Thursday, September 11, 2008

World War III, anyone? Palin echoes McCain

Sarah Palin suggested in her first public discussion of world affairs on ABC with Charlie Gibson tonight that the U.S. should quickly make Georgia a NATO ally and then be prepared to go to war with Russia in case of further Russian-Georgian conflict:

GIBSON: And under the NATO treaty, wouldn't we then have to go to war if Russia went into Georgia?

PALIN: Perhaps so. I mean, that is the agreement when you are a NATO ally, is if another country is attacked, you're going to be expected to be called upon and help.
This simple syllogism needs to be viewed in the context of McCain's longstanding adventurism and provocation in Georgia.

McCain has for years urged that Georgia's membership in NATO be fast-tracked, notwithstanding that NATO's rules call for aspiring members to settle territorial disputes before they can be provided with membership "action plans." Since its civil war in 1991-1992, Georgia has insisted that full sovereignty over South Ossetia and Abkhazia is essential to its territorial integrity, though vast majorities in both regions do not want to be part of Georgia. McCain, schooled by his lobbyist-advisor Randy Scheunemann, who has taken over $800,000 in lobbying fees from the Georgian government since 2001, has offered unequivocal support for Georgia's claims to complete sovereignty over those regions.

In August 2006, McCain visited Georgia and added a visit to South Ossetian leader Eduard Kokoiti. He was disappointed to hear from Kokoiti that "The people of South Ossetia see their future within the Russian Federation." Back in Tbilisi, McCain proclaimed, "Your country is a friend of America, and is worthy to become a NATO member," adding "Putin will never be president on Georgian territory" -- a statement literally true now that Putin is prime minister rather than President, but essentially belied today by South Ossetia's eager move into the Russian bear's embrace. On the same trip, McCain and other senators flew in a helicopter with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili over South Ossetian airspace -- and were fired upon by the South Ossetians.

In Georgia as in other global hot spots, McCain has been more aggressive and confrontational than the Bush Administration. Anatol Lieven Lieven, a senior fellow at the New America Foundation, noted McCain's provocative role in his prescient essay "War in the Caucasus?" -- published in October 2006:
The Bush administration has repeatedly assured the Kremlin that it is putting heavy pressure on Saakashvili’s government not to attack the breakaway regions. Yet Moscow can’t help but see a contradiction. Exhibit A is the fact that the United States continues to arm and train Georgian forces. Moreover, Russians see Georgian adventurism as encouraged by less restrained U.S. politicians, such as John McCain and other senators who visited Georgia in recent months and expressed strong support for Georgian aspirations. McCain’s helicopter allegedly came under fire as it flew over South Ossetia.
Vladimir Putin's recent assertion that the Bush Administration urged Saakashivili to invade South Ossetia in order to help John McCain get elected was doubtless a cynical and paranoid overstatement. But McCain's constant provocations fuel Russian paranoia; his election would bring that paranoia to fever pitch. In February 2008, Interfax relayed Russian official thinking in the voice of one Sergei Markov:
The U.S. and Russian political analysts wonder why McCain hates Russia so much. There are different assumptions here. Some believe he cannot come over his wounds suffered in Vietnam, for which he blames the Soviet Union. McCain is the last Cold War warrior. Despite the fact that neither the USSR nor this war exist any longer, he is continuing it.
One does not have to condone Russia's disproportionate force in Georgia or its continuing effort to unseat Saakashvili to recognize that there were two sides to that conflict -- and that the idiotic Saakashvili gave the Russians rhetorical and moral cover by attacking first. But McCain recognizes no such nuance. In his telling, Georgia is simply "a wonderful little of the earliest Christian nations" -- now "suffering terribly" under unprovoked Russian aggression. Palin echoed this simplified morality play today, asserting, "For Russia to have exerted such pressure in terms of invading a smaller democratic country, unprovoked, is unacceptable."

Was Russia's deep incursion into Georgian territory "unacceptable"? Yes. Was it "unprovoked"? No. Did Russia provoke the provocation? Probably. But it's McCain's way in this election cycle to keep things comic-book simple -- in fact to lie relentlessly to make things simple.

Georgia is not the only theater in which McCain has exceeded all other public figures in belligerence. On multiple occasions, he's advocated risking war in North Korea. In 1999, he criticized Clinton's "prevent defense" even as he acknowledged that the "firmer response" he called for "might have triggered a war." In 2003, he urged the Bush Administration to impose strict sanctions and a blockade -- again stating openly that he was ready for all-out war:
But if we fail to achieve the international cooperation necessary to end this threat, then the countries int he region should know with certainty that while they may risk their own populations, the United States will do whatever it must to guarantee the security of the American people. And spare us the usual lectures about American unilateralism. We would prefer the company of North Korea's neighbors, but we will make do without it if we must ("Rogue State Rollback, January 20, 2003 - recently removed from McCain's Senate website).
McCain may in fact prove a grave risk to world peace. In addition to coming out in favor of war with Iraq within weeks of 9/11, he has advocated providing Taiwan with a missile shield, blockading North Korea, bombing Iran (in jest, right?), and imposing an investment blockade on Russia after Putin jailed oligarch Khodorkovsky in 2003.

Sarah Palin, if she accepts her pastor's teaching, believes literally in Armageddon. John McCain seems willing, even eager, to risk it.

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