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Randy Scheunemann: 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

06/09/08 "
NEWSWEEK" -- - 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 Saakashvili?
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 Jet-Skiing.

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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