Hard News by Russell Brown


The newest neocon catastrophe

Something you might not know about the short, sickening conflict in Georgia: John McCain, who yesterday declared "we are all Georgians", is being advised by Randy Scheunemann, a neocon who, until March was registered with the US justice Department as "a foreign agent working on behalf of the government of Georgia."

That's hardly Scheunemann's only claim to fame: he was also in on the ground floor of the Iraq project. And he's not just as terribly, stinkingly wrong about foreign policy as your average neocon. As Lionel Beehmer wrote in a prescient column two weeks ago, "he is the worst kind of Washington insider, a guy who works on the hill, kisses every ass he can to further his career, and then cashes in on his Capitol Hill connections by -- what else? -- working as a lobbyist for dubious foreign governments. If North Korea were to hand him a briefcase of cash, he probably would buy a condo in Pyongyang."

It appears that Scheunemann and his buddies have played a significant role in pushing Georgia's brilliant but flawed leader Mikheil Saakashvili into what The Daily Telegraph characterised yesterday in a useful profile as his "catastrophic blunder" in invading South Ossetia.

Josh Marshall has been tracking this story quite well. In this post, he quotes a Wall Street Journal column noting Scheunemann's ties to Georgia and speculating that having "a leading expert" on the former Soviet Republic on the team will help the McCain campaign:

It's genuinely hard to know where to start with this sort of nonsense. To say that Randy has a conflict of interest misses the point …

Scheunemann's 'policy' was to get the Georgians ginned up on the idea that we were their close military allies and that we'd come to their rescue if their brinksmanship with the Russians went bad. Well, that didn't work out very well. Any situation where you start the shooting and then find yourself begging for a ceasefire within 48 hours is a major blunder. He's not an 'expert' on Georgia; he's the lead guy on the policy that got us into this situation. And the fact that John McCain would make him his chief policy advisor after he's been the conductor on so many trainwrecks should tell us all we need to know about Sen. McCain's foreign policy judgment.

This withering analysis from Belgravia Dispatch notes McCain's previous campaigning to bring Georgia into NATO, in part on the frankly lunatic basis that Georgia is "one of the world’s first nations to adopt Christianity as an official religion".

This is hardly to say that Russia is a good guy in this conflict: it seems fair to say that there aren't any good guys here. But the fact that a prospective US president's campaign is being guided by the same old malign peddlers of influence, and that it is already linked to yet another neocon foreign policy catastrophe (and anyone who thinks that Medvedev/Putin haven't emerged from this debacle with their position greatly enhanced just isn't paying attention) should scare the crap out of the rest of the world.

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