Strategy ’08

Obama vs. the other guy, 2008

McCain on Russia: reckless, bordering on madness

In the aftermath of the biggest news story of the week (sorry, JRE, but your dilly-dallying takes back seat to an actual war), we can sit back and judge how Presidential John McCain and Barack Obama really are when it comes to a moment of crisis. And it’s not even close:

While Obama offered a response largely in line with statements issued by democratically elected world leaders…first calling on both sides to negotiate, John McCain took a remarkably—and uniquely—more aggressive stance, siding clearly with Georgia’s pro-Western leaders and placing the blame for the conflict entirely on Russia…

Obama’s statement put him in line with the White House, the European Union, NATO, and a series of European powers, while McCain’s initial statement—which he delivered in Iowa and ran on a blog on his Web site under the title “McCain Statement on Russian Invasion of Georgia,” —put him more closely in line with the moral clarity and American exceptionalism projected by President Bush’s first term.


The “moral clarity” of President Bush’s first term – that lead to ignored memos on real threats, and a rush to war in Iraq.

Now McCain is taking the same approach to RUSSIA? America needs to pay attention.

Just like the trigger-happy George W. Bush, John McCain is ready to call shades of gray “black and white,” placing the blame for the crisis totally on Russia, and using bad historical analogies to describe the South Ossetia region:

[John McCain’s top foreign policy advisor, Randy Scheunemann] also criticized Obama for calling on both sides to show “restraint,” and suggested the Democrat was putting too much blame on the conflict’s clear victim.

“That’s kind of like saying after Saddam, Hussein invaded Kuwait, that Kuwait and Iraq need to show restraint, or like saying in 1968 [when the Soviet Union invaded Czechoslovakia] …that the Czechoslovaks should show restraint,” he said.

Anyone familiar with the area, particularly a campaign’s top foreign policy advisor, should know that the situation is much more complicated than a simple invasion.

From Buffaloflank’s good primer diary:

Within Georgia lies the territory of South Ossetia: North Ossetia is a part of Russia. Russia has been funding and promoting Ossetian separatists in South Ossetia, who have been ruling the province independent of the Georgian government in Tblisi since a civil war in the ’90s. Without expertise on the situation, it is hard for me to say how much these guys are a independent freedom movement vs. puppets from Moscow, but this current fighting escalated when Saakashvili decided to move against them today.

So, in fact, Saakashvili moved against existing insurgent forces in his own territory, doing something he had to have known would lead to a wider conflict with Russia.

Regardless of how you stand on the South Ossetia situation itself, McCain and Obama have made their reactions clear:

Barack Obama is in line with NATO, the EU, and other democratically-elected leaders from around the world. John McCain is in the “Let’s go to war with Russia” camp. And, like Bush, he’s taking advice from a guy who gets paid when there’s a war:

John McCain is a saber-rattler when it comes to Russia. On the campaign trail, the Republican presidential candidate warns of the “dangers posed by a revanchist Russia.” A quick Google search produces video of McCain plodding through his oft-repeated joke that when he looks in Vladimir Putin’s eyes, he sees three letters: KGB (and not, like George Bush, Putin’s “soul”)…

But the sound of sabers rattling is music to the ears of Randy Scheunemann, the McCain campaign’s senior foreign policy and national security advisor. A long-term confidant of the candidate, Scheunemann also supports a very tough stance toward Russia. Unlike McCain, until very recently he was paid to support that stance. McCain, already under fire for the role of lobbyists in his campaign, is taking his foreign policy advice from someone who was a paid lobbyist for former Soviet Bloc countries that are wary of Russia, and seems to advocate those policies the countries and their former lobbyist want. Notably, McCain supports a quick expansion of NATO, and Scheunemann has already helped two former Soviet satellites gain admission to NATO and has worked on behalf of two others.

One candidate – in line with global opinion in trying to stop conflict.

Another candidate – overtly aggressive, with a long history of saying he’d be “very harsh” to Russia, while taking foreign policy advice from a conflicted lobbyist.

I’m no great fan of the Russian state, but out and out aggression to them, particularly with our forces already stretched thin, is certainly reckless, and borders on madness.

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August 9, 2008 - Posted by | foreign policy | ,

3 Comments »

  1. Once again, John McCain demonstrates that he is tempermentally unfit to be President.

    On the NewsHour Friday night, they had a long discussion on the background of this conflict. South Ossetia is a mountainous region and a low population autonomous zone, that has had a destabilizing effect on the Georgian government due to smuggling and Russian meddling. Saakashvili has staked his presidency on asserting Georgian authority over the breakaway regions of Abkhaz and South Ossetia, but escalating to open war with Russia is a huge mistake.

    http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/europe/july-dec08/georgiaclash_08-08.html

    Robert Farley at LGM has additional info, including reports of a ceasfire.

    http://lefarkins.blogspot.com/2008/08/morning-russia-georgia-roundup.html

    Comment by -ck- | August 9, 2008 | Reply

  2. The road to the present trouble was opened in spring when the Old Europe bowed to Russian pressure and postponed admission of Ukraine and Georgia for NATO candidates. This left Russia with free hand to grill Georgia to avoid emergence of prosperous, democratic and (worst of all!) independent from Russia country in its neighbourhood. Assassination attempt on the head of pro-Georgian administration of S Ossetia, Russian Air Force flights over Georgia, roadside bomb blasts targeting Georgian police patrols, shelling of Georgian villages – this campaign finally forced Georgia to respond.
    Roots of South Ossetian conflict in general lie some 20 years ago when Russian central government realised seriousness of national liberation movements across non-Russian parts of the USSR. The tactic to preserve the Empire of Tatters has been twofold: first, hijack political processes in the “near abroad” and plant obedient leaders and governments, second, if unsuccessful, divide and rule by stirring up confrontation between the noncompliant nation and some minorities or Russian colonists.

    Comment by ritvars | August 9, 2008 | Reply

  3. NO MCCAIN DID NOT DEMOSTRATE ANYTHING BUT TRUE LEADERSHIP-HE SPOKE WITH KNOWLEGE, UNDERSTANDING, EXPERIENCE AND COMPASSION REGARDING THE GEORGIANS!

    IT IS FAR BETTER THAN OBAMA- MISSING IN ACTION-AWOL-ELLITIEST OUT OF TOUCH VACATIONING @GRANDMAMAMAS HOUSE IN HIWAII! AT A TIME THE NATION AND THE WORLD IS IN CRISIS! HE UNFIT TO COMMAND-WHAT HAPPEN TO ROLLING YOUR SLEEVES UP AND WORKING FOR AMERICAN AND ITS PEOPLE?

    Comment by Vian | August 16, 2008 | Reply


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