Ronald D. Asmus, A Little War that Shook the World: Georgia, Russia, and the Future of the West (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010), 272 pp., $27.00.
A Little War that Shook the World: Georgia, Russia, and the Future of the West AT 8 PM on March 13, a leading television channel in Georgia sent the country back to war. The half-hour broadcast on pro-government Imedi TV unveiled a terrifying scenario for its viewers: Russian tanks were rolling toward the capital, Tbilisi, aiming to complete the unfinished business of August 2008, when Moscow brought Georgia to its knees in a conflict over the breakaway province of South Ossetia; President Mikheil Saakashvili had either fled or been killed; a "people's government" loyal to Moscow was now in charge, led by two former Georgian officials who had recently crossed over to the opposition; and three army battalions had joined the Russians.
This was all a virtual reality. Soon thereafter, an anchor stepped out into the studio audience and announced that the entire episode had been a hoax designed to remind everyone of just what their future might hold. The supposedly live images, including a vindictive President Medvedev, President Obama apparently expressing alarm, and statements from the British and French ambassadors in Tbilisi, had all been recut from footage of the earlier conflict. But thousands of ordinary people, especially outside of the capital where there are few alternative news sources, genuinely believed their country was at war once again; there were reports of panic and overloaded mobile-telephone networks. A friend of a friend went into premature labor. Crowds gathered to protest the program outside Imedi's headquarters.