Obama's Foreign Policy

Sadly, I share George’s pessimism about the future of Obama’s foreign policy. He’s surrounded himself with creatures of the establishment. No one on his team at this point hasn’t been involved in the catastrophes of our foreign policy since the early nineties. Mogadishu, Kosovo, the failure of Bill Clinton to create a workable post-Cold War foreign policy architecture that was true to the interests and values of the United States, Iraq, our doomed quest to ‘win’ in Afghanistan and a coterie of officials who neither understand Iran or have the desire to. And let’s not even mention Israel.

All that being said, I am not surprised. Obama ran as a centrist. His primary run was as a centrist, post-partisan, unity-porn loving, let’s all come together politician. And so, I’m not surprised at this turn of events.

And so, he may ‘get us out of Iraq’ but that will only lessen the amount of money we piss away yearly on the military. He’ll double down in Afghanistan, not being smart enough to realize that Afghanistan is easy to conquer, yet impossible to hold. Maybe he’ll do some good domestically, but for my money, it’s our foreign policy that has created the domestic mess we’re in. And until Americans soberly address their role in the world we’ll be unable to put our economic house in order. It just won’t happen.

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Sean Paul Kelley

Traveler of the (real) Silk Road, scholar and historian, photographer and writer - founder of The Agonist.

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  • than the unilateralist porn we’ve had for 8 years. But we’ll see- it may be worse or no different. I personally assume the chorus of hard-right neocons of the Cheney stripe will still be second-guessing.
    What would have been your ideal appointment list?

    Yes, I can come up with a post-election signature, just… not… yet…

  • Fortunately with the Clintons still in the mix, we can expect that the same general coverup of covert ops and shady aircraft front companies will continue to serve the elite geopolitical role they’ve had for decades! This mass of establishment sneeky bastards will never let my favorite corrupt shell game fall apart. (and the companion prisoner aircraft network will likely keep on going too.)

    On the other hand, all that laundered money used to provide crucial liquidity and a nice source of low-interest capital for Wall Street; we’ve got to get it rolling again to loosen things up around here!!

    Afghanistan & Colombia, your fun ain’t over yet!


  • Haven’t checked in a while but totally predicted this. I blogged that Hillary was left of Obama, and am now wowed by his ability – and now we get Hillary in the mix.

    Realism, consensus building, war as last resort. A fantastic win win win. And besides all those Agonists who so love Nader, Dean and Edwards get to complain about ‘conspiracies’ for another four years – wink.

  • OK I’ll bite. The problem is that these people are A) The Washington Establishment B) Interventionists C) It seems unlikely they will change their ways or hold anyone accountable for prior mistakes. (the bonus D) is my beloved retro-1980s style black ops that always seems to unfold smoothly under their watch)

    They don’t get that these wars are doomed from the get-go, and we’re bankrupt. Well, maybe they will finally get it at some point, but hopes are low.


  • that’s my read on it.

    “The best-informed man is not necessarily the wisest. Indeed there is a danger that precisely in the multiplicity of his knowledge he will lose sight of what is essential.”

    – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

  • It is shaping up to be a “stay the course” right to the bottom looking future.

    Why, oh why, do modern Democratic presidents seem so intent on focusing almost exclusively on domestic policy? That’s what i’m getting out of this foreign policy lineup, that Obama is going to let other people do the majority of the decision making. I had hoped that he was planning on exiling Clinton to Foggy Bottom, but i fear that he’s going to let her make decisions…and i’ll be astounded if they’re good ones.

    On the up side, at least this group has the real potential to finish driving the empire into the ground.

  • If anything in the two Clinton administrations suggested such a course to be the case. Eight years of foreign policy disasters followed by eight more of building on those disasters. I don’t see win win win. I see, let’s just keep losing and try not to admit it.

    And i was fine with Clinton as SoS, but it now seems that she’ll be bringing a whole lot of staff with her…and i’ll bet that it will be the same staff that bungled everything that they touched during the 90’s.

    Maybe things will change, but any thorough reading of the Clinton administration shows that war was never the last resort…they just didn’t have the guts to actually do it. Clinton wanted to arm all of the Balkans and let them fight it out, but he settled for that pansy ass bombing. That’s what i expect, a lot more long range killing and the false machismo that comes with it.

  • in a “change we can believe in” Obama administration going forward. For here is a military intervention infrastructure supporting a “solution” looking for a “problem”; indeed, many African countries remain sceptical – not to say suspicious – of this Pentagon entity, and several have rejected out-of-hand an “offer” to be a “host nation” for the Command HQ. So much so, than ranking command officers have presented Africom’s “mission” and “strategic success” to include – inter alia – “…an African continent that knows liberty, peace, stability, and increasing prosperity,and…democratic governance”. In fact, there are those in academic circles, think tanks, military War Colleges, the lot, who now are proferring “the new paradigm” of foreign aid, which is to say, “humanitarian intervention” as a closely-linked effort by (Western) governments of combined corps of soldiers and social scientists directed at “failed states” to remove the causes of terrorism, and to replace with “legitimate and stable security institutions”, “good governance”, and the whole panoply of meddling and interference that has characterised the developed world’s attitude toward post-colonial countries round the globe. And in fact The US Army has published several treatises invoking “the new paradigm” of military intervention: the use of small, mobile, wholly wired, technically advanced, “culturally sensitive” forces as military adjuncts to “failed-state makeovers”, where local military commanders will act as pro tem governors until “democratic institutions” are put in place by the civilian component to an occupation.
    William Easterly did a masterful job of summarising this “new thinking” in a recent issue of NYRB, where he took issue with the major premises one of the strategists and researchers in the field, and Easterly’s review is worth reading:
    Foreign Aid Goes Military!
    By William Easterly
    The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries Are Failing and What Can Be Done About It
    by Paul Collier

    With the US rapidly going broke, and a $800bn Pentagon budget comprising traditional military appropriations to support global warmaking, The New Paradigm fits nicely with an incipient and severe downsizing of the DOD’s fixation on massively expensive weapons of war into something more adaptable to “small wars” within the context of “the long war”. Now, Barack Obama may in fact impose a new definition of “the long war”, binning the GWOT rubric, and introducing a more palatable and sanitised version of the military option, and it remains to be seen whether the Petraeus COIN approach will find its way into an “Obama Doctrine” as well. As the noted journalist and writer on security matters, Thomas Powers, remarked recently, “…in the long run counterinsurgency comes down to the same self-defeating strategy–killing locals until they stop trying to make us go away”.
    The use of cruise and Predator-based missile attacks in Somalia, along with “rendition” of suspected “terrorists” to Kenyan jails are outstanding examples of a failed policy directed at a very complex, purely local attempt by local actors to force a resolution to a “failed state” problem, and it’s obvious to all that if the West is to have any positive influence in the eventual governing entity that arises from the ashes in Somalia, it won’t be spearheaded by an Africom, or anything like it.
    Yes, there are opportunities aplenty within the African continent to demonstrate a new way of doing business for the Obama administration, especially as it concerns the major oil-producing countries of Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea, Angola, which currently are governed by corrupt oligarchies or outright kleptocracies, and also, in the case of Nigeria, engaged in serious insurgency actions. “Watchful waiting” is required here for clues about foreign policy “change we can believe in”.

    “les Etats-unis, c’est le seul pays à être passé de la préhistoire à la décadence sans jamais connaitre la civilisation…”…Georges Clemenceau

  • The president sets the tone of those that work for him. Bush sent a message early on regarding what he wanted from his cabinet. And he got it.

    Supposedly Obama told Gates his mission is to get us out of Iraq within 16 months. The fact that Gates is willing to take the job indicates he may be willing to try.

    I remain cynical, yet can’t help but hope, just a little.

    I will reserve an opinion until I see how Obama governs.

    I got the shock of my life when I encountered my dad, a conservative Repulican reading a book by Obama (his first). And then to hear dad say Obama may have more to him than we expected.

    We may have elected an extraordinary man to the presidency.

    Time will tell. And soon.

    I did inhale.

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