizarre complaints. Let’s see: He whines that I called the linked piece on Cato’s site the Cato piece… which it was. No falsehood there on my part.

The VP complains about my noting that the Cato piece seems to oppose the “loss” of South Ossetia and Abkhazia—well, I quoted the sentence at issue and linked to it, and only said it “seemed” this way to me, so readers can make up their own mind. No falsehood.

Said VP says the Cato piece does not call for a military response; and I never said it did.

In fact it was his fellow  slimer who called for Russia to be “confronted” and opposed Ossetian independence in the name of “territorial integrity”. Regarding that issue, I clearly stated that this doctrine is good insofar as it opposes nations invading others. I also said “To the extent the principle is opposed to secession, it is unlibertarian.” It was the VPJ’s commentor who called on this principle to oppose Ossetian independence—and the VP has the temerity to imply that I am opposed to the doctrine of “territorial integrity”—even though I am not—and that I “support the Russian occupation and expulsion of the entire Georgian population from the Soviet-era territory of the South Ossetian Autonomous Oblast”—which I do not. Further falsehoods. I support the doctrine of territorial integrity as a means of stopping states from invading other states; I merely oppose its use as a way to legitimize central state use of force to stop secession (no offense, Abraham Lincoln Cultists).

As for the Russian actions here—I of course completely oppose Russian occupation—as should be clear from the Richman lines I quoted approvingly above. Another distortion from the VP is that we LRCers “idolize” Putin. Another distortion is the insinuation that those of us who opposed Abraham Lincoln’s murderous, illegal, unlibertarian war do so because we are neoconfederate racists who are glad to see blacks kept in chains. Absurd. It is states that have harmed minorities the most; we anarchists cannot have this pinned on us. The pro-state beltwaytarians are the ones who ought to look in the mirror for supporting the state that enslaves and robs and kills. (In any case, Southern secession actually made slavery less secure by annulling the Fugitive Slave Act. To say the opposite implies that the slaves were somehow kidnapped and then “rescued” by the Republican Party. This is the total sum of Harry Jaffa’s theory of the “Civil War” and is of course pure BS.)

VP is quite right that one problem of secession is that the seceding group might themselves abuse the rights of minorities or subgroups within the seceding region. But this is a problem of having states. That is one reason I, as an anarcho-libertarian, oppose all states and favor any group seceding from another, down to the individual. If VP were an anarchist, he could take this position too. In fact, the VP says we LRCers would not favor the Georgian-populated areas of South Ossetia seceding (no scare quotes needed) from South Ossetia. I would! And if a town in this area wants to secede, fine! And if a family living in that town wants to secede–yes!

8:50 pm on August 27, 2008