Commentary Magazine


Contentions

What More Do You Need To Know?

As John pointed out here, “Successful politicians aren’t just good at what they do; they’re lucky.” Obama’s being on a Hawaii vacation when Russia attacks Georgia is a stroke of luck for John McCain. (Calm down, calm down. I’m not saying that Russia attacking Georgia is lucky for anyone. It’s the timing of Obama’s trip that’s fortuitous for the McCain camp.) For starters, it creates an (undeserved) correlation between global crisis and a lounging Obama. This dovetails exquisitely with McCain’s recent push to discredit Obama as a serious statesman. Also, the timing simply allows McCain to be the the most prepared with a comment, and McCain has capitalized on this opportunity. Here’s a brief statement from the Senator:

Russia should immediately and unconditionally cease its military operations and withdraw all forces from sovereign Georgian territory. What is most critical now is to avoid further confrontation between Russian and Georgian military forces. The consequences of Euro-Atlantic stability and security are grave. The government of Georgia has called for a cease fire and for a resumption of direct talks on South Ossetia with international mediators. The U.S. should immediately convene an emergency session of the United Nations Security Council to call on Russia to reverse course. The U.S. should immediately work with the E.U. and the OSCE to put diplomatic pressure on Russia to reverse this perilous course that it has chosen.

As that concise and specific statement demonstrates, successful politicians aren’t just lucky either. They’re informed and resolute. When the world goes kablooey, as it does from time to time, the difference between gibberish about world citizenship and the “consequences of Euro-Atlantic stability and security” comes into sharp focus. Here is the vague hash Obama has come up with in response to Russian aggression:

I strongly condemn the outbreak of violence in Georgia, and urge an immediate end to armed conflict. Now is the time for Georgia and Russia to show restraint, and to avoid an escalation to full-scale war. Georgia’s territorial integrity must be respected.”

Obama called for direct talks among all sides and said the United States, U.N. Security Council and other parties should try to help bring about a peaceful resolution.

Forget all the ads, the videos, the talking points, and the accusations. Here’s what it comes down to: In a geopolitical crisis, you have one candidate with a handle on the specific players and their intentions, and ideas on specific ways to move forward; then you have another candidate who says parties “should try to help bring about a peaceful resolution.” There’s your choice.