John McCain, the "life is real, life is earnest" candidate, says he has looked into Putin's eyes and seen "a K, a G and a B." But McCain owes the thug thanks, as does America's electorate. Putin has abruptly pulled the presidential campaign up from preoccupation with plumbing the shallows of John Edwards and wondering what "catharsis" is "owed" to disappointed Clintonites.
McCain, who has called upon Russia "to immediately and unconditionally ... withdraw all forces from sovereign Georgian territory," favors expelling Russia from the G-8, and organizing a league of democracies to act where the U.N. is impotent, which is whenever the subject is important. But Georgia, whose desire for NATO membership had U.S. support, is not in NATO because some prospective members of McCain's league of democracies, e.g. Germany, thought that starting membership talks with Georgia would complicate the project of propitiating Russia. NATO is scheduled to review the question of Georgia's membership in December. Where now do Obama and McCain stand?
If Georgia were in NATO, would NATO now be at war with Russia? More likely, Russia would not be in Georgia. Only once in NATO's 59 years has the territory of a member been invaded -- the British Falklands, by Argentina, in 1982.
What is it about August? The First World War began in August 1914. The Molotov-Ribbentrop pact effectively announced the Second World War in August 1939. Iraq, a fragment of the collapse of empires precipitated by August 1914, invaded Kuwait in August 1990.
This year's August upheaval coincides, probably not coincidentally, with the world's preoccupation with that charade of international comity, the Olympics. For only the third time in 72 years (Berlin 1936, Moscow 1980), the games are being hosted by a tyrannical regime, the mind of which was displayed in the opening ceremony featuring thousands of drummers, each face contorted with the same grotesquely frozen grin. It was a tableau of the miniaturization of the individual and the subordination of individuality to the collective. Not since the Nazi's 1934 Nuremberg rally, which Leni Riefenstahl turned into the film "Triumph of the Will," has tyranny been so brazenly tarted up as art.
A worldwide audience of billions swooned over the Beijing ceremony. Who remembers 1934? Or anything.