As a new administration takes power in Washington
and the promise of "change" is in the air, we have to ask ourselves:
when-oh-when is it coming? When will the dam break on the sclerotic foreign
policy thinking of the past eight – heck, the past 50 – years?
The first place to begin is, of course, the Middle East, scene of our latest
– and worst – transgressions, starting with but hardly limited to the invasion
and occupation of Iraq. What is the likelihood of change in this area?
The ongoing occupation of Iraq is a costly
operation, in more
ways than just financially. It imposes on us the responsibility for maintaining
order in a country that is always, seemingly, on the brink of civil
war, as well as laying on our buckling shoulders the burden of supporting
a government we are increasingly
with. The Bush administration's attempt to implant a colonial-style Iraqi protectorate
is just not sustainable, and Barack Obama came into office largely on the strength
of his promise to end this misconceived adventure in "liberation."
The problem is that he has no intention of keeping his campaign promise, as
the New York Times reported
shortly after the election:
"On the campaign trail, Senator Barack Obama offered a pledge that
electrified and motivated his liberal base, vowing to 'end the war' in Iraq.
But as he moves closer to the White House, President-elect Obama is making
clearer than ever that tens of thousands of American troops will be left behind
in Iraq, even if he can make good on his campaign promise to pull all combat
forces out within 16 months."
Axelrod to the contrary, the idea that Obama is going to get us out of
Iraq at all, never mind in 16 months, is going to die a hard death, but die
it will – unless, of course, the antiwar movement, so-called, gets up off its
fat ass and starts making demands of the candidate so many of them supported.
Aside from his rather ominous meetings
with John McCain, during which they reportedly
discussed Iraq policy, our new president's vaunted "regional" approach
is bound to mean continued intervention in a country that is sick to death
of us and wants us out.
As our developing
conflict with Iran takes center stage in the endless foreign policy drama of
constant "crises" – and it will continue
to develop, just as it did under Bush I – we will hear a medley of voices ("liberal"
voices) telling us that we can't just "abandon" the Iraqis to their
fate, we have a moral responsibility to stay and try to clean up the mess George
W. Bush made, we have to rebuild what we destroyed, re-weave the social and
political fabric of a nation.
forget the "residual"
force slated to stay on for an indefinite period – the size of which is sure
to be rather substantial.
I'd be surprised if it went below 80,000 "support" troops. We didn't
build the biggest
embassy in diplomatic history just to leave it to become a Museum of American
In short, we won't be leaving Iraq any time soon. The "national
security" Democrats are going to be in charge, not the lefties, at
least when it comes to foreign policy, and we know what that means: more Peter
Beinart than Noam Chomsky.
This "regional" approach championed by Obama is a technocratic
euphemism for yet more – and bigger – U.S. military interventions throughout
the Middle East. The preparations for an Afghan "surge"
have been long in the making, and in this arena Obama will take up where Bush
left off, and then
Some kind of military operation into Pakistan is a virtual
certainty, the only question being one of scale: will it be a "surgical"
strike, or a large-scale Iraq-style invasion? In any case, the former is a
plausible prelude to the latter.
With India waiting in the wings to pick up the pieces,
the U.S. will be engaged in a two-front war in the most volatile – and ungovernable
– part of the world, bar none. The bones of at least three empires are buried
in the mountains of Afghanistan. They'll call it "nation-building,"
and it will be draped in the mantle of "humanitarianism," if not
"liberation," but it'll be an occupation nonetheless.
As for Pakistan: do we really want to contribute to the breakup of a nuclear-armed
Muslim nation, whose arsenal could easily fall into al-Qaeda's hands? The blowback
could be horrific.
I shudder to think about it. In a sane world, the risk factor alone would rule
out U.S. action in this arena, but, unfortunately… well, you
know the rest.
Whereas the Bushies were obsessed with the Middle East, and pretty much confined
their wars to a single region while exercising "soft"
power and covert
actions on a global scale, the Obama-ites have broader
concerns. Which means a wider range of opportunities for foreign meddling.
The Bush administration was initially friendly
to the Russians, but when Putin started criticizing U.S. foreign policy he
like the reincarnation of Stalin. Neocon "dark prince" Richard Perle
at the Russkies, demanding their expulsion from the G-8. This was an act liberals
could and did horn in on, notably George
Soros. What they're calling
the new Cold War really started during the Clinton administration, with the
U.S.-Russian face-off over the former
Yugoslavia. The Bush administration has upped
the ante considerably with its deal to install anti-missile "defense"
systems in Poland and the Czech Republic, prompting the Russians to respond
in kind. The resulting military buildup is ominous in the extreme, as the specter
of a new arms race rises in the East.
During the Democratic debates, I noted,
with alarm, that the one time Obama really bared his fangs on the foreign policy
front was when the discussion got around to what to do about Russia. A key
test will be whether he goes ahead with the anti-missile deployments.
Yet the lure of Obama, in his peacemaker mode, can be seductive. The portions
of Obama's inaugural address
that dealt with foreign policy at times seemed to approach my earlier
and far more favorable conception of his stance:
"Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism
not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions.
They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle
us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its
prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force
of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint."
Bravo. We sure could use some restraint in the conduct of American foreign
policy. Now that would be real change. Yet restraint is anything but
in the cards when we look at Obama's announced positions on specific policy
areas, from Afghanistan to Central Europe. The soaring rhetoric doesn't match
the fine print.
Speaking of reading the fine print, that's our job here at Antiwar.com: to
keep you apprised of what's really going on behind the façade of official
pronouncements and the conventional wisdom. The very same "watchful eye"
Obama wants peering over our shoulders in the economic realm needs to be turned
on the operations of government itself, especially when it comes to the realm
of foreign policy.
You'd better believe we're watching them, as we have since 1995 – and by the
grace of your continuing support and generosity we'll continue to keep very
close tabs on this administration. Remember, George W. Bush pledged to pursue
humble" foreign policy. I hope and pray Obama's promise of "restraint"
doesn't reverse itself quite so dramatically.