John McCain likes to go in for ferociously anti-Russian rhetoric and has embraced silly anti-Russian ideas, so I wasn’t surprised to see that his rhetoric on the Russia-Georgia conflict involves strongly taking Tblisi’s side. I am, however, a bit curious to learn that he’s decided to make this a campaign issue, with national security adviser and former registered lobbyist for Georgia Randy Scheunemann condemning Barack Obama for moral equivalence. James Poulos is not impressed:
None of which means I don’t have a soft spot for Georgia, love their flag, or support the rule of law and representative government over fiat and autocracy. I do. Nor am I certain that Russia will stop attacking Georgia proper when it should, which as of this writing is today. Even more important, for American purposes, than determining the precise percentage by which Saakashvili is responsible for his own country’s woe is making clear that the McCain campaign’s attempt to cast foreign policy prudence as something only an idiot like Obama would consider is a serious blunder of epic proportions and an embarrassment to thinking people everywhere.
Now of course things get said on the campaign trail that aren’t necessarily indicative of how actual policy would be conducted. But as I’ve written before throughout the past ten years McCain and his supporters have fairly consistently articulated a foreign policy philosophy that seems actively hostile to the idea of prudence. David Brooks’ 1999 pro-McCain article “Politics and Patriotism: From Teddy Roosevelt to John McCain” worried “that we have become a nation obsessed with risk avoidance and safety” and cited McCain as the politician most likely to follow Roosevelt (NB: Eric Rauchway says Brooks and McCain misunderstand Roosevelt) in using “foreign-policy activism and patriotism as remedies for cultural threats he perceived at home.”