One thing you might learn about in Law School is a little something called 'precedent.' According to the American Heritage Dictionary, "Precedent" is an act or instance that may be used as an example in dealing with subsequent similar instances and according to dictionary.com it is any act, decision, or case that serves as a guide or justification for subsequent situations. This isn't an English lesson though, its just a clarification. When you do something and declare that it is legitimate then in the future when someone copies you it is difficult to object without looking hypocritical. Case in point: Georgia/Russia and Iraq/US.
Both Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin are claiming that the invasion into Georgia and the subsequent bombing campaign are very much in line with the international precedent created by President Bush in Iraq because they claim they are only protecting the people of provinces South Ossetia and Abkhazia from "oppression and tyranny" of the Georgian government. Hmm... at least those two are sticking to that story instead of concocting some intelligence about a nuclear program. What can President Bush say to that? Not much.
President Bush, along with political leaders and thinkers from the Right and Left, are very worried about this military strong-arming into the Caucuses Region by Russia. The problem paritally contributed to the fact that the United States has always been looked at as a progressive leader in Human Rights and International diplomacy (which was good) and then now it seems that even with diminishing global reach we have created a precedent in a world that we are less able to control. Twenty or even ten years ago when the US wanted something to be stopped.. I mean seriously wanted an international action to stop, it could have its magic hand and threaten beligerants with something that would really hurt. Nowadays the US is mired in two international conflicts, talking about a third one, has a housing/banking crisis, dealing with record high oil prices, and has seemingly lost its grip of international organizations. Reapetedly discrediting the UN in 2003, the Bush Administration unwittingly shot itself in the foot, losing one of the best legitimizers of American power and instruments of Western foreign policy.
While the US stagnates its power (and loses some as well) the rest of the world are racing to get just a little closer to the hegemonic level the US has achieved. Russia is resurgent, China is booming, India is growing, the EU is consolidating and expanding, but still there is no greater power than US foreign policy... unfortunetly we have set a terrible precedent and it will take at least five years to undo the damage.
Georgia-Russia: Medvedev speaks to the world - CNN
Overview of Georgian Conflict - Wikipedia