Friday, September 26, 2008

Some Foreign Policy Questions For Sarah Palin

Sarah Palin’s latest gaffe occurred when Katie Couric asked about her foreign policy experience. She replied:
"As Putin rears his head and comes into the air space of the United States of America, where do they go? It's Alaska. It's just right over the border. It is from Alaska that we send those out to make sure that an eye is being kept on this very powerful nation, Russia, because they are right there, they are right next to our state."

Really? That's foreign policy experience? Watching Putin's plane fly overhead?

Surely there are some bigger foreign policy issues that Sarah Palin might have been involved with. For instance, what did she do last year when Putin claimed the North Pole:

Late last month, Moscow signaled its intentions to annex the entire North Pole, an area twice the size of France with Belgium and Switzerland thrown in — except all of it under water.

The ice-frozen North Pole is currently a no man's land supervised by a U.N. Commission. The five Polar countries — Russia, the U.S., Canada, Norway and Denmark — each control only a 200-mile economic zone along their coasts. And none of these economic zones reach the North Pole. Under the current U.N. Maritime convention, one country's zone can be extended only if it can prove that the continental shelf into which it wishes to expand is a natural extension of its own territory, by showing that it shares a similar geological structure.

So, the Russians claimed a great scientific discovery late last month. An expedition of 50 scientists that spent 45 days aboard the Rossia nuclear ice-breaker found that an underwater ridge (the Lomonosov ridge) directly links Russia's Arctic coast to the North Pole. This, they insist, surely guarantees Russia's rights over a vast Polar territory that also happens to contain some 10 billion tons of oil and natural gas deposits.

Did Gov. Palin do anything at all when Putin claimed this huge resource?

Probably not. Probably this is a matter for the U.N. Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf to take up (as indeed they will when the Commission meets in 2009). Because the truth of the matter is, when it comes to matters of foreign policy, the governor of any one individual state really doesn’t have that much input to give.

What about Canada? Alaska shares a physical border with Canada, which has been disputed since the Alaska purchase. Why doesn't anyone in the media ask Gov. Palin about her role now that global warming has caused the Canada-Alaska boundary dispute to heat up:

"(The treaty) will secure U.S. sovereign rights over extensive marine areas, including the valuable natural resources they contain," Bush said.

One of the areas Bush likely has in mind is the water along the border between Alaska and the Yukon.

Canada has long insisted the international border continues through the ocean in a straight line from the land. The U.S. argues instead that the border angles 30 degrees to the east.

The area is considered to have high oil and gas potential. Alaska has put exploration rights to the block up for sale several times, but no company has bid on it while its nationality remains disputed.

So, has Gov. Sarah Palin offered her foreign policy expertise on these delicate international boundary issues? Once again, it sounds like this is a foreign policy issue the President and U.S. Senate would handle.

I dunno, maybe she’s been an integral part of these Russian/Canadian boundary disputes. Somehow, though, I think not. Somehow I think if she had been involved in these issues affecting the boundaries of her state, we’d have heard her say something other than “you can see Russia from an island in Alaska” when pressed to give some foreign policy credentials.

Because the truth is, there's just not much foreign policy involved in being a governor, I don't care where your state is located. Remember in 2000 how Bush allegedly had foreign policy experience because Texas borders Mexico? That worked out so well for us.

(H/T, DailyKos diarist taricha).