The ‘Do What We Say’ Foreign Policy?

Radio Free Europe has an interview with Randy Scheunemann, who is one of the McCain campaign advisers on our policy towards Russia, especially with regards to Georgia. One part of the interview that seems problematic to me, as well as others, is this bit about potential negotiating of issues with Russia:

RFE/RL: In situations like this one, many analysts start talking about possible trade-offs between the superpowers. In this particular case, there was a lot of talk about allowing the United States to develop its antimissile defense system in Central Europe in exchange for giving up the idea of supporting the NATO aspirations of Georgia and Ukraine. How would you comment on that?

Scheunemann: Well, I think first of all the administration has said very clearly and publicly that there will be no trade-offs. Trade-offs like that are kind of a relic of a bygone era of power politics. Second, it’s not a question really of Russia “allowing” missile defense. The question of missile defense is between three sovereign governments — the United States, Poland, and the Czech Republic. And they are able and must be able to make their own sovereign decisions.

I don’t think there’s any dispute that the issue of missile defense is ultimately a question for the nations involved. That said, the idea that Schunemann is articulating here, that there “will be no trade-offs” is extremely troubling. At first glance, I simply thought he meant no trade-offs on these issues. But the phrase “Trade-offs like that are kind of a relic of a bygone era of power politics” seems to imply that Scheunemann does not believe that the United States should concede anything in trying to negotiate a dispute with another nation. Clearly that’s not a workable notion, and if a country actually tried to articulate and implement it, I don’t think the end results would be that good.

Given that Scheunemann has the ear of the Republican nominee for president, I certainly hope that I’m reading too much into that statement. Thankfully, I’m pretty sure that John McCain has the good sense to ignore that advice anyway. That kind of rhetoric just can’t be treated seriously. We’re not the rulers of the world, and if we want something from other countries, we should be negotiating for that something with a willingness to make concessions, not a simplistic “do what we want. No, we’re not going to give you anything for it.”

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2008, National Security, , , ,
Alex Knapp
About Alex Knapp
Alex Knapp is Associate Editor at Forbes for science and games. He was a longtime blogger elsewhere before joining the OTB team in June 2005 and contributed some 700 posts through January 2013. Follow him on Twitter @TheAlexKnapp.

Comments

  1. DC Loser says:

    This would confirm the recent interview with Robert McFarlane that stated that McCain presidency would be run by neoconservative hawks, not realists, at least initially.

  2. Michael says:

    I read “Trade-offs of that kind” to mean having two powers using the future of a third nation as a “chip” in the negotiations, kind of like we did after the two world wars.

  3. yetanotherjohn says:

    So yesterday Alex had the position that we shouldn’t judge the Obama campaign by what others said. Today Alex takes the position that we should judge the McCain campaign by the worst implications that you can come up with on what others said.

    Alex is entirely consistent. If it hurts Obama, Alex is against it. If it hurts McCain, Alex is for it.

  4. Triumph says:

    Thankfully, I’m pretty sure that John McCain has the good sense to ignore that advice anyway.

    Why? McCain has proved himself a lightweight on foreign policy–what suggests that he has “the good sense” to ignore that type of idiotic advice?

  5. Cernig says:

    Thankfully, I’m pretty sure that John McCain has the good sense to ignore that advice anyway.

    Hang on, didn’t McCain say in a speech that the U.S. should sideline Russia, kicking it out of the G8 as well as creating a new League which wouldn’t have it as a member? That, YAJ, is McCain in his own words.

    On a related note – isn’t the current fracas in Georgia proof positive that offering that nation a NATO place was a poor idea and that the French were correct that, given NATO member’s legal obligation to come to other members’ defense, such a seat would have just been setting the scene for a West vs Russia armed confrontation?

    Regards, C

  6. William d'Inger says:

    the idea that Schunemann is articulating here, that there “will be no trade-offs” is extremely troubling.

    No it’s not! What’s troubling is lunacy of your alternative.

    You begin negotiations from a position of strength, i.e., “My way or the highway” and back down only if forced to. You don’t begin from a concilliatory position and hope for the best.

    Geeze, one Jimmy Carter a century is one too many.

  7. Michael says:

    You begin negotiations from a position of strength, i.e., “My way or the highway” and back down only if forced to.

    Well, that’s one way to negotiate I suppose, if you don’t care about the other party.

    Then again, when everyone expects that your “tough talk” is in fact always negotiable, what does it gain you? When you actually do want to draw a solid line, they won’t ever accept it, because they will continue to believe that it can be moved further in their direction.

  8. Michael, so you believe negotiations are about what is good for the other party? I want to negotiate with you.

  9. Alex Knapp says:

    yetanotherjohn –

    So yesterday Alex had the position that we shouldn’t judge the Obama campaign by what others said. Today Alex takes the position that we should judge the McCain campaign by the worst implications that you can come up with on what others said.

    Huh? My argument yesterday was twofold. (1) That you can’t ascribe Wright’s ideas (who is not ON Obama’s campaign) to Obama, especially when Obama repudiated him and (2) that policy is more important.

    In this instance, I did not ascribe these ideas to McCain–indeed, I expressed the opinion that McCain will ignore this advice. But given that Scheunemann is actually on McCain’s campaign staff, I don’t see why one couldn’t make a judgment about McCain’s campaign based on them.

    Alex is entirely consistent. If it hurts Obama, Alex is against it. If it hurts McCain, Alex is for it.

    Additionally, in recent weeks I have (1) lauded McCain for his proposal to shut down Gitmo, (2) criticized Obama’s trade policies–which are terrible, (3) criticized both McCain and Obama for their unscientific pandering on the vaccine-autism issue, (4) lauded McCain for condemning Hagee’s comments about Katrina and (5) lauded Obama for condemning Wright’s comments about the U.S. government.

    Yes, I support Obama’s candidacy–he’s the lesser of three evils. Yes, I admit that the Wright flap caused me to re-assess my opinion of John McCain’s relationship to Hagee, which is why I apologized and recanted my previous statements re: same. It did a disservice to John McCain.

    But that doesn’t mean I won’t criticize Obama–in fact, it hasn’t stopped me from doing so to date.

  10. Michael says:

    Michael, so you believe negotiations are about what is good for the other party? I want to negotiate with you.

    If you must negotiate with another party, then you do not exist in isolation from that other party, and you must consider the long term effects of your negotiation both in terms of the outcome for you, but also in terms of the outcome for them.

    In retrospect, the “my way or the highway” stance in the Versailles treaty immediately benefited the Allies, but ultimately was not to their advantage.

  11. John425 says:

    Anyone who negotiates on behalf of the United Staes had damn well better put our nation’s interest FIRST! They aren’t being hired or elected to represent the interests of some other nation at the table.

  12. John425 says:

    Anyone who negotiates on behalf of the United States had damn well better put our nation’s interest FIRST! They aren’t being hired or elected to represent the interests of any other nation at the table.

  13. Michael says:

    Anyone who negotiates on behalf of the United States had damn well better put our nation’s interest FIRST! They aren’t being hired or elected to represent the interests of any other nation at the table.

    Did you completely miss my point? Sometimes screwing over the other guy is _not_ in our nation’s best interest.

  14. yetanotherjohn says:

    Alex,

    The problem for you is you are so blinded by your bias that you are in denial to even admit the possibility of the problem.

    What was the purpose of your post? Are you commenting on a major event? No. This is a minor figure talking. Was something evil or outrageous said? No. You agreed with what was actually said, but you came up with what you admit was your imputed additional meaning. Why did you feel compelled to try and find hidden meaning? It wasn’t because that was the most likely case, you admitted that.

    The only reason you brought this up was because you could create a straw man (while denying it directly) of an argument, link it to McCain (even though you didn’t think McCain would buy the straw man) and then climbed on the shoulders of your straw man argument to piously claim that we should not demand things, but only negotiate if we are willing to give concessions. In other news, the sun rose in the East this morning.

    Now compare that to Wright. Wright was an adviser and mentor to Obama until people started to notice what garbage Wright was spewing. But talking about Wright is just a distraction to you (as opposed to talking about your own imputed meaning of a McCain adviser). If you believed Wright, the charges he levels are serious. For example, if the US government had created AIDS as a means of killing minorities, that is a huge issue. There is no need to fantasize a major issue, the words speak for themselves. For you the fact that Obama would associate himself with someone spewing such garbage for 20 years is just tiresome. The fact that Obama, in Obama’s own words, relied on Wright to “keep his head on straight” gives you no pause for concern while you sip the kool-aide. You have bought into the Obama myth so far that you would rather fantasize ill meaning in plain spoken words that would let you do a backhanded attack on McCain than acknowledge real questions in Obama.