The Duck of Minerva

The Duck Quacks at Twilight

A major lapse in judgment?

August 11, 2008

We all know that Saakashvili made a major miscalculation when he ordered the assault on South Ossetia. Perhaps someday the public will find out what he was really thinking. Did he think, for examples that, he was acting preemptively?

But if Adrian Bloomfield’s report is correct, then he had better reasons than one might think to misjudge the situation–and the Bush administration has yet another terrible foreign-policy mistake to answer for:

Mr Saakashvilli may also have banked on support from his closest ally, US president George W Bush, whose administration is said to have given tacit support for a Georgian assault on South Ossetia in the believe that the territory could be recaptured within 48 hours.

But as events have unfolded differently, Washington has offered Georgia – one of the largest contributors of troops in Iraq – little more than lukewarm vocal support.

In a demonstration of the fact that Georgia could be abandoned by its chief ally, President Bush warmly embraced Mr Putin at the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in Beijing on Friday.

With the West apparently unwilling to participate in a proxy war with Russia at a time when relations with Moscow are already highly strained, Georgia now faces potential isolation in its conflict with its giant neighbour.

Note, however, Bloomfield’s use of the passive construction? Said by whom? Is this merely the zeitgeist in a Georgia facing a devastating present and an uncertain future, another instance of calculated disinformation, or a reliable indication of what some observers already suspect?

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Daniel H. Nexon is a Professor at Georgetown University, with a joint appointment in the Department of Government and the School of Foreign Service. His academic work focuses on international-relations theory, power politics, empires and hegemony, and international order. He has also written on the relationship between popular culture and world politics.