3.20.2011

obama, libya, and the continuity of american foriegn policy

America doesn't go around toppling every bad regime in the world because--surprise!--we cannot. However, no one is allowed to admit that there are limits to the power of the great and might United States. So...we occasionally kick the shit out of someone with whom we have a beef anyway, AND that we are pretty sure we can defeat, eventually (Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya). And we let some of the other guys slide if they sell us oil (Saudi Arabia), play ball on Israel (Egypt) and/or let us park our ships and planes there while we kick the shit out of their neighbors (Bahrain). And we leave alone the countries where we might actually have some meaningful challenges in a conventional war, and where the local populace would likely hate us more than they hate their own government were we to invade (Iran--any wonder that they want nukes so badly?)

I'm disappointed that Obama has decided to join the Big Swinging Dick Club, but I can't say that I'm surprised.

12 comments:

chris said...

Jane, you ignorant slut!

Brian said...

Tough, but fair.

I should have voted for...oh, right, I shouldn't have voted. It only encourages them.

chris said...

I smoke cigars with Bob Barr about once a month at the Atlanta Libertarian Cigar Club. He's a nice enough guy, but I still wonder if he would really have stuck to the LP platform if he'd been elected. I voted for him anyhow, partly out of principle and partly because the other two candidates were such stinkers. Not that I'm naive enough to think an LP candidate short of someone ridiculously famous for completely non-political reasons ever stands a chance of actually winning such a huge race in modern politics. Regardless, I don't see as much difference between the R's and D's as almost everyone else seems to be able to do.

Clint Eastwood for President!! (Mostly because Drew Carey has a day job.)

Brian said...

Well, I don't think Barr jumped to the LP because he thought that was the way to actually get back into office (because, really...) much less the presidency, but I really don't think he's a libertarian, either. He's an old-school conservative--nothing wrong with that, though I probably won't vote for it--who maybe has come around on some social issues...after conveniently not being in congress anymore.

I didn't not vote for him without some serious deliberation...but at the end of the day, I just couldn't forgive him for being such a culture warrior in congress.

I think the thing to keep in mind about presidents in particular is that ideology only matters a little, because they spend the overwhelming majority of their tenure in office reacting to things, rather than proactively pursuing a particular agenda. It really doesn't matter what the candidate says he or she is going to do. What matters is how well you think they will react to the crazy shit that hasn't even happened yet.

I think Obama--whether you like what he's done generally or not--has proven to be pretty damn deliberate about whatever he's done. Which is why the rapid pivot on Libya is kind of jarring...it seems really out of character.

Dave said...

There are dangers associated with electing someone president based largely on their ability to give a good speech. And in Libya we are now seeing those consequences made manifest. There is no data to support the assertion that Obama has a history of deliberate strategic thought. Oh sure, he has an ability to perhaps develop a desired policy, but he has shown no willingness or ability to develop a plan that realisitically will enable his desired policy goals. Instead, Obama seems quite comfortable with stating his policy goal and then reacting to subsequent events. While that process proved troublesome in the domestic healthcare debate, it has produced an incoherent mess in american foreign policy. Frankly, the current Libyan adventure clearly indicates that Obama is operating without a foreign policy strategy. He is reacting to short-term events and is either unable or unwilling to consider the long-term consequence of his actions, as opposed to his words. Obama has stated that his military efforts are not designed to help the rebel forces ... but that's exactly what they have done. He seems wholly unprepared for the reality that he has chosen sides in what likely is a inter-tribal conflict that likely does not involve an apparent "good guy." In other words, while Obama might have a desired end-state he apparently is incapable of developing a plan, a sequence of events and resources, necessary to achieve that goal. What he is doing is simply an exercise in reactive wishful thinking ... with very expensive and lethal equipment. Only a person who habitually reacts to events could seriously utter that while the US policy with respects to Libya is to seek regime change, he doesn't want the current ways and means being employed to achieve that task. Only a person who's speeches were his only real qualification for president would seriously think that his rhetoric could somehow counter the realistic consequences of kinetic military operations. (Does Obama really believe that because he says that the US does not intend to support the rebels that bombing the rebels' opponent doesn't make it so?) It is all an incoherent mess, devoid of any strategic thought or planning. And the only good I can see as perhaps coming from it is that our current Libyan adventure will serve as warning to future generations against electing someone based largely on his ability to make you feel good.

And yes I understand that the alternative to Obama was Yosemite Sam. But that doesn't excuse those people who voted for Obama based wholly on wishful thinking and some strange desire for a world that we wish existed instead the world as it is.

Gino said...

" But that doesn't excuse those people who voted for Obama based wholly on wishful thinking and some strange desire for a world that we wish existed instead the world as it is."

dave wins the thread.

i told you he was an empty suit. now you know it, too.

Brian said...

Let's talk about the world as it was in 2008. Wars on two fronts, with no clear objectives, with ever-evolving justifications, that were (are) bankrupting the country. One candidate says maybe this wasn't such a great idea, let's try something else. The other says the only thing we've done wrong is that we haven't thrown enough at it.

Let's not pretend that "a clear headed plan for exiting quickly and without causing an even bigger shitstorm" was on the table. (Talk about wishful thinking!) It wasn't. It was never going to be.

The choice was between "the same, but harder!" and "something else!"

If you reached a different conclusion about these choices, fine. "Something else" is always a risky choice. If you find starry-eyed optimism in the service of a different choice than your own grating, fine. I don't deny that existed, and played a role in Obama's election.

But that's just not the conversation I've been having here, and anyone who reads this blog knows it. I've supported Obama, and criticized him, in nearly equal measure. I certainly haven't romanticized him.

I think Dave is giving the electorate too much credit. A substantial portion pull the lever for one party or the other, period. If I thought either party actually stood for anything other than getting elected, I suppose I could respect the logic of that, but I don't, and therefore I don't.

Beyond that, for every person who voted for Obama because he gave great speeches, or because he was black, or because he was good-looking, there was someone who voted for McCain because he was a war hero (admirable, but irrelevant), because black people scare them, or because they wanted to fuck Sarah Palin. Plenty of stupid reasons to go around.

But really, I think anger at the electorate (or any voters in particular) is misplaced. The Bush administration was an unmitigated disaster, and the Republican party did nothing--nothing--to rein it in. The one GOP candidate in 2008 who questioned the fundamental logic of the GWOT was literally shouted down. And their eventual nominee actually joked about bombing Iran. Is there any reason to think he would have acted more prudently with regard to Libya?

Moreover, am I supposed to think a worldview that presupposes unlimited American power and reckless contempt for an aspiring nuclear state is the one that sees the world as it is?

Brian said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brian said...

After spending an hour trying to edit the above into a concise response (and frankly failing) the following occurs to me.

If a calculated choice between deeply flawed alternatives isn't the ultimate expression of seeing the world as it is, then I really don't know what could be.

Dave said...

There were people in 2008 who said that if you vote for McCain, we'll end up in more wars in the middle east. So I voted for McCain, and that's exactly what happened.

chris said...

Is it possible to double-win a thread? If so, I think Dave just did it.

Brian said...

Yeah, OK...that was pretty great.