"If he steals my cow, that is bad. If I
steal his cow, that is good" - this moral rule was attributed by European
racists to the Hottentots, an ancient tribe in
It's hard not to be reminded of this when the
Not so long ago, the Western countries recognized the
But what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, as the saying
goes. What's true for Kosovo is no less true for Abkhazia and
So what is the difference between the two cases? A huge one, indeed: the
independence of Kosovo is supported by the Americans and opposed by the
Russians. Therefore it's good. The independence of Abkhazia and
I do not accept this moral code. I support the independence of all these regions.
In my view, there is one simple principle, and it applies to everybody: every province that wants to secede from any country has a right to do so. In this respect there is, for me, no difference between Kosovars, Abkhazians, Basques, Scots and Palestinians. One rule for all.
THERE WAS a time when this principle could not be implemented. A state of a few hundred thousand people was not viable economically, and could not defend itself militarily.
That was the era of the "nation state", when a strong people
imposed itself, its culture and its language, on weaker peoples, in order to
create a state big enough to safeguard security, order and a proper standard of
That reality has been superseded. Most of the functions of the
"nation state" have moved to super-national structures: large
federations like the
That has happened to the former
But then, how can a country avoid disintegration? Very simple: it must
convince the smaller peoples which live under its
wings that it is worthwhile for them to remain there. If the Scots feel that
they enjoy full equality in the
The general trend in the world is to enlarge the functions of the big
regional organizations, and at the same time allow peoples to secede from their
mother countries and establish their own states. That is what happened in the
Those who want to go in the opposite direction and establish, for example, a bi-national Israeli-Palestinian state, are going against the Zeitgeist - to say the least.
THIS IS the historical background to the recent spat between
The fighting reminded me of our own history. In the spring of 1967, I
heard a senior Israeli general saying that he prayed every night for the
Egyptian leader, Gamal Abd-al-Nasser,
to send his troops into the
Now Saakashvili has done precisely the same.
The Russians prayed for him to invade
Nobody can know what was passing through the mind of Saakashvili.
He is an inexperienced person, educated in the
But even a demagogue does not have to be an idiot. Did he believe that
President Bush, who is bankrupt in all fields, would rush to his aid? Did he
not know that
I AM curious about our part in this story.
In the Georgian government there are several ministers who grew up and received
their education in
I am always amused by the idea that it is possible to train a foreign army. One can, of course, teach technicalities: how to use particular weapons or how to conduct a battalion-scale maneuver. But anyone who has taken part in a real war (as distinct from policing an occupied population) knows that the technical aspects are secondary. What matters is the spirit of the soldiers, their readiness to risk their lives for the cause, their motivation, the human quality of the fighting units and the command echelon.
Such things cannot be imparted by foreigners. Every army is a part of its society, and the quality of the society decides the quality of the army. That is particularly true in a war against an enemy who enjoys a decisive numerical superiority. We experienced that in the 1948 war, when David Ben-Gurion wanted to impose on us officers who were trained in the British army, and we, the combat soldiers, preferred our own commanders, who were trained in our underground army and had never seen a military academy in their lives.
Only professional generals, whose whole outlook is technical, imagine
that they could "train" soldiers of another people and another
culture - in
A well developed trait among our officers is arrogance. In our case, it is generally connected with a reasonable standard of the army. If the Israeli officers infected their Georgian colleagues with this arrogance, convincing them that they could beat the mighty Russian army, they committed a grievous sin against them.
I DO NOT believe that this is the beginning of Cold War II, as has been suggested. But this is certainly a continuation of the Great Game.
This appellation was given to the relentless secret struggle that went on
all through the 19th century along
Today, the Great Game between the current two great empires - the
WHEN Henry Kissinger was still a wise historian, before he became a foolish statesman, he expounded an important principle: in order to maintain stability in the world, a system has to be formed that includes all the parties. If one party is left outside, stability is in danger.
He cited as an example the "Holy Alliance" of the great powers that came into being after the Napoleonic wars. The wise statesmen of the time, headed by the Austrian Prince Clemens von Metternich, took care not to leave the defeated French outside, but, on the contrary, gave them an important place in the Concert of Europe.
The present American policy, with its attempt to push
A small country which gets involved in the struggle between the big
bullies risks being squashed. That has happened in the past to
We Israelis can, perhaps, also learn something from all of this: that it is
not safe to be a vassal of one great Empire and provoke the rival empire.
So let's not adopt the "Hottentot morality". It is not wise, and certainly not moral.