Georgia on my mind (but not, apparently, on Bush’s)

Nothing highlights the intellectual bankruptcy of the Bush regime better than the President’s and Condoleeza Rice’s posturing over Putin’s humiliation of Georgia. There’s a terrific essay by Jeffrey Tayler in The Atlantic which dissects the Bush administration’s failure to think through the implications of its enthusiasm for President Saakashvili’s regime. The asymmetry of Georgia’s dustup with Russia, Tayler argues, “has obscured both the United States’ culpability in bringing about the conflict, and the nature of the separatism that caused it in the first place”. Excerpt:

As Russian bombs rained down on Georgia and Saakashvili pleaded for help from the West and for a cease-fire from Moscow, Putin stated bluntly that “Georgia’s aspiration to join NATO . . . is driven by its attempt to drag other nations and peoples into its bloody adventures,” and warned that, “the territorial integrity of Georgia has suffered a fatal blow.” The Bush administration answered with boilerplate language of protest, failing even to dispatch Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to the region until six days later for rounds of shuttle diplomacy. Saakashvili complained that “all we got so far are just words, statements, moral support, humanitarian aid.” But neither the United States nor Europe will risk Armageddon for Georgia. For Saakashvili, game over.

The United States has, for all intents and purposes, abandoned Saakashvili, the poster-boy of the color revolutions, and left him at the mercy of Putin, who appears bent on exacting revenge. Moscow and the separatist leaders in both republics have pledged to charge Saakashvili in the Hague for genocide. The lessons that emerge from the Russia-Georgia war are clear: Russia is back, the West fears Russia as much as it needs it, and those who act on other assumptions are in for a rude, perhaps violent, awakening…

Yep. Fukuyama’s thesis seems a bit threadbare now. History’s back in business.

Later: Maureen Dowd has a furious column about Bush’s frivolity which includes this gem:

Despite his 1999 prediction that Russia and China would be key to security in the world, W. never bothered to study up on them. In 2006, at the Group of Eight summit meeting in St. Petersburg, Russia, a microphone caught some of the inane remarks of W. to President Hu Jintao of China.

“This is your neighborhood,” W. said. “It doesn’t take you long to get home. How long does it take you to get home? Eight hours? Me, too. Russia’s a big country and you’re a big country.”

Still later: The NYT has a thoughtful analysis of what went wrong. Summary:

The story of how a 16-year, low-grade conflict over who should rule two small, mountainous regions in the Caucasus erupted into the most serious post-cold-war showdown between the United States and Russia is one of miscalculation, missed signals and overreaching, according to interviews with diplomats and senior officials in the United States, the European Union, Russia and Georgia.