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Real News: Obama, Afghanistan, and Pakistan

Yesterday in Obama’s Foreign Policy Challenge Paul Jay spoke with journalist and author Eric Margolis, who talked about his belief that one of Obama’s biggest foreign policy challenges will not be in confronting non-state actors like Al Qaeda, but rather in deescalating the heightening tension with Russia which the Bush Administration has created, and that US power is projected to a greater extent through its dollar than through its military, and the US will have to acclimatize itself to a reduced level of influence in the world if the economy does not recover.

Today Margolis talks with Jay as an expert of military affairs, a former instructor in strategy and tactics in the US Army, and a member of the International Institute of Strategic Studies in Islamabad, Pakistan, about his thoughts on other major foreign policy challenges: how to deal with the Taliban in the Afghan bordering tribal areas of Pakistan, on ending the war in Afghanistan, and on developing good relations with Pakistan.

Barack Obama was elected as the next president of the United States with a foreign policy platform based on the refocusing of US military might from Iraq to Afghanistan.

In the second part of our interview with Eric Margolis, Eric tells the new president-elect that he needs to abandon his support for a strategy of military intervention in Afghanistan, make a deal with the Taliban and move his attention to areas of greater significance to US interests.

The war, says Margolis, is now with the Pashtun people of Afghanistan, who make up half of the country’s population, not a small group of largely disbanded terrorists known as Al Qaeda. Margolis ends by pointing out the potential for the conflict to destabilize Pakistan and potentially even draw India into a larger regional conflict.

November 12, 2008 – 12 min 28 sec

The war without an objective

Eric Margolis: Obama’s only option is to make an agreement with Taliban and withdraw from Afghanistan

Real News: Obama’s Foreign Policy Challenge

Eight years of George Bush has virtually destroyed America’s clout as a diplomatic broker on the world stage, stretched the countries military might almost to the breaking point, thrown away her reputation as an honest member of the international community, and broken the back of the U.S. and the global economy, leaving the mess for a new president to clean up.

Can Barack Obama restore the heights of power of American imperialism? Should he even attempt to do so if he can or would that be counterproductive and merely postpone a day of reckoning, a day of a more realistic balance of powers in the world community?

Does Bush leave having set in motion an unstoppable series of events that when combined with the continuing collapse of the economy will finally lead to a multipolar world in which America is one country in an international community of power equals, at least diplomatically and economically?

After news of Barack Obama’s electoral victory on Tuesday night, celebrations were seen worldwide and international leaders were falling over themselves to issue statements of approval.

Eric Margolis believes that that reaction is fueled by the view that the Bush administration has created a mess that the world hopes Obama can rectify.

In the first part of our interview, former GOP supporter Margolis explains why he is “elated” by Obama’s victory and dismayed with his former party. Margolis outlines his belief that Obama’s biggest challenge will not be in confronting non-state actors like Al Qaeda, but rather in deescalating the heightening tension with Russia which the Bush Administration has created with a series of recent provocations.

Secondly, he will have to put forward a consistent position on relations with China, something that Bush has yet to do despite China’s meteoric rise in international influence during his tenure.

With respect to the economic crisis’ impact on US foreign policy, Margolis offers that US power is projected to a greater extent through its dollar, as expressed through the strategic funding of allies within foreign countries, than through its military. As such, the US will have to acclimatize itself to a reduced level of influence in the world if the economy does not recover.

November 11, 2008 – about 10 minutes

Obama’s foreign policy challenge

Eric Margolis: Bush admin has left Obama an international ‘mess’, with Russia at the top of the list

Getting There from Here

Now comes the hard part for “visionary minimalist” and pragmatist Barack Obama. As the leader and spokesman of a new generation, will the new president mobilize his online grassroots army to innovate in governing; will he settle for a more conservative Clinton 3 mandate, or will he mix both approaches?

Pepe Escobar argues that to help him succeed, everyone in America and around the world has to behave as a critical intellectual. Obama has to bridge the gulf not only between black and white but between red and blue and rich and poor – facing tremendous challenges in the financial and foreign policy fronts. “Our climb,” as the President-elect admitted in his acceptance speech, will indeed be long.

November 10, 2008 – 7 minutes

The key to the highway

President-elect Obama has promised “we’ll get there” – Here are some of the challenges he faces

Yes I Am My Brothers Keeper

What Obama’s Win Says About America:

Jonathan Schell, renowned best-selling author, anti-nuclear activist, prolific journalist, lecturer, and teacher at Yale, talks with Paul Jay of The Real News discussing his take on the social meaning behind and underlying all the politics of Barack Obama’s election last Tuesday. Schell is a frequent contributor to The Nation, The New Yorker, Harper’s Magazine and Atlantic Monthly, and author of The Fate of the Earth, nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.

November 9, 2008 – 7 min 30

What Obama win means

Jonathan Schell: The election of Obama says something about Americans

Obama, Emanuel, and Foreign Policy

Rahm Emanual has accepted Barack Obama’s invitation to join his administration as White House Chief of Staff, a position that has been described in the past by many as “The Second-Most Powerful Man in Washington”, or The Gatekeeper who controls access to and the flow of information to the president.

Emanual voted for and has been extremely active in the past with Nancy Pelosi in Congressional arm twisting getting Democrats onside to support the invasion and continued occupation of Iraq, and has acquired the nicknames The Enforcer and “Rahmbo” in Congress.

In a profile of Emanual a few days ago, The Telegraph noted that:

Mr Emanuel, who received training in ballet as a boy, has shown no lightness of step in his political career: would-be enemies are advised to heed the story of a pollster who wronged him and promptly received a large, decomposing fish in the post.

Reflecting on his own foul-mouthed, attack-dog style, Mr Emanuel has said: “I wake up some mornings hating me too.”

Ben Joravsky of The American Prospect asks: Does Rahm Emanuel’s Pick Mean the Chicago Machine Is Coming to Washington?

So why is Obama hiring Emanuel as chief of staff? Probably for the same reason [Chicago’s mayor Richard M.] Daley hired him way back in 1989. He’s ruthless, cunning, and absolutely unafraid to be a jerk. In fact, I think Emanuel enjoys being a jerk. Moreover, by being a jerk, I predict Emanuel will do a great service for Obama. By the time Emanuel is finished irritating, humiliating, and infuriating folks in Washington, Obama will look like an angel. People will probably like him even more just because he’s not Emanuel.

What will his appointment as Chief of Staff mean for Obama’s foreign policies, particularly in the Middle East? Should Rahm Emanual be the prime target for progressive pressuring and advocacy from left wing bloggers, rather than Obama directly?

Real News Ceo Paul Jay talks with Consortium News founder Bob Parry about Obama’s “partnering” with Emanual:

November 9, 2008 – 8 min 52 sec

Barack Obama’s position on the Mideast conflict will be a strong indicator of his foreign policy agenda. After his speech at the AIPAC conference, Mr Obama left many doubts about the prospect for real change in US policy toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Real News Network Senior Editor Paul Jay talks with Robert Parry about the appointment of Rahm Emanuel, and whether this selection is symptomatic of things to come.

The Gatekeeper

In his essay Friday A Progressive/Liberal Agenda Buhdy initiated some discussion here of what changes would be considered and desired to be included by progressives as an agenda to be lobbied for to Barack Obama as he takes up his new job as President, and people here offered a range of ideas, many based on rolling back things that George Bush had instituted during his eight years in office.

As distasteful as it may be to many quite possibly the most important thing to be considered in developing such an agenda is not what people might want, but what is going to be politically possible to achieve with an Obama presidency. The dark spirit of political pragmatism rears its ugly head here, since there is little point, though I’d be the last to say no point, in asking for things that are not politically likely.

Which raises the questions, what or who will determine politically what is possible to achieve? What are the roadblocks? Who will be standing in the road fending off or screening all comers to Obama with  requests?

Who do you have to please? Who do you have to get past? Who will decide whether Obama even hears your pleas? Who will set the tone, at least initially, for Obamas presidency?

The White House Chief of Staff is the second highest-ranking member of the Executive Office of the President of the United States and a senior aide to the President. Some individuals who have held the position, including Sherman Adams, have been dubbed “The Second-Most Powerful Man in Washington” due to the nature of the job.

The duties of the White House Chief of Staff vary greatly from one administration to another. However, the chief of staff has been responsible for overseeing the actions of the White House staff, managing the president’s schedule, and deciding who is allowed to meet with the president. Because of these duties, the Chief of Staff has at various times been dubbed “The Gatekeeper” and “The Co-President”. (wikipedia)

More from The Real News and The Wall Street Journal on the flip…