Well, I waited to finish that last post so long that the whole situation is moot. Georgia and Russia have both signed cease-fire agreements, and, beyond further hijinks on either side, the crisis is apparently over.
It remains, though, to be seen what the U.S. could have possibly done to calm the situation. Regardless of who was in charge at the time, the military is overdrawn in Afghanistan and Iraq, and even the Secretary of
War Defense couldn't see a role for combat forces.
The U.S. was hardly a fair mediator in the crisis - from the Georgian President being feted on CNN to questions about U.S. interests in Caucasus oil to the role of McCain's foreign policy adviser with respect to Georgia to airlifting Georgian troops home from Iraq to Tblisi street names. And as Juan Cole, among others, points out, we dug this hole ourselves:
The run-up to the current chaos in the Caucasus should look quite familiar: Russia acted unilaterally rather than going through the U.N. Security Council. It used massive force against a small, weak adversary. It called for regime change in a country that had defied Moscow. It championed a separatist movement as a way of asserting dominance in a region it coveted.
Indeed, despite George W. Bush and Dick Cheney’s howls of outrage at Russian aggression in Georgia and the disputed province of South Ossetia, the Bush administration set a deep precedent for Moscow’s actions — with its own systematic assault on international law over the past seven years. Now, the administration’s condemnations of Russia ring hollow.
As well, the United States continues to discover that pissing off countries who failed to fall in line with Georgie's Great Mesopotamian Adventure has consequences:
WASHINGTON — President Bush Wednesday promised that U.S. naval forces would deliver humanitarian aid to war-torn Georgia before his administration had received approval from Turkey, which controls naval access to the Black Sea, or the Pentagon had planned a seaborne operation, U.S. officials said Thursday.
As of late Thursday, Ankara, a NATO ally, hadn't cleared any U.S. naval vessels to steam to Georgia through the Bosporus and the Dardanelles, the narrow straits that connect the Mediterranean and the Black Seas, the officials said. Under the 1936 Montreaux Convention, countries must notify Turkey before sending warships through the straits.
Furthermore the Russians have a few issues with the West that make our cries of outrage less audible to their ears:
Of course, that’s only the beginning of the stupidity. How is it, by the by, that Russia went from being a former superpower on the way toward becoming a third world country — so severely flattened that the very life span of its citizens had decreased by some ten years or so — to now racing back toward becoming a global great power again, and a very pissed off one at that? Well, one good explanation would certainly have to do with how the US reacted as the country was imploding in the 1990s. Rather than reaching out with Marshall Plan type assistance, we sent an army of right-wing economists instead, who advised privatizing everything in sight. Which they largely did, and largely to disastrous consequences. One of Putin’s achievements has been to regain the primacy of the state, and bring the hammer down on the latter-day robber barons who were formerly carting it off, piece by petro piece. In doing so, he has restored a measure of Russian dignity following the humiliation of the triumphalist US fire-sale treatment, and along with that comes no small degree of national pride at humbling exploitive and supremely arrogant Americans.
These sentiments were only further exacerbated by the expansion of NATO deep into the traditional Russian sphere of influence, and the unilateral American scrapping of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in order to pursue the military-industrial complex’s greatest boondoggle ever, a missile ‘defense’ system, now being deployed in Eastern Europe. Lastly, as if antagonizing a potential enemy wasn’t stupid enough, the bright candles in charge of American foreign policy have done so while completely failing to significantly wean the country off of our petroleum addiction, all while driving up prices dramatically. Hey, guess who’s got a whole ocean of oil at their disposal? Guess which country is growing rich and powerful because of that? Guess who is able to throw its political weight around based on this economic power?
We did this to ourselves. We're responsible for whatever comes next. As Fred Kaplan points out in this Slate article, what we need now is a willingness to negotiate, to hold conferences, to talk to people unlike we've been doing for the last eight years.
In short, the kind of thing Obama's been criticized for wanting to do.
We got to this point by acting like snotty kids, crying "YOU AIN'T THE BOSS OF ME!" and doing what we damn well wanted. Only way out of it is to cut that crap out and start acting like adults.