When John McCain proclaimed in 2008, “Today, we’re all Georgians,” unfortunately he was not talking about the Southern state. No, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee was declaring his — indeed, all of our — support for the nation of Georgia, which that year became involved in a brief military conflict with neighboring Russia over who had claim to the region of South Ossetia. Which country’s soldiers fired first became a matter of international dispute, but the Bush administration made clear that this would not become America’s dispute; there would be no military response by the United States. Defense Secretary Robert Gates stressed that America had successfully avoided a shooting war with Russia during the Cold War and he saw “no reason to change that approach today.”
A few days ago, some Republican senators attempted to lay the groundwork for a shooting war with Russia. I wish I were exaggerating.
Last week, while most senators were focused on the important national issues of war funding and Americans’ constitutional liberties, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) seemed more concerned with the fate of a foreign country. Behind the scenes, Rubio moved to have a unanimous consent vote that would have hastened Georgia’s entry into NATO. The unanimous consent vote never happened because Senator Rand Paul single-handedly prevented it.
This is not a triviality. Make no mistake: Bringing Georgia into NATO could lead to a new military conflict for the United States, which is why any move that would facilitate Georgia’s entry into the alliance should be publicly debated. Rubio’s attempt to push this through by unanimous consent — that is to say, without any formal debate or vote — is highly suspect and calls into question the senator’s better judgment.
But what Sen. Rubio is advocating is nothing new. Examining the political context of McCain’s declaration of solidarity with Georgia in 2008 should give Americans pause about the Washington establishment’s foreign policy agenda. After the 2008 South Ossetia conflict, Pat Buchanan wrote:
Who is Randy Scheunemann? He is the principal foreign policy adviser to John McCain and potential successor to Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinski as national security adviser to the president of the United States. But Randy Scheunemann has another identity, another role. He is a dual loyalist, a foreign agent whose assignment is to get America committed to spilling the blood of her sons for client regimes who have made this moral mercenary a rich man.
From January 2007 to March 2008, the McCain campaign paid Scheunemann $70,000 — pocket change compared to the $290,000 his Orion Strategies banked in those same 15 months from the Georgian regime of Mikheil Saakashvili. What were Mikheil’s marching orders to Tbilisi’s man in Washington? Get Georgia a NATO war guarantee. Get America committed to fight Russia, if necessary, on behalf of Georgia. Scheunemann came close to succeeding.
Buchanan’s description of Scheunemann and his activities is instructive because Georgia’s entry into NATO would commit the United States to fighting for Georgia. Buchanan explains what would have happened in 2008 if Georgia had been part of NATO at that time:
Had [Scheunemann succeeded], U.S. soldiers and Marines from Idaho and West Virginia would be killing Russians in the Caucasus, and dying to protect Scheunemann’s client, who launched this idiotic war the night of Aug. 7. That people like Scheunemann hire themselves out to put American lives on the line for their clients is a classic corruption of American democracy.
It’s worth noting that at the same time Bush and Gates were saying America should not become involved in this affair, both were calling on NATO to admit Georgia, as was then-U.S. Senator Barack Obama. Obviously Sen. Rubio has plenty of establishment allies on this issue.
But what these political elites do not necessarily have is the support of the American people. When McCain said, “I know I speak for every American when I say to [Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili], ‘Today, we are all Georgians,’” he was not speaking for the American people. It’s hard to imagine many Americans, then or now, wanting to send their sons and daughters off to fight a questionable war in Eurasia.
Still, whether the American people stand with Sen. Rand Paul — the only Capitol Hill leader who tried to prevent a war with Russia last week — or with McCain, Obama, Bush and Rubio, this is an issue still up for debate.
And it deserves to be debated. The Georgians will have to wait.
Jack Hunter writes at the “Paulitical Ticker,” where he is the official Ron Paul 2012 campaign blogger. He helped Rand Paul write “The Tea Party Goes to Washington.