NATO And Georgia: Not A Campaign Issue But A Real Issue

Kevin Drum notes that while Sarah Palin echoes the irresponsible McCain position on the expansion of NATO to Georgia, the Democrats have not a leg to stand on on the issue:

John McCain's official position on NATO expansion is that we should include Georgia and Ukraine posthaste. This means that if either of those countries gets into a border skirmish — or worse — with Russia, the United States will be obligated to go to war on their behalf.

However, unless I'm mistaken, this is also Barack Obama's official position. So I wouldn't expect a whole lot of pushback on this from his camp. Which is too bad, since the American public really ought to think long and seriously about whether we should be reponsible for defending distant countries that have long histories of ethnic strife and unstable borders.

The only "Serious Person" who has made sense on this issue is Sam Nunn:

[C]learly the United States need to pause, look and listen before we rush into making Georgia and Ukraine part of NATO. If we’re going to do that, we have to understand that this is a military commitment. And we have to back it up militarily. Right now, we’re not doing well in Afghanistan. Our NATO allies seem to be reluctant to put in more forces. NATO’s got a lot of credibility at stake in Afghanistan. And the defense spending by most of our European allies is way down.

And if you look at the map, you can see pretty quickly that defending Georgia will require enormous expenditures unless we’re going to go back to a Berlin sort of situation, where we threaten to use nuclear weapons in response to conventional progression by the Soviet Union... A wounded bear is going to defend itself. I think Russia’s made a profound mistake, and they’ve got to correct it. [But] we have a real reason to avoid compounding the problem.

By Big Tent Democrat, speaking for me only

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    However (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by s5 on Thu Sep 11, 2008 at 06:42:42 PM EST
    Obama has made it pretty clear that his foreign policy includes the full range of options, including diplomacy. NATO isn't an on-off switch, there would have to be a decision made on what to do. And that wouldn't preclude other options for talking Russia off the ledge. McCain and Palin, on the other hand, are making it clear that they would rush in like fools with guns a-blazin'. Thanks but no thanks. Tone and intent matters, and on this one, it's clear that the Republican ticket supports creating tension with other countries, even nuclear armed countries.

    NATO is an on/off switch (none / 0) (#45)
    by Marvin42 on Thu Sep 11, 2008 at 11:48:35 PM EST
    Specially when it comes to defending the territory of the members against invasion. Otherwise it would be a diplomatic or trade organization (which it is not).

    NPR All Things Considered (5.00 / 1) (#12)
    by oculus on Thu Sep 11, 2008 at 06:52:33 PM EST
    emphasized this portion of ABC interview of Palin.  Got my attention.  She did include the condition-precedent that NATO accept Georgia as a member.  

    mccain is a reckless hothead (5.00 / 1) (#35)
    by londonamerican on Thu Sep 11, 2008 at 07:58:09 PM EST
    when it comes to foreign policy, mccain makes bush look restrained. he's so in thrall to the neocons and their client like saakashvili that even though i really cannot stand obama i was going to vote for him. especially after georgia's provocative attacks on south ossetia and mccain's reflexive saber rattling, i figured i could put aside everything obama did throughout the primaries - war and peace seemed to take priority.

    and then a funny thing happened. obama chose cold-war liberal (close cousin to neocon) joe biden as his veep. and biden went off to georgia and immediately started parroting the mccain line on the conflict.

    just like every other case, obama took away yet another reason for anyone on the left to vote for him. why on earth does the democratic nominee need to copy neocon talking points on the caucasus?

    You said it. (none / 0) (#43)
    by bridget on Thu Sep 11, 2008 at 09:59:50 PM EST
    That's the point of my post (none / 0) (#2)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Thu Sep 11, 2008 at 06:34:44 PM EST

    But he wouldn't have said this: (none / 0) (#3)
    by steviez314 on Thu Sep 11, 2008 at 06:37:07 PM EST
    Palin also said she had some "insight" into Russia because "they are our next-door neighbors, and you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska." But she acknowledged that she had never met a foreign head of state.

    Since I can see the moon, can I go on the next space shuttle?

    I'm no (5.00 / 1) (#5)
    by Ga6thDem on Thu Sep 11, 2008 at 06:41:08 PM EST
    fan of Palin but it seems that her statement is certainly no worse than Obama claiming that living in Indonesia as a child made him qualified on foreign policy.

    Really want to play "gotcha" games? (5.00 / 1) (#9)
    by ks on Thu Sep 11, 2008 at 06:45:48 PM EST
    If so, the whole 57 states and arabic translators needed in Afghanistan and so on stuff might be a problem....

    I agree, Don't go there. (none / 0) (#46)
    by Bob K on Fri Sep 12, 2008 at 12:44:13 AM EST
    Especially since wikipedia says the Organisation of the Islamic Conference has 57 states. Link

    More Complex (none / 0) (#14)
    by Socraticsilence on Thu Sep 11, 2008 at 06:59:22 PM EST
    Russian Subs do not patrol Alaskan Waters this is simply a lie, if they did their would be cause for action, seriously, this is just completely false, her relations with Russia are limited to basically the commerical fishing industry.

    This a good point, I mean we all know that that the Border  problem has been solved due to our last leader's expertise in dealing with Mexico as a governor (though considering Bush actually shared a border with Mexioc that's a more legitmate argument).

    Devon- Also note that MAPs has requiremnts that the Ossetia and Azbh. situations would disqualify the Georgians from meeting, thus Biden and Obama's plan in effect would require resolution in those semi-automonus regions before any binding commitment.  

    The Georgian situation is far more complex than your making it out to be-- its analouguous to Kosovo, where we (and NATO) backed a breakaway Republic, its a bit hypocritical for us to oppose such a republic now.


    Hmmm (none / 0) (#17)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Thu Sep 11, 2008 at 07:01:42 PM EST
    That is a pretty categorical statement from you. Are you sure?

    About the MAPs? (none / 0) (#22)
    by Socraticsilence on Thu Sep 11, 2008 at 07:09:36 PM EST
    I'm certain that its a non-binding defense Pact, which requires certain steps to achieve full-membership: current MAP states are Crotia, Albania, and I think (don't trust me on this one, its been a semester since I studied this extensively) Macedonia (which if I can remeber correctly is unlikely to achieve full member status due to Greek Oppostion, but I may be overstating that portion).

    About the Russian Subs? (none / 0) (#26)
    by Socraticsilence on Thu Sep 11, 2008 at 07:15:33 PM EST
    Yeah I am, that would be an act of war, there's a reason the Chinese closely followed that spy plane that was brought down by a collosion in 2001. Now Russian Subs in International Waters and or Russian Waters I can believe, but penetration of US waters would be a major international incident so unless Devon is aware of some sort of coverup ala' Gary Powers, then I'm pretty sure that there aren't Russian subs in Alaskan waters.

    That would be an act of war? (none / 0) (#34)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Thu Sep 11, 2008 at 07:37:04 PM EST
    Then the US has been committing acts of war for 50 years (indeed, they have  BTW).

    So were the Russians. I imagine they still are frankly.


    The post below this was directed to you (none / 0) (#38)
    by Molly Bloom on Thu Sep 11, 2008 at 08:48:43 PM EST
    I goofed.

    21 posts all today.


    21 posts beginning September 11, 2008 (none / 0) (#37)
    by Molly Bloom on Thu Sep 11, 2008 at 08:47:35 PM EST
    I could be wrong, but go review Devon Cooper and tell me what you think.

    Very reluctant NATO allies (none / 0) (#19)
    by Oceandweller on Thu Sep 11, 2008 at 07:03:49 PM EST
    What was true from NATO and even true I dont know in th early 60s is absolutely wrong these days. The brits; they have about quitted Iraq, fighting in AFGHANISTAN and GWB ratings are lower than PM Gordon Brown, so rule out the Brits, GERMANY no way , Spain, Italy you are kidding , the Benelux countries no France Sarkozy is trying to cool off his country from the 10 dead soldiers and having prior to those poor guys increase his troops commitment so what do you have the so called new Europe - Well if you want to go to war with reluctant allies and overexcited Poles against a deadly serious Vladimir, good for you; but you are in for  abig surprise. NATO meant something during the cOld war, now Russia danger is back to before 1914 ; just a big bully without ideological stuff and Russia as a big bully western europe knows and is used to play with. Britain did not care when Russia was in Warsaw in 1840....

    Calm down, you're sounding like Hugh Hewitt (none / 0) (#21)
    by steviez314 on Thu Sep 11, 2008 at 07:07:47 PM EST
    1.  There are maybe 20 people living with 100 miles of that "border with Russia" and I don't see any troops massing across the Bering Strait.

    2.  Russia has very few functioning nuclear subs anymore, and I'd say they were probably closer to NY and DC than Alaska.  Doesn't make David Patterson a foreign policy expert.

    3.  It is Republican foreign and economic policy that caused crude oil to get to these levels.  If oil were back to normal $40-80 levels, there wouldn't be this tension.

    4.  Russia, despite Putin, is not the old USSR.

    5.  Don't feel free to extend the US nuclear umbrella to every country on my behalf.  Diplomacy involves ambiguity.  We're not bellicose on Taiwan and don't need to be here.

    6.  And the other NATO countries have no interest in growing the membership like you suggest.  Maybe because they're not into war quite as much as you seem to be.

    7.  Whre do you propose to get the troops and equipment for a war with Russia?  We don't have them.  Never make threats you can't back up.

    The whole (none / 0) (#4)
    by Ga6thDem on Thu Sep 11, 2008 at 06:39:49 PM EST
    foreign policy debate is something the party largely has a deficit in and it's something that needs to be corrected. I know if you mention fp most of the netroots go crazy as evidenced by Hillarys discussion of her foreign policy stances. If you plan on winning elections, you need to have beliefs on this subject not just position papers since you never know what is going to crop up during the course of a campaign.

    Centrist Obama and Neo-Con Palin agree? (none / 0) (#13)
    by michael098762001 on Thu Sep 11, 2008 at 06:57:42 PM EST
       Sometimes it takes perusing a neo-con blog to see (once again, though ...this is old hat to us influenced by 60's New Left anti-imperialism which was forever polemicizing vs. Cold War Liberalism) hat Kevin Drum was saying, http://www.weeklystandard.com/weblogs/TWSFP/2008/09/palin_takes_exactly_the_same_l.asp , "Palin Takes Exactly the Same Line on Georgia/Russia As McCain, Obama, and Biden."

    Say what? (none / 0) (#15)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Thu Sep 11, 2008 at 07:00:25 PM EST
    You found it right here. Why in blazes do you decide to say an untruth in the very post where I say the same effing thing!

    You folks are amazing sometimes in your obtuseness.


    The Biden/Obama postion (none / 0) (#16)
    by Socraticsilence on Thu Sep 11, 2008 at 07:01:31 PM EST
    Calls for extension of MAPS to the Ukraine and Georgia, however since the territorial disputes in Georgia make meeting MAP conditions basically impossible its an offer that is hypothetical at best.

    Umm (none / 0) (#18)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Thu Sep 11, 2008 at 07:02:24 PM EST
    Not really.

    How so (none / 0) (#24)
    by Socraticsilence on Thu Sep 11, 2008 at 07:11:42 PM EST
    How would Georgia proceed along the MAP path without first satifying the territorial disputes in question?

    You missed the point (none / 0) (#25)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Thu Sep 11, 2008 at 07:15:02 PM EST
    There has never been a country put on the MAP path that did not gain full membership EVER.

    The McCain position is the Obama position. You want it to be different. It is not.


    has there ever been a country (none / 0) (#29)
    by dday on Thu Sep 11, 2008 at 07:26:45 PM EST
    in that position with standing territorial disputes with non-NATO member countries?

    Well, that answer is no.

    I disagree with Obama's position, but there is a distinction between blanket inclusion and offering a MAP.  It's not enough of a distinction for me to be comfortable, however.


    Exaclty (none / 0) (#30)
    by Socraticsilence on Thu Sep 11, 2008 at 07:27:33 PM EST
    This was my point but dday put it more succintly.

    Neither of you have a point (5.00 / 1) (#33)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Thu Sep 11, 2008 at 07:35:54 PM EST
    Obama and Biden want a MAP path for Greorgia when Georgia clearly should nothave one.

    McCainand Palin seem to agree.

    They are all wrong and some of you seem incapable of saying "Dems are wrong."

    I am heartily sick of the cheerleading personally. Maybe that plays well with other people, Not me.


    And the answer is WHY (none / 0) (#32)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Thu Sep 11, 2008 at 07:34:35 PM EST
    a MAP for Georgia is a ridiculously bad policy but OBAMA AND BIDEN support it.

    You seem unable to grasp my point.


    OT Obama McCain live forum on CNN now (none / 0) (#20)
    by nycstray on Thu Sep 11, 2008 at 07:07:28 PM EST
    national service forum. McCain first so he can't cheat!  ;)

    Here's a rule I have stated (none / 0) (#27)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Thu Sep 11, 2008 at 07:16:12 PM EST
    8 million times. NEVER comment on my moderation or tone.

    You KNOW this rule and you just violated it.

    You are permanently banned from my threads.

    Never comment again in my threads. EVER.

    This is for ctrenta (none / 0) (#28)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Thu Sep 11, 2008 at 07:16:59 PM EST
    who is now permanently banned from my threads.

    Do not reply to ctrenta as your replies will be deleted.


    I agree... (none / 0) (#36)
    by prose on Thu Sep 11, 2008 at 08:38:55 PM EST
    although he probably wouldn't have gone on to say that Russia had taken "unprovoked" military action.  That surprised me.

    Who woulda thought (none / 0) (#39)
    by Maryb2004 on Thu Sep 11, 2008 at 09:24:24 PM EST
    that little Charlie Gibson would be the newsperson to instigate a discussion in America about the practical consequences of admitting Georgia to NATO.

    Must be a full moon.

    What discussion? (none / 0) (#40)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Thu Sep 11, 2008 at 09:27:35 PM EST
    The BIG issue is does Sarah Palin know what Charlie Gibson meant by the "bush Doctrine."

    yeah, well ... (none / 0) (#42)
    by Maryb2004 on Thu Sep 11, 2008 at 09:45:45 PM EST
    America is not the same limited universe as left blogs and the issues America talks about are not always the same issues the left blogs talk about.

    Sometimes that's not apparent until you walk away from the left blogs for a while.


    REAL ISSUE: Towards a Second Cold War? (none / 0) (#41)
    by bridget on Thu Sep 11, 2008 at 09:34:46 PM EST
    Noam Chomsky doesn't believe it will come to that. I hope he is right:


    "Nonetheless, a new cold war seems unlikely. To evaluate the prospect, we should begin with clarity about the old cold war. Fevered rhetoric aside, in practice the cold war was a tacit compact in which each of the contestants was largely free to resort to violence and subversion to control its own domains: for Russia, its Eastern neighbors; for the global superpower, most of the world. Human society need not endure - and might not survive - a resurrection of anything like that."

    I have been waiting for Noam Chomsky's opinion and here it is.
    Towards a Second Cold War

    Real Issues Regardless of Party (none / 0) (#44)
    by vicndabx on Thu Sep 11, 2008 at 11:46:53 PM EST
    Neither side has it right w/Georgia & Russia.  I hope all this tough talk is just that - talk for the sake of election posturing.  While I normally discount such stuff as silly, there's too much chatter about it this time around for my taste.  We really need to tone it down - and should be looking for all of the candidates to do just that.  Between us pulling out of treaties like START and Kyoto and going into Iraq unilaterally, the last thing we need to be talking about is another military committment - we've pissed enough people off for no good reason.  Georgia should be content to take my taxpayer money and shut up.  Isn't there enough tension in the world already?