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Understanding John McCain's Appeal to US Voters

The Economist has a good cover story about John McCain and explains quite well why Americans might elect him as president. It is a good summary for the average reader, who is not a news junkie.

Such an analysis is missing in the commentary of a Washington correspondent with the German public broadcaster ARD: Anna Engelke fails to understand McCain's appeal. Instead she makes a list of problems for McCain (his age, the bad shape of US economy, high debts and deficit, two wars) and concludes that a skilled politician like Barack Obama has to lead in the polls, if you take a "sober look at it."

She mentions only two reasons why Obama does not have a strong lead in the polls: It might be partly due to his inexperience, but it is primarily due to his black skin. Engelke opines that Obama would win this election "with the utmost probability," if he were white.

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Obama Stresses Security Policy Differences with McCain

In his nomination speech, the Democratic presidential candidate reiterates his commitment to direct diplomacy with Iran and his hawkish position on Pakistan, which I describe at I am also asking whether Obama is an Atlanticist and look forward to your views on Germany's security policy of free-riding.

How Intelligent are Stratfor's "Intelligence Professionals"?

Stratfor describes itself as "the world's leading online publisher of geopolitical intelligence. Our global team of intelligence professionals provides our Members with insights into political, economic, and military developments to reduce risks, to identify opportunities, and to stay aware of happenings around the globe."

These intelligence professionals have learned from their super-secret "sources" that "Russia has offered Germany a security agreement." Oooh, that sounds like a great conspiracy.

Since Germany and Russia are the two big powers on the block and want to keep any other power (like the United States) from their region, it would make sense for Berlin and Moscow to want to forge an agreement to divide up the neighborhood - such as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, which had secret protocol dividing the independent countries of Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania into either the Nazi or Soviet spheres of influence.

Stratfor has this totally insightful and historically correct analysis:

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Texas Columnist: America's Wishful Thinking Leads to Further Foreign Entanglements

Rod Dreher, a Dallas Morning News editorial columnist, writes in RealClearPolitics:

"We are all Georgians now," John McCain said in response to Russia's invasion of the former Soviet republic.

We are? Spare me. You couldn't find one American in a thousand who could locate Georgia on a map, but the Republican hothead who would be president is ready to bind America's sacred honor to the place. And more than our sacred honor, our military might, too. Mr. McCain, a tempestuous Russophobe to the marrow, demanded that the U.S. accelerate efforts to bring Georgia into NATO, thus extending a trip wire for war with Russia to Moscow's southern border. Because, you know, having conquered Iraq and Afghanistan while barely breaking a sweat, we're rested and ready to let an adventurous Caucasus nation led by a nut shown on TV chewing on his cravat drag us into World War III.

He does not like Barack Obama's support for NATO membership for Georgia either and wonders whether the Democrats are "so afraid of being baited by the Republicans as cowards that they sign on to any foolish policy proposed by GOP jingoes?"

Dreher is frustrated with the lack of realism in the political debate:

Dr. Bacevich said, "What neither of these candidates will be able to, I think, accomplish is to persuade us to look ourselves in the mirror, to see the direction in which we are headed." That direction, he went on, is deeper into the hole of debt and foreign entanglements involving an overstretched U.S. military. We prefer to believe the romantic image of ourselves and our country and to deal with the world as we wish it were rather than as it is.

Is Russia a Superpower? Cold War II?

Ronald Steel, professor of international relations at the University of Southern California, argues that Russia's strong hand against Georgia signals that, “A Superpower Is Reborn” (NYT):
THE psychodrama playing out in the Caucasus is not the first act of World War III, as some hyperventilating politicians and commentators would like to portray it. Rather, it is the delayed final act of the cold war. And while the Soviet Union lost that epic conflict, Russia won this curtain call in a way that ensures Washington will have to take it far more seriously in the future.

This is not just because, as some foreign-policy “realists” have argued, Moscow has enough troops and oil to force us to take into consideration its supposedly irrational fears. Rather, the conflict in Georgia showed how rational Russia’s concerns over American meddling in its traditional sphere of influence are, and that Washington had better start treating it like the great power it still is.
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European Disunion

This is a guest blog post by Pat Patterson:

Kenneth R. Weinstein, the CEO of the Hudson Institute, wrote a recent article in The Weekly Standard which argues that the divisions within the EU are greater and institutionalized than the more publicized division between the EU and the US.

Many of the policies, most recently instigated by France, have been resisted because they are seen as solely in French national interest and in most cases are the antithesis of the interests of the EU bureaucracy and Germany: "But suspicions linger in Berlin and elsewhere that Sarkozy's true goal in forming the [Mediterranean] Union was to expand France's sphere of influence at Germany's expense."

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The Return of History

As part of our media partnership with Blogactiv, we are cross-posting this article by Stanley Crossick, the founding chairman of the European Policy Centre.

Francis Fukuyama was wrong. We have not been witnessing the end of history, but the return of history.

One reason for this is that we have not learned the lessons of history. But who did not at least think that 1989 had brought to an end four decades of Cold War in Europe and the establishment of a long term Pax Americana?

The US and Europe, led by market-obsessed economists, focused on economic and democratic reform in Russia and anchoring former Soviet countries in first in NATO and then in the European Union. Little attention was paid to Russian sensitivities or western behaviour perceived by Russians to be humiliating. We should have recognised that permanent change had not taken place: historical Russia was on vacation.

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U.S. Ambassador: Russian response in Georgia 'well-grounded'

In an interview with the Kommersant, the U.S. Ambassador to Russia, John Beyrle, confirmed that the Russian response to Georgia's attack on South Ossetia was legitimate. He also stated, however, that Russia went too far by invading Georgia 'proper', and that Russia now has to abide by the cease-fire agreement and stop hinting at regime-change in Tblisi. A small bit of an AP report in the International Herald Tribune:

John Beyrle [...] told the Kommersant Friday that Russia "gave a well-grounded response" to a Georgian attack on Russian peacekeepers, but exceeded its authority by invading Georgia proper.

Ambassador Beyrle has presumably been green-lighted to give this statement, and he has also stated to the Kommersant that Saakashvili acted without the consent and against the advice of the United States in attacking South Ossetia. This signals a certain ratcheting-down of tensions between the U.S. and Russia, and a readiness on the side of the U.S. to come to an accommodation.

The full interview is available in Russian, here.

Late update: Telo notes in the comments that the translation of the AP might be off, and that the relevant statement by Ambassador Beyrle implies that the Russians had a reason to respond, but is ambiguous on whether that reason was completely sufficient.