There’s a moral problem with all the pro-Georgia cheerleading, which has gotten lost in the op-ed blasts against Putin’s neo-imperialism. A recurring phenomenon of the early Cold War was that America encouraged oppressed peoples to rise up and fight for freedom — and then, when things got rough, abandoned them to their fate. The CIA did that egregiously in the early 1950s, broadcasting to the Soviet republics and the nations of Eastern Europe that America would back their liberation from Soviet tyranny. After the brutal suppression of the Hungarian revolution in 1956, responsible U.S. leaders learned to be more cautious, and more honest about the limits of American power.
Now, after the Georgia war, McCain should learn that lesson: American leaders shouldn’t make threats the country can’t deliver or promises it isn’t prepared to keep. The rhetoric of confrontation may make us feel good, but other people end up getting killed.
– David Ignatius, The Risk of the Zinger
h/t Clive Crook
Related: Ivan Krastev on the ‘great power trap’:
The politics of mixed – and confused – signals emanating from Washington continued throughout the five days of the Russia-Georgia conflict. The outcome is doubly revealing: of the fact that the US does not have leverage over Moscow, and that Bush’s rhetorical commitment to guarantee the territorial integrity of Georgia is indeed just rhetoric. In short, the Bush administration’s crisis-management was the worst of both worlds: it had no sense of direction, and it lost credibility.
Moscow too made a grave strategic miscalculation. The decision to follow the crushing of the Georgian assault on Tskhinvali by invasion of Georgia proper – though with no political plan, no local political allies to help remove Saakashvili, and no principle on which to build a Caucasus settlement after the war – meant that Russia’s actions were guaranteed to invite stinging international criticism. Russia has not offered anything, articulated any larger and inclusive project to make sense of its military campaign or enable it to reach out to neighbouring states and international partners. Russia has, in narrow terms, won; but it could yet turn out to be the biggest loser of the Georgian war.