Saturday, September 27, 2008

Thoughts on the First Debate

I thought both candidates did a good job; this was the best debate I've seen in a long time (though many pundits felt it was too "boring"). Obama recited fewer canned stump speeches than McCain. Their foreign policies aren't very different. McCain tries to nitpick or mischaracterize certain things, and Obama did a good job explaining his positions. Obama held his own in McCain's field of expertise, and McCain showed his bristling hostility at times.

I really like Obama's intelligence. His foreign policy outlines were quite conservative, he and McCain differ on little. I am almost completely in agreement with everything Obama outlined in his foreign policy.

But one caveat:
Many Americans may not realize that the candidates are taking a very hawkish position on Russia.
Obama said:
"it is absolutely critical for the next president to make clear that we have to follow through on our six-party -- or the six-point cease-fire. They have to remove themselves from South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

He followed up with (italics mine):
And to countries like Georgia and the Ukraine, I think we have to insist that they are free to join NATO if they meet the requirements, and they should have a membership action plan immediately to start bringing them in.

For a guy who doesn't want preconditions, this is an awfully big precondition. And this is a non-starter for Russia. Russia now officially recognizes the independence of Abkhazia and S. Ossetia. They are committed to keeping troops there. Foreign Minister Lavrov declared Georgia's "territorial integrity" a "case closed" at the UN yesterday. Russia would see NATO membership for Georgia and the Ukraine the same as we would see Russia putting nuclear bombers in Cuba. Some say that this could mean war. Our NATO allies oppose Georgian and Ukranian membership.

McCain takes the same position as Obama and has a Russophobe as an adviser. It will be hard for them to hold Russia to these conditions and not create a Cold War-like atmosphere of distrust.

Russian media I've seen has so far been fairly critical of the candidates' remarks, but also mentioned their comments about "cooperation." Russia bloggers have been mostly ho-hum, nothing was said that hadn't been said previously. Maybe that will change on Monday.

Also, supposedly McCain cursed a couple times while Obama was talking.(See the 4:30 mark Obama talking about McCain's Spain gaffe. You be the judge of whether he said "horse dung[sic]" or not).

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