WASHINGTON -- Asked in 1957 what would determine his government's course, Harold Macmillan, Britain's new prime minister, replied, "Events, dear boy, events." Now, into America's trivializing presidential campaign, a pesky event has intruded -- a European war. Russian tanks, heavy artillery, strategic bombers, ballistic missiles and a naval blockade batter a European nation. We are not past such things after all. The end of history will be postponed, again.
Russia supports two provinces determined to secede from Georgia. Russia, with aspiring nations within its borders, generally opposes secessionists, as it did when America, which sometimes opposes secession (e.g., 1861-65), improvidently supported Kosovo's secession from Russia's ally Serbia. But Russia's aggression is really about the subordination of Georgia, a democratic, market-oriented U.S. ally. This is the recrudescence of Russia's dominance in what it calls the "near abroad." Ukraine, another nation guilty of being provocatively democratic near Russia, should tremble because there is not much America can do. It is a bystander at the bullying of an ally that might be about to undergo regime change.
Vladimir Putin, into whose soul President George W. Bush once peered and liked what he saw, has conspicuously conferred with Russia's military, thereby making his poodle, "President" Dmitry Medvedev, yet more risible. But big events reveal smallness, such as that of New Mexico's Gov. Bill Richardson.
On ABC's "This Week," Richardson, auditioning to be Barack Obama's running mate, disqualified himself. Clinging to the Obama campaign's talking points like a drunk to a lamppost, Richardson said this crisis proves the wisdom of Obama's zest for diplomacy, and that America should get the U.N. Security Council "to pass a strong resolution getting the Russians to show some restraint." Apparently Richardson was ambassador to the U.N. for 19 months without noticing that Russia has a Security Council veto.
This crisis illustrates, redundantly, the paralysis of the U.N. regarding major powers, hence regarding major events, and the fictitiousness of the European Union regarding foreign policy. Does this disturb Obama's serenity about the efficacy of diplomacy? Obama's second statement about the crisis, in which he tardily acknowledged Russia's invasion, underscored the folly of his first, which echoed the Bush administration's initial evenhandedness. "Now," said Obama, "is the time for Georgia and Russia to show restraint."