Dick Cheney may be the least introspective man in history.
Dick Cheney, the US vice president, broadened his attack on Russia late on Saturday, directly challenging Vladimir Putin’s view of history and warning that his government could “not have it both ways” by using “brute force” and still hoping to build economic progress.
Form anyone else, the hypocrisy would be breathtaking - as Bush's administration continues to push its military adventures in Afghanistan and Iraq and neo-whatevers calls for more wars with Iran, Syria, Russia ... to say nothing of any "humanitarian" excuse they can come up with for armed intervention. For Cheney its par for the course and everyone expects it.
Business leaders and politicians attending the conference had expected an uncompromising assault by Mr Cheney. But some said it only highlighted a sense of exasperation by a departing administration that had failed in its own diplomacy toward Russia, and the acute differences between Washington and Europe.
[José Manuel Barroso, the head of the European Commission,] also appeared to want to diminish the role of the US in resolving the conflict in Georgia, telling the Financial Times: “The hope for peace is the EU.”
“I’ve not seen any proposals coming from any parts of the world apart from the peace proposal put forward by president Sarkozy on behalf of the EU,” he said.
Speaking later to reporters, Mr Barroso said: “We are interested in having constructive relations with Russia. It is important to note what we need. We need cool heads, not a cold war and this is the basic message.”
From all we've heard so far a McCain-Palin administration would simply repeat all the mistakes of the Bush-Cheney one and America's reputation would continue it's downslide as foreign policy failure piled on failure.
For a start, John McCain seems to be just as tone-deaf to his own words as Dick Cheney. Talking about the conflict in Georgia, he told an audience in Aspen back in mid-August:
My friends, we have reached a crisis, the first probably serious crisis internationally since the end of the Cold War. This is an act of aggression.
Perhaps John forgot about the first Gulf War, Afghanistan and the invasion of Iraq that he personally did so much to pave the way for. After all, he's 72. But it's significant how easily he glosses over the facts of Georgia - that his own "close friend", Georgian president Mikheil Shakashvili, was the one to send the bulk of his nation's armed might into its own ethnic minority region while Russia had a peacekeeping role there. A role, moreover, that Georgia had signed up to. In Britain, we'd diplomatically call it "being economical with the truth".
Then there was McCain's nomination acceptance speech. He said:
Russia's leaders, rich with oil wealth and corrupt with power, have rejected democratic ideals and the obligations of a responsible power. They invaded a small, democratic neighbor to gain more control over the world's oil supply, intimidate other neighbors and further their ambitions of reassembling the Russian empire. And the brave people of Georgia need our solidarity and prayers. As president, I will work to establish good relations with Russia so we need not fear a return of the Cold War. But we can't turn a blind eye to aggression and international lawlessness that threatens the peace and stability of the world and the security of the American people.
However, all of McCain's policy plans suggest a return to the Cold War is exactly what he's after - and good relations with Russia (or anyone else) be damned.
Even before the Georgia crisis, McCain wanted to throw Russia out of the G8 group, depriving it of valuable trading opportunities and depriving every member of a valuable forum for diplomatic dialogue with the Bear. Fortunately, while Britain might go along with such a plan, other G8 nations like Germany and France almost certainly wouldn't - they need Russian trade, and energy supplies, too much. And according to McClatchy:
A senior U.S. official who deals with Russia policy said that even Moscow would have to approve of its own ouster, given how the G-8 works.
"It's not even a theoretical discussion. It's an impossible discussion," said the senior official, who requested anonymity because he wasn't authorized to speak publicly. "It's just a dumb thing."
So, like Dick, more rhetoric than reality, but the kind of "tough talk" that creates problems rather than solving them.
Then there's his plan to create a League of Democracies and exclude nations like Russia. That's a bust too, as several leading democracies have said they wouldn't join any such group. Still, here again McCain reveals his fellowship with extremists from the Bush administration like Cheney and John Bolton. Charles Krauthammer, co-originator of the League idea, says it's a blind for a long-held neoconservative wish.
McCain cannot oppose the UN outright – because the American people support it so passionately. Contrary to the yokel-myth, a typical opinion poll – by Global Public Opinion – just found that 64 per cent of Americans think the UN is doing a good job, compared to just 28 per cent who support George Bush. Some 72 per cent of Americans want the UN to play a bigger role.
So McCain has decided to build up an innocuous-sounding alternative called a "League of Democracies". It would be an alliance of countries the US labels democratic that can be used to legitimise US military actions. Charles Krauthammer, the conservative journalist who invented the plan, says: "What I like about it is, it's got a hidden agenda. It looks as if it's about listening and joining with allies... except the idea here, which McCain can't say but I can, is to essentially kill the UN. Nobody's going to walk out of the UN. There's a lot of emotional attachment to it in the US. How do you kill it? You create a parallel institution." Gradually – over decades – McCain hopes it would make the UN wither away.
Such a plan, if it ever came to fruition, would usher in a new age of America and it's closest friends against everyone else. And it's not at all certain that it's strongest allies would still count as among its closest friends.
Then there's the idea being touted by McCain camp adviser Fred Kagan to turn the Baltic states into US-armed "porcupines", with the spines aimed at Russia. Does that sound like working " to establish good relations with Russia" to you? How about McCain's insistence that Georgia and other nations in what Russia terms its "near foreign" region should be fastracked into NATO? The very fact that everyone saw a possible conflict in the wind was cited by both Germany and France as a reason to veto Georgia's membership last time the Bush administration tried to railroad it through - because NATO membership would obligate other members to come to Georgia's defense if asked.
No, McCain's rhetoric on Russia has been, without fail, idiotically belligerent and incredibly tone deaf. His polices are designed to usher in what he says he doesn't want - a new Cold War. As the European Commission's Barroso indicated, no-one expects the Bush administration to practise effective diplomacy any more and no-one is waiting for them to solve problems rather than make them worse. Other nations are getting on with doing it despite America right now. McCain-Palin foreign policy would be another four years of the same and ensure that American prestige was deader than a moose in Sarah Palin's sights.