US bombing the Roki tunnel during the Russia-Georgia conflict in 2008

In the article (or book review more accurately) linked below, it is claimed that the Bush administration considered bombing the Roki tunnel, which was the main entrance and supply route for Russian troops moving into South Ossetia. It is quite clear that doing so would have made it quite a lot harder for Russia to deploy their forces into the conflict zone.

How serious consideration do you think this option was given?

I’m also interested in what you think would have happened in a hypothetical situation where the US bombed the tunnel in an early stage of the conflict. I assume that bombing the southern entrance, and not the Russian side of the tunnel was the option possibly under consideration, or would other strikes also have been included?

Would bombing the tunnel have stopped the Russians from continuing their operation, or would it only have led to a different approach from their side (maybe heavier use of the VDV and heavier bombing)?

What would the Russian response be? Arming Iran? Ending up going even further in their military operation in Georgia? Could it have escalated even further?

The final outcome with regard to Georgia would have been the same, more bloody probably and the USA would have broken whatever cordial relationship it had with Russia. And probably alienated much of Western Europe too. And with good reason too. All the contemporary propaganda in Western media notwithstanding Mad Mike is a complete fuckup who caused the war all by his own little self.

I like this part:

  • Putin is great for short quotes. Although Sarkozy didn’t do so bad either.

Notwithstanding the vitriol, I think Rune has it more-or-less right. It seems Georgia really did fire the first shots. Of course, it’s a complicated situation - one could argue that the Georgian government has every right to fire as many shots as it likes at breakaway provinces ruled by corrupt kleptocrats, just as the US had every right to fire upon Confederate forces in our civil war. But that analogy isn’t really persuasive - both Abkhazia and South Ossetia have been de facto independent for years, with no real pitched fighting of late. Georgia violated what amounted to a truce, and in so doing threatened both Russian interests and the safety of the civilians in the area.

I really, really wanted to support Georgia on this one. Hell, I cheered all through the Rose Revolution - giant freaking grin on my face in my college classes, seriously - and I’ve no love for Russia’s government. But Russia simply didn’t act unreasonably here - and we would have been acting unreasonably to interfere with the Russian response.

We’d also have been acting ineffectually - as Rune noted, Russia could easily bomb anything it wished in Georgia.

My opinion is also that Russia acted largely reasonably (certainly with numerous flaws however). Even though I didn’t make it clear in the OP, it was not my intent to directly discuss the rights and wrongs carried out by either sides of the conflict, or discussing who is to blame for starting it.

It is my understanding that the Roki tunnel is the only significant land connection in the area between Russia and South Ossetia, and due to the mountainous nature of the area, disabling it would be a major hurdle for the Russian forces. I would guess that it would buy considerable time for the Georgians to move into South Ossetia and strengthen their foothold there. Possibly they could have uprooted the break-away government enough to leave little for Russia to salvage. The Russian quick and decisive counter-attack wouldn’t have been possible.

Back in 2008 I remember reading that such an event (well, Georgia themselves doing the bombing) could have meant that Russia would not even engage in the first place. Was the Russian entry really that inevitable as you two seem to think?