Neocons vs. Cons on Sarah Palin and Russia

Ah, there’s nothing quite like American conservatives fighting amongst themselves to make an election interesting, and wake us up from eight years of the Bush consensus slumber. First, the party’s base really began to crumble this week with the exposure of deep doubts over the abilities of Sarah Palin following her collapse in a milk toast interview by Katie Couric. Ever since Kathleen Parker at the National Review published her attack on Palin, many are following suit. Some believe the heaps of abuse and mockery (see video below) being thrown out against the Alaskan governor plays to her advantage, but others think that populist charisma won’t be enough to survive the debate and media. Naturally one of the principle areas of focus in these criticisms of Palin is her claim of Russia expertise, which is one of the main points raised by an attack letter from the American Conservative – Pat Buchanan’s outfit. But looking beyond the individual, the letter highlights some of the central points of disagreement between Neocons and Conservatives as it relates to Russia policy. These are nicely summarized by the Across the Pond blog:

Russia:- Realists don’t think the U.S. and Russia are headed for a repeat of the Cold War. They feel that Russia’s behavior doesn’t constitute a major threat to the U.S.- “Russia is not an expansionist, ideological empire. It’s a traditional, semi-authoritarian great power intent on preserving its influence in its own backyard and its prestige on the world stage.”- “Putin, far from being a totalitarian ideologue, is an economic nationalist, as the leaders of great powers traditionally have been.”

I think these views from the Buchanan-like orthodox wing of the Republican party further drive home the point that the Kremlin would strongly prefer that McCain win this election – as there is much more to explain the repeated provocations from Venezuela nuclear deals to threatening to annihilate Poland on a weekly basis. Russia is trying very, very hard to be seen as a threat to the United States, as Putin and the siloviki have constructed a regime that requires this kind of confrontation for the ongoing maintenance of consolidated power and personal economic gains for state-owned enterprises.With regard to the Conservative debate over Sarah Palin and Russia, or rather what this country should be doing with regard to the Russian resurgence itself, I am inclined to take the unconventional view that her lack of experience (really, nobody’s buying that line) is actually perhaps not the worst thing in dealing with the Kremlin. Donald Rumsfeld had an enormous amount of experience, and committed some of the biggest mistakes I have ever seen an American government official make. His “experience” in global affairs has single-handedly made Iran the pain-in-the-neck it is today.If I were Joe Biden, I would be terrified of this upcoming debate. Like a tournament poker player or a chess champion playing a hapless amateur, anything could happen and the traditional rules of logic don’t apply. There is no better setting for success than that of diminished expectations, so if she manages to memorize only a line or two fed to her by Kissinger, the audience will be blown away.