From the McClatchy Washington Bureau:
WASHINGTON — President Bush Wednesday promised that U.S. naval forces would deliver humanitarian aid to war-torn Georgia before his administration had received approval from Turkey, which controls naval access to the Black Sea, or the Pentagon had planned a seaborne operation, U.S. officials said Thursday.
As of late Thursday, Ankara, a NATO ally, hadn't cleared any U.S. naval vessels to steam to Georgia through the Bosporus and the Dardanelles, the narrow straits that connect the Mediterranean and the Black Seas, the officials said. Under the 1936 Montreaux Convention, countries must notify Turkey before sending warships through the straits.
Pentagon officials told McClatchy that they were increasingly dubious that any U.S. Navy vessels would join the aid operation, in large part because the U.S.-based hospital ships likely to go, the USNS Comfort and the USNS Mercy, would take weeks to arrive.
"The president was writing checks to the Georgians without knowing what he had in the bank," said a senior administration official [Sempringham's emphasis added].
"The president got out in front of the planning when he talked publicly about using naval forces," said a second senior administration official. "At that point we need to look at treaty obligations, our bilateral relations with the Turks and others, waterway restrictions and what kind of ships might be appropriate and usable — something like the Comfort or something already in the Med (Mediterranean)."
The U.S. officials requested anonymity because they weren't authorized to speak publicly, because the issue is diplomatically sensitive or because the administration takes a dim view of officials who reveal its internal deliberations.
Last month I wrote that the White House is being run by 21-year-old interns, because everybody else has left. I see no reason to alter that assessment. On the bright side, it's a step up from what we've had for the past 7 years.