August 14, 2008

"Nous Sommes Tous Georgiens"?

After 9/11, the French newspaper Le Monde ran the headline, "Nous sommes tous Americains," or "We are all Americans." It was an appropriate thing to say at the time, I think, as it demonstrated that the French, along with most of the world then, were united in condemning al-Qaeda's butchery. It also alluded to the US and France's membership in NATO, and in particular to the clause in the North Atlantic Treaty that regards an attack on one member country as an attack on all. In other words, the French, along with the other NATO members, would back up their condemnation with armed force against those responsible. And sure enough, that clause was invoked to authorize the invasion of Afghanistan.

Suffice to say, John McCain's recent declaration, in the aftermath of the Russian invasion of Georgia, that "We are all Georgians," does not have the same resonance. Indeed, by echoing that Le Monde headline, McCain seems to be trying to call up the same sense of solidarity that the West felt after 9/11. But in fact Georgia and the US do not share the bonds of mutual defense that the members of NATO do: there is no Georgian-American pact to this effect, and in fact there is little to connect Georgia and the US beyond a history of emnity with Russia. As shocking as Russia's actions have been (though Georgia is not innocent either), implying that Americans are bound in some sense to come to Georgia's aid against Russian agression would be to invent a new relationship between the two countries -- to say nothing of the potential of putting Russia and the US in direct conflict. This is not something, I think, a presidential candidate should be doing so blithely, as McCain seems to be.

No comments:

Post a Comment