A Trip of a Different Kind
Much hoopla surrounded Barack Obama's recent trip to the Middle East and western Europe: his quick drop-ins to Iraq and Afghanistan ("Hi! Bye!"); the faux "listening tour" of the generals there; the throngs who stood underneath the Victory Column in Berlin to hear his tautological nothings--and for the free beer.
Now it is time for a serious trip, but not for Obama. For John McCain.
His response to the Russian invasion of tiny, democratic Georgia has been---from the beginning---principled, tough, and unwavering. In his statements, there was no moral equivalence between the barbaric, slaughtering invaders and the little democracy trying to fend them off. (Of course, drawing that equivalence was Obama's first reaction. He has since come around to McCain's position, seven days later. I know the Hawaii sun is draining, but come on.)
McCain is a true cold warrior, having served with distinction on its front lines in Vietnam. He knows the Russians. He's seen their brutal handiwork up close--directly and through proxies. He knows their mastery of deception. And he's under no illusions about what their objectives are: to smother democracy in their sphere and have effective control over their old empire. And oh yeah: to checkmate us in every corner of the globe.
This is why McCain should go to Tbilisi. Meet with the brave pro-western president. Walk with him through the shelled streets, past the bombed-out buildings. Visit refugee camps and comfort those who have lost loved ones. Assist the American humanitarian airlift.
Stare the Russians down the way Vladimir Putin stared down the Georgians (and us) when he dropped into the region to direct the war.
President Bush can't do it: the sitting president is too tied up in diplomatic nonsense. But McCain certainly can. And he should. He wrote a terrific op-ed in today's Wall Street Journal (www.online.wsj.com
) in which he declared U.S. solidarity with the victims: "We are all Georgians now."
Democratic values, the principles of liberty and sovereignty, the support of alliances, the duty and honor of the world's greatest superpower:
Go show the Georgians all of those things, Senator McCain. Go show them America stands with them. Go show the world the difference between you and your opponent.
Go to Georgia, Senator. Go to Georgia.
August 14, 2008 at 08:06 PM | Permalink | Comments (60) | TrackBack (0)
August 13, 2008
Senator Clueless, Even to His Own Party
Honolulu, we have a problem.
While Russia was busy invading one of its democratic neighbors and hammering the Soviet Union back together, Barack Obama was on the 7th hole. Strolling the putting greens and beaches of Hawaii wearing not much more than cargo shorts and a smile, Obama poked his head up every so often and made ever more tortured pronouncements about the new Cold War.
Today comes word that his cluelessness even has members of his own party rolling their eyes.
According to a brand-new Rasmussen poll taken in light of Russian tanks rolling into Georgia, 85 percent of Republican voters believe John McCain is the better of the two presidential candidates to handle a similar crisis in the future. No surprise there.
But here is the surprise: only 61 percent of DEMOCRATS feel that way about Obama! And more than one out of five (22 percent) Democrats think the Republican presidential candidate would handle this kind of crisis BETTER than the candidate of their own party!
In other words, Obama is suffering a huge crisis of confidence among Democrats. Even they concede that the grizzled war hero is better equipped to deal with international crises than their own guy.
Just as worrying for Team Obama must be the poll numbers from the coveted Independents: 56 percent prefer McCain in an international crisis to 28 percent who prefer the Deer in the Headlights.
The move by the Rooskies reinforced pre-existing concerns about Obama: that he's too young, too inexperienced, and too liberal to be a wartime Commander-in-Chief. And the Russian invasion gives us a whole other war to have to worry about.
This crisis also reinforced a pre-existing perception that Obama isn't all that interested in the military--or is afraid of it. (See: Bill Clinton 1992-2001). His choice to blow off seeing our wounded troops while in Germany didn't help the perception. Nor did his refusal to participate in a townhall with McCain at a military base in front of thousands of active duty servicemen and veterans.
Democrats are having a bit of buyer's remorse. Maybe Hillary was right when she made a futile call to New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson to secure his support: "He cannot win, Bill," she said. "He cannot win."
And now, more and more Democrats are admitting that he isn't ready to lead either.
August 13, 2008 at 06:14 PM | Permalink | Comments (55) | TrackBack (0)
August 12, 2008
Russia seeks to nail back together its old empire. It begins with economic extortion of its former Soviet satellite states and the "captive nations" of Eastern Europe, and then moves to the old-fashioned but still effective use of force. The Russian invasion of the young democratic and pro-western state of Georgia demonstrates Russia's expansionist ambitions, authoritarian unaccountability, and brute violence. In other words, not much there has changed.
Barack Obama hopes to spread his smiley face of "hope" and "change" around the world. His initial statement on the crisis was painful in its naivete and dangerous in its moral equivalence. "Now is the time for Georgia and Russia to show restraint and to avoid an escalation to full-scale war," he said.
Gales of laughter in Moscow. Eye-rolling in Tblisi. The Junior Senator from Illinois recommends that peace is better than war. A true profile in courage.
The idiocy of this must have dawned on someone in Team Obama, because shortly thereafter, he began to firm up his rhetoric and actually put the blame for the Russian invasion of tiny, democratic Georgia on Russia. Going out on a limb there, Barack.
Today, Obama began his public statement on the crisis by greeting the press corps with a jaunty, "Hi guys!" Schmoozing with the journalists remains paramount, even in the face of an international blow-up.
More importantly, Obama's utter lack of experience and even interest in Russia and its "near abroad" has surfaced in two ways.
First, he took a trip to Russia in 2005 in order to talk to Vladimir Putin about decommissioning Russian nuclear weapons. The Kremlin is still laughing at that one. Of course, that doesn't stop Obama from wanting to decommission AMERICA'S nuclear arsenal. To set an example, of course. More laughter from Moscow.
Second, for the past year and a half, Obama has been the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's Subcommittee on European Affairs. And guess what? He's never held a policy hearing. No meetings, no witnesses, no testimony, no nothing. This is why Obama himself is a "know-nothing" on what is turning out to be a central issue for the United States, our allies, and for the campaign. But Senator Clueless never bothered to take an interest in Europe or Russia. He just wants your kids to speak Spanish and for you to refrain from visiting Europe to keep our "ugly American" quotient down.
Obama is woefully, painfully unprepared to deal with a crisis of this magnitude. He's in so far over his head that McCain doesn't even need to point it out. It's abundantly obvious to anyone watching Obama speak on the subject. It's most certainly obvious to the Kremlin, which is having some side-splitting guffaws listening to him.
Obama's idol, John F. Kennedy, was a tough cold warrior. He knew the Russians, he knew what their ambitions were, he was well aware of their brutal and cunning tactics, and he checkmated them wherever they sought to advance. Jack Kennedy made a lot of mistakes as president but none because he was a naif on Russia.
Senator Obama: we knew Jack Kennedy, and you, sir, are no Jack Kennedy.
August 12, 2008 at 03:18 PM | Permalink | Comments (80) | TrackBack (0)
August 11, 2008
The Guns of August
When Nazi Germany seized control of Czechoslovakia in 1938, appeaser extraordinaire Neville Chamberlain referred to it as "a faraway country of which we know little."
The Nazi invasion was based on the simple and reasonable enough-sounding pretext that ethnic Germans in the Sudetenland wanted to be annexed to the Fatherland. Hitler's invasion of that small, seemingly insignificant country led, of course, to total war in Europe and a global conflict that cost 100 million lives. All because the Western democracies didn't see---or didn't want to see---the unsatiable appetites of an expansionist power led by a coldly calculating mass murderer.
It's often said that those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it. Here we go again.
Russia has used the pretext that ethnic Russians living in a part of the independent republic of Georgia want to be folded into Russia. The Georgians, they say, are doing "ethnic cleansing" of the Russians there, requiring Russia to intervene to defend them.
Of course, this requires Russian tanks, fighter jets, and now ground troops to sweep into Georgia proper, killing thousands while they begin to occupy the country.
To many Americans, Georgia is a "faraway land of which we know little." Nor do we much care: we've got Michael Phelps to cheer on and summer barbeques to attend to.
But as history has demonstrated time and time again, it's the seemingly small crises that blow up into big ones. Really big ones.
This is one of those times.
The Cold War never ended. The Russians are behind every major state-based threat we face: Iran, North Korea (through China), Venezuela, Syria, the list goes on. They are creating new spheres of influence while re-establishing their old, Soviet-era ones. They extort Eastern Europe on its oil supply. They have blown up part of the oil pipeline that runs through Georgia and Turkey (a NATO member). They are authoritarian at home and expansionist abroad.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin had this invasion planned for weeks, if not months. Before ordering the bombs to fall and the tanks to roll, he didn't rush to the UN seeking international approval. He didn't seek sanctions or resolutions. He just marched in with a full-on invasion. (If the United States had done this, holy hell would be breaking loose in the hallowed halls of the UN. We wouldn't be able to count the official condemnations of "America's reckless, unauthorized breach of international law." With the Russians, we get a big yawn and a shrug of powerlessness.)
Georgia is a pro-Western, fragile new democracy. It has had 2000 troops in Iraq, making it the third biggest contributor to coalition forces there after the United States and Great Britain. It is struggling to establish its democratic, free market independence in Russia's long shadow. The Russians didn't like all of the progress Georgia had been making, nor did it appreciate Georgia's application to NATO. So Russia rolled in: "If I can't have you, nobody will!"
The Russians are hammering the old Soviet empire back together. They had been doing it through economic (primarily energy) extortion. Now they're doing it the old-fashioned way: through force. The Russians have been doing this for centuries. It's not new.
It's incredible that the western democracies seem impotent to stop this invasion of a democracy and reverse it. Short of military action, we could strip Russia of its G-8 membership, levy economic sanctions, and stop its membership to the World Trade Organization. Forget about going to the UN: Russia will veto everything.
The western democracies need to show a backbone. What would Reagan do? What would Thatcher do? For heaven's sake, what would George H. W. Bush do? (Even he went to war to reverse an invasion of the petrotocracy, Kuwait. Georgia may not be sitting on a ton of oil, but it's the transit point for a tremendous amount of it.)
This is one of those moments when we will wonder why the good guys were paralyzed while the bad guys marched. It's one of those moments on which the future of freedom hangs. It's one of those moments when the bad guys test the good guys. And so far, the good guys are contemplating their navels while the bad guys scorch the ground of liberty.