Editorial: GOP’s fantasy foreign policy

Staff reports

After months of focus on energy policy and the economy, the nation’s attention turned again to foreign policy last week with the invasion of Georgia by Russia.

That event and a question about evil by Pastor Rick Warren at his Orange County, Calif., church to Barack Obama and John McCain should remind Americans to carefully consider each party’s foreign policy when voting in November.

Republicans’ flair for a blustery and arrogant foreign policy pronouncements was again on full display in both settings.

“This is not 1968 and the invasion of Czechoslovakia where Russia can threaten its neighbors, occupy a capital, overthrow a government and get away with it. Things have changed,” Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said after the Russian incursion. Actually, the Russians proved that they can get away with at least the first of the three things Rice mentioned and have every intention of getting away with the third.

The Georgia situation is another example of this administration’s dysfunctional foreign policy. The New York Times reported Sunday that internal deliberations within the Bush administration about Georgia months before the invasion again pitted neoconservatives, led by Vice President Dick Cheney, against pragmatists led by Russia expert Rice.

Cheney wanted to strengthen Georgia militarily and get the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to admit the tiny country. Rice urged a more cautious course, fearing that Russia would be provoked because it does not want Western-allied powers protected by NATO on its borders.

The U.S. trained Georgia’s military, provided equipment and Bush pushed for Georgia to take the first steps to being admitted to NATO even as Georgia provided troops in Iraq.

The sleeping Russian bear did indeed awake and undertook the first military operation outside Russia’s borders since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. The Russian Army made mincemeat of the tiny Georgian military in disputed pro-Russian Georgian provinces, then went further into Georgian territory.

The Georgians and Russians dispute who started it, but clearly Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili miscalculated how much support he would get from the West. Now there are Russian soldiers in his country, not to mention newly installed Russian missiles that could be aimed at the Georgian capital.

Even as Rice warned Saakashvili not to be provoked into a fight he couldn’t win, according to the Times, the Georgians seemed to get mixed messages from Washington about how much support Georgia could expect if it got into a conflict.

It’s astounding that five years after one of the nation’s biggest foreign policy disasters began, Bush still has not chosen sides between foreign policy hawks and pragmatists.

But even worse, the Georgia situation shows that some members of the Bush administration still have not given up on its fantasy that the United States is some kind of Chuck Norris character that will make the world safe from evildoers.

By not speaking with a clear voice and warning Georgia that in a time where the U.S. is fighting two wars, there are severe limits to U.S. support, Bush and Cheney may lose a democratic ally on Russia’s border.

That brings usto the question-and-answer session at Warren’s church on Saturday.

Warren asked McCain and Obama whether evil existed in the world and whether it should be ignored, contained, negotiated with or defeated.

Obama provided a lengthy and sober analysis. He said evil existed and must be confronted, but that it cannot be eradicated and that fighting it must be done so with humility and sensitivity to the fact that such confrontations could spark even more evil.

“Defeat it,” McCain answered, then added, “if I have to follow him to the gates of hell, I will get Osama bin Laden and bring him to justice.”

Please. By all means, get bin Laden. But we hope Americans are done voting based on platitudes about vanquishing evil, spreading democracy and killing Osama bin Laden.

State Journal-Register