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Obama's big foreign policy article

by Jerome a Paris Thu May 31st, 2007 at 09:24:35 AM EST

Barack Obama has written a new, long article on what his foreign policy would look like (Renewing American Leadership in Foreign Affairs), and it only reinforces the worries I expressed in an earlier diary.


Let's cut to the chase: Barack Obama sees the world as a dangerous, scary place which requires a bigger and badder military than now, "aggressive diplomacy" and more American "leadership."

The world is an evil, evil, bad place

He only considers the world via the lens of threats and dangers. Foreign policy is not about sharing a common planet with others, to trade, organise life, coordinate activities and be in peace - or simply keeping communications open - it's only about threats and dangers. Foreigners are, at best, a nuisance, and otherwise a danger.


This century's threats are at least as dangerous as and in some ways more complex than those we have confronted in the past. They come from weapons that can kill on a mass scale and from global terrorists who respond to alienation or perceived injustice with murderous nihilism. They come from rogue states allied to terrorists and from rising powers that could challenge both America and the international foundation of liberal democracy. They come from weak states that cannot control their territory or provide for their people. And they come from a warming planet that will spur new diseases, spawn more devastating natural disasters, and catalyze deadly conflicts.

Even the development of previously poor countries is seen as a threat ("challenging both America and the international foundation of liberal democracy")

The Middle East - especially nasty, evil Iran - is a threat:


...we contend with growing threats in the region -- a strengthened Iran, a chaotic Iraq, the resurgence of al Qaeda, the reinvigoration of Hamas and Hezbollah...

...dealing with long-standing adversaries such as Iran and Syria...

 ... Iran's nuclear program, sponsorship of terrorism, and regional aggression ...

Nuclear proliferation is a threat. Terrorism is a threat.


...Terrorists need not build a nuclear weapon from scratch; they need only steal or buy a weapon or the material to assemble one...

What a sad, scary world you Americans inhabit. Threatened by everybody. Hated by more. Killed by ... your president's decisions.  Maybe that's a lesson Obama might want to learn. Obama has many words for the US soldiers killed in Iraq. Not a single one about Iraqis killed because of the US occupation. That's a pretty shocking oversight for someone trying to bring foreign policy on a sounder basis.

But no, he wants more military toys to play with.

The US needs a bigger, better army - to use it

Hiw whole text is about the use of military tools. He criticizes Bush for focusing too much on military solutions, but that's all he discusses. How to make the Us military bigger, stronger, more effective, and how to use it all around the world.


...To renew American leadership in the world, we must immediately begin working to revitalize our military. A strong military is, more than anything, necessary to sustain peace...

...We must use this moment both to rebuild our military and to prepare it for the missions of the future. We must retain the capacity to swiftly defeat any conventional threat to our country [JaP: what threat???] and our vital interests...

...We should expand our ground forces by adding 65,000 soldiers to the army and 27,000 marines...

...I will not hesitate to use force, unilaterally if necessary, to protect the American people or our vital interests whenever we are attacked or imminently threatened...

...I will work with other nations to secure, destroy, and stop the spread of these [nuclear] weapons ...

...Iran and North Korea could trigger regional arms races, creating dangerous nuclear flashpoints in the Middle East and East Asia. In confronting these threats, I will not take the military option off the table...

...We should pursue an integrated strategy that reinforces our troops in Afghanistan and works to remove the limitations placed by some NATO allies on their forces....

...To defeat al Qaeda, I will build a twenty-first-century military...

...I will rally our NATO [JaP: a purely military organisation, and the only time Europe is mentioned] allies to contribute more troops to collective security operations and to invest more in reconstruction and stabilization capabilities...

...We cannot expect Americans to support placing our men and women in harm's way if we cannot show that we will use force wisely and judiciously [JaP - because we WILL use it]

There's almost no topic without a mention for the need for military capacity, military options, military alliances. OK, maybe global warming does not military intervention, but that's about it.

Sure, he says that it should be used wisely, proposing an updated version of the Powell doctrine ("I will clearly define the mission, seek out the advice of our military commanders, objectively evaluate intelligence, and ensure that our troops have the resources and the support they need"), but the unavoidable background is that military force will require to be used.

Oh, and as to Iraq, "we must make clear that we seek no permanent bases in Iraq. We should leave behind only a minimal over-the-horizon military force in the region to protect American personnel and facilities, continue training Iraqi security forces, and root out al Qaeda."

That's pretty weasely wording. Where will the troops that "train Iraqi qecurity forces" be located? Over the horizon? He's not committing to anything specific in that speech. All options are on the table, as some like to say a bit too much.

The world needs American leadership

You'd expect that a speech about foreign policy would be about, at some point acknowledging that other countries might have different worries, and different priorities, and that a smart foreign policy would at least try to understand these (if not necessarily to accomodate them) to see how American goals can be advanced in the smartest way.

Nope. The only thing the world wants, according to Obama, is more American leadership. Actually, this is not correct. There is one country whose interests are taken into account (no bonus points for guessing which one it is):


Our starting point must always be a clear and strong commitment to the security of Israel, our strongest ally in the region and its only established democracy. (...) Now more than ever, we must strive to secure a lasting settlement of the conflict with two states living side by side in peace and security. To do so, we must help the Israelis identify and strengthen those partners who are truly committed to peace, while isolating those who seek conflict and instability.

[Note how non-Israelis can either be 'committed to peace' or to be isolated. Either they accomodate Israeli interests, or they are enemies not to be talked to. A great definition of diplomacy if I ever saw one]

Sure, Obama writes that "We can help build accountable institutions that deliver services and opportunity: strong legislatures, independent judiciaries, honest police forces, free presses, vibrant civil societies." and that "the United States has a direct national security interest in dramatically reducing global poverty and joining with our allies in sharing more of our riches to help those most in need."

That sounds great, but as the only tools he proposes (apart from a few billion dollars in conditional aid) are a bigger, stronger military and "aggressive diplomacy", it's hard to see how that's actually going to happen.

:: ::

Again, I'm sorry to say this, as I know it will bring me grief from many of you, but Obama sounds just like a more competent version of Bush. Out of Iraq, without torture, sure, but obsessed by terrorism without wondering why it exists, sticking to a pro-Israel position on the Israel-Palestine situation, bellicose towards a defiant Iran without acknowledging past and present aggression against that country, stunningly silent on Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, seeing past allies like Europe and Japan purely as adjunct military forces that will fall back in line behind US policies as soon as Bush is gone, barely any mention of the value of international law and voluntary, cooperative treaties, completely ignoring trade and investment issues and global financial imbalances, ignoring resource conflicts (and barely mentioning global warming) and, above everything else, convinced that America's values still exist and are taken seriously around the world, and that all foreigners (except for the evil ones that need to be crushed) are just waiting for a sane administration to follow Washington's dictates once again.

It's as if the USA stepped into the world in 2009, as if nothing had happened in earlier years, and as if US actions, long past or more recent, had not been, rightly or wrongly, associated with today's "problems."

Oh sure, Europe's weak and cowardly leaders will fall over themselves to welcome a new, vaguely reasonable, president, and for a while everybody will pretend that things are back as they were, and great. But Obama will still find out, possibly painfully, that the rest of the world does not trust America anymore (for those that ever did), and that the rest of the world has its own priorities and interests, right or wrong, and that they are unlikely to make any efforts to accomodate America's.

The failure to acknowledge that others might want something different without necessarily being "enemies" or "adversaries", and that foreign relations entail dialogue and compromise, not orders and bullying, is stunning, and not a little bit worrying, seen from outside of the USA.

Display:
this has been written for dKos, but I have not yet psoted it over there. Any suggested amendments before I crosspost it over there?

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu May 31st, 2007 at 09:25:27 AM EST
Mention that in the same issue of Foreign Policy there is an article by Mitt Romney of similar length.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu May 31st, 2007 at 09:29:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's less creepy and more scary, if that makes any sense. It's scary because he proposes Republican solutions to problems, but it's less creepy because he acknowledges problems a bit more.

For instance, he has a specific section on energy independence, which he properly links to foreign policy - but then goes on to propose more drilling and more coal...

Unusrprisingly, he is against withdrawal from Iraq, pro bigger military, pro-NATO, pro-strong US, pro-Israel, and similarly obsessed by the Muslim world (and the dreams of a greater caliphate). He blames Clinton for today's weak military (!!)

His comments on the organisation of the foreign policy apparatus started out well, but end up with the scary proposal for some kind of regional super-prefects to match military command with a civilian authority for various parts of the world ("heavy hitters, with names that are recognized around the world").

He's a Republican after 9/11, in short.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu May 31st, 2007 at 09:58:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Hiw whole text

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu May 31st, 2007 at 10:12:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So Obama has bought into the military-industrial complex. What is it now that the US spends on war? 2x more than the rest of the world? Great...just what we need, more money spent on war and weapons.

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Thu May 31st, 2007 at 09:56:59 AM EST
Guess there will be some excitement over this on dKos, but I fully agree with you.

I am so tired of the US wanting to be the leader, but at the same time being told that the US elections are no business for foreigners that they should stay out of it, meaning no comments etc. If we need a world leader maybe we should upgrade the UN and then elect a leader world-wide. Not that I think that would be a good idea.

by Fran on Thu May 31st, 2007 at 10:03:10 AM EST
Yes, much kerfuffle in orange.

however, a lot of people there have suggested that maybe they don't want to be world leader, but we keep asking 'em to send troops everywhere.

which would be reasonable complaint if it weren't for the fact that they have military bases in practically every country on earth and a bigger military budget and troop carrier systems than everyone else put together. Besides, can you imagine how much their noses would be out of joint if we asked the chinese "oh but it's their turn now" ?

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Thu May 31st, 2007 at 03:10:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yea, lots of discussion...and an anti-Jerome diary recommended to boot, where more discussion is going on there. Though, I must say, there are some good discussions about his comments (and some are quite reactive and want him to shut up)

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Thu May 31st, 2007 at 03:52:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A strong military is, more than anything, necessary to sustain peace

Si vis pacem, para bellum.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu May 31st, 2007 at 10:13:05 AM EST
Well, that's true.

The problem is when people start complaining that "why do we have such a strong military if we never use it?!", and then propose either to eliminate it completely or invade someone, not thinking for a second that the lack of war shows that the armed forces are indeed doing something.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Thu May 31st, 2007 at 04:55:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Perfect as it is. The only thing I'd add is more explicit language about how unrealistic it is to expect allies to forget that the past eight years happened, and that this lack of realism seems to be bipartisan (Hillary Clinton is no better than Obama).

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill
by r------ on Thu May 31st, 2007 at 10:14:32 AM EST
I think it's not unrealistic to believe that a Democrat will be given the benefit of the doubt for much longer than the proverbial 100 days.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu May 31st, 2007 at 10:17:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
We must use this moment both to rebuild our military and to prepare it for the missions of the future. We must retain the capacity to swiftly defeat any conventional threat to our country [JaP: what threat???] and our vital interests

Retain? After seeing what happened in Iraq and Afghanistan, the US doesn't have the capacity any longer.

Or else, if the threats were defeated, WTF is the US still doing there?

Either way, it doesn't make sense.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu May 31st, 2007 at 10:14:40 AM EST
It makes sense as rhetoric, narrative and wishful thinking. When speechifying, logical consistency is entirely optional - it's all about anchoring rhetorical feelgood narrative to the rhetorical feelgood candidate.

So I suspect that rhetoric, narrative and wishful thinking are very much what the electorate wants to hear.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu May 31st, 2007 at 11:52:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
He's not speechifying, he's writing a piece for Foreign Policy magazine!

Or maybe he's speechifying even when given a platform that invites a more serious presentation, which is not reassuring either. I'm beginning to wonder whether he really has opinions of his own or is just saying what his advisors say the public wants to hear.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu May 31st, 2007 at 11:57:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
He's not speechifying, he's writing a piece for Foreign Policy magazine!

I'd have that down as a both/and rather than an either/or.

It's a sales pitch. It's not the usual populist sales pitch, so it uses rather longer sentences and shorter pauses.

But it's still a pitch to the FP audience.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu May 31st, 2007 at 12:15:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That's the point. As long as the piece reeks at every turn of the Obama trademark

Say what they will like!

--it is a caricature of real policy thought, and has no credibility with me.

It is not hard to imagine Bush delivering a lightly edited version of this speech. It's transparent politicospeak, and as as such it should ring the bell of every half-conscious crap detector in the audience. I see no reason to think that Obama believes anything, if this piece were to be one's only source of information.

Many of the comments of the posters here today suggest a pretty casual acceptance of the inevitable need to say something acceptable (or at least not easily spun into bad shit) to 80% of the voters out there-- whether or not it relates to real policy directions. If true, then the whole democracy thing is useless. Turn the ballot boxes into fishing creels, --and go fishing.

Note an interesting but peripheral issue--
Gore retains most of the advantage of being outside these nasty poltical "necessities" by refusing to declare. He can still say believeable things- and things that he seems to believe-, and let the chips fall where they may.

----and yet he polls awfully well----    

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Fri Jun 1st, 2007 at 09:08:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It all depends upon what 'conventional' means and 'vital interests' are.

A good questions for reporters, I guess. Is the uninterrupted flow of oil from the Middle East a vital US interest, Mr. Obama?

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Thu May 31st, 2007 at 01:00:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Is Israel's nuclear dominance in the Middle East a vital US interest?
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Thu May 31st, 2007 at 01:14:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's a vital interest for everyone.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Thu May 31st, 2007 at 04:55:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Who is this everyone you speak of?
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Thu May 31st, 2007 at 07:27:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
All consumers of oil, and all those nations that rely on oil incomes to feed their people's.

That is, everyone.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Fri Jun 1st, 2007 at 07:27:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The kids in Nepal might disagree.

Oil consumption per capita per day

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Fri Jun 1st, 2007 at 07:58:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
swiftly defeat any conventional threat to our country

Technically he is right; both Iraq and Afghanistan are not conventional threats.

Orthodoxy is not a religion.

by BalkanIdentity (balkanid _ at _ google.com) on Thu May 31st, 2007 at 01:23:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Good piece.

In the wake of Cindy Sheehan's farewell, I just thought to write a 'historical' diary for dKos on the reality behind the "Saddam threw out the inspectors" spin, as a warning that Dem foriegn policy isn't that droll either, now it can be linked to this too. Thought of titling it "...but Saddam threw out the inspectors!" Any suggestions (timing, better title etc.) for good impact? I indend to post it tonight, at least here as draft.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu May 31st, 2007 at 10:16:04 AM EST
Generally, if you're going to post at night, I'd reccomend hitting about 11 PM (2300) Central European time.  That's 5 Eastern Standard Time, so you can ride the wave of people who come home and read onto the reccommended list.

There's three major waves at Dkos.  An early morning wave, starts at about midmorning (10ish CET), a noon wave (that's about 6 PM CET), and the evening wave I mentioned above.  

Generally, the more salacious the title, the more read it is. Be provocative in the title.  Seriously, if you say "Dem foreign sucked too", you'll get a lot of reads. And reccomnends if it's any good.  Sad but true, style beats substance unless you're an established "brand" like Jerome.  

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Thu May 31st, 2007 at 12:07:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks. But the task proved bigger than expected, still searching for two sources, should be finished tomorrow.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu May 31st, 2007 at 04:55:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
sorry for Americans, their leadership is really blind, cannot watch themselves in mirror, blame mirror like you as usual.

Inevitable end is nearer. Hopefully not apocalypsis but American century is not for sure. More likely American trade and currency crisis because of deep inbalances. As I said earlier Americans have to pay for foolish (devilish, ignorant etc) foreign policy of her rulers. They will pay. All empires paid their bills in the past and American empire is not exception.

by FarEasterner on Thu May 31st, 2007 at 10:32:47 AM EST
Oh, and as to Iraq, "we must make clear that we seek no permanent bases in Iraq. We should leave behind only a minimal over-the-horizon military force in the region to protect American personnel and facilities, continue training Iraqi security forces, and root out al Qaeda."
This bit is curious... My italics above: How do these two go together? There will be no permanent bases, yet there will be American personnel and facilities to protect. Well, okay, they will have an embassy. But what other personnel and facilities will need protecting? Is this an oil installation thingi? Are those American (as opposed to corporate) installations and personnel? They will be protected by a military force? In a sovereign nation?
by someone (s0me1smail(a)gmail(d)com) on Thu May 31st, 2007 at 11:30:14 AM EST
Maybe the advisors training the Iraqi forces will be expected to commute in from Kuwait every day.

Is Obama on drugs, or something? This part of the plan make so little practical sense that I'm beginning to suspect he must be.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu May 31st, 2007 at 11:54:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You're forgetting the private sector.  Does Blackwater count as an American presence?

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg
by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Thu May 31st, 2007 at 12:08:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So it's not a base if it only has mercenaries in it?

Okay - for PR purposes, I suppose that would work, more or less.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu May 31st, 2007 at 12:17:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by Matt in NYC on Thu May 31st, 2007 at 12:46:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
<cough>Plausible Deniablity<cough>

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg
by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Thu May 31st, 2007 at 01:18:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Iraq does not have to equal 'the region'.
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Thu May 31st, 2007 at 01:01:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh dear, another jeremiad from Jerome :-)  If he's not scaring us with the crazies in the WSJ op ed pages he's frightening us with a version of what the hope of some Democrats is saying :-) I need need to adopt my devil's disciple role agin.

Of course Obama doesn't meet OUR high standards and of course he is trying to convince an America which has moved to the Right in recent decades and he dare not appear soft on terrorism. So, of course, much of Jerome's critique is quite correct.

But give the guy a BIT of a break; it's not, if you'll pardon the phrase, another simple case of black and white - the bad guys and - uh - us :-)

Some bits of the article passed over by Jerome offer just a bit of grey:

... To renew American leadership in the world, I intend to rebuild the alliances, partnerships, and institutions necessary to confront common threats and enhance common security. Needed reform of these alliances and institutions will not come by bullying other countries to ratify changes we hatch in isolation. It will come when we convince other governments and peoples that they, too, have a stake in effective partnerships.

Too often we have sent the opposite signal to our international partners. In the case of Europe, we dismissed European reservations about the wisdom and necessity of the Iraq war. In Asia, we belittled South Korean efforts to improve relations with the North. In Latin America, from Mexico to Argentina, we failed to adequately address concerns about immigration and equity and economic growth. In Africa, we have allowed genocide to persist for over four years in Darfur and have not done nearly enough to answer the African Union's call for more support to stop the killing. I will rebuild our ties to our allies in Europe and Asia and strengthen our partnerships throughout the Americas and Africa.
...
People around the world have heard a great deal of late about freedom on the march. Tragically, many have come to associate this with war, torture, and forcibly imposed regime change. To build a better, freer world, we must first behave in ways that reflect the decency and aspirations of the American people. This means ending the practices of shipping away prisoners in the dead of night to be tortured in far-off countries, of detaining thousands without charge or trial, of maintaining a network of secret prisons to jail people beyond the reach of the law.

Citizens everywhere should be able to choose their leaders in climates free of fear. America must commit to strengthening the pillars of a just society. We can help build accountable institutions that deliver services and opportunity: strong legislatures, independent judiciaries, honest police forces, free presses, vibrant civil societies. In countries wracked by poverty and conflict, citizens long to enjoy freedom from want. And since extremely poor societies and weak states provide optimal breeding grounds for disease, terrorism, and conflict, the United States has a direct national security interest in dramatically reducing global poverty and joining with our allies in sharing more of our riches to help those most in need. We need to invest in building capable, democratic states that can establish healthy and educated communities, develop markets, and generate wealth. Such states would also have greater institutional capacities to fight terrorism, halt the spread of deadly weapons, and build health-care infrastructures to prevent, detect, and treat deadly diseases such as HIV/AIDS, malaria, and avian flu.
...
There are compelling moral reasons and compelling security reasons for renewed American leadership that recognizes the inherent equality and worth of all people. As President Kennedy said in his 1961 inaugural address, "To those people in the huts and villages of half the globe struggling to break the bonds of mass misery, we pledge our best efforts to help them help themselves, for whatever period is required -- not because the communists may be doing it, not because we seek their votes, but because it is right. If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich." I will show the world that America remains true to its founding values. We lead not only for ourselves but also for the common good.

http://www.foreignaffairs.org/20070701faessay86401-p40/barack-obama/renewing-american-leadership.htm l


Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.

by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Thu May 31st, 2007 at 12:52:16 PM EST
Well, I hope you are right. It would be nice to have somebody like that in the WH. However, JaP is possibly correct in suggesting that his promises don't mesh with that rhetoric, although I would certainly accept the point that if he didn't talk like that, he would be considered as unelectable as Kucinich.

Where I think JaP is undeniable is his view that this ain't gonna be the world Clinton bequeathed Bush, I agree with him that we're now a lot warier of US intentions. We are the partner who has stayed loyal during questionable behaviour, but this time they  went too far. Some things cannot be erased with flowers and promises. You just have to rehabilitate yourself over time before trust might be re-offered, but you can't just go back to how it was before.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Thu May 31st, 2007 at 03:03:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The point of my diary was that his article created an uneasy feeling for me. I highlighted the bits that gave me pause, and I wrote the diary because, overall, I thought that they were not really compensated by the (less objectionable or laudable) other bits.

I'll stipulate that you can choose a more benign interpretation of many bits of his text than mine, but i obviously disagree with such interpretation. As such, it's only my opinion, not a hard truth.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu May 31st, 2007 at 03:43:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]

"I'll stipulate that you can choose a more benign interpretation of many bits of his text than mine, but i obviously disagree with such interpretation. As such, it's only my opinion, not a hard truth."

But your opinion should be a bit closer to the truth of what he actually said when you make sweeping comments like this:

"He only[?] considers the world via the lens of threats and dangers. Foreign policy is not about sharing a common planet with others,[?] to trade, organise life, coordinate activities and be in peace - or simply keeping communications open [?] - it's only [?]about threats and dangers. Foreigners are, at best, a nuisance, and otherwise a danger.

 Compare this with the bits I quoted, e.g.

"Too often we have sent the opposite signal to our international partners. In the case of Europe, we dismissed European reservations about the wisdom and necessity of the Iraq war. In Asia, we belittled South Korean efforts to improve relations with the North. In Latin America, from Mexico to Argentina, we failed to adequately address concerns about immigration and equity and economic growth. In Africa, we have allowed genocide to persist for over four years in Darfur and have not done nearly enough to answer the African Union's call for more support to stop the killing. I will rebuild our ties to our allies in Europe and Asia and strengthen our partnerships throughout the Americas and Africa.
...
People around the world have heard a great deal of late about freedom on the march. Tragically, many have come to associate this with war, torture, and forcibly imposed regime change. To build a better, freer world, we must first behave in ways that reflect the decency and aspirations of the American people. This means ending the practices of shipping away prisoners in the dead of night to be tortured in far-off countries, of detaining thousands without charge or trial, of maintaining a network of secret prisons to jail people beyond the reach of the law."

and it's just not accurate and if someone treated one of one of your own pieces like this I think you'd be understandably annoyed.


Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.

by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Thu May 31st, 2007 at 05:26:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think taken as a whole it's somewhat biblical - which means you can cherry pick specific quotes and find almost anything to agree with.

The point is more that it's a patchwork of largely incompatible aspirations.

You can't build partnerships if you assume you're the leader, because real partnerships require equals, not leaders and followers.

You can't remove the US presence from Iraq while keeping a US presence in Iraq.

You can't expand an already-huge military machine and expect people to believe that you're doing it for peaceful humanitarian reasons.

You can certainly lead ethically, but if you want to lead ethically you can't set out a stall like this and expect to be taken seriously.

It's really more about what's going on at the meta level. Obama often seems charming, in a slightly Blair-ish way, but he seems inherently contradictory and ambiguous. It's not the first time he's written something that leaves people scratching their heads and wondering what he really believes.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu May 31st, 2007 at 06:28:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The point was not about the coherence, etc. of his article, but that the rather simple matter of accuracy, i.e. one cannot say somebody "only" says something, when they clearly say the opposite, whether they are consistent, sincere, etc. is another matter.

As MillMan says, he's trying to appeal to 80% of the population, trying to seem tough and caring - he's not addressing a group of European liberals.  To understand the kind of swamp he's fighting in see this from FAIR:

"As FAIR pointed out recently (Media Advisory, 5/8/07), media reactions to early candidates' debates often provided a vivid contrast. The more progressive Democrats--especially former Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel and Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Oh.)--were treated as a diversion from the "real" debate between media-favored candidates. As CNN host Howard Kurtz said of Gravel (4/29/07), "Why should a network allow somebody with, say, zero chance of becoming president into these debates?"

By contrast, the inclusion of Republican candidates polling near the bottom in the debates was mostly cheered; a Los Angeles Times editorial (5/4/07) called the presence of such candidates "a sign of intellectual ferment." When three of the GOP contenders signaled their doubts about evolution, the Washington Post helpfully noted (5/6/07) that "a look at public polling on the issue reveals that the three men aren't far from the mainstream in that belief."

But the second Republican debate (5/15/07) flipped this media script, when Republican candidate Ron Paul dared to raise a taboo subject: Al-Qaeda's statements about the September 11 attacks. "They attack us because we've been over there, we've been bombing Iraq for 10 years," Paul said. "We've been in the Middle East.... Have you ever read about the reasons they attacked us?"

GOP front-runner Rudy Giuliani responded by saying he'd never heard such an "absurd explanation" for the September 11 attacks, "that we invited the attack because we were attacking Iraq"--a response that got sustained applause from the audience, and much the same from the press corps.

Appearing on MSNBC's Hardball (5/16/07), Washington Post editorial board member Jonathan Capehart called it "a big moment, a home run for Rudy.... I knew that what Rudy was saying was heartfelt, and he meant it, because, when you look at his eyes, you have never seen him more serious, more focused." Capehart added that Giuliani "was upset. He was angry. And I think he tapped into not only the mood of the crowd, but also the mood of the country, in a sense."

The media reacted strongly in support of Giuliani. Fox News Channel's John Gibson scored a twofer (5/17/07) by mangling Paul's words ("Paul suggested that the U.S. actually had a hand in the terrorist attacks") and then linking him to the Democratic Party, citing a poll that claims many Democrats "think President Bush knew about the 9/11 attacks beforehand.... It wouldn't have stunned me had it come up in the Democratic debate, but it's a jaw-dropper to see it in the Republican debate." Time magazine's Joe Klein declared it to be Paul's "singular moment of weirdness," and that Giuliani "reduced Paul to history.
..."

http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=3108


Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.

by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Thu May 31st, 2007 at 07:15:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... he's not addressing a group of European liberals.

Wondered if you were going to say that. It is the point afterall. A politician's voting audience is everything.  It's unfortunate that what they say rarely goes beyond that.

I can swear there ain't no heaven but I pray there ain't no hell. _ Blood Sweat & Tears

by Gringo (stargazing camel at aoldotcom) on Thu May 31st, 2007 at 11:38:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
in other words, he's trying to appeal to about 80% of the political spectrum, as any modern politician in a democratic state has to do if he or she wants to get elected.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Thu May 31st, 2007 at 04:09:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yeah. Now the question is, can he appeal to 80% without sounding generic all the time, and while hitting more than one or two good points in 6 1/2 pages. Can he speak from conviction, can he convince people that might not favour him?

As far as I can see, Jerome is being to harsh on Obama. But Obama's got these 6 pages in Foreign Policy in which he might have set out something of a vision and instead he's sounding off toughness and hopefulness while hitting a few good and a few bad points. It's bland. If this is really his big foreign policy article, I hope he gets a good secretary of state if he ever makes it to president.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Thu May 31st, 2007 at 07:41:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Aside of that, Obama is (conspicuously IMO) skirting key issues, probably because of political expediency.

He discusses the danger of terrorists acquiring nuclear weapons without mentioning Pakistan. He discusses nonproliferation and the need to curb Iran and North Korea's nuclear program without mentioning the nuclear weapons of Israel and Pakistan, which surely are among the prime reasons why Iran seems to be seeking the capability of developing nuclear weapons (and, by proxy, the nuclear program of India, which is also not under the NPT framework).

Obama says he won't leave the military option off the table with regard to Iran. He does not address the nuclear option in a pre-emptive strike, which fits into the model, but it would have been nice if he could affirm that he is not insane and will not let the nuclear genie out of the bottle unless there is an immanent threat of a nuclear strike.

Equally important, Obama does not state what he will put on the table as bargaining chips with Iran in his 'tough' negotiations. Like perhaps a security guarantee and a cessation of efforts to foster regime change. Like an acceptance of Iran's role in finding a political settlement in Iraq.

Of course, that would leave him open to GOP attacks and there is nothing Democratic politicians seem to fear more these days.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Thu May 31st, 2007 at 08:05:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Exactly, the presumption is that he really does want to get elected.

I can swear there ain't no heaven but I pray there ain't no hell. _ Blood Sweat & Tears
by Gringo (stargazing camel at aoldotcom) on Thu May 31st, 2007 at 11:30:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
When it comes to war with Iran, Obama is stetting himself up. As the Republicans attempt to maneuver so that they can attack Iran it will be much harder for Obama to say anything to stop the process. If there is a "preemptive" attack, what will he be able to say? Perhaps - maybe we should have gone a bit lighter on the nukes?

This process has trapped the Democrats before. From Glenn Greenwald's column on Salon (must watch add to get to article)

(a) de-funding does not even arguably constitute "endangerment or abandonment of the troops," but (b) "Americans have been convinced that it does." And therein one finds what is the most extraordinary and telling fact of our political landscape. Namely, our Iraq war policy was just determined, in large part if not principally, by a complete myth: that de-funding proposals constitute an abandonment or, more ludicrously still, "endangerment" of the troops.

Democrats not only allowed it to occur, but eagerly helped it. As much as anyone else, even leading anti-war Democrats such as Carl Levin and Barack Obama continuously equated de-funding with a failure to "support the troops."
Time and again, even those Democrats who supported a mandatory troop withdrawal would talk about de-funding like it was some sort of grotesque act of betrayal ("oh, absolutely not, we will not de-fund the war. We will support our troops"). Over and over, this is what Americans heard even from Democrats who oppose the war:

So it is with the great Satan Iran. By using Iran as the evil empire to score cheap political points, the Democrats will in turn be used by the Republicans in their quest for global domination as per the Project for the New American Century. The Democratic Party will find itself helpless spectators to the violence they in effect condoned.


aspiring to genteel poverty

by edwin (eeeeeeee222222rrrrreeeeeaaaaadddddd@@@@yyyyaaaaaaa) on Thu May 31st, 2007 at 01:35:14 PM EST
Noam Chomsky is not going to win an election in the USA. But I defy you to show me a major candidate for top job in any OECD nation who will confront such issues in any more serious way? Perhaps I missed it, but did Royal discuss immigration to France in terms of the historical role of French colonialism and neo-colonialism? The purpose of such articles is to show military/corporate elites that they are not in great danger - that the candidate is "responsible". That's all.
by rootless2 on Fri Jun 1st, 2007 at 09:42:28 AM EST


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