Barack Obama has apparently reversed himself on what John McCain called a 3 AM moment, in reference to Hillary Clinton’s primary campaign ad. Originally, Obama had decided to castigate both Georgia and Russia over the outbreak of hostilities in South Ossetia, even while Russian bombs fell on Georgia itself. Today, Obama has changed his tune, following McCain’s lead in demanding that Russia cease its aggression:
Obama called for direct talks among all sides and said the United States, the U.N. Security Council and other parties should try to help bring about a peaceful resolution.
“I condemn Russia’s aggressive actions and reiterate my call for an immediate ceasefire,” Obama said in a statement.
“Russia must stop its bombing campaign, cease flights of Russian aircraft in Georgian airspace, and withdraw its ground forces from Georgia.”
Here’s his original statement:
“I strongly condemn the outbreak of violence in Georgia, and urge an immediate end to armed conflict,” Obama said in a written statement. “Now is the time for Georgia and Russia to show restraint and to avoid an escalation to full-scale war. Georgia’s territorial integrity must be respected.”
McCain, however, initially responded sooner than Obama (who, it should be noted, was in transit to Hawaii), and with a great deal more accuracy:
Today news reports indicate that Russian military forces crossed an internationally-recognized border into the sovereign territory of Georgia. Russia should immediately and unconditionally cease its military operations and withdraw all forces from sovereign Georgian territory. What is most critical now is to avoid further confrontation between Russian and Georgian military forces. The consequences for Euro-Atlantic stability and security are grave.
The government of Georgia has called for a cease-fire and for a resumption of direct talks on South Ossetia with international mediators. The U.S. should immediately convene an emergency session of the United Nations Security Council to call on Russia to reverse course. The US should immediately work with the EU and the OSCE to put diplomatic pressure on Russia to reverse this perilous course it has chosen. We should immediately call a meeting of the North Atlantic Council to assess Georgia’s security and review measures NATO can take to contribute to stabilizing this very dangerous situation. Finally, the international community needs to establish a truly independent and neutral peacekeeping force in South Ossetia.
McCain obviously took time to determine first that Russia had indeed attacked Georgia before demanding restraint from the victim. It’s apparent that McCain has a better grasp of the situation and understood its ramifications as events unfolded. Obama issued a boilerplate statement that generically demanded that everyone start getting along, and had to modify his stance as his 300 foreign-policy advisers had a chance to tutor him on the conflict.
I’d rather vote for the man who gets it right and has spent years studying foreign affairs, warfare, and American strategic needs than the man who makes it up as he goes along. McCain is right; this was a 3 AM moment, and Obama proved himself unprepared and unsuited to answer the call.