Tag Archives: Georgia

Unilateral multilateralism

George Will has lately been a little more restrained, holding back his usual parade of straw men in favor of directionless overly written meditations on baseball or the lack of human progress.  Today he throws himself back into the thick of things with an analysis of what the very complicated situation in the Caucusus means for the US election.  What does it mean?  Well, it means that Obama is a sissy, and McCain is Mr.Tough guy. To be fair it doesn't seem that Will endorses McCain's attitude (it's unclear what Will's view is), but it is obvious that he ridicules Obama's.  He can, of course, ridicule Obama's position all he wants, but he should try to be more effective.  He writes:

On ABC's "This Week," Richardson, auditioning to be Barack Obama's running mate, disqualified himself. Clinging to the Obama campaign's talking points like a drunk to a lamppost, Richardson said that this crisis proves the wisdom of Obama's zest for diplomacy and that America should get the U.N. Security Council "to pass a strong resolution getting the Russians to show some restraint." Apparently Richardson was ambassador to the United Nations for 19 months without noticing that Russia has a Security Council veto.

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."

I think anyone can tell that Richardon's initial point (whatever may be its merits) is primarily a historical one (one about how things should have gone before this point).  Now that the US has exhausted itself on belligerent unilateralism, Russia is free to act as it wants–belligerently, as it turns out, and unilaterally.  What can the US do about it?  Not a lot (at least, not belligerently or unilaterally).  Now contrast this with McCain's rather different answer to a different question:    

John McCain, the "life is real, life is earnest" candidate, says he has looked into Putin's eyes and seen "a K, a G and a B." But McCain owes the thug thanks, as does America's electorate. Putin has abruptly pulled the presidential campaign up from preoccupation with plumbing the shallows of John Edwards and wondering what "catharsis" is "owed" to disappointed Clintonites.

McCain, who has called upon Russia "to immediately and unconditionally . . . withdraw all forces from sovereign Georgian territory," favors expelling Russia from the Group of Eight, and organizing a league of democracies to act where the United Nations is impotent, which is whenever the subject is important. But Georgia, whose desire for NATO membership had U.S. support, is not in NATO because some prospective members of McCain's league of democracies, e.g., Germany, thought that starting membership talks with Georgia would complicate the project of propitiating Russia. NATO is scheduled to review the question of Georgia's membership in December. Where now do Obama and McCain stand?

If Georgia were in NATO, would NATO now be at war with Russia? More likely, Russia would not be in Georgia. Only once in NATO's 59 years has the territory of a member been invaded — the British Falklands, by Argentina, in 1982.

Will is oblivious the obvious contradiction: what means will McCain use to achieve these ends?  What will convince NATO and the other members of the G-8 (as well as the non-yet-existent "league of democracies") to embrace his objectives?  Will it be diplomacy? 

It turns out, or so it seems to me, that for all the tough talk, McCain and Obama really agree on the fundamental importance of negotiation and diplomacy, they just may disagree on the means.