The real world’s competition this week is on the streets of Georgia

To Amer­i­can eyes the news of the esca­lat­ing war in the Cau­ca­sus nation of Geor­gia almost reads as farce: a break­away region of a break­away region, tanks rolling to main­tain con­trol of… well, not that much real­ly. We won­der how it could be in either Rus­sia or Georgia’s inter­ests to pick a fight over all this? Why does it seem like Russia’s de fac­to leader-for-life Vladimir Putin is still fight­ing the Cold War? And what must be going through the mind of Georgia’s Pres­i­dent Mikheil Saakashvili to be taunt­ing the giant to its north?
But the farce turns to weari­ness as we real­ize just how famil­iar this all is. Tiny eth­nic enclaves with cen­turies of ani­mosi­ties and well rehearsed sto­ries of atroc­i­ties com­mit­ted by the oth­er set fight­ing by the break­down of an empire that had uneasi­ly unit­ed them in repres­sion. Change a few details and we could be talk­ing recent con­flicts in Bosnia, Afghanistan, Rwan­da, the Sudan, Palestine/Israel and Iraq. Blood mon­ey from the drug trade, from oil bil­lions and human traf­fick­ing add fuel to the fire. We’ve been fight­ing these same wars since at least 1914. Why haven’t we learned how to stop them?
Seri­ous­ly: oth­er­wise strong economies col­lapse under the chaos that these ter­ri­to­r­i­al wars bring. Most of the wars seem to be fought in mar­gin­al areas and all sides would be bet­ter off if the politi­cians stopped wor­ry­ing about these con­test­ed ter­ri­to­ries and just focused on build­ing a econ­o­my attrac­tive to inter­na­tion­al trade.
Why hasn’t the world learned the mech­a­nisms to end these con­flicts before they erupt into open war­fare? Where is the polit­i­cal will to end this class of war once and for all? Dis­ease and ter­ror­ism are the invari­able fruits of these con­flicts and strike us all across nation­al bound­aries. The “inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty” needs to be mean more than impres­sive chore­og­ra­phy and a few thou­sand ath­letes in Bei­jing. This week’s real gold met­al will go to the lead­ers that can tran­scend macho pos­tur­ing and weak-willed apol­o­giz­ing and get those Russ­ian tanks out of Georgia.