Friday, September 12, 2008

Back to the Cold

Among my concerns about John McCain is that he seems so deeply locked in the past.  To me there is something beyond the perceived effectiveness of retelling his moving captivity story to pick up votes.  Watch the Senator next time he tells of his well worn story and you will see a level of emotional connection that he displays no where else.  Somehow he is invested in that war not won and altogether in past battles and enemies.  His unfamiliarity with the computer and email are just metaphors for a profound disconnect with the present and future.  But the really disturbing manifestation of this inability to let go of the past can be found it what can only be described as a seemingly concerted effort to resurrect the Cold War.

For sure, Vladimir Putin is no raging democrat, no more than say is Mubarak or was Musharraf.  The fact that the Soviet Union failed doesn’t mean that Russians embraced Western democracy.  In fact, beyond having no strong democratic tradition, their brief flirtation with it turned into an emotional and economic disaster.  The polished, but still autocratic, Putin is seen as the man who saved Russia and restored its self-image.  Perhaps George Bush’s looking into Putin’s eyes and seeing his soul was naive, but viewing the Russians more as partners than adversaries makes geopolitical sense. 

I don’t know what McCain and his new sidekick “reformer” are thinking.  Haven’t we had enough bravado and saber rattling in the last eight years?  Perhaps Sarah Palin is too young to remember, but I for one have no appetite for a return to those dark days and an ever-present threat of nuclear war.  In fact, if for no other than pragmatic reasons, we have to move in exactly the opposite direction. For more reasons than even a close neighbor from Alaska can understand, we need the Russians as allies.  Moreover, we are the last people to be lecturing about big powers marching in on lesser countries.  Hello, where is it that we have we been for most of this decade?   And by the way, given our inability to send sufficient troops to Afghanistan much less pose any real military threat to Iran, what army is it that Ms. Palin thinks we’re going to commit to helping keep little Georgia in our corner?

John McCain’s strong suit is supposed to be security and foreign policy.  Think about where he stands on those matters and the things that he says.  Speaking of suits, remember what happened to the one Alec Guinness boasted about in The Man in the White Suit?  OK, for those too young to remember, it disintegrated.  Effective foreign policy requires the ability to look at events without prejudice and preconceived ideas.  The past should always inform, but focusing all your attention on the rear view mirror is destined to put you at risk for a crash, perhaps a fatal one.  In that regard, we should all be concerned about John McCain’s blocked vision, which may get us into an even deeper hole than the one we’ve dug for ourselves under Bush.

A postscript.  The McCain campaign, now fixed on the re-elect W strategy of “fear and lying”, has had one major success.  They have intimidated the press big time.  Just imagine if Barack Obama, Joe Biden or even John McCain had looked blank when asked about the Bush Doctrine.  Would they get a pass for linking Iraq and 9/11 (as Palin did yesterday in a speech) at this late date?  I think not.  Sure she’s new on the block, but she is running for the second highest office in the land, right now not four years hence.    Calling Gov. Palin to task for what she says or doesn’t know isn’t sexist. It’s called reporting.  Perhaps McCain hasn’t recovered from the shell shock of Nam, but the press should get over being attacked from the podium in St. Paul.  He may have an excuse, they don’t.

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