Monday, August 11, 2008

Arabian Proverbs Gone Awry

Most of us have heard the old Arabian proverb, "The enemy of my enemy is my friend." Militarily and diplomatically, this proverb has rung true throughout history -- there have been times when people with great differences have come together to fight a common enemy. 

Considering this, what would be the best course of action for the United States in the conflict between Russia and Georgia? 

First of all -- a brief explanation of current events. There is a place in Georgia (South Ossetia) which is very pro-Russia. Tensions have been heating up there for a few years, apparently. Russia sent in military "peacekeepers." Georgia elected a president who called for the reunification of Georgia. The Georgian military went into South Ossetia and tried to forcibly remove the Russian military. (According to some news reports, the Georgians were trying to "take back their capital," which I don't understand as Tbilisi is the capital.) It didn't work and Georgia withdrew. And here's where it gets interesting... Russia followed them. 

I must admit, I find myself wondering if the Russians deployed their troops into the region in order to spur a conflict. They didn't fire first, but clearly the Georgians felt a threat by their presence. Imagine if there was a large percentage of the population in Southern California who believed California would be better off as Mexico. There was disagreement in the region regarding this, and so Mexico deployed troops there and called them "peacekeepers." Do you think it possible that the United States might frown on this action and feel a threat there? But this way, Russia can say, "They started it," (which they are already saying) and follow through and take out the president of Georgia. 

Putin has been pretty vocal in his ambitions for Russia. He wants to expand the empire and re-create the powerful Russia of yesteryear. Nobody expected him to truly relinquish power when his presidency was over, and it's been made pretty clear that he is now working just as powerfully with a different title.

Clearly, a little country like Georgia is going to be no match for the Russian military. They're calling for help. "We need large supplies of humanitarian aid, because we have thousands of wounded. And weapons. We need weapons." 

So what is the best course of action? The United States is currently airlifting Georgian troops from Iraq as they've been understandably recalled. But please tell me this isn't the best we can do... giving them back 2,000 of their own troops? They've been with us in Iraq during our engagement there. I am hopeful that the current administration is working on something to help our friends in the middle east (since they're few and far between, we cannot afford to alienate the one's we've got). Something needs to be done sooner rather than later because our friends are outnumbered and already exhausted. One soldier is quoted as saying, "We killed as many of them as we could, but where are our friends?" They want to know, Where is the U.S.? When is NATO coming?

Then I thought to take a look at the rhetoric being spewed by the presidential contenders and their spokespeople. Apparently, the candidates "clashed" over the issue. You don't say!! The AFP reports that "a McCain adviser came under fire for his links to the government in Tbilisi." Governor Bill Richardson, boob extraordinaire, out stumping for the Obama campaign on various news organizations, said that McCain's campaign "is run by lobbyists that represent Georgia and other countries. He takes huge amounts of money from oil companies that are profiting in the (former) Soviet Union and many parts of the world." Of course, the AFP added the "former" to the Soviet Union. Nice of them to correct Richardson's faux pas.

McCain has immediately called on Russia to stop its incursion into Georgia. Obama called for restraint on both sides. Kind of funny after Georgia already tried to pull away and Russia followed them. 

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, a republican under consideration as running mate to McCain, said it was wrong for the Obama campaign to focus on any ties between members of the McCain campaign and the Georgian government. "I wish Senator Obama had actually confronted the issue, not trying to detract our attention by focusing on a McCain adviser." He also pointed out that the conflict underscores why a president with experience in international affairs is important. 

I'm making the assumption that Bill Richardson is authorized to speak on behalf of Barack Obama. I assume this because he's opening his big mouth everywhere and I haven't heard anything from Obama stating that he thinks differently or that Richardson doesn't speak for him and/or is not involved in his campaign. On that order, knowing what Richardson said on ABC's "This Week" becomes telling:

"Well, look, my view is that the United States - if we had a stronger relationship with Russia, we could exercise strong diplomacy to stop this effort against Georgia. We should immediately go to the UN Security Council, condemn Russian's [sic] action, and then get the security council to pass a strong resolution getting the Russians to show some restraint and possibly at the same time generate some UN peacekeeping troops. The problem, though, is that we don't have the kind of influence and strength in our relationship with Russia to persuade them. This has been one of the failures of the Bush administration. Failing to build a strong relationship - a mutually beneficial relationship with Russia so we have the kind of influence to persuade them to stop some of these very very dangerous efforts within their territory." 

Then the reporter breaks in with:

Well, so you see this incursion as an example of the lack of diplomatic skills by the Bush administration, but some might see them as evidence that McCain is correct when he says that Russia has no business being in the G8 because it does not share the same values as those western nations. Does this incursion not verify that Senator McCain's assessment of Russia is correct?

Richardson: Well, Senator Obama has said, "Let's use diplomacy." I believe what Senator McCain is proposing is totally, totally wrong. Keeping him out of the G8? Russia is a major super-power. We have to build the kind of relationship with Russia so that we can deal with them on restraining Iran from building nuclear weapons. So that we can deal with Russia in the middle east, help us in the situation in Iraq. You know, Senator Obama's policy of diplomacy, of building international support for our goals, makes sense. What Senator McCain wants to do is continue the Bush policies of trying to isolate Russia. You know, build this missile system there. Find ways to be aggressive against Russia. It's not working. And Russia doesn't respect our efforts to try to restrain them. So I believe what Senator Obama is proposing - international diplomacy, build a strong relationship with countries like Russia and China, find the United Nations as a vehicle to bring this crisis possibly to an end, that's what we need. Look what's happening. Senator McCain wants to isolate Russia further, that's not going to work. That will make Russia more detrimental in their relationship with the United States.

Does this scare anybody else? Somehow, Richardson (speaking for Obama) wants to go to the United Nations Security Council, of which Russia is a veto-holding member, and get them to pass a resolution condemning Russia. I'm not thinking Russia is going to let that fly. Then, he moves on into "let's use diplomacy." But listen carefully to what he's saying -- because he's actually making the case for us to join forces with the Russians and the Chinese. Russia is not going to respect anybody's effort to restrain them. Russia chooses friends who are as aggressive as they are (Syria, Iran, etc...) 

So the Obama campaign actually has a foreign relations policy of "The friend of my enemy needs to be my friend." Sorry, Democrats. But with people like Russia and Iran, you need to just decide whose side you're on. They are not going to be talked out of their agendas, either one. 

1 comment:

H.L.Washburn said...

The Democratic Party does not understand what it means to deal with nations that hate us, that hate what we stand for and that will not submit to us just because we talk to them. They believe that we won the Cold War not because we were strong, but because Reagan and Gorbachev sat down at a table and talked. We won the Cold War because president after president stood strong against Communism for forty years...Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Reagan all stood strong. They didn't sit around and placate the Soviet Union. No, that is what Neville Chamberlain did with Hitler and we know how that one turned out. You notice I did not mention Jimmy Carter as one of those strong presidents, he was more of a Chamberlain and Obama follows in that mold. He fits that weak pattern more than he does the great presidents who defeated communism, facism and the Nazis...