Election requires

Stephen Ontko

America has been thrown into an election during a time when the outcome can have dire consequences for the United States and the world.

As we begin another academic year at Kent State, the world will have recently experienced an escalated military conflict between Russia and Georgia. Russian influence and power that has been regained from the Cold War will challenge the United States and its allies’ values and perseverance. The November election will allow Americans to choose whether we should stand by the pro-western, democratic state of Georgia, aspiring to live in peace among our NATO allies, or be ruled by inaction through inconsequential pleas and diplomatic envoys requesting Russian aggression to cease.

John McCain displayed solidarity with Georgia, stating on behalf of Americans that “we are all Georgians” along with many Eastern European nations. Reuters reported on Aug. 8 a confused Barack Obama initially stating that it was “the time for Georgia and Russia to show restraint,” even though Georgia is the country defending its sovereignty.

Now that Sen. Obama has fact-checked the situation in Georgia, he shouldn’t revert to the worldview he wrote about in Foreign Affairs in 2007, saying that “pushing for more democracy and accountability in Russia, we must work with the country in areas of common interest.” The problem, though, is that Russia degenerated from democratic tendencies well before this summer’s invasion, and there has been no accountability for Russia’s behavior – behavior that has not been in our interest.

Barack Obama’s Foreign Affairs column came within Vladimir Putin’s last year as Russia’s president, and Putin is responsible for the underpinnings of the course of action Russia has taken; including the imprisonment of Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky for not supporting Putin’s United Russia party; the arrest of a leading activist, Garry Kasparov; the circumstances surrounding dissident Alexander Litvinenko’s death from polonium-210 in London; as well as the stalling of reporter Anna Politkovskaya’s murder investigation.

The same rhetoric Obama applies to Russia he also wishes to apply to Iran, where he would give the insubordinate regime a platform, even though it has consistently ignored the international communities’ resolutions to end its nuclear program. Additionally, U.S. military commanders have claimed that elements of the Iranian regime have supplied Shiite insurgents in Iraq with arms targeting our troops there.

The successful outcome of the military surge in Iraq rests in jeopardy this election, as Obama still fails to acknowledge the incredible improvements in Iraq that resulted from John McCain’s calls for the surge months before President George W. Bush ordered the strategy change after the 2006 midterm election. Obama repeatedly calls for a complete troop withdrawal within 18 months in office, regardless of the situation in Iraq, which would be a disastrous squander of victories from the surge and American security.

Barack Obama has reasonably mentioned dropping Russia from the G-8 industrialized nations, but this doesn’t encourage Russian accountability for its aggression, nor is it a major strategic positioning for preventing future conflicts. Russia’s deputy foreign minister has stated that the “most serious consequences for pan-European security” would result from Georgia and the Ukraine’s possible NATO membership. The BBC reported Aug. 20 that the Russian Foreign Ministry claims Russia will act “not only through diplomatic” means as a result of the missile defenses Poland has signed with the United States.

Voters this November can shape U.S. foreign policy that can help restore stability in areas of conflict, defend the principles of freedom, and deter aggression against our allies. Failure to address tyranny and its aggression will have serious consequences for American security in the future, embolden our enemies, and badly damage America’s image as a force for freedom and justice. We must arise to the challenges that confront us and not let dangers escalate into unavoidable disasters.

Stephen Ontko is a senior economics major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].