How Mccain Sees the World
McCain recognizes there are certain people in the world whom
you can't use any word other than evil to describe.
By Adam B. Kushner
-- - GOP presidential hopeful John Mccain's top foreign
policy adviser, Randy Scheunemann has a history as an advocate
for democracy promotion. An early supporter of the Iraq War, he
also lobbied Washington (for a time even while working for
McCain) on behalf of the Republic of Georgia. He talked with
NEWSWEEK's Adam B. Kushner at last week's Republican convention
in St. Paul, Minn., about Russia, Iran and Jet-Skiing with
Mikheil Saakashvili. Excerpts:
KUSHNER: Does McCain divide
the world into good and evil?
SCHEUNEMANN: He believes deeply that America is a force
for good, and he recognizes there are certain people in the
world who send children off to be suicide bombers or repress
their citizens viciously whom you can't use any word other than
evil to describe. On the larger question—does he see the world
in black and white, in dividing lines?—absolutely not.
The senator likes heroes
and heroic struggles. Does he see Georgia '
s president, Mikheil Saakashvili, that way?
What he sees in Georgia is that there's an aggressor
and there's a victim. The aggressor is an authoritarian state
that has long subverted the sovereignty of many of its
neighbors, not just Georgia. And the victim is a democracy
struggling to move its country forward, seeking a closer
relationship with the West.
What is McCain
' s personal relationship like with
He first met Saakashvili in a trip to Georgia in 1997,
when he was then opposition reformist member of Parliament. He
saw him many times afterward. McCain visited with a delegation
of five or six senators in August 2006, and they went to the
president's residence north of Batumi, where they went
When this crisis broke out, they talked regularly.
The senator wanted to
boot Russia from the
G8 before the invasion; then he said the same thing
afterward. One critique is that his proposals aren
' t tied to Russian behavior.
I saw that NEWSWEEK interview with [Barack Obama
adviser] Richard Danzig, and I think it's a laughable
accusation. McCain's questions about having Russia in the G8
were always tied to Russian behavior. If Danzig is unfamiliar
with the historical record, he should educate himself. This is
one of Obama's 300 foreign policy advisers who has said
Winnie-the-Pooh is a fundamental text of national security. As
to the alleged substance of the charge: when McCain first called
for a re-examination of Russia's membership in a group of the
world's largest market democracies, he said it's not a
free-market economy, it's not a democracy. There was no other
member that had clamped down on democratic freedoms in its own
country or undermined the sovereignty of its neighbors.
Does Russia care about
the kind of sticks — G8
membership, for example — that
the West is willing to wield against it?
They very much do. There's serious concern among
Russians about their stock-market decline, their ability to
travel in the West. The reason the G8 was so important to Putin
is that it conferred upon Russia international legitimacy.
What happens if we can
' t stop Iran from getting the bomb?
We're not at that point yet, fortunately. What Senator
McCain has said is that the international community—preferably
through the U.N. but more likely with like-minded
countries—needs to significantly increase the political,
diplomatic, economic and financial pressure on Iran.
What happens when
American interests conflict with American ideals?
I question the premise. I don't think there's a tension
between ideals and interests. When you conduct military action
as a last resort, you have to look at what interests are at
stake, what values are at risk, how likely you are to achieve
your goals, and at what cost. McCain doesn't have an ideological
approach; he evaluates each situation differently.
Does McCain still think
the U.N. can be used to advance American national security?
It's an important organization that does some things
well, but in addressing certain issues it doesn't do well. If
you look at Bosnia, Kosovo, Zimbabwe, Burma—because of the veto
power of Russia and China, the U.N. would be incapable of taking
effective action in places where Russia or China see their
interest in protecting the world's most odious regime. That's
why McCain has called for a league of democracies.
© 2008 Newsweek, Inc.
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