George Will’s must read column on Georgia explains:
But Russia’s aggression is really about the subordination of Georgia, a democratic, market-oriented U.S. ally. This is the recrudescence of Russia’s dominance in what it calls the “near abroad.” Ukraine, another nation guilty of being provocatively democratic near Russia, should tremble because there is not much America can do. It is a bystander at the bullying of an ally that might be about to undergo regime change.
And then he queries whether Barack Obama (and implicitly the voters) will learn anything:
This crisis illustrates, redundantly, the paralysis of the United Nations regarding major powers, hence regarding major events, and the fictitiousness of the European Union regarding foreign policy. Does this disturb Obama’s serenity about the efficacy of diplomacy? Obama’s second statement about the crisis, in which he tardily acknowledged Russia’s invasion, underscored the folly of his first, which echoed the Bush administration’s initial evenhandedness. “Now,” said Obama, “is the time for Georgia and Russia to show restraint.”
But, of course, Obama’s subsequent statement may simply have been an effort to mimic John McCain (and nearly every other mainstream foreign policy guru) without evidencing any real understanding. (Goodness knows, his latest comment was filled with vague appeals to “peace” and efforts to “remind” the Russians that “the civilized world require[s] their respect for the values, stability and peace of that world.” Had all that simply slipped Medvedev’s mind?) It seems unlikely that an event, even one as serious as this, could provoke a re-evaluation of Obama’s unbridled faith in diplomacy.
For Obama, proof of diplomacy’s shortcomings is hard to come by. If diplomacy as practiced by current participants fails — with Iran, with Israel and the Palestinians, with Darfur — it is simply further evidence that we need Him. If mere mortals fail to move totalitarians and if the crop of diplomats on the scene can’t manage the right word or turn of phrase to open the hearts of our adversaries, we shouldn’t fret. His unparalleled empathy, insight, and eloquence are the keys to resolving these and another crisis.
Hard power, deterrence, or “threats,” as he so cavalierly dismisses them, are never the answer in his worldview. Diplomacy operates in splendid isolation, without need to acquire the benefit of “leverage” that might actually impact our foes. So, if Obama didn’t learn anything from the resolution of the first Cold War (yes, the first), the Colombians’ successful hostage rescue mission, the surge or any of the diplomatic failings of late he certainly won’t learn anything from Georgia. When one has unyielding faith so deep that it can resist the most compelling evidence to the contrary (i.e. the success of the surge), there is no factual circumstances which can open one’s eyes. That’s the true definition of an ideologue — the real world is irrelevant. So “no” — this won’t disturb Obama’s “serenity about the efficacy of diplomacy.”
And what of John McCain? Rich Lowry sums it up:
McCain’s judgment benefits from years of marinating in national-security issues and traveling and getting to know the key players; from a hatred of tinpot dictators and bloody thugs that guides his moral compass; and from a flinty realism (verging at times on fatalism) that is resistant to illusions about personalities, or the inevitable direction of History, or the nature of the world.
We may be seeing the end of the Russian invasion. For now and for Georgia. But it is a preview of what is in store for the next President. There is no doubt then as to what we would be getting with each candidate’s administration. So even if Obama learned nothing from Georgia (other than to crib from McCain’s pronouncements), the voters certainly should.