No they didn't says Nick Baumann:
The key quote, in the sixth paragraph of the story, explains that "No principal advocated the use of force." It's both appropriate and unsurprising that Bush and Cheney's national security aidesor the national security aides to any presidentwould lay out all the potential responses to a crisis like the invasion of Georgia. And it's only responsible for the pricipalsactual decisionmakers like Bush, Cheney, and National Security Adviser Stephen Hadleyto discuss all the options. But if none of the actual decisionmakers ever pushed to use military force, it's hard to argue that it was seriously considered. This really seems like a non-story.
Larison follows up on another element of the story. A reader agrees with Baumann:
According to the linked Politico article, staffers for Cheney and Stephen Hadley "considered" "surgical strikes" to close the Roki Tunnel, thus cutting Russia's supply lines. Hadley thought the resulting war with Russia "too risky" but brought it to the table so that principals - specifically Cheney - would take a clear position on the options. The principals all declined.
The Bush/Cheney regime loved war. Of that there is no doubt. They were crazy about military escapades abroad. But even they were not crazy enough to start a shooting war with Russia.
Would John McCain have been that crazy, as you suggest? Maybe. His campaign rhetoric suggests so, but campaign rhetoric tends to cool when you're actually holding the office, so he may have curdled back into the Bush/Cheney "only wars with tiny nations that can't really harm us over here" theory. But this story is not the "OMG WE ALMOST BOMBED RUSSIA!" lede people are making it out to be. Staffers did their jobs and brainstormed options for responding the Russia/Georgia war. In a pique of sanity, the principals of the administration opted or the sane, non-military tact. This isn't news. This is Politico trolling for hits.
But this was during Obama's ascent in the middle of the campaign. I agree that this story, as I reported it, suggests that clearer heads prevailed and contingency plans are just responsible. But I also suspect the full story has yet to emerge.
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