Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Misplaced October Surprise?

Remember back in August, right before the Democratic National Convention, when there was that little five day South Ossetian War fought between Georgia on one side, and Russia, and the regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia on the other? Remember when McCain spoke of his conversation with Georgian president Saakashvili? "And I told him that I know I speak for every American when I say to him, 'Today we are all Georgians.'"

I thought McCain sounded totally cocky. I'm not a Georgian. I never have been and I never will be. I'm an American. Between McCain's saber rattling and pretending to be president, what was really going on?

Last week the New York Times reported on the observations of international monitors working under the mandate of OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe) in South Ossetia when the conflict started:
Newly available accounts by independent military observers of the beginning of the war between Georgia and Russia this summer call into question the longstanding Georgian assertion that it was acting defensively against separatist and Russian aggression.

Instead, the accounts suggest that Georgia’s inexperienced military attacked the isolated separatist capital of Tskhinvali on Aug. 7 with indiscriminate artillery and rocket fire, exposing civilians, Russian peacekeepers and unarmed monitors to harm.
As the conflict was developing, I noticed how the media framed the entire thing in terms of the U.S. presidential election and portrayed McCain as the tough guy who would put Russia in its place even if that meant using Georgia as an unwilling proxy in a long, bloody guerrilla war... as if the world needs another war.

But McCain's posturing during election season was no accident. Tom Hayden on TPMCafe asks if the Georgian war was a neocon conspiracy and early October Surprise:

The new evidence increases the likelihood that the August 7-8 clash between Georgia and Russia was an "October Surprise" that would highlight John McCain's greater foreign policy experience at the height of the presidential election.

The Georgia fighting occurred immediately before the Democratic convention in Denver. McCain, the leading public advocate for Georgia, immediately declared "we are all Georgians now" and promised "to blast Russia." Obama, on vacation in Hawaii, at first called for greater diplomacy, but quickly fell in line with a bipartisan consensus of national security advisers and the mainstream media. Obama's national security adviser, Susan Rice, openly applauded the White House for its rapid response, including support for NATO's inclusion of Georgia and the Ukraine and a one billion dollar emergency appropriation.
The relationship between McCain and his top foreign policy adviser, Randy Scheunemann, definitely adds credibility to Hayden's claims.

Although Russia has withdrawn all troops, and the U.S. State Department has admitted that the Georgian attack was a mistake, we shouldn't forget about this incident. Indeed I think we need to learn more about it. Hillary Clinton has introduced S.3567 "to establish a Commission on the conflict between Russia and Georgia, and for other purposes."

I hope that president-elect Obama will favor diplomacy in these situations, and I hope that he will rethink the U.S. relationship with Georgia, because I'm afraid this misplaced October surprise will come back to haunt us.

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