No one has been a harsher critic than I of John McCain, but I have to give him credit where due. He was right about Putin and Russia long before most people were.
Mr. McCain has called for expelling what he has called a “revanchist Russia” from meetings of the Group of 8, the organization of leading industrialized nations. He urged President Bush — in vain — to boycott the group’s meeting in St. Petersburg in 2006. And he has often mocked the president’s assertion that he got a sense of the soul of Vladimir V. Putin, who was then Russia’s president and is now its prime minister, by looking into his eyes. “I looked into his eyes,” Mr. McCain said, “and saw three letters: a K, a G and a B.”
His hard line has been derided as provocative, and possibly dangerous, by some so-called realist foreign policy experts, who warn that isolating Russia would do little to encourage it to change. But others, including neoconservatives who deem promoting democracy a paramount goal, see Mr. McCain’s position as principled, and prescient. Now, with Russia moving forcefully into Georgia as Mr. McCain seeks the presidency, his views are being scrutinized as never before through the prism of Russia’s invasion.
For Mr. McCain, the conflict came after months of warnings about the situation in Georgia. Mr. McCain befriended Georgia’s president, Mikheil Saakashvili, over the course of several trips there, and even nominated him for a Nobel Peace Prize in 2005 (in a letter that was co-signed by Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Democrat of New York).
McCain's response to the Georgian crisis has been strikingly superior to Obama's. (HT: TIA Daily) Of course, talk is cheap and Republicans are often softer than their rhetoric, but still... it is revealing that Obama gives a standard, bland response then goes on vacation. Like all liberal-leftists, he lacks interest in standing up for an American ally against a hegemonic tyranny. It's not important to Obama.
Bill Quick, one of McCain's most vociferous critics, announces he will vote for him. His number one priority is survival in a dangerous world, and we can't worry about the economy or anything if we're dead. I wouldn't go that far, certainly not yet -- but it's something to think about.
The Democrats in their private moments of honesty must be worried that history has not "ended," for national security issues always favor Republicans. People like Hugh Hewitt know this and try to scare the base every day about liberals handling national security. The difficult task is sorting through the spin to find the truth.
And the least intelligent thought about the Russian-Georgian conflict comes from -- may I have the envelope, please? -- Andrew Sullivan!
Since Cheney has exactly the same view about the use of American military power as Putin does about Russian power, I'm not sure what grounds he has to complain. Maybe we should start complaining when as many Georgians have perished as Iraqis - and when Putin throws thousands of innocent Georgians into torture chambers.
The Iraq War is morally equivalent to Russia invading Georgia? America invaded a dictatorship and has turned it into a relatively free country (freer than it was, at least); Russia invaded a relatively free country, and the outcome is undetermined as I write, but if autocratic Russia has its way, the end result will not be the spread of freedom in Georgia.
Sullivan's argument is tantamount to arguing that murder is the same as killing in self-defense. When you divorce these actions from their purpose, then they're both just the act of killing.
Whenever I read Sullivan these days I ask myself, "Was his thinking this bad back when I agreed with him?"
This article in the Wall Street Journal is the best analysis of the conflict in Georgia I have read.
South Ossetia is not, as some have suggested, tit-for-tat payback for American and European recognition, over Russian objections, of Kosovo's independence from Serbia. Russia has been "at war" with democratic Georgia for some time. Driven to distraction by Mr. Saakashvili's assertiveness and Georgia's desire to join NATO, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin first tried to bring the country to its knees through economic warfare beginning in 2005. He cut off access to Russian markets, expelled Georgians from Russia, quadrupled the price of Russian energy to Georgia, and severed transport links.
Georgia failed to collapse. To the contrary, it has flourished: After the Rose Revolution of 2003 ended the corrupt reign of Eduard Shevardnadze, the former Soviet foreign minister, Georgia instituted far-reaching reforms to its governing structures, cleaned up the endemic corruption that infected every facet of pre-Rose Revolution life, and found new markets for its products in Turkey and Europe. It persevered with some of the most profound and thorough economic and pro-business reforms ever undertaken by a developing country -- slashing taxes and government regulations, and privatizing state-owned enterprises. All of which is reflected in Georgia's meteoric rise on the World Bank's Doing Business indicators. The irrelevance of Russian economic sanctions to Georgia made the ideological challenge that the Rose Revolution posed to Putin's vision of Russia even more profound.
It is important to understand -- and this point gets obscured, especially by Russian propaganda and pragmatism from State Department types -- that there is no moral equivalence between Russia and Georgia. Russia is guilty of a terrible crime against a country that is, by the standards of that part of the world, free. From the passage quoted above it looks like the Georgians understand economics better than McCain, Obama or Clinton.
UPDATE: David Horowitz says it well:
What was the response of the two candidates to be the next commander-in-chief? McCain condemned the invasion and called on the Russians to withdraw. Obama called on "both sides" to stop fighting and said the matter should be turned over to the UN -- that is to the pro-Islamist Arab dictatorships and their allies. This is a real world test of what Obama would be like as a commander-in-chief. A disaster.