I just finished the book "A Little War that Shook the World" It was on the 2008 Georgian-Russian war. The author, Ronald Asmus, used to work in the Clinton administration and wrote the book from a pro-NATO pro West perspective. I thought the book was well written and added good insight why the conflict happened and why. This book reconfirmed my thoughts about US foreign policy. A point that I found most interesting is that Georgia could have done much better militarily in the conflict had it not been for their support of US policies. They had one of their brigades in Iraq at the time and could have used those forces in battle. Also to make NATO happy they changed their military doctrine to counter-insurgency, rather than defense against a possible Russian invasion. Had they had a military doctrine of countering a Russian invasion, and had they had their entire military in the country things may have not been so lopsided.
The whole conflict was in large part blow back from former US policy in the Balkans. NATO launched the campaign in Serbia without UN support, which infuriated Russia. Of course the Serbs were committing acts of genocide, but NATO did nothing to protect the Serbs from ethnic cleansing after the NATO campaign was over,also the targeting of non-military targets did not help Moscow "understand" the role of NATO in post-Cold War Europe. According to the author, the West did everything to involve Russia this was in large part to make himself look good. NATO-Russian cooperation was hollow, and meant nothing to Russia. The 1999 NATO conflict showed Russia that NATO didn't give a darn what Moscow thought. The West was not going to give Russia veto power in NATO, or decision making powers. Of course Moscow continued to see NATO as a threat and the West as a threat as well. Unilateral moves like the Iraq war and the West's support of Kosovo independence flustered Russia even more. To Russia the West was continuing to expand their global power at the expense of Russia. Of course the story in the US is totally different, and the thing is it is not important who is right, what is important is that we understand what the other people think and how they act. Well now we finally know what Russia thinks of us and what they are prepared to do to show us that. They used Georgia as a proxy to show the West that they had had enough.
Georgia was Bush's biggest fan doing anything to deepen US support for Georgia, despite this when the conflict broke out the US threw Georgia under the bus by letting the EU do the diplomatic work, which resulted in a flawed cease-fire agreement. They feared that if the US took the lead role it could lead to some US-Russian confrontation. I think we understood that the conflict was in large part a consequence of our actions so we offered them one billion USD to reconstruct their country. This is a classic example of blow back and why the US should reconsider its role in the World. We don't have the means, morals, or the smarts to be a world policeman. With the fiscal situation we find ourselves in we don't have the money to fight unnecessary wars, provoke aggressive world powers, or to throw billions of dollars at countries. This doesn't mean that we have to treat our enemies better than our Allies (I'm talking about Obama) It does mean that we need to understand the significance of our actions before we take them. So hopefully come 2012 we will have a smarter foreign policy for America. Here is a good article on a recommendation of foreign policy for the GOP. http://www.hoover.org/publications/policy-review/article/43426