Sunday, September 07, 2008

Foreign Policy Questions for Sarah Palin: A Better Idea from Thomas Friedman

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 9/9/08

There are reports now that Sarah Palin, John McCain’s new Vice President candidate, is being prepped by Joe Lieberman and other experts on foreign policy for her upcoming debate on October 2. There is a sense here of “ . . . the little woman” here up against a real pro. Foreign policy debates are important man tasks; not something a woman mayor does like keeping a budget or management a household of seven. This is man work. Better call the big dogs off the porch.

After all, she will be facing Joe Biden, long-time member and current chair of the Foreign Relations Committee and a regular technical wizard of all the important minutia of foreign policy, although he was dead wrong on Iraq and as an influential Senator on foreign affairs, he holds heavy responsibility in leading the other Senators down the Bush/Rove yellow brick road. But he uses phrases like “. . . take him out” in reference to Saddam Hussein same as George Bush, Dick Cheney and the others who have never worn the uniform of their country nor fired a shot in anger. Biden is at least as good as Cheney, and like Cheney, he is a technician who studies the existing paradigm but can’t imagine it shifting. He can’t imagine the world of 2008 being organically different than 1957. And like Cheney, he is a five-time recidivist draft evader – something about these guys liking foreign policy and war as old men although they had asthma or something when they were called to service.

Frankly, I see Palin having the advantage here over Biden on issues of war and peace: At least she actually knows how to shoot a gun.

I have some advice for Palin: Watch out for those trick questions they’re likely to throw you. Like this one (note: A question in a compound sentence is almost always a trick question): In 1997, President Clinton and Vice President Al Gore enthusiastically endorsed putting missiles and a nuclear umbrella in Russia’s neighborhood because they thought Russia was falling apart and we could take the advantage and besides, a Czech poet who chain-smoked cigarettes and really liked Frank Zappa told them it was a good idea. But now that the missiles are going in, the Russians are all strong again and are ready to drive them out. This has created issues in the EU which was already showing problems with the pesky Irish refusing to endorse the Lisbon agreements and its currency is only five years old. The problem is that France is now pitting against Germany since Sarko, the new French guy, wants to bring in a bunch of southern states in the Mediterranean regions to the EU, some of which have Islamic tendencies, and it brings now a classic and tradition challenge to the Germans power in the EU. And now some of the Germans – a people who never seem to sit still and are always up to something – are forming a new Communist party and teaming up with the Socialists. This because the American alliance with what Donald Rumsfeld calls “New Europe” – that would be the states the smoking poet wanted us to defend – has completely alienated the other Europe – the one where they had the Enlightenment and where people go to study art – and they are all against America now.

As Wall Street Journal editor Daniel Schwammenthal writes this week: “Considering the [German] Left's success in driving Germany's economic debate from the opposition bench, it's not hard to imagine the damage the party could inflict once in national government. Its reach would go beyond just economic policy and affect foreign affairs as well.”

That's a worrying prospect, he says, because Germany is already one of the weaker links in the Western alliance.

“Former Social Democratic Chancellor Gerhard Schröder successfully tapped into anti-American feelings when he disagreed with Washington's Iraq policy and tried to sabotage it. Mr. Schröder also pushed for closer ties with Russia while insisting on toothless diplomacy to stop Iran's nuclear program.”

And if the burgeoning German Communist/Socialist alliance wins in new elections in and Schwammenthal says it is now possible, that would be primarily an anti-American move. It would in effect bring an end to the NATO Alliance. It would be quite conceivable then that the new commies in Germany hook up with Russia in opposition to the American intentions in Rumsfeld’s New Europe. So the question is this: What should America do if and when Germany becomes a democratically elected communist state? Should we leave NATO? What if they hook up with Russia? Suppose then they go after Sarko and his new Muslim friends? Should we go in there and defend France again like we always do?

You got to think about these things because Joe Lieberman and all the others they will send you initially advised that the invasion of Iraq would last a week and it would be a cake walk; a “slam dunk.” So far it has been about five years. So when they tell you that an invasion of Russia or one of those other places near Prague Castle will only take a few days and no more than a month, multiply it by about 250. Like your great pal, Linda Lingle, Governor of Hawaii, said about Delaware, Biden’s state, that it would take 250 of them to fill Alaska.

Try to get the conversation back to something the Senator from Delaware feels uncertain about. Like Clinton and Gore he is enamored of the Europeans and their poets and always does what they say and is always quoting Seamus Heaney who is a European poet. Try to bring it back to Michigan, Ohio and western Pennsylvania and places we live. And if they want to get artsy and talk poets, bring in Van Halen or maybe Neil Young or Patsy Cline or Black Elk. People Biden likely never heard of. Try to bring it back to something relevant to our lives on this continent and to the promising day ahead of us in the distant future when we finally begin to stop seeing enemies in the witch mirror and stop seeing ourselves reflected on other continents where we don’t live and in the sky and on other planets and come back to earth.

Another thing: Ask them if you can talk to Robert Gates, Secretary of Defense, and when they say no, demand it. You’ll want to talk to him. He’s the adult. He’s the guy they brought in to fix it when all the initial advice of Biden and Lieberman led the country and half the world to unmitigated disaster. And you might talk to your Hawaiian fried Linda Lingle about this. Hawaiians, being Pacific people like Alaskans, don’t seem so obsessed with and enamored of Europe as we are here in the East. And she seems to have much better sense than those Harvard guys.

It is important that you take command of this whole scene quickly because just as Bill and Hillary are planning strategy lest Obama stumble, so Mitt Romney is quietly stalking you. It was interesting to hear your remarks and his back to back on speech night. There is an old Indian belief that says a person will be defined by the first thing she or he looks at. In your speech you first spoke of Michigan, Ohio and western Pennsylvania, places that are us at our center. Romney first looked to China, then Russia and other places that only Joe Biden could find on the map. Maybe he’s missing something at his center and that could be a problem for all of us and all the world in 2012.

Romney is hungry to continue the war brought by Biden and Lieberman on to Russia and Georgia. Tom Friedman, a strong supporter of the initial invasion of Iraq, has a better idea. In his Sunday column in The New York Times he notes that we are spending a billion dollars to agitate contention between Russia and Georgia. He says we would be better off giving the money to Georgia Tech to invest alternatives to oil.

“We’re going to spend $1 billion to fix the Georgia between Russia and Turkey, not the one between South Carolina and Florida,” he writes. “Sorry, but the thought of us spending $1 billion to repair a country whose president, though a democrat, recklessly provoked a war with a brutish Russia, which was itching to bash its neighbor, makes no sense . . . “

Americans are struggling to meet their mortgages, he writes, and we’re sending $1 billion to a country whose president behaved irresponsibly, just to poke Vladimir Putin in the eye.

“Couldn’t we poke Putin with $100 million? And shouldn’t we be fostering a dialogue with Georgia and with Putin? Otherwise, where is this going? A new cold war? Over what?”