Saturday, September 27, 2008

New horizons

Alaska governor Sarah Palin has gotten a lot of flak for suggesting that Alaska's proximity to the Russian Federation (Russia's Big Diomede Island where the Bering Sea and Chukchi Sea meet is about four kilometers from Alaska's Little Diomede Island), and here CBS News anchor Katie Couric gives her a chance to explain. 

Frankly, her answer is lacking. She makes the case why Alaska the state might be important when it comes to international relations, what with Russia and Canada forming an Alaska moosemeat sandwich, but not why Palin as governor of Alaska gets any foreign policy enhancement from this geographic location. 

For what it's worth, the distance from Seoul to Vladivostok, Russia, which is by no means the closest point between the Republic of Korea and Russia (which borders North Korea at the Tuman-gang River), is less than that between Wasilla or Anchorage and that remote, virtually uninhabited part of Russia that you can see from Alaska.  

Back when he was still governor of Texas, I used to jest that George W. Bush's idea of international relations was putting salsa on an omelette. But to his credit I think his state's proximity to Mexico and the resulting tide of Mexican migrants and immigrants coming up gave him a keen sense of urgency about that particular issue, and maybe even some insight. But that's about it: he failed on just about every other IR issue, and was instead led around as if on a hook through the nose by neocon elements that were reliving the Cold War by starting another. Us versus them, you're either for us or against us. 

Thanks to her utter lack of preparedness or savvy on international issues, Palin as president scares me in a way that McCain as president doesn't. Simply put, I think she will be too easily influenced by people who have a narrow set of interests, much as Dubya was. 

I'm not frightened of an Obama or Biden presidency either, although I wish we were looking at a Bill Richardson first term. Maybe they'll pick him as secretary of state. My only qualm about Obama so far is that he's bashing Korea and Japan vis-à-vis imports and that might mean a delay or cancellation of the Korea-US free-trade agreement

By the way, when I was young I used to have as one of my dreams to walk from America to Russia, though it was the Soviet Union at the time. I loved geography, and the challenge presented by those two dots on the map, just 2-1/2 miles from each other across what was a frozen mass during the winter, was so enticing. Maybe some day I'll make it to the Diomedes. 

Of course, there are people who want to build a bridge or tunnel across the Bering Strait, with the Diomedes as a likely stop along the way. The last time I was in Korea, AFN-Korea had something on what an engineering feat that would be. At least it would be a bridge to somewhere.

[above: The Diomede Islands in summer 2006. The United States is on the left; Russia is on the right.]

No comments:

Post a Comment

Share your thoughts, but please be kind and respectful. My mom reads this blog.