Monday, August 11, 2008

There's a Bear in the Woods

I've mentioned the coming of Cold War II three or four times in the short history of this blog. It didn't take a neo-Kremlinologist to predict it. But I'm frankly surprised at the speed with which it's becoming a reality, hastened by Russia's vicious attack on a former satellite, the (temporarily) free republic of Georgia.

Thus far, the media commentary has been more forceful in response than anything mustered by the "international community" or the U.S. State Department -- an indifference punctuated, at least on the U.S. side, by embarrassing photographs of President Bush playing beach volleyball in Beijing while Georgians bleed in the streets. But today's piece by Robert Kagan, the Washington Post's World Columnist, stands out for its cut-to-the-chase clarity.

"From the Baltics in the north through Central Europe and the Balkans to the Caucasus and Central Asia, a geopolitical power struggle has emerged between a resurgent and revanchist Russia on one side and the European Union and the United States on the other," writes Kagan. And though he never calls this emerging struggle Cold War II, the description seems apt.

Another Post columnist, Richard Cohen, does a good job here of noting Vladimir Putin's calculated brutality. The Russian action, he writes, "is not merely disproportionate, it is purposely, studiously, coldly atrocious. It is meant to punish -- not as a deterrent, the Israeli approach to such things, but as a way to show the world that the old Russia is reasserting itself. This is the Russia that looks at Georgia no differently from the way the czars did or, for that matter, the way of that most infamous of Georgians, Stalin himself."

Can we officially declare this the start of Cold War II? Not as long as the United States and most of its sleepy citizens, from the daffy president on down, continue to live in a state of denial. How can you call something a war, cold or hot, if one side refuses to believe it is happening?

Perhaps it's time to dust off that old Ronald Reagan campaign ad, "There's a bear in the woods" -- a cold war classic that suddenly seems relevant again. I actually found it on youtube. It's worth taking a fresh look at.

John McCain, the candidate Americans probably trust most when it comes to handling national security, should revive the ad for use in the current campaign. More than just an effective campaign ad, it might also serve as a wake-up call to the fact that the Russian bear is again on the prowl.

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