For whatever reason, the US was caught unawares when Georgia attacked Russia last week. We've been slow dealing with the situation.
First off, we don't really understand it. Most Americans still don't understand the difference between Sunnis and Shiites – that's been seven years now. This conflict came out of nowhere, and the average American (myself included) really doesn't understand the reason for the fighting, or even who's really involved.
To make matters worse, we've got a juicy political sex scandal in Edwards, a tight presidential campaign, and the Olympics going on right now. Needless to say, our sex-crazed media is on top of all that instead of a war that no one understands.
Reuters has done a remarkably good job of doing what they do best – keeping foreign agencies so that they can respond to something just like this. Right now, this is a bigger story than Afghanistan and Iraq. In my opinion, it beats out another sex scandal, a tired presidential campaign, and a sporting event. This is about a war between two countries who's people don't live in the Bronze Age.
When I first looked at TIME's collection of photos my first reaction was: "meh, more war photographs."
But here's what's different: this is a modern war. Fought with modern tanks, modern armies where both sides are uniformed, and civilian casualties that no one is apologizing for. This is a big deal. Once you get past your seven-year familiarity with war photos, these photos reflect their own importance.
The NYT has an article explaining some of the background.
The Denver Post also as a rather good collection of AP photos.