Must-reads: Marcus Gee and George Jonas on the Georgia situation.
We should have seen it coming, and it’s unlikely to end well.
Nobody should be surprised by recent developments in Georgia, South Ossetia and Russia, Marcus Gee argues in The Globe and Mail. Russian leaders have been complaining about “being encircled, encroached upon and disrespected by an arrogant West drunk on the taste of its Cold War victory” since the days of Yeltsin, he notes, and more recently, Vladimir Putin served notice that he considered the West’s recognition of Kosovo sufficient precedent for Russia to recognize South Ossetia, Abkhazia and heaven knows how many other Caucasian backwaters. The main difference, Gee contends, is that Moscow now has the financial and military resources to redress its many perceived humiliations.
George Jonas, writing in the National Post, is unimpressed with George W. Bush’s condemnation of Russia’s incursion into Georgia given how recently the United States “has bombed and invaded sovereign countries, not only potential threats like Iraq or Afghanistan, but countries that couldn’t threaten America or its allies by any stretch of the imagination—such, for instance, as Serbia.” And speaking of Serbia, Jonas argues that while Mikheil Saakashvili is a pro-western democrat and Slobodan Milosevic was “a communist-turned-chauvinist, a thug and no friend of the West,” this does not explain the binary distinction many observers seem to draw between the Georgia/South Ossetia and Serbia/Kosovo situations—which are, he contends, conceptually identical. “Putin seems ready to pull a Sudetenland in Georgia,” Jonas concludes. “I’m afraid NATO may have empowered him by pulling one in 1999 in Kosovo.”
Perhaps “Russia, Georgia and the Ossetians will negotiate a deal that will allow the rest of us to forget about this tiny statelet,” the Toronto Star‘s Thomas Walkom muses, arguing “legal recognition of South Ossetia’s separation (and its almost certain absorption by Russia, which already contains North Ossetia) may be the least worst result” of all this. But with John McCain talking tough on Russia and Putin clearly intent on sending a message to any other states or statelets considering playing footsie with the West, he says we may well not be so lucky.
“It’s easy to scoff when athletes blame a poor performance on too many distractions,” Daphne Bramham writes in the Vancouver Sun. “But there really are a lot of them.” There are literally thousands of cameras, she observes, both in venues and outside; there are telephone calls and text messages at all hours; there’s the sheer size of the venues and the noise from the Chinese partisans; “and there’s the constant action in the athletes’ village.” Indeed, she notes, many of the most hell-bent competitors spend little or no time in the village, and don’t even march in the opening ceremonies. “So much for the romanticized notion of every four years the world’s best athletes come together for nearly three weeks to compete, live and play together in harmony,” she concludes. “That’s for losers.”
Just three days after criticizing Michael Phelps for his “vainglorious streak,” the Star‘s Rosie DiManno complains that Canadian synchronized divers Roseline Filion and Meaghan Benfeito seem too proud and self-congratulatory just to have been to the Olympics. “We’re No. 7! We’re No. 7!” she mimics. “Out of eight.” She insists, bizarrely, that she’s “not taking anything away from Filion and … Benfeito, this being their first Games,” but she sees in them the “annoying all’s-well complacency that, purportedly, was being socially engineered out of Canadian athletes.”
It’s unclear whether the Toronto Sun‘s Peter Worthington thinks cancelling the PromArt cultural funding program was a good idea because the money was going towards non-“cultural” events or because, as per the government’s talking points, he thinks Gwynne Dyer should actually pay his own expenses to go to Cuba on Department of Foreign Affairs business. Which is to say he’s either got a spectacularly narrow definition of “culture”—can he really see no “cultural benefit” to Canada in Cuba becoming more democratic?—or he hasn’t been keeping up with the fallout from the announcement. (This is perfectly understandable, really, considering the government didn’t even seem to know what PromArt did in the first place.)
The Montreal Gazette‘s Janet Bagnall mistakes blue-green algae in her lake in the Eastern Townships for “sediment stirred up by days and days of rain and wind,” dives in, suffers the consequences, and demands the Quebec government take a harder line against both the farmers who cause the problem and the residents who exacerbate it by denuding the shoreline. “Forget fines of $1,000 or $2,000,” she writes. “In cases of repeated, flagrant violation of rules …, put a big gun in the legislation: The power to confiscate land.”
“The spectre of Canada’s 100th military casualty in Afghanistan looms large on the horizon,” Don Martin writes in the Calgary Herald. It’s an artificial milestone, certainly, worthy of no more or less mourning than any other, but Martin believes we’ve become “blasé” when it comes to casualties in Afghanistan even as recent “brazen gunfights” with Taliban insurgents put the lie to assurances they’re on their last legs. Artificial or not, he predicts that grim milestone will “refocus Canadian minds on the human cost of a mission with three years left on the clock.”
In the Gazette, L. Ian MacDonald provides very little insight into the John Edwards-Rielle Hunter affair. For example, he calls it an “appropriate ending” that the National Enquirer tracked them down at a Los Angeles hotel, “since they had first met in the bar of a New York hotel.” Huh? “From New York to L.A.,” he explains—or, more accurately, doesn’t.