Thursday, September 11, 2008

Palin's Foreign Policy Interview

ABC has put up excerpts of Charlie Gibson's interview with McCain VP nominee Sarah Palin. It's essentially all about foreign policy, so no questions about earmarks or the bridge to nowhere or troopergate, which is unfortunate. Gibson also mischaracterized one of Palin's remarks about Iraq, saying that she stated that "Our national leaders are sending U.S. soldiers on a task that is from God." In actuality, it seemed clear to me from context that Palin was praying that "Our national leaders are sending U.S. soldiers on a task that is from God," which is perfectly reasonable. So it was unfortunate that Gov. Palin was forced to spend time discussing a question whose premise was essentially untrue.

As for the rest of the interview, it's difficult to know how Palin will come off from only reading the transcript. Most of her answers seemed a bit evasive or filibuster-y to me, but it's possible to do that quite effectively when it comes across the TV. The question is, will she come off as "strong on defense" (good) or "a crazy conservative hardliner" (bad). To the extent that she gave us policy, it's clearly the latter -- but I have no idea what the perception will be.

But the was one major, major gaffe I saw that could set the tone for the entire coverage. It was when Gibson asked her about allowing Georgia to join NATO:
GIBSON: Would you favor putting Georgia and Ukraine in NATO?

PALIN: Ukraine, definitely, yes. Yes, and Georgia.

GIBSON: Because Putin has said he would not tolerate NATO incursion into the Caucasus.

PALIN: Well, you know, the Rose Revolution, the Orange Revolution, those actions have showed us that those democratic nations, I believe, deserve to be in NATO.

Putin thinks otherwise. Obviously, he thinks otherwise, but...

GIBSON: And under the NATO treaty, wouldn't we then have to go to war if Russia went into Georgia?

PALIN: Perhaps so. I mean, that is the agreement when you are a NATO ally, is if another country is attacked, you're going to be expected to be called upon and help.

But NATO, I think, should include Ukraine, definitely, at this point and I think that we need to -- especially with new leadership coming in on January 20, being sworn on, on either ticket, we have got to make sure that we strengthen our allies, our ties with each one of those NATO members.

We have got to make sure that that is the group that can be counted upon to defend one another in a very dangerous world today.

Committing to war with Russia? Yeah, that's bad. And that's the problem with putting Georgia in NATO. It's a commitment that there is simply no way we'll be willing to keep. Russia knows we won't keep it, and if they call our bluff, the entire premise of NATO collapses. It is under no circumstances responsible policy-making -- but it is the upshot of the recent conservative foreign policy doctrine that thinks more bluster is the solution to every problem.

13 comments:

PG said...

Agreed re: the church thing. I keep trying to explain to people the difference between Pat Robertson thinking he knows what God thinks, and normal people who pray that they are doing what God wants.

"a crazy conservative hardliner"

Her policy isn't really that hardline conservative. Though she didn't know what the Bush Doctrine was (and Gibson sounded like he said "preemption," which is wrong -- the Doctrine was more about preventive war, stopping the threat before it is imminent), she stated something fairly reasonable, the usual pre-emptive idea that if the threat IS imminent, then we need to respond.

I didn't think her repeatedly saying, "We can't second-guess Israel" was good. Gibson was trying to get her to say whether an Israeli strike on an Iranian reactor would be formally OK by the U.S., but I don't think she had the historical background to understand the question (which really is: will we treat such a strike the way we did Israel's strike on Iraq's reactor in 1981, which is to formally condemn it and give Israel a slap on the wrist by temporarily withholding military assistance? or will we say that it was indeed justified, either as a preventive attack -- which we're now OK with -- or that Iran's having nukes is so much an imminent threat to Israel that it could be called a preemptive strike?).

As I said, she doesn't seem to be signing on for preventive war, though then again her mindset might be such that she really believes we could call the Iraqi threat to the U.S. "imminent." In which case, she would be an especially crazy kind of conservative hardliner, because she would have an extreme perception not merely of U.S. power and moral authority, but of what constitutes an imminent threat. We're fucked if the level of threat Iraq posed in March 2003 is deemed "imminent" by our next administration, because then we're going to be fighting wars in North Korea, Pakistan and Iran as well as Iraq and Afghanistan.

David Schraub said...

I think that Palin thinks that Iraq posed that level of threat, but I don't think she knows what objective level of threat that is. Which means it's still a complete roll of the dice as to what particular degree level of threatening will cause Palin to support shipping Americans off to war again.

Barry Deutsch said...

Russia joining NATO won't be an issue in this campaign, because (as I understand it) Obama has said pretty much the same thing.

Yes, it's a stupid idea, but it's one they all agree on.

Matt said...

Barry beat me too it. If you think that only irresponsible,, blustery conservative hardliners support expanding NATO to include Georgia and Ukraine, then you need to reconsider your support for Senator Obama.

PG said...

Except there's a difference between supporting NATO membership for a Georgia and Ukraine that feel obligated to follow our cautious, risk-adverse advice, and supporting NATO membership for nations getting into fights with Russia, especially if you believe, like Palin, that it was completely irrational and unprovoked for Russia to react.

It sort of reminds me of a Republican friend who got annoyed with Obama for saying he's a pragmatist on economic policy. This friend declared that *everyone* is a pragmatist -- everyone is just trying to achieve some goal. But there is a difference between trying to achieve a practical result and trying to achieve an ideological one.

Ideologically, Georgia should be able to roll tanks anywhere within its formal borders; practically, that was not a smart thing to do in South Ossetia. That's why it's meaningful to refer to Kissinger et al as practitioners of realpolitik. Ideologically, Nixon shouldn't have gone to China because it was a dictatorship that had forced abortions, brain-washing, political executions, etc. Practically, the U.S. did not feel it could continue to close itself off from the government of the largest nation on earth.

By declaring Russia's incursion completely unprovoked, Palin went further than Bush's own State Department (though all the cool conservatives despise State).

"Mikhail Saakashvili's decision to deploy troops in South Ossetia was a wrong step. ... I and officials of the Department of State several times called on Georgia not to attack South Ossetia." -- Matthew Bryza, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs.

Similarly, Obama called on BOTH Georgia and Russia to show restraint at the beginning of August.

Cycle Cyril said...

PG

Lots of words, but the fact of the matter is that Obama wants NATO membership for Georgia which is the same position as McCain/Palin (I don't know Biden's position but I assume it is the same as Obama's).

The fact that he called for both Russia and Georgia to "cool it" is meaningless, as is your reference to "cautious, risk-adverse advice".

As to whether any of the four would actually push for NATO membership is a completely different issue from their present positions.

PG said...

CC,

I think the Bush Administration's shift in foreign policy in the last year has demonstrated that there are virtues in nuance, particularly when it comes to dealing with issues outside American borders.

To say that "Obama supports X so long as Y happens" is very different, even just in a formal logic sense, from saying that "McCain/ Palin support X unreservedly."

Moreover, Palin interprets NATO as having a total commitment to standing up beside its members, yet NATO did almost nothing for France in Algeria, nor for Britain against the Cyprus anti-colonial movement, and when Cyprus was first quasi-annexed by the Greeks, and then quasi-annexed by the Turks, with the island today still divided, NATO was quite passive. (Greece and Turkey were both members.)

I'm sorry if "lots of words" automatically means to you that a simple fact is being obscured, but unfortunately foreign policy is a complicated subject.

Cycle Cyril said...

PG

Sorry for the delay in this response but I had to get some sleep after work.

While Bush in the past has rejected the word nuance in reality he has used it in diplomacy when needed from the beginning of his presidency. But that is besides the point.

Your logic format is OK but your logic format is not Obama's format. In this statement he made in August (see the third from last paragraph) he sets no preconditions for NATO membership for Georgia.

Finally NATO is a treaty of mutual defense when a NATO nation suffers from an external attack by a non-NATO nation/entity. The first time a NATO nation was attacked was the US in 9/11 and NATO is present in Afhganistan. The examples you present are colonies in revolt or one NATO nation against another. (You could bring up the Falkland Islands takeover but I would respond that the UK was not directly attacked.)

PG said...

Obama has described both Georgia and Russia as having created the conditions that led to Russia's invasion. This is not kind of rhetoric of which David was complaining, the conservative bluster that further antagonizes Russia. Palin's claim that Russia was unprovoked isn't supported by a Republican State Department or by most foreign policy observers.

CC's last paragraph --
"NATO is a treaty of mutual defense when a NATO nation suffers from an external attack by a non-NATO nation/entity. The first time a NATO nation was attacked was the US in 9/11 and NATO is present in Afhganistan"
-- is inaccurate.

Article V of the North Atlantic Treaty actually says, "The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence recognised by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.

Article 6 states, "For the purpose of Article 5, an armed attack on one or more of the Parties is deemed to include an armed attack:
on the territory of any of the Parties in Europe or North America, on the Algerian Departments of France, on the territory of or on the Islands under the jurisdiction of any of the Parties in the North Atlantic area north of the Tropic of Cancer"

There is nothing there requiring that the attack come from a non-NATO entity, and it specifically included Algeria until the time France acknowledged its independence.

Cycle Cyril said...

PG

Good try. But check Article 1:

"The Parties undertake, as set forth in the Charter of the United Nations, to settle any international dispute..."

The Algerian revolt was INTRAnational, in effect a civil war. On which side should have the other NATO members aligned themselves with? Similiarly with the issues between Greece and Turkey.

The NATO treaty obligations for mutual defense can only be invoked by an attack on the home countries of the NATO nations by a non-NATO nation.

David Schraub said...

Why does Article I serve as a modifier to Article V? They're separate entities. Indeed, the predominantly intranational characters of Article II ("strengthening their free institutions, by bringing about a better understanding of the principles upon which these institutions are founded....") and Article III seem to verify that the international modifier applies only to Article I, and that Article V ought to be read as the independent piece of text that it is.

And Article IV almost stops making sense if it's read only to consider conflicts or threats of an international character. If Israel were a theoretical member of NATO (awful idea), its conflict with Hamas would be very much akin to France/Algeria in status (certainly intranational), but it would equally obviously implicate "the territorial integrity, political independence or security" of the party.

PG said...

Agreed with David that it doesn't make sense to read Article I as defining the meaning of all subsequent Articles. One of the basics of reading any legal document (and a treaty is a legal document) is to read one Article into another only if there is a clear indication within the document that one should do so. For example, Article VI SPECIFICALLY refers to Article V and says Art. VI defines what is meant by certain terms used in Art. V. There is no reference to Article I in Article V, or vice versa.

Article I is utterly different in concept than Article V. Art. I says "The Parties undertake, as set forth in the Charter of the United Nations, to settle any international dispute in which they may be involved by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security and justice are not endangered, and to refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force in any manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations."

In short, this is the NATO signatories saying that they will not behave in a way contrary to the UN's charter or "purposes."

In contrast, Art. V says, "The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence recognised by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area."

Moreover, even if one did read it as you do, as requiring that a dispute be international in character before it attracts the interest of NATO, that still doesn't resolve the Cyprus issue. You cannot point to any part of the NA Treaty that says, "except when it's one NATO country fighting with another NATO country." There is no such limitation in the treaty itself; you're just making it up to support the claim that NATO always has intervened when a member state is in a conflict.

Cycle Cyril said...

David and PG

If Article I has no bearing on the rest of the treaty then why didn't the French invoke it when the Algerians rose up in revolt? I imagine that if they could prove it was fomented by the Soviets they might have, but they couldn't and didn't.

Article I is pertinent to the rest of the treaty because of a major issue in civil conflict, namely which side to support.

The same issue can occur between two NATO antions - which side do you support? This is why neither Greece nor Turkey could reasonably expect NATO support in their mishegoss.

PG is right in that it is not overtly in the NATO treaty that an attack has to be from a non-NATO nation but it is implied by the treaty itself in as much as the treaty in effect makes the members of the treaty, in matters of war, as a single member and if there is a split between them it can no longer be considered as an attack from without but within.

By maintaining it as a treaty for mutual defense only if a non-NATO nation attacks a NATO nation you avoid the headache of which side to pick.

Article IV makes makes perfect sense in a purely international sense. Just look at the recent conflict between Georgia and Russia. If Georgia's territorial integrity, political independence and security was not treatened then was Russia having a picnic in the Caucasuses?



Finally if Article I has no bearing on the rest of the treaty why have it there in the first place? If the treaty was to help NATO nations with intranational conflicts it merely confuses the treaty. I contend it was placed prominently for a very good reason, to highlight that this treaty is for protection from a non-NATO nation.