Josh Trevino on where the situation is now:
The first thing to understand about the war between Russia and Georgia is that Georgia has lost. As Doug Muir explains, seizing South Ossetia required the quick severing, and then holding, of a single key route leading from the Caucasus peaks to the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali. A look at the terrain tells the tale: Tskhinvali’s north side is to the mountains, and its south faces toward a broad plain in which the Georgians already controlled the major routes. As an operational problem, the solution was self-evident. Seize the north-south route to Tskhinvali, and the conquest of South Ossetia resolves into an exercise in alpine insurgency — unpleasant but winnable.***
The real question for Georgia, then, is not whether is will win or lose — it has already lost — but how bad its loss will be. The worst case scenario is a Russian occupation and annexation. Fortunately for the Georgians, that’s also the least likely. Less unlikely is some sort of Russian occupation coupled with a Russian-driven regime change that puts Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili on the street — if he’s lucky. This might not be the tragedy for Georgia it seems, given Saakashvili’s rather astonishing incompetent gamble in leading the country into the present war.
Greg Djerejian, on some of the causes that got us to this point:
Which brings me to a fifth point, and perhaps a more fundamental causal factor contributing to this explosion of misfortune in Georgia, namely, that of stupidity, or at least, severe miscalculation. Saakashvili, an apparently quite idealistic 40 year-old former NY lawyer, seems to have erred too much in thinking that giddy summitry with Western big-wigs might pay dividends (or too his far too excited involvement in the Iraq adventure which, incidentally, looks to be coming to a quite precipitous end) but unfortunately, insufficiently appreciated the disastrous waning in U.S. power these past years, despite his constant hankering for NATO membership (which a resurgent Russia will never accept regardless of Kosovo or whatever else, best I can tell), and thus has fallen short with regard to better appreciating a variable which would have been more apropos, namely, a harsh dose of realpolitik.
Daniel Larison elaborates on what the last eight years have wrought:
It’s an encouraging sign that this feeling is growing at least among some officials, but what does it say about this administration that they apparently believed that the U.S. could have it all and didn’t need to prioritize which policies were more important and which were secondary? This is the crew that thought it could expand NATO twice in five years and recognize Kosovo, all the while berating Russia for its internal political conditions, and then ask the Russians for help with Iran as if nothing had happened.
There is a basic problem with having all these satellites whose interests we are supposed to protect. U.S. interests will often require our government to raise the hopes of small nations, only to dash them when our real priorities conflict with lending support to them. At the same time, to the extent that our government takes these obligations to numerous satellites seriously it requires compromising or limiting our ability to pursue policies in the American interest.
And finally, Daniel Larison notes the irony in the coverage:
What we’ll think of is the country of Georgia and we’ll realize that August 8 was the date when Russia began reassembling the former Soviet empire in earnest. ~Roger Kimball
Yes, just as Iran is poised to revive the Achaemenid Empire! It’s not just that I find the charges of Russian imperialism a bit tired coming from people who have insisted for years that invading other countries, toppling their governments and setting up puppet states is not imperialism, but I find them very boring. I mean, how unimaginative can one be to say, “They’re bringing back the Soviet Union!”? That’s the sort of thing an eccentric Bond villain would try to do. There are no more workers’ councils, and there is no more USSR. In every sense of the word, the Soviets are gone and their empire is dust. No one–not Putin, not Medvedev, not anyone–is bringing it back as it once existed. Now if Kimball had said that Moscow is trying to reassemble parts of the pre-revolutionary Russian Empire, at least in terms of its territorial dimensions, I would still say that he is grossly exaggerating what’s going on, but at least he wouldn’t be embarrassing himself by saying completely nonsensical things.
*** Update ***
This CNN story seems pretty thorough.