George W. Obama? Or Hillary R. Bush?

(10 am – promoted by ek hornbeck)

Ira Chernus, Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder, has written probably the most sobering article I’ve yet seen about the prospects for the Iraq occupation, and what can be expected from Democratic presidential candidates.

Tomgram: Ira Chernus, Democratic Doublespeak on Iraq

Start with the simplest, most basic fudge.  Newspapers and the TV news constantly report on various plans for the “withdrawal of American troops” from Iraq, when what’s being proposed is the withdrawal of American “combat troops” or “combat brigades.” This isn’t a matter of splitting hairs; it’s the difference between a plan for full-scale withdrawal and a plan to remain in Iraq in a different military form for the long term. American combat brigades only add up to perhaps half of the troops we presently have in that country.  

Pity the poor Democratic candidates for president, caught between Iraq and a hard place. Every day, more and more voters decide that we must end the war and set a date to start withdrawing our troops from Iraq. Most who will vote in the Democratic primaries concluded long ago that we must leave Iraq, and they are unlikely to let anyone who disagrees with them have the party’s nomination in 2008.

But what does it mean to “leave Iraq”? Here’s where most of the Democratic candidates come smack up against that hard place. There is a longstanding bipartisan consensus in the foreign-policy establishment that the US must control every strategically valuable region of the world — and none more so than the oil heartlands of the planet. That’s been a hard-and-fast rule of the elite for some six decades now. No matter how hard the task may be, they demand that presidents be rock-hard enough to get the job done.

So whatever “leave Iraq” might mean, no candidate of either party likely to enter the White House on January 20, 2009 can think it means letting Iraqis determine their own national policies or fate.

So the Democratic front-runners must promise voters that they will end the war — with not too many ideologically laden ifs, ands, or buts — while they assure the foreign-policy establishment that they will never abandon the drive for hegemony in the Middle East (or anywhere else). In other words, the candidates have to be able to talk out of both sides of their mouths at the same time.

It’s depressing, but I’d recommend reading the entire article.

George W. Obama?

“The single most important job of any president is to protect the American people,” he affirmed in a major foreign-policy statement last April. But “the threats we face…. can no longer be contained by borders and boundaries…. The security of the American people is inextricably linked to the security of all people.” That’s why the U.S. must be the “leader of the free world.” It’s hard to find much difference on foreign policy between Clinton and Obama, except that Barack is more likely to dress up the imperial march of U.S. interests in such old-fashioned Cold War flourishes.

That delights neoconservative guru Robert Kagan, who summed up Obama’s message succinctly:  “His critique is not that we’ve meddled too much but that we haven’t meddled enough…. To Obama, everything and everyone everywhere is of strategic concern to the United States.”  To control everything and everyone, he wants “the strongest, best-equipped military in the world…. A 21st century military to stay on the offense.” That, he says, will take at least 92,000 more soldiers and Marines — precisely the number Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has recommended to President Bush.

Hillary R. Bush?

Hillary Clinton declares forthrightly: “It is time to begin ending this war…. Start bringing home America’s troops…. within 90 days.” Troops home: It sounds clear enough. But she is always careful to avoid the crucial word all.  A few months ago she told an interviewer:  “We have remaining vital national security interests in Iraq…. What we can do is to almost take a line sort of north of, between Baghdad and Kirkuk, and basically put our troops into that region.”  A senior Pentagon officer who has briefed Clinton told NPR commentator Ted Koppel that Clinton expects U.S. troops to be in Iraq when she ends her second term in 2017.  

Why all these troops?  We have “very real strategic national interests in this region,” Clinton explains.

You are being played again.

They are counting on getting your vote by default, because they know that people are afraid that if they DON’T vote Democratic EVEN if the Democrats will not end the occupation they will end up with the rethugs back in power.

Remember all the fearmongering that Bushco did? The Democrats are now using it against you.

BUT, if they are elected next year in spite of that fact that they continue the occupation… WHAT DIFFERENCE is there between them and the rethugs?

What difference? NONE. It won’t be any different from electing rethugs.

In other words by electing the Democrats next year out of fear of the rethugs, even if the Democrats won’t end the occupation, EFFECTIVELY the country will have re-elected rethugs (called democrats).

Cheerful prospect, hmmm?

Think it through. Don’t vote out of fear. You have the power and the dems know you have the power. So they fearmonger.

The only hope you reading this have, the only hope any of us have, is to threaten the Democrats with loss of support if they will not use the power they have to stop funding the Iraq occupation and force a COMPLETE withdrawal. Otherwise settle in for a never ending occupation if Iraq while you watch the death tolls grow.

It’s the only way to change the paradigm.

Foreign Policy in a post-Bush America

On January 20th, 2009 America’s new President will face a new era of foreign policy with challenges and options different than those faced by prior administrations.  Many of these new challenges have been brewing for decades, but most were created or exacerbated by mistakes made since the turn of the century.

If American wants to maintain its position of influence over world affairs, and the privileges which that influence brings, we need to dramatically change our approach to foreign policy.  As popular as Clinton is overseas, a return to 90’s style diplomacy in a post 3/20/2003 world will not be enough.  A clear rejection of the Bush Doctrine of Preemptive Strike and a return to coalition building is certainly a good start but we need to go beyond that.  We can no longer expect to world to accept that our intentions are in good when they see negative consequences of our actions.

We can no longer use our military might to protect our access to resources such as oil without expecting repercussions in the form international anger and angst which expresses itself as protests, or much worse, terror.  We cannot continue to negotiate trade agreements which favor our corporate interests and neglect the rights of workers abroad and needs of workers at home.  As we select a new face to govern America, we must also choose a leader who is able to reevaluate America’s approach to foreign affairs and establish a new doctrine of policies which can carry us forward, repairing the damage from our mistakes and building a strong foundation for our relationships with nations around the globe.

Katrina Vanden Heuvel, The Nation

End the War (On Terror)

With the 2008 elections looming, it is unlikely that the Democrats (with a few honorable exceptions) will rethink their official national security strategy in any significant way. But citizens committed to a vision of real security can launch a debate framed by our own concerns and values. If we have learned anything in the past six years, it is that even overwhelming military power is ill suited to dealing with the central challenges of the 21st century: climate crisis, the worst pandemic in human history (AIDS), the spread of weapons of mass destruction, stateless terrorists with global reach, genocidal conflict and starvation afflicting Africa, and a global economy that is generating greater instability and inequality.

A real security plan would widen the definition to include all threats to human life, whether they stem from terrorism, disease, environmental degradation, natural disasters or global poverty–a definition that makes it clear that the military is only one of many tools that can be used to address urgent threats. A last resort. This alternative security strategy would also reconfigure the US presence in the world – reducing the footprint of American military power, pulling back the forward deployments drastically and reducing the bloated Pentagon budget by as much as half.

Yes, at home, all this will take time and have to overcome the fiercest kind of political resistance. Yet this is not an impossible political goal, now that Americans have seen where the military option leads. Dealing intelligently with reality is not retreat. It is the first wise step toward restoring real national security.

Princeton Universities Wilson School has in fact been working on devising a new cogent and workable foreign policy for America that may show promise. The Princeton Project on National Security on September 29, 2006 released their final report in the form of 96 page PDF document titled “Forging a World of Liberty Under Law, U.S. National Security In The 21st Century, which according to their mission statement was developed by 400 contributors over a 2 year period, to “set forth agreed premises or foundational principles to guide the development of specific national security strategies by successive administrations in coming decades”.

The Princeton Project’s report is here.

In 2008 either the Democrats or the Republicans will take control of the Executive Branch and the Presidency, and therefore the administration of US Foreign Policy.

The purpose of this post is to highlight the need for, and to ADVOCATE for a drastic overhaul of US Foreign Policy.

My own politics are best described this way: I am not at all concerned with which party “wins” next year. I want the occupation ended as soon as possible so that the fewest Americans and Iraqis die. Preferably none. Period. I also see the occupation as a specific instance of the more general doctrine of preemptive war – really imperialist hegemony – that the neocons and rethugs want to pursue. I want the specific instance ended and the mindset behind the general doctrine made politically and socially unacceptable and people who hold that mindset treated as pariahs, so that no matter which party is elected it will not happen again.

A new and sensible Foreign Policy framework is something that is badly needed if America is to move forward as a respected and respectable member of a community of nations, and avoid creating terrorism and tragedies like 9/11 in future.

“Ancient History”: U.S. Conduct in the Middle East Since World War II and the Folly Of Intervention:

After 70 years of broken Western promises regarding Arab independence, it should not be surprising that the West is viewed with suspicion and hostility by the populations (as opposed to some of the political regimes) of the Middle East.(3) The United States, as the heir to British imperialism in the region, has been a frequent object of suspicion. Since the end of World War II, the United States, like the European colonial powers before it, has been unable to resist becoming entangled in the region’s political conflicts. Driven by a desire to keep the vast oil reserves in hands friendly to the United States, a wish to keep out potential rivals (such as the Soviet Union), opposition to neutrality in the cold war, and domestic political considerations, the United States has compiled a record of tragedy in the Middle East. The most recent part of that record, which includes U.S. alliances with Iraq to counter Iran and then with Iran and Syria to counter Iraq, illustrates a theme that has been played in Washington for the last 45 years.

NOTE: Ira Chernus, besides blogging at The Smirking Chimp, is also the author of the book: Monsters to Destroy: The Neoconservative War on Terror And Sin:

In an ambitious effort to clarify a complicated issue, Ira Chernus tackles the question of why U.S. foreign policy aimed at building national strength and security has the paradoxical effect of making the country less safe and secure. His answer: The “war on terror” is based not on realistic appraisals of the causes of conflict, but rather on “stories” that neoconservative policymakers believe about human nature and a world divided between absolute good and absolute evil. The root of the stories lies in these policymakers’ terror of the social and cultural changes that disrupted American society during the sixties. The neoconservative stories portray those responsible for change not simply as political opponents, but as enemies or sinners acting with evil intent to destroy American values and morals–that is, as “monsters” rather than human beings.

Exploring both secular and religious components of this political ideology, Chernus shows that after 9/11 the Bush administration transferred the story from a domestic to a foreign stage. The goal of the war on terrorism is to keep on fighting monsters forever, to give Americans a global arena where they can show that they still believe in eternal moral values and have the strength to resist the winds of change.

Traditional conservatives support the war on terrorism because its story mirrors their own stories about a war against sin. Liberals accept an endless war against foreign evil because they fought the same kind of war against communism for forty years. They act out old stories that feel familiar and safe, rather than finding new policies that would actually make us more secure. This turns the United States into a national insecurity state.


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    • Edger on December 13, 2007 at 20:03

    Never Give An Inch.

    …it all can be turned around – if enough people quit whining about how powerless they feel, and remember that they have the power.

    If every time a Democratic candidate met with constituents or knocked on peoples doors or phoned them looking for money or votes they heard…

    “If you Democrats defund and end the occupation of Iraq before November 2008 I’ll contribute to you and vote for you.

    Don’t waste my time with excuses. Come back or call back when you’re done and you’ll get my money and my vote. Have a nice day.”

    … the Democratic Leadership would quickly sit up and listen.

    And the Iraq occupation would be history. Along with the FISA amendment. And along with all the bullshit of the past seven years.

    If enough people quit whining about how powerless they feel, and remember that they have the power…

    …and use it.

  1. He is for ending the war now and is ready to create a national single-payer health care system.

    You’re not likely to get a Ralph W. Bush or a George W. Nader.

    Reminds me of the Simpsons episode where the masks slip from Bill Clinton and Bob Dole to reveal two identical creatures from outer space. Lisa Simpson implores the crowd to vote for the third-party candidate, to which the space creatures reply: “What, and waste your vote?”

  2. people don’t like it when you tell them that Democrats aren’t going to get us out of Iraq.

    it makes even clearer… if the Dems promise and blather on about health care, and education, and poverty, they can not possibly deliver on those things if their true purpose and intent is to control resource-rich countries. because all of our resources are being depleted to maintain that control.

    what this article, from reading your essay, does not point out is that this control is not done in the interests of our country. it is done in the interests of corporations and the powerful few.

    lastly, this guy might be over-thinking this just a bit.

    The goal of the war on terrorism is to keep on fighting monsters forever, to give Americans a global arena where they can show that they still believe in eternal moral values and have the strength to resist the winds of change.

    this is not about eternal moral values. it isn’t that these people actually think about human nature, other than controlling it. they only want to understand us just enough to enthrall us.

    there is no morality or ethics here. and that’s the problem, isn’t it?

  3. I agree wholeheartedly with your essay.  The Democrats proved in the last election that what they promised before November 2006 didn’t get fulfilled after November.  Many of the political “newbies” may believe the rhetoric, but most people who’ve been around the block a few times well understand that campaign promises are for the most part just a lot of calculated, pretty-sounding and mostly meaningless talk.  

    All that being said–we can just accept the status quo, with different names & faces.  Or we can unite & challenge them every step of the way.  It won’t be easy, and it won’t be fast.  I hope we choose the latter.  

    One thing that the oil colonialists haven’t given enough real thought to is:  How they will be able to provide the required military numbers, equipment and monies to sustain their endless grandiose plans?  Yes, they have plans, but even the seemingly “powerless” pawns they plan to keep using–many of those pawns have begun to make alternate plans of their own.  

    There are already substantial cracks in the infrastructure of engine of their “grand plan”.  The US military is breaking, and on the verge of being broken.  Morale is low and despite the juggling of numbers by the PR people, the recruitment numbers are not where they need to be.  Hmmm…no problem, they think–maybe a draft?  Well, that will open a new can of worms for them.  So, they may find that “The best laid plans of Mice and Men Often go awry”. Something that colonialists throughout time have failed to consider, and then found out to their dismay, sooner or later.  

  4. Both Dems have us by the short hairs–that’s why we have to work hardest to elect a very Dem congress.  If we can force out Pelosi, we can get the war defunded (is that a word?).  

    Hillary/Barack are hawkish because they’re trying to get the “pro military,” right wing illusionary Reagan Dems.  Fuck them–we win without them, why doesn’t anyone bring up time tables anymore?  Are they all Bushies now?  SHIT.

    • shpilk on April 17, 2008 at 19:03

    a narrative to appeal to moderates and the paranoid security scared ignorant Americans which make up the huge segment of the electorate.

    I could be wrong, but I think Obama is very careful in what he offers – if you read carefully, he provides qualifiers and modifiers to most of this ‘war eagle’ bullshit flag talk.

    As President, he is clearly the better choice towards trying diplomacy and negotiation, without the influence of corporate power breathing his neck [unlike Hillary or worse, McCain].

    It’s the corporate influence over honestly thought out foreign policy that is the real issue here: Obama is furthest removed from these blood thirsty, heartless bastards. I have decided to join in support of Obama in part because of this.

    Again, I am prepared to be disappointed, but I hold the most hope of change with Obama. I’m not expecting miracles. I’m not expecting radical change. I’m just hoping for sanity and common sense to overrule profit. Hillary and Bomb Bomb offer no hope, in that regard at all.

    • kj on April 18, 2008 at 17:11

    to maybe counteract some of the negativity i brought here yesterday:

    when this album came out (Toni Child’s “Union”), i played it over and over and over.  this song, in particular, is beautiful and haunting and once in the blood, doesn’t let go.

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