Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili’s order to attack South Ossetia’s capital, Tskhinvali, was a breathtakingly audacious challenge to Russia, to which she was bound to respond forcefully. That response was promptly exploited by the American mainstream media machine and the foreign-policy community in Washington to paint Russia as a rogue power that is not only dangerous but intrinsically malignant. The vehemence of that rhetoric exceeds anything ever said or written about jihad, before or after September 11.
However, Russia’s response was too prompt and too devastating to suggest an improvisation under the pressure of unexpected circumstances. Moscow seems to have acted in line with a plan to maneuver Washington into a position of geopolitical weakness unseen since the final days of the Carter presidency almost three decades ago.
The intent behind Georgia’s attack was apparent in the name its general staff gave to the operation—“Clean Field”—and in the “shock-and-awe” assault on Tskhinvali.
Saakashvili was led to believe that he was tacitly authorized to act as he did. President George W. Bush has treated Georgia as a strategic partner ever since the Western-engineered “Rose Revolution” that brought Saakashvili to power five years ago, and last spring he strongly advocated NATO membership for Georgia. The United States and her allies...