Mitchell feels that Georgians today resort too quickly to months-long street demonstrations and inflated rhetoric. (Actually, Georgian politics has always been lively, and protests were a part of the Tbilisi scene, to a limited degree, even during Soviet times.) Now, Mitchell argues, Georgians need to simmer down and work hard to consolidate civil structures and improve relations with their neighbors.
While Mitchell is genuinely sympathetic to Georgia, he has little patience for the ongoing David-versus-Goliath "narrative" with which Georgia woos US policymakers. Mitchell is skeptical about the political intentions of Mikheil Saakashvili (whose endorsement of the book, nevertheless, appears on its back cover)--and he questions the received wisdom that Georgia possesses unique strategic value, is a poster-boy for democracy, or even that it is, ipso facto, a Western nation.
Mitchell worries that America got suckered into an excessively "personal" relationship with Georgian officials, and that this led, ironically, to misperceptions about American intentions and capabilities in the event of a Georgian-Russian conflict. Now is the time, he asserts, for the United States to concentrate upon its fundamental interests in the region. Mitchell doubts that democratization is currently a top priority of the Georgian government, and says that it needs to keep its hands off the media, encourage free debate, and re-balance power between the legislature and the executive. (Steps, or at least promises of steps, in these areas have been taken.)
Georgia is not perfect, but Georgia does possess unique strategic value and America's "fundamental interests in the region" are identical with Georgia's. Whatever the ethnic ambiguities of the region and its overlapping claims to national self-determination; whatever the doubts surrounding the events of August 2008; there can really be no question that Russia's actions constituted precisely aggression, and of a very sinister and globally destabilizing kind, since the intent and effect of the aggression was to create a credible threat of unpredictable future aggressions against whatever neighbors on Russia's borders do not tow its line. This has been an age-old tactic of Russian realpolitik and has wrought untold woe for the peoples on Russia's borders and contributed to causing many European wars. If we want-- and it ought to be the first priority of our foreign policy right now-- to restore in a new pro-democratic incarnation the international rule of law which was to some extent disrupted by the Iraq War (a price worth paying for the fall of Saddam's totalitarian regime and the delegitimization of dictators worldwide; but a high price nonetheless), Georgia is THE place to do it. Hopefully in 2012 we'll get a president who understands that.