It's been widely assumed that the West has basically no leverage in Russia's back yard. This move honors the U.S.'s commitment to Georgia -- foolishly bloated though that commitment was -- and may in some measure inhibit total impunity on Russia's part. I don't think it seriously risks a military confrontation, but it does put U.S. troops in rather breathtaking proximity to the Russians (and their South Ossetian Janjaweed) in the midst of their power grab.
Of course, this 11th-hour gesture is literally a band-aid covering a policy that has managed to simultaneously empower and enrage Russia while ignoring the tangled reality of the South Caucasus. But that's what you get with the Bushies - the occasional inspired grab to recover a portion of what their strategic cluelessness has squandered.
P.S. What kind of an idiot is Saakashvilli? With his help, maybe this intervention really could turn into a conflagration:
The first US air force transport aircraft arrived last night, and the navy was heading to the Black Sea – which is controlled by Russian warships – to deliver humanitarian and medical supplies direct to Georgian ports. “We expect Russia to honour its commitment to let in all forms of humanitarian assistance,” Mr Bush said.
President Saakashvili of Georgia seized on the announcement to say that Tbilisi airport and Poti port would be placed under US military control, a claim the Pentagon swiftly denied.