Sunday, August 10, 2008

Moral Clarity and the Crisis in Georgia

The fighting in the Caucasus region is providing a real-time leadership contrast between John McCain and Barack Obama. As president how would each respond to an international emergency?

Ben Smith suggested yesterday that the Georgian crisis was "3 a.m. moment" for the presidential campaigns, a reference to Hillary Clinton's argument from the Democratic primaries that she was more prepared to answer the red phone at 3am in the White House.

McCain and Obama have offered opposed positions,
as Smith reports.

As I noted yesterday, Moscow has provoked a crisis in the south for months, "in a deliberate attempt to engage its small neighbor in military conflict."

McCain's response provides a powerful contrast in leadership style between himself and Obama on Russian revanchism.

As Smith noted yesterday, McCain's response "put him more closely in line with the moral clarity and American exceptionalism projected by President Bush’s first term."

This descriptive three-way combination has set tempers aflare. This is a neconservative epigram, and what better way for the left to prove that McCain represents Bush's third term than to hammer the GOP nominee as setting a course to U.S.-Russian Armageddon.

Steve Benen warned that McCain's statement is "scary," while Cernig at Newshoggers cowered with apocalyptic allusions:

If [McCain] was the one taking those 3am phone cals [sic] on this conflict, there would be American armed might on its way to Georgia to confront Russia right now and the world would be listening to the ticking clock of holocaust. That's far too dangerous a man to allow into the Oval Office.
This is fantasy. There's nothing in McCain's statement yesterday to suggest a McCain move to hair-trigging brinksmanship:

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 US should immediately work with the EU and the OSCE to put diplomatic pressure on Russia to reverse this perilous course it has chosen. We should immediately call a meeting of the North Atlantic Council to assess Georgia’s security and review measures NATO can take to contribute to stabilizing this very dangerous situation. Finally, the international community needs to establish a truly independent and neutral peacekeeping force in South Ossetia.
Indeed, how much more "internationalist" a response could McCain have issued?

The left-wing liberal interationalist are all about ending the Bush administration's era of alleged "
unilateral hubris," but when the GOP nominee issues a statement calling for a U.S. leadership of the U.N. Security Council, the European Union, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization with the aim of crisis management and the establishment of an international peacekeeping force, the left goes haywire?

The reality is that, for Bush-McCain opponents, the lofty patina of internationalism gets thrown under the bus when the U.S. faces a true foreign policy crisis demanding unequivocal firmness and resolve. This is the kind of sheer hypocrisy emblematic of the left's Manichaean theology of relativism and appeasement: Do not stand tall, for risk of confrontation. Do not confront evil, for risk of moral grandstanding. And most of all, do not broach the possibility of the use of force.

So Obama supporters have painted themselves into a corner. No approach, neither a multilateral-institutionalist tack or a unilatateralist "war-fighting" move is acceptable.

In truth, this leaves inaction. In a crisis requiring moral clarity and quick action, Barack Obama and his left wing allies will be frozen like deer in the headlights.

Hindrocket at Powerline sums things up perfectly:

Barack Obama has been criticized for acting as though he is already President. That's natural, since the actions in question have been presumptuous: the pseudo-Presidential seal, the speech in Germany, and so on. Today, one might say that John McCain is acting as though he is already President, but in a substantive and positive way. In his response to Russia's invasion of Georgia, McCain is giving us a preview of what sort of President he would be.

McCain has strongly and unequivocally come out in support of our ally Georgia, while placing the onus for the war squarely where it belongs, on Russia. In this, he has aligned himself with our most loyal European allies. Obama, on the other hand, issued the sort of vapid statement that would ingratiate him with the State Department while not requiring any distraction from his Hawaii vacation. An interesting point, by the way: McCain is supposed to be the old guy, but Obama is the one who needs a vacation.
The choices in this election have never been clearer as today.

John McCain stands in the great tradition of American moral power and exceptionalism, while Barack Obama represents the foreign policy of Carteresque weakness and the sacrifice of American national interests in the name of a naïve idealism that will weaken American security and consign America's friends to the sharks of advancing worldwide despotism and postmodern capitulation to anti-Western attacks on world order.


UPDATE: See also, Roger Kimball, "The Crisis in Georgia, 9/11, and the Lessons of Gratitude":

On 9/11 we were grateful to have a leader who could distinguish between friends and enemies and who was not so crippled by moral relativism that he believed that victims should be equated with their victimizers. In 2008, we have a choice between 1) a man who knows evil and repudiates it and 2) a man who believes that there is “fault on both sides” and that discredited “progressive” institutions like the United Nations are better equipped to deal with disputes among sovereign nations than the nations themselves.

Which would you choose?