5 Days of War

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the title, it’s the name of a movie made about the 2008 war between Russia and Georgia. It has a measure of popularity here in Georgia, but was criticised elsewhere in the world profusely for ‘inaccurately portraying events’.

Now that’s true to an extent. It is a very pro-Georgia film, certainly, but that’s to be expected. Is it a good film? Sure, it’s a good movie, not up there as an all-time great and full of cheesy dialogue and there’s a slow-motion running scene that had me rolling around the floor it was so Baywatch, but on the whole yes, it’s an okay film. The plot is very predictable, and there’s a few loopholes here and there, but it’s a 5/6 out of 10 affair.

So what really shocked me was the comments on YouTube. Almost everyone in the West I’ve ever spoken to outside of academic or military circles has never heard of South Ossetia or Abkhazia. At best you might get them to remember the papers a few years ago and they’ll say ‘Oh, was that there? Didn’t much come of it, if I remember rightly’. Everyone on YouTube, however, seems to be an expert.

I use the word loosely. The level we’re talking about is actually along the lines of ‘FUCK GEORGIA!!!!’, ‘No one gives a shit!!!!’ or, my favourite ‘this is Georgian propaganda!!’. Ah, yes. Georgian propaganda indeed. What I find most amusing about that is how many American films have been released and never described as ‘American propaganda’. I’ll give you some examples: almost every WW2 film, which is basically ‘How the Americans won the war for the rest of us’, and usually leaves out the fact that the US entered the war late with no experienced personnel, and how the British were all ‘I say!’ posh toffs with no clue about war. Or films about Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, all US military disasters that they seem to think they’ve won.

Our panel of YouTube experts seem to get their opinions from reviews given by newspapers and the like, who all (oddly enough) agree with the opinion of the UN, EU, NATO and every other useless acronym organisation on the planet, namely: this is bad because it might upset Russia.

I’m sure I’ve documented elsewhere my disdain towards American foreign policy in Georgia during the war. Well, America’s tactic of diving for cover and then creeping back into Georgia after the smoke cleared was echoed internationally, each organisation deeming it safer to blame Tbilisi for starting the war.

Well, I think Saakashvili jumped the gun a bit, but as a military man, you can’t just summon an invasion force out of thin air. These things take time to prepare, and weeks before the war Russia co-ordinated a massive exercise simulating the circumstances of an ivasion; a dress-rehearsal, if you like. Furthermore, months before the first shots were fired, South Ossetians were issued Russian passports en masse. These facts were conveniently ignored by the Western press. The reaction to this film seems to me largely people just jumping on the band-wagon.

You see, it’s my belief that after the end of the Cold War, the West has gone rather soft. Russia’s communism had been abandoned in place of ‘democracy’ so the threat to the West was over. Well, it seems Russia begs to differ. The war in 2008 was a test against American resolve. A test to see if America still had the guts to challenge Russia with a forceful response. Cowards they may have seemed to some by quickly dropping the problem in the EU’s lap, but the Americans knew Saakasvhili was desperate enough to come crawling back to them even after his faith in them had been so widely misplaced, and the disdain of the Georgian public is preferable to damaged relations with the Russians. So with a West that’s getting softer and an East that’s becoming ever-more determined and harder, where is the world going?

To get back on topic, I’m appalled by how many people online take delight in Georgia’s defeat, one man even laughing at Georgia’s forced inclusion to the Soviet Union. Saakashvili is playing it all wrong: the West could not care less. Still, getting back on topic with the film, I don’t think its fair its reviews were so bad when films that are far worse get all the awards…though I appreciate that’s a matter of opinion. But I wonder, with a West that desperately wants Russia to be angels and no possibility of anything ever ever ever going wrong, like a child with its head underneath the pillow, what will become of us?

About tcjogden69

Former soldier, current boxing trainer/student living in Tbilisi.
This entry was posted in Georgia, Tbilisi, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to 5 Days of War

  1. Tom says:

    Glad to see another entry from you; I thought you gave up with blogging. I’ve seen the movie, but didn’t like it much. Not because of any political reasons, but I just hate anything with Dean Cain in it–except maybe the Superman TV show he was in during the 90s.

    Unfortunately Peace Corps tells me I cannot talk about Georgian politics, but in three weeks when I’m finished here I’d love to talk about it with you.

    Good luck and keep writing.

    • tcjogden69 says:

      Thanks a lot Tom, very glad you’re enjoying reading. I didn’t think I’d stick to this blogging business, but after I started I’ve become rather addicted, it’s a lot of fun. Unfortunately I’m a little strapped for time at the moment, I’m working on my novel, an article for GQ Magazine and still train boxers down the gym. Speaking of which, I was halfway through writing an article on the state of boxing in Georgia, but thought it was a little niche and gave up on it. Is that something you’d be interested to read? What activities do you do here with the Peace Corps?

      • Tom says:

        My primary job is in the school in a town in mountainous Adjara, but honestly I haven’t done much there. Primarily I do fundraising through Peace Corps and other organizations to do large projects. The biggest project was a fitness center:

        https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.894140074035.2289138.7402271&type=3

        In my blog, under the “Current Projects” heading you can see the list of all the things I’ve down here. I only have one month remaining, so everything is pretty much wrapped up. Maybe if I hate the jobs in the USA I’ll make my way back to Georgia.

      • tcjogden69 says:

        How many people use gyms in Adjara? I’ve found a lot of people here don’t really want to know about physical fitness, besides the boxers I train. It looks a cracking place, though, I wish our gym had that equipment haha ours is a bit spartan, but I love it. Will you be back in Tbilisi before you leave?

  2. Cate says:

    I don’t think it’s safe to say that these youtube commenters represent ‘the West’ at all. My impression has been similar to yours: most people haven’t heard of Abkhazia or South Ossetia.

    I would be that these commenters are immigrants from, or living in, Eastern Europe, Russian etc–generally people more likely to know or care about the 2008 war– and they’re just using English to communicate their message to the most people.

    • tcjogden69 says:

      Since YouTubers hide behind a convenient anonymity, it’s impossible to say who they are or where they’re from. I wasn’t really trying to suggest they represent the West as a whole; I was really attempting to draw attention to the hypocrisy about it all. The attitude at the time in 2008 in Britain was something like ‘Why on earth would a tiny country like that attack Russia? They’re risking international drama and maybe war because of two pathetic territories! How could they be so selfish?’…you get the idea. Perhaps I didn’t communicate that clearly enough. Another thing that gets me is how Georgian people in need are somehow less deserving than those from Asia or Africa. I’m sure I’ll mention that again in the future. Have fun/keep reading/drive safe/use protection

  3. Richard says:

    I think your analysis of the run up to and conduct of the 2008 August war leaves a lot to be desired. You mention military exercises conducted by Russia in the run up to the war, but you don’t mention that Georgia also conducted military exercises of her own around the same time:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immediate_Response_2008

    As a military man you are no doubt familiar with the concept of intelligence gathering, and might it be possible that Russia knew of the impending Georgian attack, and that this was the reason for the comparatively quick Russian response? The Russian North Caucasus is heavily militarised anyway because of the insurgency there, so Russia already had troops at hand to sent to the conflict. One of the first units to arrive in South Ossetia were actually local Chechens from the Vostok Battalion:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vostok_Battalion

    As for Renny Harlin’s film, you admit yourself that the film is very pro-Georgian. Add to this the fact that the Georgian government provided all of the military hardware and most (all?) of the funding for the film, and the term propaganda is hardly such a misplaced description:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/5_Days_of_August

    • tcjogden69 says:

      Ah, wikipedia, the universal tree of knowledge, well known for its authenticity and accuracy; that is to say rumour, hearsay and guesswork. Perhaps you didn’t know anyone can edit it? I recommend you use some proper sources, like Ronald D. Asmus’ ‘A little War that Shook the World’, a collection of essays titled ‘The Guns of August 2008’ and Per Gahtron’s ‘Georgia: Pawn in the New Great Game’. Well spotted Richard, indeed I don’t mention the exercises conducted here before the war, but then I didn’t mention any of the other joint US-Georgian exercises from 2003-2008, either. If you’ve read any other of my entries here, you’ll perhaps notice I am very much against American military support for Georgia since it’s only result so far has been to antagonise the Russians and get young Georgian men killed in pointless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Frankly I don’t care to debate with people who support Russia or Georgia in that war, their minds being far too firmly set on who was to blame for it beginning, though both sides seem to have been far too keen for a dustup, if you ask me. The point of the entry was really rather more to do with how civilian casualties were callously ignored, and America’s cowardly immediate dropping of a country they’d supported so keenly when it was safe to do so. Last but by no minds least, I chiefly write on here because it’s fun and not because I’m trying to set down hard-graft political essays. I go to university for that. Oh, and another thing; my wife’s Georgian, and so are all my friends. Who’s side do you think I’m going to be sympathetic to when push comes to shove?

  4. Richard says:

    If you had bothered to do a simple background check on me, you would no doubt realise that I have fairly extensive experience working with these issues both academically and practically speaking. However, in this instance, refering to wikipedia was the most convenient option for me. In any case, feel free to challenge any of my assertions if you wish.

    I have read the book by Ronald Asmus and found it heavily saturated with political advocacy induced bias. Althought valuable from the standpoint of knowing what was going on in the heads of Western policymakers at the time of the war, I am afraid it is not useful for very much else. I would definitely not recommend it a as primer for any student of Caucasus politics who is looking for a balanced, truthful and comprehensive view of this particular conflict. At a bare minimum it has to be supplemented by additional sources.

    While I do understand that you have picked sides here, and that is your prerogative of course, I would have hoped that you as a politics student would value some critical input on this and other issues.

    But maybe I was wrong.

    • tcjogden69 says:

      Of course you were wrong, as I’ve mentioned to you twice before, this isn’t supposed to be a blog for a be-all end-all academic PhD thesis. This is the typed form of the lunacy that lives between my ears.
      And obviously I’ve taken a side. Wouldn’t you, if your wife and friends lived somewhere with the slimmest chance of war? Let me tell you, my lad, when the bullets and artillery start coming down on you it doesn’t do any good to say ‘Ah, well, they’ve got some good points about Abkhaz independence, you know…’.
      The fact is, I’m not a very good student; I always feel academics get far too ravelled up in shouting ‘Your source is useless and limited, therefore invalidating your argument!’ at each other (sound familiar, old chap?) than focusing on what’s really going on ‘on the ground’. Ah, I hear you say, but I’ve done practical work in Abkhazia! And good for you old fellow, I reply, but have a chat to some Abkhaz refugees living in Georgia too, since your own sympathies seem rooted, too.
      To be honest I’d have hoped you would have commented more on my American criticisms. If you’re a supporter of Abkhazia I thought we’d be on the same page there slightly, but ah well, ne’ermind.
      I’ll be sure to look at our blog, and you’re welcome to keep reading mine of course, but remember, I’m not aiming for a PhD graduation. So, my advice is to grab yourself a Natatakhtari, a nice young lady, come down the gym and relaxxxx.

  5. Richard says:

    By the way, feel free to check out my now (discontinued) blog. I hope you will find some of the material interesting:

    http://antigeopolitics.wordpress.com/

  6. Richard says:

    No problem, I am not averse to mindless ruminations myself, or a casual discussion over a pint of beer or something stronger.🙂

    I will definitely contact you whenever I am in Tbilisi next time, and perhaps we can have a nice little drink and a chat!😉

  7. Richard says:

    And no; I am not a big fan for American foreign policy either. I think that a great deal of Western foreign policy towards the Caucasus generally has been rather distasterous…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s