Here's the Register's editorial on the current Georgian crisis. Essentially, the U.S> and Western Europe got outsmarted by Russia, which is feeling its oats now that the high price of oil has pumped so much money into the state sector. It was utterly predictable -- anybody with even a sense of Russia history knew it and many predicted it -- that Russia would want to control the countries in what has been called the "near abroad" since czarist times. Simple geography: its frontier is flat plains and subject to invasion (Napoleon, Hitler) so it wants its neighbors friendly or vassals. Russia interpreted NATO expansion as a threat, so it took Georgia down a couple of pegs when Bush tried to push Georgia into NATO. Putin did it at a time when the U.S. could do nothing -- nothing -- effective to stop him. If the U.S. had wanted to do something (not that who rules South Ossetia is one of our core interests, by a long shot) it should have been through quiet behind-the-scenes diplomacy rather than blister, preaching and self-righteousness that the whole world knows we can't back up.
In the process I had a nice talk with my old friend Tom Henriksen at the Hoover Institution. He's got a new book out, "American Power After the Berlin Wall," the first comprehensive history of how the U.S. has used its power, that I think is intended as a college text and is definitely worth reading.