by Carolyn Baker
by Kelly Ramares
In Part Two of her series on an Obama presidency, Kellia Ramares reveals appalling connections between Obama and his foreign policy advisors that spell anything but change in America's imperial, geopolitical relationships. Part I can be read here.. - CB
During a debate on January 31, 2008, Sen. Barack Obama said, "I don't want to just end the war, but I want to end the mind-set that got us into war in the first place."1 That is an excellent idea. But Obama's other words, the Democratic Party Platform, and the advisers he has chosen for his foreign policy team indicates that the January statement is just a bunch of pretty words. He will not reverse the trend of American military interventionism that is so costly in lives, money, and American standing in the world. As Michael Rubin, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, has written, "much of the Democrats' anti-war rhetoric has more to do with politics and anti-Bush sentiment than it does with ideological opposition to the use of force."2 Yes, Obama wants to end the Iraq War but, the 2008 Democratic Party platform flatly states:
Expand the Armed Forces
We support plans to increase the size of the Army by 65,000 troops and the Marines by 27,000 troops. Increasing our end strength will help units retrain and re-equip properly between deployments and decrease the strain on military families.3
Recruit and Retain
A nation of 300 million people should not struggle to find additional qualified personnel to serve.
Recruitment and retention problems have been swept under the rug, including by applying inconsistent standards and using the "Stop Loss" program to keep our servicemen and women
in the force after their enlistment has expired. We will reach out to youth, as well as to the parents, teachers, coaches, and community and religious leaders who influence them, (emphasis mine) and make it an imperative to restore the ethic of public service, whether it be serving their local communities in such roles as teachers or first responders, or serving in the military and reserve forces (emphasis mine)or diplomatic corps that keep our nation free and safe.4
Re-train and re-equip properly between deployments? Sounds like Obama plans to keep the military busy.
This indicates that Obama will only provide a change of tactics, not strategy. The Iraq War is bad, but war itself is a perfectly permissible tool of foreign policy. Rep. Ron Paul, who sought the Republican nomination himself this year, understands the issue. In an interview with CNN's Kiran Chetry in August, he stated that there was no difference between the foreign policies of Sens. McCain and Obama:
"Their foreign policies are identical," Paul explained. "They want more troops in Afghanistan. They want to send more support to Georgia to protect the oil line there. Neither one says bring home the troops from Iraq from the bases -- you know the bases are going to stay there, the embassy as big as the Vatican, that's going to remain. So their foreign policies are exactly the same. They're both very, very aggressive with Iran. So I would say there's no difference."
"How would you handle these global threats, then, if it's not to send our troops there and make sure that we're protected?" Chetry asked.
"We create the threats!" Paul replied emphatically.5
American foreign policy will not change substantially until a president acknowledges that we create threats, and figures out that we all would be better off if the US didn't act like a bully, or the world's policeman. That is not likely to happen until the sheeple who attend Sarah Palin's rallies, and who think patriotism means blind adoration of your country and its leaders, and that any finding of fault means you hate America, stop sitting on their brains. As long as Palin's "Pro-America" small-towners and their brothers and sisters in larger cities who swallowed Bush's post 9-11 propaganda about evildoers who "hate our freedoms" post "United We Stand" and "We are Resolved" signs in their shop windows, and "Support the Troops" stickers on their cars without ever asking "Stand where?", "Resolved to do what?" and "Who benefits from our troops being in harm's way?" this nation will always have cannon fodder for the politicians of both parties, who receive contributions from the corporations that are the true beneficiaries of American's pro-war foreign policy. And while those politicians are bailing out Wall Street, the veterans are being tossed onto Main Street. Although solid numbers on veteran foreclosures are not available, RealtyTrac, a Web site that follows foreclosures nationwide, reported earlier this year that areas with large numbers of military personnel have foreclosures at a rate four times the national average.6
Obama does not believe that the "war on terror" is wrong. He sees a place for military engagement with Al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups. For example, the Democratic Party Platform says: We cannot tolerate a sanctuary for Al Qaeda. We need a stronger and sustained partnership between Afghanistan, Pakistan, and NATO-including necessary assets like satellites and predator drones-to better secure the border, to take out terrorist camps, and to crack down on cross-border insurgents.7 (I will not here get into the issue of how real or how infiltrated by CIA Al-Qaeda might be). Even if you do not believe that the United States government let 9/11 happen on purpose, or to go even further, as I do, that the United States government made 9/11 happen on purpose, you should ask yourself: Does our continued military presence in Southwest Asia only increase the recruitment capability of terrorist groups? Let's put it another way: If a foreign military force occupied your hometown, would you resist or aid the resisters, even is that resistance included violence? One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter.
The Black Bill Clinton
The parallels between Barack Obama and Bill Clinton are truly striking. Both first sought the presidency while still in their forties. Both faced opponents a generation older. Both were raised in financially straitened households with an absent father. (Clinton's birth father died before Bill was born and his stepfather was an alcoholic. Barack's father left the family when Barack was 2). Both managed nonetheless to attend prestigious universities (Clinton: Georgetown, Oxford on a Rhodes Scholarship and Yale Law; Obama: Columbia and Harvard Law). Both married strong, highly educated women and both fathered daughters.
The Obama campaign has frequently argued that a John McCain presidency would be, in effect, the third Bush term. Barack Obama appears to be a continuation of Bill Clinton.
At this year's first debate among the Democratic candidates the moderator asked, "Senator Obama, you have Bill Clinton's former national security adviser, state department policy director and navy secretary, among others, advising you. With relatively little foreign policy experience of you own, how will you rely on so many Clinton advisers and still deliver the kind of break from the past that you're promising voters?" As Obama fumbled for an answer, "Well, the,uh, I am..." Senator Hillary Clinton started cackling and said, "I wanna hear that." To which Obama replied, "Well, Hillary, I'm looking forward to you advising me as well. I wanna gather up talent from everywhere."8
Indeed, Obama has hundreds of advisers, paid and volunteer, in both domestic and foreign policy. But those closest to him are a recycling of previous administrations and Washington power politics. The change is in the offices they will sit in during an Obama Administration. If he really wanted change, he would surround himself mostly with the best and brightest of the men and women whose voices are not often heard in Washington. If you are reading this article, you have probably read, or listened to, or taken a class from, or participated in a project started by these new people. Recycling is generally a good thing, but it does have its limits.
The Vice President
Sen. Obama named as his running mate a Senate colleague who represents a state that has only 3 electoral votes, and whose own two presidential bids ended early. What does Joseph Biden bring to the ticket and to a potential Obama Administration?
The Vice-Presidency has become a powerful office in the last three decades, and, as Vice President, Joe Biden would be one of, if not THE closest advisor to President Obama. Biden's age (68), length of Senate service, (first elected to the Senate in 1972) and status as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, give the campaign of the youthful (47), relatively inexperienced (first elected to the Senate in 2004) gentleman from Illinois a certain gravitas, especially in foreign affairs.
But it is a gravitas that suggests that the veteran Senator from Delaware will advise Obama to take traditional courses of action in foreign policy viz., heavy on militarism. While Obama was opposing the invasion of Iraq as a member of the Illinois state senate, Biden was in Washington carrying water for George W. Bush.
Biden claimed that Iraq under Saddam Hussein was a threat to our national security. He held hearings on Iraq that excluded Iraq WMD expert Scott Ritter, who would have testified to Iraq's lack of such weapons, or dissenters in the Pentagon and State Department who refused to march to the ideological beat of the White House war drums.9 Biden was calling for an invasion of Iraq in 1998, during the Clinton Administration.10
More recently, Biden has been the principal congressional backer of a de facto partition of the country between Kurdish, Sunni Arab, and Shia Arab segments, a proposal opposed by a solid majority of Iraqis.11 More generally, the Delaware senator has been one the leading congressional supporters of U.S. militarization of the Middle East and Eastern Europe, of strict economic sanctions against Cuba, and of Israeli occupation policies.12
On privacy, a right that has lost much protection in the name of "national security," Biden has proved to be a reliable friend of the FBI. In the 1990s, Biden was chairman of the Judiciary Committee and introduced two bills, one called the Comprehensive Counter-Terrorism Act,13 and the other the Violent Crime Control Act.14,15 Both mandated government "backdoors":
It is the sense of Congress that providers of electronic communications services and manufacturers of electronic communications service equipment shall ensure that communications systems permit the government to obtain the plain text contents of voice, data, and other communications when appropriately authorized by law.16
Let me here remind people who think that the Democrats are the protectors of our freedoms that January 1993-January 2001 were the Clinton years and that Bill Clinton staunchly favored government backdoors into our computers.
While neither of Biden's pair of bills became law, they did foreshadow the FBI's pro-wiretapping, anti-encryption legislative strategy that followed.17
Zbigniew Brzezinski: Carter Redux
I recall some snickering when George W. Bush reached back into the Nixon Administration for two of his closest advisors: Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld. But Zbigniew Brzezinski, Obama's chief foreign policy adviser, is also a retread. This old Cold Warrior was born in Poland, and served as Jimmy Carter's national security advisor. During the Carter years he promoted Islamic fundamentalism to counteract then-Soviet influence in the Middle East. Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) a member of the Middle East and South Asia subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee has said, "I remember thinking, 'Why are we listening to him?' (Brzezinski) He was the national security adviser for Jimmy Carter 30 years ago. He proceeded to talk to us about Iran, and I said, 'Let me see, didn't the ayatollahs come to power, didn't we have this problem when you were in the White House?'"18
People who want to see the Taliban defeated because of what they have done to women should remember that Afghani women were among the freest in the Islamic world when that nation was under a Soviet-influenced government. And while we're on the subject of Afghanistan let us remember that Obama's much touted call for an end to the war in Iraq does not come from a desire to set America on a path to peace, but to enable the Pentagon to commit more troops to Afghanistan.
The Democratic Party platform contains a section titled Win in Afghanistan. It says: "Our troops are performing heroically in Afghanistan, but as countless military commanders and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff acknowledge, we lack the resources to finish the job because of our commitment to Iraq, We will finally make the fight against Al Q'aeda and the Taliban the top priority that it should be. We will send at least two additional combat brigades to Afghanistan, and use this commitment to seek greater contributions-with fewer restrictions-from our NATO allies.19
So progressive voters who want peace should realize that Obama, doubtlessly backed others on his foreign affairs team, shares the old hubris about American military might, even though history tells us that Afghanistan is a nation that has never been successfully subdued by an invading force. And current allies also doubt the likelihood of military success. For example, Brigadier Mark Carleton-Smith, Britain's commander in Afghanistan recently said: "We're not going to win this war. It's about reducing it to a manageable level of insurgency that's not a strategic threat and can be managed by the Afghan army."20
Interestingly enough, Brzezinski does not share the enthusiasm for stepping up combat in Afghanistan.
"We cannot try to create a modern, centralized, democratic state in Afghanistan from the top down using essentially foreign troops to impose such a solution. This collides with the sense of ethnic identity and religious sensitivity in a country that is very resistant to foreign intrusions. We need an altogether different approach. Some additional troops in the short run may be necessary, but the main emphasis has to be on decentralized political accommodation with the different elements which are collectively described as the Taliban but in fact representing a much more diversified group."21
But Brzezinski wants to see the United States continue its imperial ways. He is the author of a book called "The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives":
...it is correct to assert that America has become, as President Clinton put it, the world's "indispensible nation."...Without sustained and directed American involvement, before long, the forces of global disorder could come to dominate the world scene. And the possibility of such a fragmentation is inherent in the geopolitical tensions not only of today's Eurasia but of the world more generally.22Indispensible nation? Does this mean that some nations are dispensible? Who gets to make that determination and on what basis can it be made? And what does he mean by forces of global disorder? Terrorists, or people who want self-determination rather than the dictates of the United States or the New World Order?
The most immediate task is to make certain that no state or combination of states gains the capacity to expel the United States from Eurasia or even to diminish significantly its decisive arbitrating role.23
Is there any wonder some people have resorted to terrorism in the face of this appalling imperial hubris?
ElSeven years later, we see in the Democratic Party platform a section bearing Zbig's imprint. It is titled: Lead in Asia
...We will encourage China to play a responsible role as a growing power-to help lead in addressing the common problems of the 21st century. 24
The Chinese have the world's largest population, a 5,000-year-old culture, nuclear weapons and a trade surplus with the US that reached $75.3 billion dollars in the first half of 2008.25 That statement in the platform treats China like a junior partner in an American enterprise. Given the trade surplus and the fact that the United States depends on China to buy much of its government debt, such an attitude is presumptuous and patronizing in the absurd. But it also represents the Post WWII American exceptionalism that the stock-in-trade for people such as Brzezinski.
Brzezinski's views on democracy and empire are downright scary:
A genuinely populist democracy has never before attained international supremacy. The pursuit of power and especially the economic costs and human sacrifice that the exercise of such power often requires are not generally congenial to democratic instincts. Democratization is inimical to imperial mobilization.26 (emphasis mine).
Is Is that why the Constitution has gone into to shredder over the past eight years?
Moreover, as America becomes an increasingly multicultural society, it may find it more difficult to fashion a consensus on foreign policy issues, except in circumstances of a truly massive and widely perceived direct external threat. (emphasis mine)27
DiDirect external threat? Like 9-11, perhaps? Does this sound like a man who would advise Obama to restore democracy at home to serve as an example to peoples abroad?
Of course, given the current financial crisis, caused in part by the disastrous and expensive invasion and occupation of Iraq, as well as by the massive corruption and exploitation in the financial industry, it is questionable whether America can remain the world's "indispensable nation."
And what about Russia?
Zbigniew Brzezinski is joined on Obama's foreign policy team by another Russia hard-liner, Michael McFaul. McFaul is a political scientist is the Hoover Institution on the campus of Stanford University, and McFaul is a former Russian policy adviser to George W. Bush.28 Mention McFaul's credentials to someone who tries to argue to you that Obama is some sort of radical liberal. McFaul favors the expansion of NATO to include Ukraine and Georgia,29 something Russia opposes. Russia does not like the idea of its historical adversaries (NATO) expanding right up to its borders. Obama seems to be quite willing to antagonize the Russia bear by supporting NATO expansion.
Dmitri Simes, president of the Nixon Center in Washington, is a Republican but not a neoconservative.30 He has said, "Brzezinski and McFaul are not known for their desire to engage Russia on anything. If McFaul is representative of Obama's foreign policy thinking, it's difficult to imagine that there will be any sort of positive engagement with Russia if he is elected."31
Failure to engage a nation with whom we disagree is not change. It is the standard policy, as anyone who pays attention to Cuba can tell you.
Simes' prediction bodes ill, not only for US-Russia relations, but for relations between the US and Europe as Europe becomes more and more dependent on Russian energy supplies.
Where are we headed?
...To Be Continued
1 Spencer Akerman, “The Obama Doctrine”, The American Prospect, March 24, 2008, http://www.prospect.org/cs/articles?article=the_obama_doctrine
2 Michael Rubin, “Obama or McCain, Iran stance won't change”, The Australian, Oct. 3, 2008, http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,24437864-7583,00.html
3 Renewing America's Promise: The 2008 Democratic National Platform, as approved by the 2008 Democratic National Convention Monday, August 25, 2008, Denver, Colorado, p. 34, http://www.democrats.org/a/party/platform.html
4 Renewing America's Promise p. 34, http://www.democrats.org/a/party/platform.html
5 David Edwards and Muriel Kane, “Ron Paul: 'There's no difference' between McCain and Obama”, The Raw Story, Aug. 28, 2008, http://rawstory.com/news/2008/Ron_Paul_will_not_support_John_0828.html
6 Malcolm Garcia, “Foreclosure crisis falls hard on veterans”, The Kansas City Star, Oct. 21, 2008 http://www.kansascity.com/637/story/852096.html
7 Renewing America's Promise, p. 30, http://www.democrats.org/a/party/platform.html
8 Obama to Hillary: I look forward to you advising me,” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rhPxSm9Es0w
9 Stephen Zunes, “Biden, Iraq and Obama's betrayal”, Foreign Policy in Focus, Aug. 24, 2008, http://www.fpif.org/fpiftxt/5492
10 Zunes, http://www.fpif.org/fpiftxt/5492
11 Zunes, http://www.fpif.org/fpiftxt/5492
12 Zunes, http://www.fpif.org/fpiftxt/5492
15 Declan McCullagh, “Joe Biden's Pro-RIAA, Pro-FBI tech voting record”, CNET news, Aug 23, 2008 http://news.cnet.com/8301-13578_3-10024163-38.html
16 McCullagh, http://news.cnet.com/8301-13578_3-10024163-38.html
17 McCullagh, http://news.cnet.com/8301-13578_3-10024163-38.html
18 Eli Lake, “Obama Adviser Leads Delegation to Damascus”, The NY Sun, Feb 12, 2008, http://www.nysun.com/foreign/obama-adviser-leads-delegation-to-damascus/71123/
19 Renewing America's Promise, p. 29, http://www.democrats.org/a/party/platform.html
20 “British commander says war in Afghanistan cannot be won”, Reuters, Oct. 5, 2008, http://www.reuters.com/article/topNews/idUSTRE4940O020081005?rpc=64
21 Brzezinski: West Must Avoid Russia's Mistakes in Afghanistan Deutche-Welle, Oct. 16, 2008, http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,2144,3715692,00.html
22 Brzezinski, Zbigniew, The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives. (New York, Basic Books, 1997). p. 195.
23 Brzezinski, ibid. p. 198.
24 Renewing America's Promise, p. 28, http://www.democrats.org/a/party/platform.html
25 China's trade surplus falls more than 11% in H1, Xinhua, Oct. 7, 2008 as printed in The China Daily, Oct. 16, 2008, http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2008-07/10/content_6834802.htm
26 Brzezinski, op. cit., p. 210.
27 Brzezinski, op. cit., p. 211.
28 Robert Dreyfuss, The Rise and McFaul of Obama's Foreign Policy, The Nation, July 2, 2008, http://www.thenation.com/blogs/dreyfuss/334120/
29 Dreyfuss, http://www.thenation.com/blogs/dreyfuss/334120/
30 Dreyfuss, http://www.thenation.com/blogs/dreyfuss/334120/
31 Dreyfuss, http://www.thenation.com/blogs/dreyfuss/334120/
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