Saturday, August 09, 2008
The Politico fairly objectively examines how John McCain and Barack Obama responded to Russia's invasion of South Ossetia. Both statements were clearly crafted to achieve a political objective, while at the same time preserving each candidate's flexibility in the event that he is elected and actually has the burden of command. Money quote:
Obama’s statement put him in line with the White House, the European Union, NATO, and a series of European powers, while McCain’s initial statement—which he delivered in Iowa and ran on a blog on his Web site under the title “McCain Statement on Russian Invasion of Georgia,”—put him more closely in line with the moral clarity and American exceptionalism projected by President Bush’s first term.
That is certainly one way of looking at it.
Another is that Barack Obama took the same position as a European Union that is very worried that Russia will cut off its supplies of natural gas and the most politically weak president since Jimmy Carter's hostage year of 1980. Neither are in a position to do anything other than call for completely ineffectual international condemnation. John McCain understands, however, that the next president will have the difficult task of persuading Europe -- all over again -- that it should side with Pax Americana rather than be Finlandized by the resurgent Russian Federation. Winning the political argument inside Europe and the other states peripheral to Russia will require clear American leadership, precisely as it did in the 1940s and 1950s. Transnational progressive platitudes run the risk of losing the important argument over the security of Europe and the other weak powers on Russia's frontier. George W. Bush has given up out of political weaknesses and organizational exhaustion, Barack Obama is giving up out of transnational romanticism, and John McCain is signaling the world that the United States under his leadership will be a reliable ally.
You are mistaken, sir.
Saakasvili, no more a democrat than Putin, initiated a quixotic attack on Russian forces. The Russians, no doubt forewarned, responded.
This is Russia's near abroad, akin to the Caribbean or Central America under the Monroe Doctrine. We have been provoking and prodding Russia instead of making a serious effort to accommodate our mutual interests.
The geography is unfavorable, the sphere of influence is properly Russian, and short of air war, our over-extended forces have little ability to become involved.
It is a tragedy that three Orthodox Christian peoples are at war. There is no reason for us to make things worse by doing anything other than pushing for a truce and negotiations.
Who really started this, and what is the role of intelligence and pre-emptive planning.
1) I have read that the "rebels" in South Ossetia "provoked" the Georgians into attacking. And wonder of wonders, the Russians were in there lickety-split. Coincidence?
2) Oil facilities in Georgia have been targeted by the Russian Air Force (Forward aviation). Coincidence?
3) Of coursem when the Georgians attacked South Ossetia, the battalion of Russian "peacekeepers" was threatened.
4) And lastly, the airfield that was the location of joint US-Georgian excercises JUST LAST WEEK was bombed, too.
Speculation: The Georgian government and military have been "compromised" by Russian intelligence. They probably know as much as the Georgian Pres. knows about his own forces, etc.
This whole thing looks like a set-piece of Russian military-intelligence-diplomacy forward planning. The Russians knew that the Georgians were planning on teaching South Ossetia "a lesson". They provoked, and were ready when Georgia took the bait.
The US should quietly support Georgia, but try to broker a cease-fire and withdrawal by both sides, or dis-engagement. The last thing we need to do is get militarily involved with Russia in their "near abroad".
FWIW, Ben Smith overlooked the statemetn from Condi Rice of State, which seemed to be comparably gung-ho with McCain's:
Statement by Secretary Condoleezza Rice
August 8, 2008
The United States calls for an immediate ceasefire to the armed conflict in Georgia’s region of South Ossetia. We call on Russia to cease attacks on Georgia by aircraft and missiles, respect Georgia’s territorial integrity, and withdraw its ground combat forces from Georgian soil.
Senior U.S. officials and I have spoken with the parties and continue to work with them to seek an end to hostilities. The United States is working actively with its European partners to launch international mediation. We urgently seek Russia’s support of these efforts.
We underscore the international community’s support for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders, as articulated in numerous U.N. Security Council resolutions, including most recently UNSCR 1808 in April 2008.
Bonus News Hook - was this McCain-Rice a coincidental convergence or do we see a spark for "Condi For VP"?
If anything, read the responses on WaPo's Anne Applebaum about the situation. Talk about BDS. As if we could have just come on into Russia or Georgia and bully them into submission if we avoided Iraq. Pure drivel and nonsense.
We have never been able to control Russia or those areas, at least not without nuclear weapons. It seems that people forgot that even Reagan used Western Europe as an ICBM buffer zone, b/c we were NOT even planning to fight them on the ground.
Tigerhawk is right. The plan of persuading Europe to trust the US again is neccessary for its survival, and possibly ourselves as well. I hope we do not need another Prague Spring to remind the leaders of such
And no, Condi did not endorse O, she just said that America would be fine if he became president.
"This is Russia's near abroad, akin to the Caribbean or Central America under the Monroe Doctrine. We have been provoking and prodding Russia instead of making a serious effort to accommodate our mutual interests."
"The geography is unfavorable, the sphere of influence is properly Russian,..."
This concept of "spheres of influence" is a sinister neocolonial euphemism. It is not an acceptable justification for Russian aggression.
That Saakashvili is more democratic than Putin is well-established by all objective observers.
"This concept of "spheres of influence" is a sinister neocolonial euphemism."
In this situation, I concur. The entire Western Hemisphere is in the US 'sphere of influence.' Does that justify imperialistic advances against, say, Brazil or Cuba?
'Spheres of influence' make sense when great powers negotiate who is going to play in whose backyards, but it's not a license to trample your neighbors.