March 25th, 2008

Obama’s foreign policy: riding on a smile and sophistry—and “dignity promotion”

I read this Spencer Ackerman piece with some interest, thinking it promised to define Obama’s foreign policy. And, since Obama has been roundly criticized for being all rhetoric, with no “there” there (as Gertrude Stein would say), I was looking forward to something specific at last.

Ackerman writes that Obama is proposing:

…the most sweeping liberal foreign-policy critique we’ve heard from a serious presidential contender in decades. It cuts to the heart of traditional Democratic timidity. “It’s time to reject the counsel that says the American people would rather have someone who is strong and wrong than someone who is weak and right,” Obama said in a January speech. “It’s time to say that we are the party that is going to be strong and right.”

“Strong and right;” sounds good. And so I read the piece, trying to extract the meat of it.

But that proved elusive. There was some talk about helping people around the world achieve dignity. A bit like what you’d expect from a preacher (although not necessarily Obama’s ex-preacher, whose rhetoric tends towards the more histrionic) or a social worker or therapist.

But even a social worker or therapist would have to do what’s called “operationalize” the concept in order to get a grant based on the idea. That is, the proposal would have to have some clear definition of dignity—and more importantly, specific proposals for action by which this now-more-clearly defined thing could be fostered, plus the identity of the target population and how success could be measured. Even the fuzzy touchy-feely world of social science research requires at least that much hard-nosed practicality.

But politics is often less hardnosed than even psychology or social work. In politics you can sometimes survive, as the fictional “Death of a Salesman’s” Willy Loman said (about another hoary profession, sales), by “riding on a smile and a shoeshine.”

Well, nowadays you can probably subsitute “some sophistry” (just to keep the alliteration going) for the shoeshine, and it will apply to politicians. Most especially, it seems, Obama—at least, until recently.

Ackerman talked to Obama’s foreign policy advisors “at length.” This is what they told him about the new and improved Obama approach to foreign affairs:

They envision a doctrine that first ends the politics of fear and then moves beyond a hollow, sloganeering “democracy promotion” agenda in favor of “dignity promotion,” to fix the conditions of misery that breed anti-Americanism and prevent liberty, justice, and prosperity from taking root. An inextricable part of that doctrine is a relentless and thorough destruction of al-Qaeda.

So, Obama envisions replacing one “hollow” slogan—”democracy promotion”—for another hollow slogan, “dignity promotion.” The goal is (italics mine) “to fix the conditions of misery that breed anti-Americanism and prevent liberty, justice, and prosperity from taking root”—and they call neocons naive and ignorant of the realities of the third world?

Ackerman’s statement of Obama’s policy is almost too target-rich an environment to bother to fisk; it fisks itself. But just for starters: a great deal of anti-American feeling around the world (in Europe, for example) has century-old roots and occurs in wealthy countries; drives towards liberty, justice, and prosperity (as many anti-neocons have pointed out almost endlessly) encounter cultural and structural elements in the third world that make implementation difficult, to say the least; and whether the war in Iraq was originally an anti-al Qaeda move or not, it certainly is now, and thus part of the battle against al Qaeda.

What is this “dignity,” anyway, and how does Obama propose to promote it? Former Obama aide Samantha Power (fired recently for calling Hillary Clinton a “monster”) takes a stab at it:

Dignity is a way to unite a lot of different strands [of foreign-policy thinking],” she says. “If you start with that, it explains why it’s not enough to spend $3 billion on refugee camps in Darfur, because the way those people are living is not the way they want to live. It’s not a human way to live. It’s graceless—an affront to your sense of dignity.”

Power has an answer to this gracelessness, and it’s nothing less than more social work programs for the entire third world:

Look at why the baddies win these elections,” Power says. “It’s because [populations are] living in climates of fear.” U.S. policy, she continues, should be “about meeting people where they’re at. Their fears of going hungry, or of the thug on the street. That’s the swamp that needs draining. If we’re to compete with extremism, we have to be able to provide these things that we’re not [providing].”

My goodness. We have to provide these things. Good luck.

It’s not as though we don’t already give a great deal of foreign aid targeted for development, and haven’t for many decades. It’s not as though these problems and goals haven’t been studied, both abroad and in this country, and it’s not as though we really have effective ways to accomplish what Power describes. This has been true no matter how much money has been thrown at the problem (have you ever noticed all those NGOs?).

I think of the Palestinians as the best example in the world of the failure—the utter, abject failure—of such an approach. After all, they are the group that has received the most “dignity” promotion of probably any people on earth, if you look at the time, effort, and money involved.

We all know where that has led. And the debacle is not just in spite of the efforts of the UNRWA and its gargantuan output in money and time, it’s at least partly because of them.

That’s not to say that helping people in other countries achieve economic growth, liberty, justice, and “dignity” wouldn’t be a good thing. It’s just that (a) it’s certainly on the neocon agenda, and that doesn’t seem to have gotten them high praise; (b) some form of this has been tried over and over, through just the methods Obama seems to be advocating, and found wanting; and (c) (earth to Obama!) it’s actually what the US military is already attempting in Iraq, and with no small success.

And yet, on that latter issue, Obama wants nothing more than to leave, and immediately. Go figure. Instead, he should be using what’s happening there post-surge as a template, if he were really serious about his rhetoric.

As Ackerman describes it, Obama isn’t interested in half-measures. He wants to transform American foreign policy in a way that McGovern and Carter wanted to do but lacked the guts to attempt.

Citing these two as precedent does not give me a good feeling—but hey, maybe that’s just me. And the fact that Obama not only has no foreign policy experience whatsoever but no administrative or executive experience either ought to give everyone pause when listening to this sort of supposedly revolutionary thinking.

I’m certainly not the only one to have noticed the slimness—and the rhetorical emphasis—of the Obama foreign agenda as described by Ackerman. Dean Barnett has this to say about it:

If the Obama Doctrine held that President Obama would send a fleet of Navy vessels to the shores of every country where dignity wasn’t being adequately promoted, that would at least be a Doctrine worthy of the name. It would be a stupid Doctrine, but at least for once Obama would be matching his rhetoric with a plan for action. As it is, the Obama Doctrine is of a piece with the rest of his campaign. It’s an attractively outlined set of worthy goals unsupported by any apparent plan of action to realize those goals.

But for Obama, intention seems to be the main point. The fact that he offers no evidence that lack of “dignity” is actually responsible for the ills of the world is no obstacle. The fact that he offers no particular program to alleviate said lack of dignity is no obstacle. The fact that he offers no guidance as to how we would convince the rulers of other countries to allow us to implement unsaid programs without a series of invasions and occupations similar to the one we performed in Iraq (one he bitterly opposes) is no obstacle. The fact that there are economic, societal, religious, cultural, political, and countless other obstacles to such changes, obstacles that have proved remarkably resistant to previous attempts to overcome them—well, those obstacles seem to be no obstacle, either. Not for Obama.

What matters is that Obama’s heart is in the right place. And that place is—well, the following extremely non-PC (and racially inappropriate; they’re from his poem “The White Man’s Burden“) words of Kipling somehow come to mind:

Take up the White Man’s burden–
The savage wars of peace–
Fill full the mouth of Famine,
And bid the sickness cease;
And when your goal is nearest
(The end for others sought)
Watch sloth and heathen folly
Bring all your hope to nought.

60 Responses to “Obama’s foreign policy: riding on a smile and sophistry—and “dignity promotion””

  1. Terrye Says:

    There is not been a great deal of dignity in the Democratic primary thus far. If they run the country the way they do their campaign I doubt very much if we will be seeing a lot of dignity from the Obama administration.

    For instance, the mullahs of Iran are famous for oppressing the women of that country, they are also famous for killing homosexuals. I would think there is nothing dignified about a public lynching of gay teenagers. How will Obama respond to that? From what I hear he has every intention of kissing butt for the mullahs, so what of the dignity of their people?

  2. Vanderleun Says:

    Perhaps it is not because Obama speaks that well, but that his contenders speak so poorly.

    Rhetoric, even suffused with sophistry, still has the means to excite the soul. Especially if people haven’t heard it for so long they’ve forgotten it.

    On the same hand, I’m reminded of the quote from some actor, “Once you can fake sincerity, the rest is easy.”

  3. Vince P Says:

    Here’s more info from his foreign policy team. This is his ex-foreign policy guru on BBC’s Hardtalk:

    STEPHEN SACKUR: Let me stop you just for a moment. You said that he’ll revisit it when he goes to the White House. So what the American public thinks is a commitment to get combat forces out within sixteen months, isn’t a commitment isn’t it?

    POWER: You can’t make a commitment in whatever month we’re in now, in March of 2008 about what circumstances are gonna be like in Jan. 2009. We can’t even tell what Bush is up to in terms of troop pauses and so forth. He will of course not rely upon some plan that he’s crafted as a presidential candidate or as a US senator.

    He will rely upon a plan, an operational plan that he pulls together, in consultation with people who are on the ground, to whom he doesn’t have daily access now as a result of not being the president.

    So to think, I mean it would be the height of ideology, you know, to sort of say, well I said it therefore I’m going to impose it on whatever reality entreats me –

    SACKUR: Ok, so the 16 months is negotiable?

    POWER: It’s the best case scenario

    It’s the best case scenario

    POWER: It is –

    SACKUR: And of course in Iraq we’ve never seen best case scenario

    POWER: We have never seen best case scenario

    SACKUR: So we needn’t necessarily take it seriously at all.

    POWER: What we can take seriously is that he will try to get US forces out as quickly and as responsibly as possible. And that’s the best case, estimate of what it would take.

  4. harry McHitlerburtonstein the Extremist Says:

    They envision a doctrine that first ends the politics of fear and then moves beyond a hollow, sloganeering “democracy promotion”

    The utter gall. The liberals with the “Free Tibet” bumper-stickers are currently celebrating the “grim new mile stone” in US casualties in Iraq, and this is what Obama’s people call “hollow, sloganeering?” How completely dishonest and disgusting these people are.

  5. amr Says:

    The liberal sees a man drowning 100 feet off shore, throws him a 200 foot rope and walks away. The conservative sees a man drowning 100 feet off shore, throws him a 50 foot rope and calls out for him to swim for it. Neither are perfect ideas on how to rescue the man, but at least the conservative has a plan.

  6. expat Says:

    We could start with a concrete task for Obama. How will he give dignity to all the Oxbridge intellectuals who hate us? Perhaps a yearly allowance of single malts and vintage Bordeaux?

  7. Matt Says:

    Terrye
    the mullahs of Iran are famous for oppressing the women of that country, they are also famous for killing homosexuals

    We can all agree this is true. But what is your solution in dealing with Iran? Or Pakistan? Or North Korea, or Libya or…well the list goes on. Right now we are fighting a 3 trillion $$ war in Iraq. And we can’t really bomb or invade these countries without a whole lot of other issues surfacing. The options are few.

  8. harry McHitlerburtonstein the Extremist Says:

    Why wouldnt conservatives have 100ft ropes?

    Anyway…Again, it seems like both Obama and his spiritual pilgrims are relying on the goodness of their beliefs and intentions to bust through obstacles to world peace. Its an episode of the “Love Boat” when a potential global crisis involving a rouge nation developing nuclear weapons is solved by the end of the episode with earnest, direct and heartfelt sharing of emotions moving both sides to understand a little about each other.

    The US dignity battalions might march in victorious celebration if it weren’t that it might be considered to be fostering an atmosphere of undeserved superiority and potentially adversarial.

  9. grackle Says:

    I don’t think Obama supporters want specific policies. What they seem to want is what is usually found by others at venues, spheres and occurrences as diverse as concerts, theater, cinema, literature, opera and religious events.

    In short – they want to be thrilled and Obama’s speechifying thrills them to the core. They want to have certain strings of their psyche strummed by smooth rhetoric coupled with easy answers delivered in a slick style. Policy is the LAST thing they want to contemplate. Indeed, actually thinking about specifics might kill the high.

  10. Vince P Says:

    Matt is so worried we’re fighting a trillian dollar war.

    Matt: how much money you think a war will cost after the top 5 american cities are nuked out of the blue one day?

  11. Matt Says:

    grackle
    They want to have certain strings of their psyche strummed by smooth rhetoric

    Not sure what evidence you have here. So he talks pretty? Even if Obama got letter specific you would probably still claim the same thing. If anything it’s the Conservatives who don’t want specifics. They want patriotism with no questions, they want us all to line up behind Bush and not question his actions. They want to march into countries with the belief that these countries are begging to become Jeffersonian democracies and will follow our lead in some kind of permanent revolution.
    Many liberals – and certainly Obama – realize that it is so much more complex than that. Every country has its own unique situation. And more importantly they are all linked together by culture, language, history etc. Something that most Americans do not attempt to understand. So if you go to war with any one country you disrupt the entire region.

  12. stumbley Says:

    “Many liberals – and certainly Obama – realize that it is so much more complex than that.”

    And so the answer is, as usual, “Visualize world peace,” “Free Tibet,” “Save Darfur,” “promote dignity,” and “fix conditions of misery.”

    When things on the ground in Iraq are being changed by freaking direct action, you “liberals” complain, but vague, ethereal platitudes are hailed as “visionary.”

    You people make me sick.

  13. harry McHitlerburtonstein the Extremist Says:

    Matt:
    “Many liberals – and certainly Obama – realize that it is so much more complex than that.”

    Ah yes. The “we are so much more nuance than you are” line. We face an ultra religious fanatical theocracy in Iran because Jimmy Carter thought he understood the cultural nuances better than saner people and got himself and the rest of this country screwed. While Jimmy’s still off on a different world, we’re having to deal with that as well as bring a form, (no matt, not “Jeffersonian”), of democracy to countries that havent experienced them. You would think Matt could get behind that idea. Instead it seems, we’re shoving democracy down his throat.

    Matt likes to play this off as just us beer swilling NASCAR types talking a lot of noise to sound patriotic. I’m sorry to inform you matt, that while your still hoping to free Tibet with bumper-stickers, non liberal minded people are actually doing that on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Your lofty sounding theories amount to nothing more than empty platitudes for polling purposes and would end up enslaving people ala Jimmy Carter. That might float on Huffpo, but it wont work around here.

  14. Matt Says:

    stumbley
    So permanent war is the answer?
    And that doesn’t make you sick?
    Makes you wonder how we ever managed to defeat the Soviet Union without an all out war or defeat apartheid in South Africa without sending in troops.
    And while I will agree with you that Darfur is an issue I don’t see the Bush administration proposing a war there.
    Bush must be a liberal? Or Cheney must really be a crazy leftist all of the sudden because he is having peace talks with the Palestinians?

  15. Vince P Says:

    Uh. Hello.. Matt.. did you see the transcript I just pasted up there? Obama’s positions are for dumb voter consumption only.

    The man is a fraud for so many reasons.

    Matt: I wrote 3 posts here

    http://neoneocon.com/2008/03/21/obama-nightmares-from-my-father-substitute/#comment-61673

    About the character of Obama.

    I would like to know what you think about the stuff in the three posts starting from that link.

    No Obama supporters have yet to respond to it, so I’m hoping you’ll step up to the plate and let us know your POV.

  16. harry McHitlerburtonstein the Extremist Says:

    Matt:
    “So permanent war is the answer?”

    I wish you guys would ask a question that isnt drenched in hysterical emotionalism and then posing them in such a way that it appears as if permanent war is actually what we had proposed.

    Grow up. Again, this is not Huffpo.

  17. stumbley Says:

    “So permanent war is the answer?”

    No, like you, I think strongly worded bumper stickers might do it.

  18. Jimmy J. Says:

    The text of an Obama speech on Iraq and post Iraq foreign policy is at:
    http://thepage.time.com/full-text-of-obamas-iraq-speech/

    He repeats the usual boiler plate about the folly of going into Iraq at all and how the Iraqis must now pick up the mantle of responsibility so we can go after the “real” enemy in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

    He, of course, believes there is no over arching strategy to Bush’s approach to the war on terror. What he seems to believe is that the war against terrorism can be restricted to Afghanistan and Pakistan just because he decrees it

    He now says that we will change our policy toward Pakistan. If we have intelligence on Al Qaeda leaders in Pakistan and Pakistan will not act, we will. (He assumes Pakistan will not object. Course, we’ve beeen kind of doing that here and there anyway, so maybe this isn’t so revolutionary.)

    Once Iraq is finished, he will use our freed up military to adress other threats in, I kid you not, Russia and Chad. (Wow, he’s really defined new startegy there.)

    He is going to address getting rid of Guantanamo and re-establish habeas corpus. (What? When did we lose habeas corpus?)

    He’s going to make deep cuts in all nuclear arsenals and secure all unaccounted for fissionable materials. (Good! But I thought we were already trying to do that.)

    He’s going to address the problems of failed states by cutting world poverty in half. (If he thinks a trillion is a lot to spend on Iraq, wait till he sees the bill for third world poverty reduction.)

    He’s going to end our dependence on foreign oil by revving up the use of alternative energy and end the Global Warming crisis with comprehensive carbon cap and trade policies. (I’m getting ready to bury my gold coins in the backyard.)

    He’s going to rev up our economy and make us more competitive with China by investing mor in education. (Yep, that’s what we need…..more money in education.)

    He’s also going to defuse many threats through the use of tough, principled diplomacy. He avers that Bush has been unwilling to negotiate with the bad guys. He will do it. (Hmm, what about North Korea, Iran, Lebanon, China, Africa, Hamas, etc.? Guess all that is not diplomacy.)

    He’s going to increase ou military by 94,000 army and marines. (Isn’t that already underway?) He wants to make NATO a larger more nimble alliance. (Nothin’ wrong with that if you can get the Europeans to buy in.)

    I could go on but this gives an idea. Some muddled ideas about the war on terror. Some grand pronouncements on issues that have bedeviled all administarations since Carter. Changing the world is not easy to do, but he avers he’d like to give it a try.

  19. Matt Says:

    harry McHitlerburtonstein the Extremist

    I’m asking for species. You slam Obama and then have none yourself. You say liberals / Democrats only use bumper stickers. I agree bumper stickers are indeed ridiculous but what policies do you think will work if not diplomacy, working with other countries to deal with and [yes] fight extremism and reaching out to the region to deal with all of these issues? Conservatives mainly seem to think war will work. It sometimes does. But not always. And the problems we face in the world today are actually exacerbated by war. You think people in the Middle East are cheering our presence there? Would you cheer their military presence in your backyard?
    The more we see treat all of this as a black and white issue the more the Muslims will as well. And then where will we be?
    I’m saying maybe we need better ideas which we can put into action.
    I’m saying we can do better.
    Is Obama the answer? Maybe not.
    But was Bush the answer? Is McCain?
    There is more than one view on all of these issues. Let’s agree on that.

  20. Terrye Says:

    Matt:

    3 trillion dollar war my behind. That is just another case of the anti war people taking liberties with the truth.

    My Dad died in a VA hospital at the age of 54. Now if there had not been a WW2 he might not have been a veteran and if he had not been a veteran he would not have been in that hospital. So do we add the cost of his care to the war costs for WW2? That is exactly the kind of smoke and mirrors used to come to the totally absurd 3 trillion.

    And what exactly was the cost of 9/11 if you want to go down that road?

    I am not running for President. It is not up to me to come up with a Plan to deal with Iran. However, if Obama is going to run on some feel good crap about dignity then he should at least attempt to answer the kinds of questions I asked. After all, he is the messiah. I am just some right wing war monger.

  21. Vince P Says:

    Matt doesn’t answer anyone’s question. He just waxes incrediously.

  22. Terrye Says:

    Matt:

    Do not preach to me about Muslims, if Obama had his way the Butcher of Baghdad could have wiped half his population off the face of the earth, given millions to terrorists, ignored the UN force resolutions and reconstituted his weapons programs with impunity.

    I am so tired of hearing about how awful Bush is and how awful the war is while some idiot like George Clooney prattles on about Darfur and these people do not care about the Muslims who live in these countries, they do not care about their quality of life or anything else. They just want to suck up to some dictator and preach to the rest of us.

  23. Terrye Says:

    I remember back in the 90′s when the good Democrats were running everything. That would be when 800,000 people died in Rwanda. That would be when the fighting and the ethnic cleansing was taking place in the Balkans. That would be when our Rangers were slaughtered in Somalia and our embassies were attacked in Africa and the Khobar Towers was blown up and the first attack on the World Trade Center took place. That would be when Osama Bin Laden said that he would avenge his brothers in Iraq and declare war on the United States, he said that Muslims should kill Americans wherever they found them.

    That would be when disparate groups of extremists from Egypt and Yemen and Saudia Arabia came together and formed AlQaida in the first place.

    That would be when Bill Clinton promised us that Saddam not only had weapons but he guaranteed us Saddam would use them and thus he signed the Iraqi Liberation Act, making the removal from power of Saddam Hussein our national policy.

    And yet Democrats today pretend they were out of town visiting a sick aunt and thus can not be held responsible for anything and so Obama, the Chosen One must save us all.

    gag me.

  24. MartyH Says:

    My fear about about Obama as President and Iraq is that, even if he favors a phased withdrawal, he will not veto a Democratic passed bill that pulls the troops immediately. Does anyone expect Congress to be more reasonable with a Democratic President than it has been to date?

  25. harry McHitlerburtonstein the Extremist Says:

    Matt:
    “I’m asking for species. You slam Obama and then have none yourself.”

    Oh no, the neocon strategy of peace through actively building and supporting democracies currently and previously run by despots have been oft stated. You were too busy labeling it all as an illegal, immoral war for oil and Haliburton profits.

    Its isnt, as you mischaracterized, that we neocons prefer war to diplomacy. It is in fact a false assumption on your part. We favor strength in diplomacy. This means having the will and the conviction to carry out actions that maybe necessary to prop up our goals. Make no mistake about this: It is our goals that are imperative, not the despots. I feel that you should go back over that last line of mine often: It is our goals that are imperative, not the despots.

    As far as people in the region cheering our efforts, we will not make everyone happy, nor should we expect to. But running from adversary just because liberals want us too wont gain us any admirers in the region either, and many of them are the moderates we all seek to contact and bring up from oppression.

    What does Obama have? Hope?

  26. Vince P Says:

    One of the actions that was most responsible for 9/11 was Clinton’s reckless attack on Afghanistan in response to the two embassy bombings.

    Before our bombing, the taliban was seriously contemplating expelling AQ from Afghanistan because AQ’s presense was attracting too much international pressure onto Afghanistan. The taliban did not have an intertest in global terrorism (at least not yet).. at that moment they were more concerned with establishing thier Islamic rule over Afgahnsitan.

    When the lame missile attacks came.. that served to cement the alliance between the Taliban and AQ and the plot for 9/11 was created soon after .

  27. Vince P Says:

    Here’s Obama building bridges and bringing people together:

    From Israel:

    http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3523709,00.html

    Obama advisor: US Jews hinder peace

    More trouble for presidential hopeful: Inquiry by conservative US media outlets reveals that Obama advisor Merrill ‘Tony’ McPeak is a longtime anti-Israel critic who slammed American Jews for acting against US interests

    [snip]

  28. Terrye Says:

    Abandoning the Iraqis will not make us popular, that is for sure. And then what does Obama say to do if AlQaida takes over? Go back…Back for the third freaking time to Iraq. Good Grief.

  29. Matt Says:

    harry McHitlerburtonstein the Extremist

    That’s a more cogent answer. Thanks.

    Terrye
    3 trillion. That is just another case of the anti war people taking liberties with the truth.

    No, it’s not. It’s an issue because it affects our economy. Not to mention all of us. Had we stayed focused on the terrorists in Afghanistan rather than declare war on Iraq things could have been different on so many levels. That said, I didn’t say war with Iraq was a bad idea. I said the plan was bad. It’s not only crazy leftist liberals saying this.
    Obama might represent an unrealistic option. But you can’t tell me Bush’s plan is – so far – any better. As sincere as it may be.
    And btw the US turning it’s back on atrocities is nothing new. We even invited and aided a few from which we turned a blind eye. [Note that doesn't mean I hate America - it's a part of our history].

  30. Vince P Says:

    Matt refuses to answer any question about Obama.

  31. Matt Says:

    Vince P
    You’re right.
    Although your questions about race, and Mayor Daley and the Chicago political machine are not of much interest to me in this post.
    Obama is a politician who has some kind of crooked ties…I guess. Gee what politician doesn’t? Maybe a county dog catcher in Oregon somewhere? No, wait, that’s a liberal state – he must be corrupt too.

  32. Vince P Says:

    So the guy misrepresents EVERYTHING that he is and stands for and you just give it a shrug?

  33. Trimegistus Says:

    Matt, like all liberals, knows that conservatives want nothing but perpetual aggressive war. Thus, when we say we want strong defense, he knows that means we really want war. When we say we want diplomacy backed by a position of strength, he knows that means we want war. When we say we don’t want to abandon the Iraqis to torture and mass murder, he knows that means we want war.

    Now since Matt knows, better than we ourselves, what we really want and what we really mean, that leaves me with one question: why is he bothering to come to this weblog and ask us questions? He refuses to accept our answers and substitutes his own. Seems like his time would be better spent playing Scrabble.

  34. Vince P Says:

    Matt also seems to deny the Muslims their ablity to remain at war against us.

    Like they’re not even people.

  35. Jaikono Says:

    Come on now, so Obama has some skeletons in his closet, which politician doesn’t? I know I know, the man is a vacuous airhole but which politician isn’t?
    Issues? So he doesn’t take a stand on anything, show me a politician who does.

    Concentrate on what Obama promises to give you, not what he really thinks about anything. You want something? He will give it to you, no matter what it is.

    Relax. Sit down, shut up and relax. Emphasis on shut up.

  36. Clipper Clapper Says:

    I shudder to think of Obama actually putting his foreign policy ideas into practice.

    I am also creeped-out when I think of the fate of whatever people might be getting slaughtered while Obs is in office. I don’t have much confidence that a genocide such as Rwanda’s would get adequate attention from the man.

    Hopefully those “people” don’t end up being Americans.

  37. grackle Says:

    You think people in the Middle East are cheering our presence there?

    Those that matter don’t care – those that care don’t matter – because they would be against the US no matter what. The only time these folks(in the ME that are not cheering) like us is when someone’s foot is on our neck. When we are taking steps in OUR interest for OUR benefit they are always very upset. Indeed the degree of US progress can be measured by the amount of howling in Damascus, Palestine and Tehran – the more howling the more progress. They cheer only at the 9/11s.

    I don’t want a foreign policy that will try to make these people happy. Their happiness is their responsibility, not ours. I want a foreign policy that promotes the interests of the US, not one that trusts the enemy and hopes for the best.

    Iraqi opinion should never dictate US foreign policy. The Iraqis had the misfortune of being ruled for a long while by a cruel despot who gambled their peace against more powerful nations, who chose the hard road for his people. They should take care that another of his ilk does not again rise to power, else more war, more occupation and perhaps next time much less US largess in rebuilding.

    Yet the Iraqis DO seem to be “cheering our presence.” They keep electing leaders that very much want a US presence. Perhaps they see, like the Germans saw after WW2, that a US presence is necessary to keep certain wolfish neighbors from their defenseless lands.

  38. harry McHitlerburtonstein the Extremist Says:

    Matt:
    “Obama is a politician who has some kind of crooked ties…I guess. Gee what politician doesn’t?”

    Right. Everybody has a 20 relationship with an angry racist spiritual advisor who refers to one of the most horrendous mass murderers in history, certainly the most horrible crime committed towards its fellow citizens as “chickens coming home to roost”. Thats right Matt. Everybody has one of those.

    No wonder you cant figure it out.

  39. njcommuter Says:

    So permanent war is the answer?
    And that doesn’t make you sick?
    Makes you wonder how we ever managed to defeat the Soviet Union without an all out war or defeat apartheid in South Africa without sending in troops.

    We defeated the USSR by blocking their military adventurism (first by blocking it directly in Europe, and then by blocking their proxies around the world by supporting governments that fought the proxies), by building a network of alliances based on common cause, and finally by forcing them to test their model of economic strength against ours in an arms race to technology.

    Fortunately, their bureaucracy had moved away from the more or less sociopathic cadre that Lenin and Stalin built; that allowed them to resign from the arms race without forcing a conflict of arms.

  40. Sergey Says:

    “So permanent war is the answer?”
    It was the main content of history as we know it, so quite probably it will be just the same in future, too. If “answer” for you means to put an and to history, I would say no answer exists. Am I sick of it? Well, to some extent I am. But I am much more sick of utopian projects that only make things worse.

  41. Sergey Says:

    Recently I have read a correspondence between my grand-grandfather, a medical doctor, and a Russian belletrist, once famous, but now known only to historians of literature. The both were liberals and progressives. They discussed everything, from literature events to measurs to help famine-striken Russian regions, lot of politics, like expelling Jews from Kursk or student protesters beaten up by police. The last letter was dated June 1914. Nobody expected that the world as they knew it is about to explode in the bloodest war known to history. We now can be just as blind to the real course of history, as these brilliant, best educated Russian intellectuals.

  42. Terrye Says:

    Matt:

    I am saying the 3 trillion dollar figure is bogus, nonsensene, make believe, just like the 600,000 dead Iraqis, it is propaganda.

  43. Terrye Says:

    Sergey:

    I was looking at a book the other day that was all pics from WW1. That was horrible. Really awful.

    I read that in the battle of Somme after 10 months each side had lost a quarter of a million men with no ground gained.

    Of course what was about to happen in Russia was even worse than that in terms of lives lost.

  44. Vince P Says:

    Sergey: you make a great a point.

    You think these pacifists woudl learn from the past.

    Conflicts in the world only become more expensive when they are ignored , and then appeased then if the conflict is resolved straight away.

    Matt is worried about the cost of the war.

    How much money do you thinik it would have cost if Saddam was overthrown in 1991? Or 1998 compared to today.. much less.

    How much money do you think it would have cost to end the civil war in Afghanistan after the Soviet depature? Or 1998? Or 2000? Compared to today?

    Who is advocating non-ending war?

    The people , like me, who are demanding our goverment take action now to eliminate the threats that are forming around the world against us?

    Or people like Matt, who want us to bring our military home, hide under a sheet, meanwhile our enemies around the world will continue to get more numerious, more powerful, more capable, more entrenched.

    Matt false asserts he’s against more war, but his approach only increases the theater of war. Our enemies are , like enemies of the past, enemies of ot only us, but all the world. And as we withdraw, our enemies will war against the rest of the world.. with us as their eventual attackee.

    People like Matt are a real problem for a superpower. The United States is holding the world together (in a very sloppy and incompetent manner IMHO) and we’re undermined from within by the moral rot of partisan power politics and a eroded morality.

    Has Matt spent ONE SECOND considering the likely consequences of our leaving Iraq immediately?

    I really hope he hasn’t becase if he has then what he is advocating for is our willful humilitation.

  45. njcommuter Says:

    Obama’s “policy”, a day later: This sounds like a con man’s spiel. But then, anybody who believes in most of the people who run under the Democratic banner these days must really, really want to be conned.

  46. Sergey Says:

    When Aristotel wrote about human as a political animal, he did not see politicking as unique human attribute. As ethology has shown, schimpanzee are no less political, too, seeking elevating their status in a group hierarhy, which can not be done without forming coalitions, recruiting friends and intimidating competitors. And even rats are political.
    So our ancestors became politicians long before they became humans. No wonder that politics is called a monkey business. It is exactly this, even literally. And I see Obama as especially gifted in monkey business. But no attribute of a real Man, as listed in Kipling’s “If”, I do not see in him.

  47. Vince P Says:

    Check out this pattern of behavior by “Mr. New Politics”… When running for office in Chicago, and lately Illinois State-Wide. The real election is the Democratic Primary. In Chicago itself, the Republicans don’t even exist. And State-Wide, the Republicans have collapsed.

    So its the Democratic Primary any candidate really needs to win to get elected.

    Obama has stacked the decked in his run for State Senate and US Senate by viciously and unethically attacking his Primary Election foes.

    http://biglizards.net/blog/archives/2008/02/lets_do_it_agai.html

    - DEMOCRATIC PRIMANY FOR ILLINOIS SENATE

    The day after New Year’s 1996, operatives for Barack Obama filed into a barren hearing room of the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners.

    There they began the tedious process of challenging hundreds of signatures on the nominating petitions of state Sen. Alice Palmer, the longtime progressive activist from the city’s South Side. And they kept challenging petitions until every one of Obama’s four Democratic primary rivals was forced off the ballot.

    One of the woman he got kicked off the ballot said:

    “Why say you’re for a new tomorrow, then do old-style Chicago politics to remove legitimate candidates?” Askia said. “He talks about honor and democracy, but what honor is there in getting rid of every other candidate so you can run scot-free? Why not let the people decide?”

    - DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY FOR US SENATE

    First, Obama had to secure the nomination… and that didn’t look too likely. His main opponent was the front runner, Blair Hull — a self-financing securities trader. Hull was running far ahead of Obama as late as mid-February, 2004.

    But then a funny thing happened on the way to the primaries: For some reason, never explained, journalists and TV broadcasters suddenly became obsessed with gaining access to Hull’s divorce records from six years earlier.

    They went to court; despite such records normally remaining sealed, they persuaded the judge to open them to the general public. I can only conclude that some person or persons unknown gave them a significant piece of evidence indicating there was something in there that was “important” for voters to know.

    What they found was that Hull’s wife alleged that, at one point during the proceedings, Hull had threatened to kill her. Now, I have never threatened to kill a woman; but I’ve never been divorced. I understand it’s not that uncommon when the divorce is bitterly contested. Hull was not charged with that offense.

    She also alleged that he had battered her (which could mean anything from beating her to grabbing her arm). He was arrested, as I suspect was required under Illinois law (we have a similar law in California); but he was not charged with that offense either.

    Despite the lack of any evidence for anything other than the usual allegations that spouses make in acrimonious divorces (especially when hundreds of millions of dollars are involved), Hull’s campaign collapsed. From front runner, he ended up finishing a distant third with only 10% of the vote.

    The beneficiary of Hull’s electoral free-fall was none other than Barack Obama… who once again found his most dangerous opponent suddenly sidelined by something completely unrelated to the campaign. This time, however, Obama had nothing to do with it — or at least not as directly as the last time… no fingerprints. It was the local news media who suddenly (goodness knows why) got bees in their bonnets about Hull’s divorce proceedings.

    - GENERAL ELECTION FOR US SENATE

    Now Obama rolled into the general election. In the GOP primary, the intimidatingly named Jack Ryan had cruised to the nomination. In many ways, Ryan was an ideal candidate: a self-financing investment banker worth hundreds of millions of dollars, who had nevertheless spent years teaching poor, black kids in inner-city Catholic schools. Ryan was tall, slender, and as good looking as Obama. He was a solid conservative but not a scary evangelist. And he was formerly married to a Borg.

    Obama jumped out to an early lead, after a rookie gaffe by Ryan; however, there was still plenty of time (almost five months) for Ryan to recover come back strong. But then, a funny thing happened on the way to the general election: For some reason, never explained, journalists and TV broadcasters suddenly became obsessed with gaining access to Ryan’s divorce and child custody records from five years earlier.

    They went to court; despite such records normally remaining sealed, they persuaded the judge to open them to the general public. I can only conclude that some person or persons unknown gave them a significant piece of evidence indicating there was something in there that was “important” for voters to know… something big enough to overcome the natural desire to maintain the privacy of their child, Alex. Particularly so, since both parents had requested that the court not release those records.

    Once again, a little bird appears to have whispered into the ears of reporters from the Chicago Tribune and the local ABC affiliate. They found an unproven allegation from Ryan’s actress wife (Jeri Ryan, “Seven of Nine” on Star Trek: Voyager) during the custody fight that on a couple of occasions, Ryan took her to a sex club and expressed a desire for the two of them to have sex while in the presence of other couples and spectators.

    Jeri Ryan swore in the affidavit that she was appalled (though I would have paid good money to see Six of Nine naked), and that this contributed to her no longer being attracted to her husband. In spite of this claim, husband Jack Ryan won custody, leading to the conclusion that the judge either didn’t believe Mrs. Ryan’s claim or didn’t take it as seriously as did she.

    Nevertheless, the revelation shattered Ryan’s conservative campaign (I reckon conservatives don’t like pree-verts): Within a week after the story broke, Ryan dropped out of the race… leaving the Republican Party with no nominee. After a few weeks of increasing desperation — during which Democrats were in court trying to prevent the GOP from substituting anybody at all — they finally accepted carpetbagger Alan Keyes as their nominee. He went on to lose in a landslide to Barack Obama… which is hardly surprising, since Keyes was not an Illinois resident and had never even considered running in Illinois until the collapse of Ryan’s campaign.

    There is a wonderful aphorism by Ian Fleming, found in the James-Bond novel Goldfinger:

    Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. The third time is enemy action.

  48. Vince P Says:

    This is police-recorded transcript of what some Jihadis who were caught in Canada were telling each other.

    Who is going to defend our country from people like this? Is Matt? Is Nancy Pelosi? What do you think our leaving Iraq would do to these people below.. do you think it would increase their motivation to destroy us ? Or decrease it?
    ========
    “But you know what? Your minds gotta be on this place. Your minds and your hearts have to be here. You go back, you’re living with society and you have to put on that face, you know what, we’re a bunch of peace lovers you know what, I love all this *non believers* yup I love your wealth … [GROUP LAUGHTER] … I love your women, I love everything about you …
    [...]
    “So although our bodies will be with the *non-believers* roaming around, going to work, trying to get money, sucking up to your boss, and this and that, you know, the typical idea of nice uh, do *favours* with the parents this and that … our hearts are with the people of *heaven* our hearts are with this group right here and everybody else that’s given the Covenant for us and be part of this, who are not here but *God willing* they are here with their hearts, all right?

    “So you go back, *God willing* remember, doesn’t matter what trials you face [GROUP SIGHING] it doesn’t matter what comes your way. Our mission’s greater, whether we get arrested, whether we get killed, we get tortured, our mission’s greater than just individuals. It’s not about you or I or this *leader* or that *leader* it’s not about that. It’s about the fact that this has to get done.

    “Rome has to be defeated. And we have to be the ones that do it, no holding back, whether, it’s one man that survives, you have to do it. This is what the Covenant’s all about, you have to do it. And *God willing* we will do it. *God willing* we will get that victory.

    “… Well who’s gonna say anything about it. We destroyed your armies, you got nothing. We broke your knees. Rome, Rome, you guys realize who you’re messing with? This is Rome. This is the one empire that’s never been defeated.

    “… But you know what? this empire has never been defeated. It’s like a friggin’ monster man. You cut off one hand, another one grows here, cut that one off, another grows here, cut that off, another one, another one, another one.

    “Finally you had to leave the entire Europe because the Muslims are close to their shores. And here they came to North America and they got their fortress, they got their wall, they got their um, Patriot missiles, or whatever the heck they call them, trying to you know defend their airspace, this and that, but you know what?

    “Here we are we entered your lands, we already started striking cause you know what? This training is striking at them. Saying *There is no God but God* …

    “It’s just we gottta stick with it man. If it takes long so be it. We just gotta stick with it because this is our mission. This is our life’s mission and Allah – has already purchased us, lives and our wealth in exchange for *heaven.* He’s already purchased it. We are fulfilling that, living it, alright.”

  49. Hogarth Says:

    Had we stayed focused on the terrorists in Afghanistan rather than declare war on Iraq things could have been different on so many levels.

    Yes, many levels, both good and bad. No one knows. Yet you seem to think only bad has come from our attempted rectification of the problem of Saddam Hussein. That’s disingenuous.

    That said, I didn’t say war with Iraq was a bad idea. I said the plan was bad.

    And? The plan has been repeatedly changed and improved. Too bad we didn’t have the mighty omnipotent Obama at the time to foresee every possible permutation. And I grant that Bush cound have been quicker about making changes when it became apparent that adjustments were needed. Or not – precipitous change for the sake of change can be every bit as bad, or worse, than the original plan. I’m sure it could have been done better, and I’m equally sure that it could have been done worse. That’s life.

    It’s not only crazy leftist liberals saying this.

    No, but fair or not, you’re often known for the company you keep.

  50. Sergey Says:

    Dignity, of course, is a good thing, but does Obama know that in Islam culture dignity is defined as ability to submiss, intimidate and humilate others? And that lack of this power is perceived as shame and humiliation? This is a very important piece of knowlege for foreign policy planning concerning Middle East and Iran.

  51. Vince P Says:

    The U.S. does not have the stomach for a long conflict and will soon revert to its traditional policy of “running away,” leaving Afghanistan and Iraq, indeed the whole of the Middle East

    The Western powers, especially the United States, still wield immense military and economic power that looks formidable on paper. But they are unable to use that power because their populations have become risk-averse. The Western man today has no stomach for a fight. This phenomenon is not new: All empires produce this type of man, the self-centered, materialist, and risk-averse man. – The Iranian strategic analyst, Hassan Abassi, Director of the Center for Security Doctrines Research of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)

  52. armchair pessimist Says:

    Sergey,

    Have you thought about publishing those letters on-line, hopefully with an English translation? Knowing what was just ahead for your grandfather and his friend and all Europe would make heart breaking reading.

    By the way, (on another subject), about 15 years ago there ran in Russia a popular series of TV commercials for a bank. As I understand it, they comprised a mini-history of Russia, from the Mongols up to the last Czars. I’ve seen some of them on You Tube. They were beautifully shot and seemed to take a sympathetic and sometimes witty view of your old Czar Ivans, Peters and so on. It seemed as if the bank was trying to give Russians back their national memory. But I’m not sure of this–unfortunately I don’t know any Russian.

    If you have a moment, could you tell me a little about this campaign? I suspect that, despite our 1st Amendment, we will never see an American equivalent. The witches of political correctness are too powerful over here.

  53. grackle Says:

    That said, I didn’t say war with Iraq was a bad idea. I said the plan was bad. It’s not only crazy leftist liberals saying this.

    My reading of history tells me that the Allies didn’t start winning WW2 until relatively late in that conflict. Some now say the Normandy Invasion was a huge mishap. The early years of WW2 were filled with setbacks and defeats for the Allies that with the benefit of hindsight could easily be interpreted as blunders.

    And the Allies could have easily lost if events had occurred only slightly differently. For instance, the US probably prolonged the war by entering into the conflict so late. Also, I shudder to think what might have happened if Japan or Germany had succeeded in developing an atomic bomb before the US.

    To demand error-free blunder-less warfare is to effectively eliminate the capability to war altogether – which seems to be the underlying motive of many critics. No war is without error. To put it another way: No war is without events that can be criticized after the fact.

  54. stumbley Says:

    “The early years of WW2 were filled with setbacks and defeats for the Allies that with the benefit of hindsight could easily be interpreted as blunders.”

    Matt and his ilk would have had us leave after the Kasserine Pass.

  55. Vince P Says:

    We would have never made it through Valley Forge with cowards like Matt.

  56. Terrye Says:

    had we just concentrated on Afghanistan, all the terrorists would be hanging out in Iraq with Zarqawi. He would have a regular theme park going up there by now.

  57. Tom Grey - Liberty Dad Says:

    “Conservatives mainly seem to think war will work. It sometimes does.”

    Actually, when victory in war is followed by promotion of the free-market and human rights, as well as time-unlimited presence of human rights oriented victorious troops … war ALWAYS works.
    Germany, Japan, S. Korea.
    It would have worked in S. Vietnam, except the “anti-war” (genocide OK) folk succeeded in getting the US to take out the 1972-73 victorious US troops; so the lying, Peace Accords violating N. Viet commies (Kerry’s 3rd type friends, supported by the Evil Empire USSR) could invade and conquer. Which they did.

    War works — which is why the pro-dictator UN doesn’t like it.

    Furthermore, no other policy always works. The OIF liberation of Iraq will result in a peaceful, prosperous Iraq — when the Iraqi people want it enough to turn in the killers, and the security is strong enough to protect those who report the terrorists / rapidly picking up those turned in.

    Anybody who says it has already failed is lying. Those who say it can’t succeed have no history on their side.

    The cost. That’s a good issue. How much is the life of a US soldier worth? How much is freedom for an Iraqi worth? Few countries, and no democracies, like the costs of war. Even if they usually think victory is worth it, afterwards.

    The US is still in Germany & Japan after 63 years, in S. Korea after 55.

    Some ~4000 US deaths in liberating Iraq. How many soldiers died under Clinton? I think more than 4000, with no liberation to show for it.

    How about Iraqi deaths? ~90 000 as Iraqi Body counts, or ~600 000 (silly Lancet)? Let’s say even 200 000. Mostly murdered by terrorists supported by Iraqis — isn’t it the fault, first, of those who do the killing? Second, of those Iraqis who protect and support the killers?

    It’s been a mistake that Bush hasn’t more often laid the blame for Iraqi deaths on the terrorists, and the Iraqis who support the terrorists.

    But here’s a tough question, Matt. Would you prefer twice as many US deaths for half as many Iraqi deaths?

    I think the Rumsfeld “light footprint” helped to minimize US deaths; and the current, better & more active strategy is much better. But also results in more deaths sooner.

    I don’t see Obama, nor anybody else, really talking about honest costs and benefits of both taking action and not taking action.

    A key success of Bush is that, by taking action, he has shown that the US might take action.
    After 16 UN SC resolutions that were ignored by Saddam, it should be clear that the non-action taking UN could, at best, threaten more resolutions (saying “nee!”).

    Imagine the IRS trying to collect taxes if all they ever could do was to write threatening letters, but they couldn’t get your wages garnished nor take your property or bank account.

    Rule of law starts with enforcement. All groups have “enforced rules”, which are the real laws. Legislation and Judgement, without enforcement are nothing. “Consistent” Enforcement, by itself, needs nothing else to establish law — which terrorists use their version of Sharia as a model and enforce it.

    Obama, and anti-war folk, want the benefit of Rule of Law, but without enforcement. Toothless failure.

  58. gcotharn Says:

    Pres. Clinton withdrew – under political and media pressure – from Mogadishu after 18 Americans were killed and 73 Americans were injured.

    Contrast with the disastrous WWII amphibious assault on Dieppe – a strategic incompetence(by Lord Mountbatten), and a resulting human slaughter of Alllied troops – which nevertheless did not dissuade us from continuing on to win the war. Wikipedia:

    The Dieppe Raid … was an Allied attack on the German-occupied port of Dieppe, Seine-Inférieure on the Northern coast of France on 19 August 1942.
    [...]
    No major objectives of the raid were accomplished. 3,623 of the 6,086 men who made it ashore were either killed, wounded, or captured. The Allied air forces failed to lure the Luftwaffe into open battle, and lost 119 planes, while the Royal Navy suffered 555 casualties. The catastrophe at Dieppe later influenced Allied preparations for Operation Torch and Operation Overlord.

  59. Truth Says:

    Players, Not Cheerleaders

    Sixty-four per cent of Americans tell pollsters they oppose the war, but you’d never know it from the thin turnout at recent anniversary rallies and vigils.

    When asked why they aren’t expressing their anti-war opinions through the anti-war movement, many say they have simply lost faith in the power of protest. They marched against the war before it began, marched on the first, second and third anniversaries. And yet five years on, U.S. leaders are still shrugging: “So?”

    There is no question that the Bush administration has proven impervious to public pressure. That’s why it’s time for the anti-war movement to change tactics. We should direct our energy where it can still have an impact: the leading Democratic contenders.

    For the first time in 14 years, weapons manufacturers are donating more to Democrats than to Republicans. The Dems have received 52 percent of the defense industry’s political donations in this election cycle–up from a low of 32 per cent in 1996. That money is about shaping foreign policy, and so far, it appears to be well spent.

  60. Fred Says:

    No place needs dignity more than Paraguay. Yet putting a naval fleet off the shores of Paraguay is totally beyond the capabilities of the US Navy. Do we parachute in with ‘Dignity Brigades’ from the new SOCOM?

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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