Thursday, September 11, 2008

Palin Comparison

On the anniversary of the day where, if everything didn't exactly change quite as much as advertised, at the very least our approach to foreign policy was completely upturned, it seems appropriate to peek in on our would-be future assistant decider:

GIBSON: Do you agree with the Bush doctrine?

PALIN: In what respect, Charlie?

GIBSON: The Bush -- well, what do you -- what do you interpret it to be?

PALIN: His world view.

GIBSON: No, the Bush doctrine, enunciated September 2002, before the Iraq war.

PALIN: I believe that what President Bush has attempted to do is rid this world of Islamic extremism, terrorists who are hell bent on destroying our nation. There have been blunders along the way, though. There have been mistakes made. And with new leadership, and that's the beauty of American elections, of course, and democracy, is with new leadership comes opportunity to do things better.

GIBSON: The Bush doctrine, as I understand it, is that we have the right of anticipatory self-defense, that we have the right to a preemptive strike against any other country that we think is going to attack us. Do you agree with that?

PALIN: I agree that a president's job, when they swear in their oath to uphold our Constitution, their top priority is to defend the United States of America.

I know that John McCain will do that and I, as his vice president, families we are blessed with that vote of the American people and are elected to serve and are sworn in on January 20, that will be our top priority is to defend the American people.

GIBSON: Do we have a right to anticipatory self-defense? Do we have a right to make a preemptive strike again another country if we feel that country might strike us?

PALIN: Charlie, if there is legitimate and enough intelligence that tells us that a strike is imminent against American people, we have every right to defend our country. In fact, the president has the obligation, the duty to defend.

GIBSON: Do we have the right to be making cross-border attacks into Pakistan from Afghanistan, with or without the approval of the Pakistani government?

PALIN: Now, as for our right to invade, we're going to work with these countries, building new relationships, working with existing allies, but forging new, also, in order to, Charlie, get to a point in this world where war is not going to be a first option. In fact, war has got to be, a military strike, a last option.

GIBSON: But, Governor, I'm asking you: We have the right, in your mind, to go across the border with or without the approval of the Pakistani government.

PALIN: In order to stop Islamic extremists, those terrorists who would seek to destroy America and our allies, we must do whatever it takes and we must not blink, Charlie, in making those tough decisions of where we go and even who we target.

GIBSON: And let me finish with this. I got lost in a blizzard of words there. Is that a yes? That you think we have the right to go across the border with or without the approval of the Pakistani government, to go after terrorists who are in the Waziristan area?

PALIN: I believe that America has to exercise all options in order to stop the terrorists who are hell bent on destroying America and our allies. We have got to have all options out there on the table.

It would be easier, I suppose, to just have her say "yes" and be done with it, pin that on her outright. But there's no confusion regardless; I don't see how she could be any more clear in enunciating her endorsement of the neocon precepts. Oddly, I keep hearing the voice of Marge Gunderson as I read Palin's responses. It's not nearly as much fun as it sounds.

Later, Palin also makes a point of ruffling Russia's feathers, but not before contradicting herself on a pretty fundamental point.

GIBSON: Have you ever met a foreign head of state?

PALIN: There in the state of Alaska, our international trade activities bring in many leaders of other countries.

GIBSON: And all governors deal with trade delegations.

PALIN: Right.

GIBSON: Who act at the behest of their governments.

PALIN: Right, right.

GIBSON: I'm talking about somebody who's a head of state, who can negotiate for that country. Ever met one?

PALIN: I have not and I think if you go back in history and if you ask that question of many vice presidents, they may have the same answer that I just gave you. But, Charlie, again, we've got to remember what the desire is in this nation at this time. It is for no more politics as usual and somebody's big, fat resume maybe that shows decades and decades in that Washington establishment, where, yes, they've had opportunities to meet heads of state ... these last couple of weeks ... it has been overwhelming to me that confirmation of the message that Americans are getting sick and tired of that self-dealing and kind of that closed door, good old boy network that has been the Washington elite.

Sooo....many foreign leaders come to Alaska for trade talks, but she has yet to meet with any of them, and it doesn't count anyway because the American people are sick of people who have that sort of [contemptuous sneer] experience and expertise. Also, that must be your friend in the, ah, wood chipper.

GIBSON: Would you favor putting Georgia and Ukraine in NATO?

PALIN: Ukraine, definitely, yes. Yes, and Georgia.

GIBSON: Because Putin has said he would not tolerate NATO incursion into the Caucasus.

PALIN: Well, you know, the Rose Revolution, the Orange Revolution, those actions have showed us that those democratic nations, I believe, deserve to be in NATO.

Putin thinks otherwise. Obviously, he thinks otherwise, but...

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.

But NATO, I think, should include Ukraine, definitely, at this point and I think that we need to -- especially with new leadership coming in on January 20, being sworn on, on either ticket, we have got to make sure that we strengthen our allies, our ties with each one of those NATO members.

We have got to make sure that that is the group that can be counted upon to defend one another in a very dangerous world today.

GIBSON: And you think it would be worth it to the United States, Georgia is worth it to the United States to go to war if Russia were to invade.

PALIN: What I think is that smaller democratic countries that are invaded by a larger power is something for us to be vigilant against. We have got to be cognizant of what the consequences are if a larger power is able to take over smaller democratic countries.

And we have got to be vigilant. We have got to show the support, in this case, for Georgia. The support that we can show is economic sanctions perhaps against Russia, if this is what it leads to.

It doesn't have to lead to war and it doesn't have to lead, as I said, to a Cold War, but economic sanctions, diplomatic pressure, again, counting on our allies to help us do that in this mission of keeping our eye on Russia and Putin and some of his desire to control and to control much more than smaller democratic countries.

His mission, if it is to control energy supplies, also, coming from and through Russia, that's a dangerous position for our world to be in, if we were to allow that to happen.

There are quite a few positions from which to assault this, even from someone like myself, with only a rudimentary knowledge of geopolitics in general and Russian politics in particular. But let's start with the basics -- Russia will not tolerate its closest (geographically, culturally, and politically) former satellites becoming NATO members, for essentially the same reason we wouldn't tolerate Soviet "advisors" in Cuba or Nicaragua. They're just not going to, especially if we don't bother to at least pretend to make it worth their while.

Add to that the fact that, as jingoistic and paranoid as we can be about world affairs (remember, Saddam was on the verge of sending Predator-type drones to nuke Baltimore or something, even while we use actual Predators to bomb villages in Afghanistan and Pakistan), the Russians have had the market cornered on political insularity and paranoia for nearly a thousand years, and not entirely without reason throughout that course of time.

Next, despite Palin's claim that Russia attacked Georgia completely unprovoked, that's just not true. Saakashvili -- under urging, it appears, from McCain's own foreign policy advisor, Randy Scheunemann, coincidentally enough a lobbyist for Georgia -- was emboldened to launch artillery strikes on South Ossetian and Abkhazian towns because he was at least led to believe that we would have his back if Russia retaliated. So he did, they did, and we didn't. We couldn't, but Saakashvili was misled to think we could. Economic sanctions? Does McCain or Palin think that Germany and France are going to cast Security Council votes that would affect their energy supplies?

The fact is that Russia is not entirely unreasonable in seeing our actions under the auspices of NATO expansion as provocative and antagonistic. Missile base in Poland to protect from an impending onslaught of Iranian missiles? Should Russia or China then strike a deal with Canada to build a missile base in Saskatoon, on the off chance of a missile strike from Mexico? Would we tolerate that for a split-second?

The thing is, even though Obama and Biden nominally support all these prospective NATO moves, chances are they are also aware of the inherent bargaining power of such proposals. You advance an untenable proposition, and haggle down to something that lets both sides save diplomatic face. Not real complicated. Except you assume that McCain -- and by proxy, Palin -- genuinely accept, from an ideological certainty, the urgency for undertaking such provocative steps.

Finally, as part of puffing up her supposed foreign policy acumen, we keep hearing how close Russia is to Alaska. Well, then why has she never been, not even right across the strait to Vladivostok, which is a tourism-driven boomtown these days? She clearly knows nothing about Russia at all, yet presupposes that mere geographic proximity grants her some keen insight to dealing with them.

I realize all this means nothing to the tedious buffoons who had never heard of Palin two weeks ago, but are already enthused about hitching their lives and sacred honor to her stupid lipstick jokes. But it bears attention from the people who have at least the pretense of serious interest in actual national security. Rule Number One, as Iraq has most recently shown us: Don't start shit with people you don't know a goddamned thing about.


Marius said...

There is one aspect I haven't seen many people discuss in America, when it comes to the question of admitting Georgia and Ukraine into NATO. It is a principle of NATO policy not to admit any country as a member (in fact, not even to start negotiations) if the country has unresolved territorial problems--border issues, that is.

Both Ukraine and Georgia do have serious issues with part of their territories--Russia lays claim to Crimea, and Abkhazia doesn't want to be in Georgia; also, there is a restive minority in South Ossetia who wouldn't mind seceding.

The rest of the heavyweights in NATO know that, so that's why they fall silent when the question of membership for Ukraine and Georgia comes up. Bush, however, drunk on freedomization, promised everybody right and left that they were gonna get inducted into NATO, pissing off the Europeans royally, who ended up making him look like a fool at the NATO summit in Bucharest last spring.

But nary an egghead in these here States mentions these difficulties--everybody's gung-ho about snatching two more countries from under the Russians' ass (note, however, that Ukraine is of two minds about NATO membership).

I wonder why Chuck Gibson forgot to remember Klondike Barbie that the Russians have atomic weapons, and the means to deliver them. Going to war with them is a whole 'notha game than knocking over tin-pot dictators in Mesopotamia.

Marius said...

I wanna see a new Democratic ad that says, "If you've enjoyed Bush's wars, you're gonna love McCain's presidency."

Heywood J. said...

Good point. Palin (and, one assumes by his actions and statements, McCain) seem to think NATO membership is a brief, automatic process. A knowledgeable commenter at Talking Points Memo pointed out that there is a pre-process called MAP (Membership Action Plan), in which prospective members are prepared for full membership by resolving any economic, military, or territorial issues (all of which, as you said, are very real problems for both Ukraine and Georgia). What Obama and Biden are actually on record as supporting is MAP, and that was denied to both countries a few months ago. It's a dead issue for now, by NATO's own guidelines.

Palin is correct that if Georgia were a full member, the entire organization would be required to defend it from attack. But that's why it's not going to happen, and in any event, NATO would have stepped in long ago to mediate the South Ossetia/Abkhazia disputes in the first place, rather than egging them on as Scheuenemann clearly did, presumably with McCain's tacit agreement.

I'd note also that throughout this entire Russian crisis this summer, Condi Rice has been conspicuous by her absence, making only a token appearance. She's supposed to be an expert on the region, how did she allow it to deteriorate to such a degree? Then again, she was the worst national security advisor this country has ever had; why would she be any better heading the State Department?

Heywood J. said...

One other thing -- every single statement and action from every American representative that I've heard since the Georgia invasion simply reinforces the perception that far too many people at the decision-making level here think they're still dealing with the Soviet Union.

They know nothing about Russia, nothing at all, and it's interesting, at the first sign of potential conflict, how quickly they fell back into old patterns. They think they're still dealing with Brezhnev-era apparatchiks, rather than a high-level mafiya of oligarchic resource capitalists. And they're completely blind to how practically every other aspect of their foreign and energy policies have emboldened and empowered Russia.

Marius said...

You have a good point about Condi being stuck in the mind-set of 1980s Kremlinology. I heard she did visit the region, but only stopped in Tbilisi for a few hours or so (didn't set foot in Moscow), and only to berate the Russians from afar.

And this administration has been particularly good at employing people who made their 'names' during the last decade of the Cold War, when they were outdoing each other in who can strike the most hawkish pose. At this point, they'd love to bomb the shit out of something important in Russia just to let off some of the steam they've accumulated since 1991, when the Soviets went belly up without a warning, denying Reagan's warriors the satisfaction of a hot confrontation -- the High Noon moment between cowboy nations they so deeply yearned for.

If it came to another confrontation in the area, I don't think the Russians would send armed forces to confront American ones. They'd probably get the Europeans to put pressure on Unka Sam on their behalf. Turn off the West's gas and oil taps for a week, and they'll eat from your hand.

Heywood J. said...

Yep, she just did a hop-stop in Tbilisi to holla up the Urals at Putin and Medvedev. They don't care about Georgian territorial sovereignty, just the BTC pipeline.

I think Russia really snuck up on us, nothing else makes sense. Fredo thought he could buy off Putin with the personal touch, but Vladimir Vladimirovich is not moved by barbecues and backrubs. Now if Bush had beaten Putin at a friendly game of chess, that would have gotten his attention, but obviously even checkers was out of the question.

It never occurred to Bush and his advisors that the leader of an insular thousand-year-old empire coming back from financial degradation might be looking to secure his country's position a bit more advantageously than that which we had conceived for them. We handed the keys to a drunken oaf and walked away, letting him rob them blind. Oddly, they weren't too thrilled with that.

And as you say, the Russians can simply leverage our own institutions and allies against us, without firing a shot. And it's going to set a precedent, one way or the other. Somebody eventually stands up to the big dog; everyone else takes notice and proceeds accordingly.

We are where Britain was 100 years ago, where every past empire ended up, militarily/financially/morally overextended, culturally and intellectually inert, relying on meaningless knuckleheaded platitudes to alter the future to our liking. Not all of us signed on to all of that; the inevitable blow can and should be softened.