A few weeks ago I wrote a column explaining why
Senator John McCain is wrong on Iraq. In contrast, Senator Barack Obama
is largely right on Iraq. Whether he would follow through on his plan for withdrawing
U.S. troops is another question. The Democratic foreign policy establishment
is no less Wilsonian than its Republican counterpart, and once it has used antiwar
voters to gain power it will want to show them the door as soon as it dares.
But if Obama is right on Iraq, he is wrong on Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran.
His prescriptions for each are so close to the policies of the Bush administration
that if McCain is McBush, Obama appears to be O'Bush. It seems many voters'
desire to climb up out of the Bush league altogether is doomed to frustration.
On Afghanistan, Obama wants to send in more troops and win the war. But more
troops doing what U.S. troops now do fighting the Pashtun and calling
in airstrikes on anything that moves guarantee we will lose the war.
As was the case in Iraq, the first necessary step is to change what our troops
are doing. From what I have seen, Obama has said nothing on that score, probably
because his position on Afghanistan is mere posturing intended to show he will
be "tough on terrorism."
Obama's position on Pakistan is even more dangerous. In August of 2007, Obama
called for direct U.S. military action in Pakistan, with or without Pakistani
approval. Speaking to the Woodrow Wilson Center, he said, "If we have actionable
intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won't
act, we will." President Bush took Senator Obama's recommendation this
past July, authorizing such actions.
This is an example of the classic strategic error of sacrificing a more important
goal to one of lesser importance. Not even outright defeat in Afghanistan would
do America's interests as much damage as would the disintegration of the Pakistani
state and the transformation of Pakistan into another stateless region. The
state of Pakistan is already dangerously fragile, and actions such as cross-border
raids by American troops will diminish its legitimacy further. No government
that cannot defend its sovereignty will last. Ironically, if Pakistan collapses,
so does our position in Afghanistan, because our main logistics line will be
cut. In effect, Obama wants to hand al-Qaeda and the Taliban a double victory.
In June of this year, Obama spoke to the annual AIPAC conference. What he
said there about Iran put him once again firmly in the Bush camp:
"As President, I will use all elements of American power to pressure
Iran. I will do everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear
"There should be no doubt: I will always keep the threat of military
action to defend our security and our ally Israel. Do not be confused.
"Sometimes there are no alternatives to confrontation. If we must use
military force, we are more likely to succeed and have more support at home
and abroad if we have exhausted our diplomatic options. That is the change we
need in our policy."
In other words, the change we need in our policy is to offer a bit more diplomatic
kabuki before we attack Iran.
As I have said repeatedly and will keep on saying, an attack on Iran could
cost us the whole army we have in Iraq. It could set the region on fire, from
Afghanistan to the Nile. It could create an oil crisis with severe economic
consequences at a time when the world economy is tottering. It is, in short,
madness. But it is also what Obama promised AIPAC.
Here we see the central reality of American politics shining through the smoke
and mirrors. America has a one-party system. That party is the Establishment
Party, and its internal disagreements are minor. Both McCain and Obama are Establishment
Party candidates. They agree America must be a world-controlling empire. Both
men are Wilsonians, believing we must re-make other countries and cultures in
our own image. Neither man conceives any real limits, political, financial,
military or moral, on American power. McCain and Obama vie only in determining
which can drink more deeply from the poisoned well of hubris, around which,
unremarked, lie the bones of every previous world power.
Such is the "choice" the American people get in November.