Georgia on our minds

What clout does the president who invaded Iraq have with an aggressive Russian bear?

We have written numerous words about the various costs of the Iraq invasion and occupation—not quite as many words as dollars spent, but numerous nonetheless. Another cost came to the fore this past week, when Russia engaged the former Soviet republic of Georgia in brutal combat, ironically during the traditional “Olympic truce.”

During NBC’s coverage of the Beijing Games, President Bush resolutely stated that he told Russian leader Vladimir Putin, with whom he sat at the opening ceremony, that “this violence is unacceptable. … I expressed my grave concern about the disproportionate response of Russia. And we strongly condemn bombing outside of South Ossetia. … I was very firm with Vladimir Putin.”

That moral indignation might have carried more weight had it come from a president who hadn’t invaded a sovereign nation. It also might have packed more punch if the United States were in position to, well, pack a punch. Putin doesn’t need to watch NBC or CNN to know that we have so many troops in the Middle East that we have none to spare for “peacekeeping” in his back yard.

Georgia is sympathetic to the West. Whether that merits military intervention is debatable (we’d say no). Fact of the matter is we’re barely able to mount a diplomatic intervention—so compromised is our standing that the White House dared send only a tertiary envoy to Tblisi, rather than our chief diplomat to Moscow. That sends a clear message: If you’re a fledgling democracy, God bless you … and heaven help you if you need us.