We know the sellout is a reality when we listen
to Jamie Kirchick
praise Barack Obama's national security appointments: "Barack Obama
isn't even president yet, and he's already angering some of his most devoted
followers on the party's left wing. This is the mark of what could be a very
successful presidency," he snarks.
Kirchick, in his
role as Marty
Peretz's alter ego, is pleased as punch with the incoming Obama-ites, who
appear to have abandoned
early on and ceded
the foreign policy realm to the pro-war Clinton wing of the party. He is mostly
concerned with gloating over the fact that Joe Lieberman wasn't
expelled from the Democratic caucus, but the larger issue is the party's
foreign policy stance in general, which looks to be shaping up as distinctly
right-of-center. ("Right," in this sense, means neocon,
rather than authentically conservative,
but then you knew that.)
As the last surviving representative of the Scoop
Jackson Democrats, who have long been on the politically endangered species
list, Lieberman has a special place in the hearts of neocons everywhere, but
especially in the editorial offices of The New Republic, which, in spite
of unconvincing efforts to suck up to the "new politics" wing, exists
to hold high the banner of that hoary tradition.
intervention on Lieberman's behalf hints at where the Democrats are going
as a governing party, and his appointments are rapidly confirming this trend:
not only Hillary
Clinton at State and Robert
Gates at Defense, but also retired Marine Gen. Jim
Jones as national security adviser. The former commander of U.S. forces
in Europe and military head of NATO was described
last year as a political "hot commodity" by the Wall Street Journal.
In a piece that detailed the courting of the general by both political parties,
Hillary is cited as saying she'd put him in her Cabinet, perhaps as defense
secretary, although her campaign qualified this by saying that "it's way
premature" to speculate about such matters, as indeed it was. Jones is
with John McCain, and, although he assiduously avoided a formal endorsement,
he made an appearance with his old friend during the campaign. When Jones served
on a commission evaluating our military operations in Iraq, he concluded that
we ought to stay the course: "Understand the fact that regardless how you got
there, there is a strategic price of enormous consequence for failure in Iraq."
His point of agreement with President-elect Obama is that he believes we've
been grievously amiss in not escalating
the fighting on the Afghan front sooner.
The argument for Gen. Jones as national security chieftain echoes the case
for Hillary at State: "If Obama engages Iran," avers
The New Republic, "it'll be harder to dismiss his overtures as soft-headed
or naïve with Jones coordinating foreign policy." The same malarkey
is being uttered with a straight face by defenders of the Clinton appointment,
such as Obamacon-in-chief Andrew
Sullivan, who claim it will somehow give Obama the credibility to pull off
a settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. This assumes, however, that
of rivals," as the pundits have deemed it, won't mutiny. It assumes
presidential omnipotence, when the reality is that without the cooperation of
the vast and powerful national
security bureaucracy, the White House will find it difficult to carry out
its program. It also assumes Clinton and her menagerie won't actively sabotage
the policies she attacked
during the primaries as "naïve" and "dangerous."
On the key question of withdrawal from Iraq, Jones is a mixed bag. The Jones
commission set up to evaluate Iraq's
move toward creating its own military and police forces praised the Iraqi army
but dissed the police as sectarian bullies and recommended they be disbanded.
Of course, the police are run by the ruling Shi'ite parties, each of which has
its own militia,
and these will never be disbanded. The Jones plan is to reorient the U.S. mission
in Iraq to protect the borders and leave internal security to the Iraqi military.
At the congressional hearings held to present the commission's findings, Jones
by Sen. Carl Levin:
"You say that significant reductions, consolidations and realignments
would appear to be possible and prudent – is that your finding?"
"That's correct," was Jones' reply. However, when it came John
McCain's turn to question his old bud, Jones told the Arizona senator what
he no doubt wanted to hear. Asked if it would be in our interest to set a definite
timetable for U.S. withdrawal, Jones said:
"Senator, I'll speak for myself on this, but I think deadlines can
work against us, and I think a deadline of this magnitude would be against
our national interest."
Is it really possible that a candidate
for president elevated to front-runner status by antiwar
voters in the primaries – and elected over a rival who made support for
the war the leitmotif
of his losing campaign – is enabling the hijacking of American foreign policy
by a new cabal of warmongers?
The idea that by surrounding
himself with advisers who have a long history of opposing any change in
our bipartisan foreign policy orthodoxy Obama can somehow immunize himself from
criticism is logical only in a Bizarro
World kind of way. In that alternate universe, where up is down and black
is white, it makes perfect "sense" for a president to appoint people
to key posts who oppose his policies. In our own world, however, such an approach
would be crazy – yet it seems to be happening right before our eyes.
Another disturbing aspect of the Jones appointment is that it underscores the
rebirth of NATO as an engine
of American aggression. No
doubt the Bushian-neocon campaign to enlarge the archaic alliance and extend
the Euro-American military umbrella into the Caucasus will be taken up by the
Obama administration with fresh enthusiasm. The "unilateralist" approach
attacked by Bush's Democratic critics as a strategic
mistake is now about to be corrected, with a renewed NATO as its symbol.
While the ostensible enemy is, at present, the
Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan, NATO is, first and foremost, a challenge
to Russia. Founded as the Western shield against the Soviet empire, now it is
pointed straight at Putin's throat, as the Alliance moves inexorably eastward.
If a new confrontation with the Russians is in the making, then it makes sense
to put a former NATO military chieftain in as national security adviser.
The new president's appointments resound like slaps in the faces of his liberal
supporters: Rahm Emanuel (a fierce
opponent of the antiwar wing of the party), Hillary, Robert Gates (they're
to persuade him to stay on), and now Gen. Jones. It looks like antiwar voters
voted for one thing, but are getting quite another – although it won't be the
first time that's happened. From "he
kept us out of war" in Woodrow
Wilson's day to George W. Bush's pledge of "a
more humble foreign policy," presidents seem to have a penchant for
inverting their campaign promises in the foreign policy realm, and Obama's appointments
could presage a lot of surprises – and bitter disappointments – for his supporters.
Just how docile is the rank-and-file of the Obama "movement" – will
they take this lying down? We're about to find out. So far, the outrage of the
"netroots" and the Rachel
Maddow crowd seems limited to the triumph of Lieberman over the attempt
to purge the evil spirit of Scoop Jackson from party precincts once and for
all. And even this has nothing to do with Lieberman's rabidly pro-war views,
per se, only with the Connecticut senator's endorsement of McCain.
As it slowly dawns on the netroots that they've been had, however, don't expect
"netroots" entrepreneur Arianna Huffington to start asking uncomfortable
questions. After all, she has a lot to lose. As the Times of London
"Arianna Huffington looks set to cement her position as the Queen
of Capitol Hill in the next few days.
"The Times has learnt that the Huffington Post, her influential
political Web site, will confirm within the next week that it has completed
a $15 million (£10 million) fundraising from investors.
"The money will finance the expansion of HuffPo, as it is known, into
the provision of local news across the United States and into more investigative
journalism. And it will ensure that Ms. Huffington's influence continues to
spread across the U.S. political scene.
"She is a close friend of Barack Obama, the president-elect – who,
with Hillary Clinton, has posted on her site – and, at a dinner in London on
Wednesday night, joked: 'I only text three people – my two teenage children
and Barack Obama.'"
Arianna criticize the Dear Leader's appointments? That might get her blocked
from the presidential cell, not to mention alienate those generous investors
whose interest in her money-losing, aesthetically disastrous, and painstakingly
trite Web site might lessen considerably.
Which just goes to show that no matter how high the price, a whore is still
a whore – and what better occupation for the Queen of Capitol Hill?
The circus aspect of all this may be amusing, if you take your humor black,
but the joke is on the rest of us when the Obama-ites take office, because
that's when our real problems will begin.
Obama's appointments on the foreign policy front prefigure a policy of paralyzing
caution and indecision. Just look at the cast of characters who will be major
players on the national security field: not only Hillary and Gen. Jones, but
also Joe Biden,
who fancies himself a foreign policy maven and will no
doubt want to play a major role in the decision-making process. This has
all the makings of a three-way bureaucratic turf war, and the result is bound
to be paralysis, rather than change of any desirable sort. Obama's first concern,
as he takes office, will be facing America's economic
crisis, and his full attention will be required for an extended period –
plenty of time for the built-in rivalry in the foreign policy apparatus to take
root and fester.
The outlook for the foreign policy of the new administration is not good. I
foresee a protracted period of confusion and internal struggle, punctuated by
periodic foreign crises in which Team Obama will be all
too eager to prove their "toughness." Diverted by trouble on the
home front, President Obama is likely to let the tremendous opportunities opened
up by his international popularity and stature go to waste. Putting Hillary
Clinton to work on forging a Middle East peace agreement is another example
of Bizarro World logic in action: Obama might as well assign the task to Norman