Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Is McCain trying to control U.S. foreign policy on the Georgia-Russia crisis with his own State Department?

I'm seeing several stories coming out today on TPM, It seems like Republican presidential candidate John McCain has created his own "State Department" to handle the Georgia-Russia crisis independent of the U.S. State Department or the Bush administration. I'm going to start listing the stories here:

McCain Announces That Lieberman And Graham Are Going To Georgia: At a press conference, John McCain announced that he is sending two top campaign surrogates, Joe Lieberman and Lindsey Graham, to visit Georgia. McCain said "The situation in Georgia remains fluid and dangerous. As soon as possible my colleagues senators Lieberman and Graham will be traveling to Georgia. They're both members of the Senate Armed Services Committee. I hope that other members of the Armed Services Committee in the Senate will go together." TPM reports that McCain's delegation is to "showcase" McCain "as a man of action during a time of international crisis and to remind people that the world is a dangerous place that's still filled with aggressive actors, something that the McCain camp presumably thinks will play in his favor." McCain's announcement of this trip "also seems designed to shoulder Bush aside as the primary GOP leadership figure here."

Georgian President Saakashvili claims U.S. military to take control of Georgia's air and seaports: Georgian President Saakashvili told his countrymen that the U.S military will be moving in to take control of the Georgia's air and seaports. Georgia is still involved in a crisis with Russia over the South Ossetia region. Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell immediately denied Saakashvili's claim, saying that the U.S. military is not taking c control of any air or seaports, but rather "The role of the U.S. military is strictly to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance to the victims of this conflict." McCain has urged that NATO should deploy peacekeeping forces into Georgia, and that Russia should be kicked out of the G-8 group. It certainly makes me wonder if Saakashvili believes that McCain is controlling U.S. foreign policy over the Georgia crisis, and that U.S. forces will come to the aid of Georgia.

McCain has been on the phone with Georgia's president every day of crisis: This is actually a Chicago Tribune story that TPM linked to. McCain tells Chicago Tribune's Jill Zuckman that he has been on the phone with Georgia's president every day. "The events of the last few days show that there are many places in the world where we don't necessarily anticipate this kind of conflicts breaking out," McCain said. "And it does require a steady hand on the tiller and an experienced one." It is almost like McCain is trying to play a Cold War president with this crisis.

The Lunacy continues: TPM reports that Max Boot--who is on the Council of Foreign Relations--advocates that the U.S. should be arming Georgia with Stinger anti-aircraft and Javelin anti-armor missiles. While I'm not sure if Boot is a part of the McCain campaign, this advocation of arming Georgia with missiles certainly plays into the McCain campaign's hard-lined approach of supporting Georgia in the crisis.

Georgian president call for McCain to "move from words to deeds:" This CNN Political Ticker story reports that Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has called for John McCain, and American leaders, to do more for his country in response to the Georgia-Russian conflict. “Yesterday, I heard Sen. McCain say, ‘We are all Georgians now,’” Saakashvili said on CNN’s American Morning. “Well, very nice, you know, very cheering for us to hear that, but OK, it’s time to pass from this. From words to deeds.” McCain told a Pennsylvania crowd yesterday that he called Saakashvili to express his solidarity with the Georgian people, saying "Today, we are all Georgian." Saakashvili urged that the U.S. should take the lead in sending an international peacekeeping force to Georgia, saying that "America is losing the whole region."

McCain nominated Saakashvili for 2005 Nobel Peace Prize: TPM reports this interesting little detail where McCain nominated Georgian President Saakashvili for the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize. This detail shows just how strongly the McCain has supported Saakashvili, and the McCain campaign's pro-Georgian approach to the conflict.

Lonely Night in Georgia: Slate's Fred Kaplan gives an interesting analysis on how the Bush administration enticed Saakashvili into sending 2,000 Georgian troops to Iraq as a U.S. ally with promises of NATO membership for Georgia, weapons and training, and even Georgian hopes that the U.S. military will intervene against Russia if a crisis erupted. The Georgian people were duped by the Bush administration's empty promises for their support in the Bush war in Iraq.

McCain continues to compound the blunder: Gregory Djerejian provides another analysis in The Belgravia Dispatch on how McCain would "double-down, and cheer-lead" NATO's revisiting of Georgia's membership into the organization, and how such hard-lined bluster would anger Russia, perhaps even forcing the U.S. into a shooting war with Russia. And the Georgians are feeling angry at the U.S. because they believed that the U.S. would come to their aid when the crisis with Russia erupted.

All of these stories could have their own posting here, but I want to look at an overall pattern here regarding both the Bush administration's policy with Georgia, and McCain's response. First, the Slate article by Kaplan and Gregory Djerejian's article of McCain doubling down on the Georgia crisis provide a good historical analysis of the Bush neocon's desire to use Georgia as a U.S. ally in the Iraq war. The Bush White House dangled the incentives of NATO membership and U.S. weapons and training to Georgia, making Saakashvili believe that the U.S. would come to Georgia's aid in the face of Russian aggression. It is almost like the neocons were reminiscing for the Cold War between the U.S. and the former Soviet Union, and perhaps they though they could use Georgia as a means to contain Russia. In reality, such a supposed security arrangement between the U.S. and Georgia was nothing more than hollow talk on the Bush administration's side. The problem here is that Saakashvili, and the Georgian people, actually believed it.

The second problem here is with the McCain campaign. McCain is also using Saakashvili and Georgia for his own political means of taking the White House. McCain is taking the neocons' approach of using Georgia to confront Russia as a ploy to show how McCain would handle the current crisis. You can see this with McCain sending his own mini-State Department "envoys" to Georgia as a means of resolving the crisis. McCain pushes this "presidential act" of calling Saakashvili every day, or telling Saakashvili that "we are all Georgian." The neocons provide support for the McCain campaign with suggestions of arming Georgia with missiles. In the end, McCain wants to be the primary GOP leadership figure on this crisis, pushing President Bush aside, and forcing U.S. policy into a confrontational approach towards Russia. It is a PR-play here, even though McCain has no power to shape U.S. policy on this crisis. So McCain uses Saakashvili for this political end. Saakashvili believes that McCain is speaking for the U.S. government, demanding that the U.S. intervenes on Georgia's behalf within the crisis. The Bush administration does not have the military power to intervene against Russia in the region, even as top Bush officials demand that such Russian aggression against Georgia should be answered for. What we are really seeing here is that the neocons are continuing to use Georgia for their own political ends, moving from the Bush administration into the McCain campaign. It is a scary cycle, considering how a blustering, hard-lined McCain administration may confront Russia--perhaps sending the U.S. into an shooting war with Russia.

No comments: