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August 15, 2008

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Dealing with Russia is like dealing with a nasty oil spill after the tanker is empty. Yes there is a lot of damage that can still be done, and things can be ugly if you fail to take the proper steps, but it is mostly mitigation.

China is much more dynamic, both for good and ill. But my bet for really dangerous is still all along the India/Pakistan border.

I vote #2 - stuck in Cold War. I actually wrote a post and then saw you had beat me to the punch. But it's basically an elaboration on #2. And I completely agree with the ultimate implication -- it's very very dangerous.

In fact, all the other silly campaign stuff aside, this really gets to the heart of what's at stake this fall.

i think it's mostly option number one.

he's not that bright, he's easily distracted, and he's got WWF* which makes him go hyperbolic about the importance and urgency of anything that looks like it could involve guns.

and it's unbelievable that he still gets a pass from the press on this.

--

* WWF = Wingnut War Fever

publius -- post it anyways, or make it a long comment. I'm curious. ;)

My choice, incidentally, is "all of the above."

All of the above, but the really dangerous part IMHO is #3, because that's the most widely-shared of his delusions. It's OK If American Does It.

"all of the above" sounds about right too. but i think #2 and #3 feed each other. it makes you think you're at war with some evil hitler type force, while simultaneously blinding you to your own flaws (which continues feeding the good/evil, etc).

he also some really dangerous people in his foreign policy orbit (that suffer from these same flaws)

OK, I’m going to push back against the consensus here. I think there is a much simpler explanation for McCain’s choice of words. It is comprised of two parts:

1 – He assumes that the US really does need to (or will be forced to) confront Putin’s Russia, in a serious way which contains the potential for escalation to war.

2 – This is indisputably the first such confrontation since the end of the Cold War between two major powers who both posses large nuclear arsenals.

In other words, what has been lacking up to this point is a crisis which contains the potential (however small), of getting us all killed. And this one does have that potential, if it gets out of hand.

China is much more dynamic, both for good and ill. But my bet for really dangerous is still all along the India/Pakistan border.

what Sebastian said.

I'd throw in the Afghan/Pakistan tribal areas, and the Central Asian Great Game 2.0 (this time it's the oil!) as a bonus.

If you're willing to extend the frame a little and look 20-30 years out, I think that H2O resource wars as the Himalayan glaciers melt could prove really kind of exciting.

(for some value of the word "exciting". Avoiding water wars among nuclear powers will take deft management.)

I think in one respect, it is an attempt to shape the dialogue on the issue. For one, by adding a sense of gravitas to it, he paints himself as the strong and forthright leader who we can "trust" in International Affairs. In turn, it then allows him to characterize other positions as "irresponsible" or "weak."

"the first probably serious crisis...since the end of the Cold War..."

As distinguished from the *actually serious* crises.

Third, it could be that McCain does not see anything we do as a crisis, an unprovoked invasion, etc. When he says "In the 21st century, nations don't invade other nations", he believes it, and Iraq doesn't register because, well, we invaded Iraq. Likewise, nothing we have done could possibly count as "stark international aggression." And while Iraq and Afghanistan are challenges, they are not crises: problems people need to figure out how to respond to, lest everything go to hell in a handbasket. Other people cause crises; we simply do what has to be done.

This is not unique to McCain. I would argue that it is a point of view shared by virtually all members of the U.S. foreign policy elite, including most of those advising Sen. Obama's presidential campaign.

I'd be surprised (pleasantly) to learn that any members of the U.S. Senate have referred to our invasion of Iraq, at the time or in the five-plus years since, as "aggression", stark or otherwise.

What Nell said.

Do the other crises simply not count?

McCain's wording was bad, but I agree with him here. This is a much nastier crisis than any of the others mentioned above, and the only one on the list that even begins to rise to the same level is India/Pakistan.

Comparing this to the excellent adventure in Iraq, for example, is just silly. The war in Iraq is dumb and damaging to America's image and military, but it holds no possibility of getting the world blown up.

Wow, I think Iraq is much more serious.

Care to explain why? What scenario do you see where the Iraq stupidity leads to a nuclear war?

I can see that happening in the situation with Russia. The US doesn't like what Russia does in Georgia, and takes advantage of that to close a deal with Poland on hosting weapons. Russia warns that installing the weapons systems is a provocation. The West ignores Russia.

That much has already happened. We're now about two stupid moves from finding out if NATO means anything.

What comparable scenario do you see with the Iraq mess?

This is a much nastier crisis than any of the others mentioned above,

no way.

this is like Falkland Islands crazy.

nd the only one on the list that even begins to rise to the same level is India/Pakistan.

they're both have nukes. it'd get seriously crazy, real fast if either one of them tried an actual invasion.

Iraq: perhaps on the order of a million dead, two million internally displaced, two million in exile. The only actual uses of nuclear weapons in warfare to date were substantially less lethal.

"Which is the problem with an approach to world affairs characterized by . . . a pathological inability to set priorities."

You know, the last 8 years of executive dysfunction disorder on a national scale (executive, indeed!) really has been enough.

China is much more dynamic, both for good and ill. But my bet for really dangerous is still all along the India/Pakistan border.

Earlier today I would probably have agreed with you, but not now.

Thanks -

"This is indisputably the first such confrontation since the end of the Cold War between two major powers who both posses large nuclear arsenals."

What about the whole China spy plane incident and Taiwan's Chen Shui-bian almost dragging us into a war with China by trying to declare de jure independence?

There is a difference between broader US-Russia relations and the conflict in South Ossetia.

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