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constructing the underdog, part x: russia
or, gettin' folksy with the undecided
by jeffrey d. walker

This article is the last in a series intended to foster open discussions on the issues as we get set to elect the next President of the United States. See more info about the concept here. You're invited to add your two cents by joining the discussion.

I heard a gentleman in the grocery store talking about undecided voters in Ohio. He said that the candidates couldn't be more different, and that he was pretty sure that an "undecided voter" really meant that a person was thinking, "I'm not sure that I can vote for a black man."

I had been wondering how I was I was going to finish the constructing the underdog series while I was shopping, and it was this guy's comment that really made me think. It occurred to me that there was little I could say at this point to influence people already planning on voting. I mean, if it so happened that my pieces on immigration, Iraq, Israel, gas prices and social security, health care, the mortgage crisis, religion or space travel moved you in some way, then great. But if I hadn't stumbled across your topic of choice before now, chances are you weren't waiting until October to see if I'd cover it in order to make your decision. You probably found out anything you wanted to know about from another source by now. There's been three presidential debates, one vice-presidential debate, the blessing/curse of living in the time of 24-hour-a-day news coverage, and a handful of Tina Fey impressions of Palin on Saturday Night Live.

You've probably picked a guy already by now, and there's probably little I can write in this littl' old piece that's going to throw you into a major tailspin.

Which leaves only the "undecided voter." If this is you, then this piece is just for you. After all, everybody in the political world wants your attention right now, undecided voter. You're the last hope. I, and the rest of us, so want to know what you're waiting for [please post in the discussion immediately - I guarantee a response. I mean, is it really the black/white thing?].

Let me try to put myself into your shoes: You figure the president can't really do much about the economy. You figure, "Iraq, Schmiraq": never even in Saddam's heyday did Iraq have a weapon that could threaten the U.S. mainland, and I don't care if they leave or turn the whole place into Disneyland. Unlike the guy in the grocery store who thinks the candidates couldn't be more different, you figure both candidates are pretty much the same. Why should you vote for either of them?

Well, if you're looking for a reason, let me offer unto thee Russia.

Russia is what's left after the fall of the Soviet Union. Once America's greatest enemy during the Cold War, the remnants of the U.S.S.R. now identified as Russia have largely fallen off the American "threat" radar in the last few years, being replaced by the more recent terror threats like the Taliban, Bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, and other "terrorists."

Sure, terrorists are a**sholes who blow up bombs and make us stand in lines at the airport. But don't you remember the U.S.S.R.? When we talked about fear of them, that was always a push-button, game over sort-of scenario. It's like this: terrorists blow up buses; the U.S.S.R. could have nuked us all.

Today, most of what's left of the U.S.S.R.'s assets are now in Russian control. So what's that? According to Wikipedia, "Russia has the largest stockpile of nuclear weapons in the world. It has the second largest fleet of ballistic missile submarines and is the only country apart from the U.S. with a modern strategic bomber force."

In other words, Russia can still nuke us all, and they've got the hardware to deliver it.

Wikipedia continues, "The country has a large and fully indigenous arms industry, producing all of its own military equipment. Russia is the world's top supplier of weapons, a spot it has held since 2001, accounting for around 30% of worldwide weapons sales and exporting weapons to about 80 countries. ... Defense expenditure has quadrupled over the past six years. Official government military spending for 2008 is $40 billion, making it the eighth largest in the world, though various sources, including US intelligence, and the International Institute for Strategic Studies, have estimated Russia’s military expenditures to be considerably higher. Currently, the military is undergoing a major equipment upgrade with about $200 billion on procurement of military equipment between 2006 and 2015."

Rhetorical question time: what is Russia gearing up for? While you think about that, you might want to put on a jacket in case it's for a second cold war.

Of course I'm hoping that's not the case. Because after all, Russia can totally nuke us all. But if a second cold war is coming, or at least, if our next president believes that Russia is again a threat to the U.S., which one is going to handle the situation best?

McCain has a hard-line view of Russia that even some longtime Republican foreign-policy experts find extreme. He's called for Russia's exclusion from the G-8 group of nations, stated that the U.S. missile-defense system should be built in Eastern Europe whether or not Russia objects, and has pushed to expand NATO along Russia's borders. In August of this year, when Russia entered the Republic of Georgia, McCain immediately condemned Russia, proclaiming, "Today, we are all Georgians," and further indicated that Russia's potential membership in the World Trade Organization should be reviewed as a result of its actions in Georgia.

Some voters may worry that McCain wants to start a new Cold War. Worse yet, the Russians might think that, too.

Though I respect McCain's tenacity, the "Maverick" has to remember that in dealing with Russia, he isn't a character in a western. Unlike the television or movie versions of Maverick, a show-down between Russia and the U.S. is probably not going to end with one man standing. If we square off, most of us aren't going to survive. Sarah Palin was right when she described Russia as a "…very powerful nation…". They've got the goods to eliminate you, me, and the rest of the free world as we know it, from the face of the earth.

That why Barack Obama's senior foreign policy adviser, at least in my opinion, rightly condemned McCain's statements regarding the Georgia invasion as 'shooting from the hip', stating that: "We cannot act on the basis of ideology or preconceived notions. When this crisis began, Barack Obama, the administration ... and all of our NATO allies took a measured and reasoned approach because we were dealing with the facts as we knew them."

Notice the words, "the administration" in the above quote. Yep: Obama and the Bush administration agreed on this issue, along with NATO and other allies, in being more cautious with Russia. As the above articles I've cited note, although Obama was also critical of Russia's actions in Georgia, he was more cautious in his criticism, stating that "Although we must not shy away from pushing for more democracy and accountability in Russia, we must work with the country in areas of common interest - above all, in making sure that nuclear weapons and materials are secure."

In other words, don't just attack a country that invades another country. Hmmmm; seems rational, considering that America has invaded two countries in the past decade? McCain should think about this stuff before he gets all high and mighty.

Bottom line, Russia has the potential to kill us off. Obama recommends caution, and favors working with all nations of the world to cooperate with Russia and secure their nuclear arsenal. McCain's got an itchy trigger finger, and seems poised to go against Russia on his own if provoked. Who do you want with their finger on the button? It could be the difference between life as you know it and life in a fallout shelter.

Who do you feel like voting for now?


A practicing attorney and semi-professional musician, Walker writes for his own amusement, for the sake of opinion, to garner a couple of laughs, and to perhaps provoke a question or two, but otherwise, he doesn't think it'll amount to much.

more about jeffrey d. walker


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tracey kelley
10.22.08 @ 8:02a

The one thing I've really appreciated about your Underdog series (which, quite frankly, cannot be said unless you use the Wally Cox voiceover) is the calm display of both sides featuring facts that otherwise have to be dug up from under a rock.

I am very apprehensive of a man who is so eager to push our might around the world. There's one thing to not back down, but quite another to force the issue to a point of no resolution. So it would be with Russia.

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