The short, but miserable, war in South Ossetia seems to be over for the moment at least. Some not very original observations over the fold
* The decision by the Georgian government to send its troops into South Ossetia reflected at least two of the military miscalculations common to those who start wars
– belief in a quick and complete victory producing a fait accompli
– the assumption that helping a powerful ally (in this case, the US in Iraq) will call forth help when it is needed. In this case, a glance at the map ought to have been enough to show that the US could, and would, do nothing, but the error is much more common than this.
* The Russian government may seem to have triumphed, but the costs of this action will far outweigh the benefits. Among the consequences, an obvious one is the likelihood that Ukraine will be admitted to NATO sooner rather than later. But more generally, Russia has acquired a limited capacity to throw its weight around in the Caucasus at the expense of any likelihood of being treated as a friend by the rest of Europe, not to mention the US. That wonâ€™t stop them selling oil and gas, for example, but I imagine most of Russiaâ€™s customers will now be willing to offer a premium to alternative suppliers. Implicitly, that means a discount on the price received by Russia
* Virtually everything the Russian government has done here has precedents in the recent actions of the US. Of course, the precedents have been stretched, but the Bush Administration set the (meta)precedent here as well. If it werenâ€™t tragic, it would be laughable to see Bush proclaiming that such actions were â€˜unacceptable in the 21st centuryâ€™.