Poli-Scientific Method, Part II

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The importance of voting carefully extends beyond the domestic realm and into an area that would ideally be almost completely non-partisan: foreign politics. Foreign policy oughtn’t be changed every four or eight years, because its objectives are longer-term than that. This has led some to believe that it doesn’t, that regardless of the party in power, there is some group controlling everything. A quick look over the last 11 years suggests otherwise.

Compare how George Bush and Barack Obama handled the use of America’s substantial military force. When the United States invaded Iraq, it pegged American credibility on the ability to improve the country, both in terms of liberty and in material conditions. In doing so, we gambled trillions of dollars and thousands of lives on a country we understood only poorly. Since Iraq in the years before we invaded was relatively stable, we set the bar pretty high – we had to destroy a country and rebuild it, better than it was, within the attention span of the global public. This opened an enormous opportunity to those elements wishing to discredit and reduce the power of the United States. They needed only to make Iraq unstable, to increase violence, to succeed. And since states like matter tend towards entropy unless there is a good reason for them not to, in the end the US was trapped in a hopelessly asymmetric conflict.

The fact that Obama authorized the United States to participate in the conflict in Libya said to some liberals that American foreign policy had not really changed. But even a cursory examination shows the difference in approaches. In Libya, the US waited until the proper time to act – when Libya was at its absolute worst, justifying intervention not with decades-old examples of violence, but with violence occurring at the time and with potential to occur in the future. And rather than going it alone or leading the charge, the US hung back and didn’t endorse intervention until the same had been proposed by numerous other relevant, regional powers. Adequate latitude was granted the armed forces to make the completion of the mission possible, but it was the Libyans themselves who dominated the operations and ultimately won victory, thus making the change in regime more palatable to Arab and Muslim sensibilities. End result? A hostile dictator is removed for a thousandth the cost of the war against Saddam, and much more importantly without the loss of American soldiers that characterized Bush-era foreign policy.

The conclusion? Well, we’d need more experiments to find out for sure, but it seems there are two hypotheses – something changed when we switched administrations, or else the secret committee that plots American foreign policy awoke in 2009 from a prolonged fit of nigh unbelievable stupidity.

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The Polish Wolf

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Craig Moore
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Craig Moore

The coalitions, like blue green, that have galvanized support for Dem candidates in the past are finding themselves in conflict. What is Obama and Tester to do? See the press release from the United Association: http://www.prweb.com/releases/2011/11/prweb8959058.htm

Craig Moore
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Craig Moore

As to Libya, Obama had said that it would be wrong to seek regime change in Libya by force. However, that is precisely what happened. So are you wrong to give him plaudits for doing so, or was Obama wrong for saying the use of force was wrong, or was Obama just incapable of refraining from doing what he said was the wrong thing to do, or is Obama just a liar for intentional misleading the American people as to his intentions?

Rob Kailey
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There is a significant difference between outside force and rebel forces. You’d best be specific about which you are discussing before washing another with ideals you hold.

Mark Tokarski
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Mark Tokarski

A lot of wish-it-so/make-it-seem-so going on here. Most of the differences that you see on the ground have other explanations and absolutely nothing to do with electoral politics. And you have failed to look for similarities, the biggest of which was the PR hook used to generate public support for the war. in Iraq, it was WMD’s, in Libya, the threat that 700,000 people were about to be killed. Both bullshit. Now, if you will, look for other similarities and explanations for events on the ground. Saddam had switch to the Euro to trade oil, and Qaddafi was shaking down… Read more »

Mark Tokarski
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Mark Tokarski

Chomsky spoke to FAIR recently on this subject: “… in Egypt and Tunisia and other countries of that category, there is a game plan, which is employed routinely, so commonly it takes virtual genius not to perceive it … when there’s a favored dictator and he’s getting into trouble, support him as long as possible, full support as long as possible. When it becomes impossible to support him — like, say, maybe the army turns against him, business class turns against him — then send him off somewhere, issue ringing declarations about your love of democracy, and then try to… Read more »

lizard
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lizard

you mischaracterize those who put Obama’s foreign policy in the context of US Imperialism when you state in the first paragraph:

“This has led some to believe that it doesn’t, that regardless of the party in power, there is some group controlling everything. A quick look over the last 11 years suggests otherwise.”

the rest is just the usual junk you spin.

The Polish Wolf
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The Polish Wolf

Mark – Let me summarize your comment: Electoral politics don’t influence foreign affairs. Here’s some stuff that happened in the 1980’s. I will now ignore your point entirely. America’s history with Libya is only obliquely relevant here. What is the root of the animosity between Gaddafi and the US? I don’t claim to know. I don’t believe it’s really terrorism – it’s a question of entering into the Washington consensus, or actively working against it. I think you are assuming something about my position here – I don’t think that US policy goals change with elections, but the ways in… Read more »

Mark Tokarski
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Mark Tokarski

You cannot enter into discussions such as this without historical context; you cannot enter into a discussion like this while suffering illusions. For a short while I wanted to ‘believe’ in Obama. If I pushed that belief hard, if it fed my soul, I could construct a distorted outline of events and their meaning that fulfilled my needs. I would believe that Libya somehow represented something different, that we did not attack a sovereign nation for our own ends. Once the scales fall for our eyes, contortion is not necessary, or even great intelligence. It is business as usual in… Read more »

Rob Kailey
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Shorter Mark Tokarski:
If you accept what is not real, then your view will become much clearer.

ILIKEWOODS
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ILIKEWOODS

They still may not like us, in a lot of countries but I believe Obama and Hillary have diffused the anger… possibly even some hate. For know… But my biggest point about foreign policy regarding the world right now is this: Imagine your standing in a very Toxic smoked filled room, and Obama just gave you a gas Mask! Now you can see and breath… you wont die of the toxic smoke, but you still cant see two feet in front of you with the mask on…. you still dont know where the door is… and Obama is now nowhere… Read more »

Mark Tokarski
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Mark Tokarski

Shorter kailey: never question authority.

Rob Kailey
Guest

It took you 3 days to come up with a response? You’re slipping, Tokarski.

Mark, you talk about illusion, confess your own failings in falling for such, and then beg others to accept an alternate reality (imagine no President) as if it has bearing and your have credibility on the topic. To both of those I answer I hearty “No.”

Notice, Mark, I am indeed questioning authority … Yours.

Mark Tokarski
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Mark Tokarski

About as often as you cross my mind. Hate to hit you with this late in the evening, as god only knows, but I have to break it to you: No president. You may need that lens, but it’s not real. There’s a deeper, hidden reality, in plain sight – interests. Powerful people often fight among themselves – did you notice millionaires petitioning congress today for higher taxes? But when there is agreement, there is tremendous access to public resources – our tax dollars, our military, to achieve private objectives, and at the same time, convince fools like you that… Read more »

Rob Kailey
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Mark, the Presidency is not a lens, it is not a filter. Nor does one “need it” in which to view or review policy, foreign or domestic, anymore than one needs actual numbers to discuss mathematical theory. But if one wishes to discuss empirical result, then that one needs actual elements of the function discussed, either variable (the Presidency) or an instance (Bush, Obama). The snake oil you’re selling is that we can know what is really going on only in the absence of such underpinnings. In other words, you’re demanding acceptance of theory in the absence of a variable… Read more »

Mark Tokarski
Guest
Mark Tokarski

That was kind of long so I didn’t read it.

when your perceptions come under new management, let me know.

Rob Kailey
Guest

You read it. You just have no answer. Your “perceptions” are open to question. Mine actually have factual basis. Don’t ask for “new management” while tasking others with “questioning authority”. As I’ve indicated clearly, you have none.

Rob Kailey
Guest

Let’s face the truth, Mark. You have no interest in discussing anything. You simply wish that others will accept your fine verbiage and believe the BS you foist on those others. When they don’t, you dismiss and wail and whine.

Mark Tokarski
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Mark Tokarski

Wrong on all counts. hey, I’m in Livingston, coming over Bozeman tomorrow. Stay indoors.

The Polish Wolf
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The Polish Wolf

“I would believe that Libya somehow represented something different, that we did not attack a sovereign nation for our own ends.” Mark, it is you who suffer from illusions most dire, for whom the scales are thickest. Like so many liberals you are under the impression that every attack on a sovereign nation is equivalent, that inf act the idea of a sovereign nation is universally meaningful. It’s not. It’s not meaningful to people who are dying whether the people killing are acting under the orders of someone claiming to be their sovereign. First of all, when a state of… Read more »

Mark Tokarski
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Mark Tokarski

Pardon me for a brief chuckle here, but I had visions of Eric Stratton marching out of the classroom, the rest of the frat house behind humming the Battle Hymn as I read your words. Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Your argument is fraught with strained logic. You start out with the premise that Iraq and Libya are different because “Bush” did one, “Obama” the other. That is the first crack in the logic. The same forces did both. Then you look at extenuating circumstances – a civil war raging in one, not in the other.… Read more »

The Polish Wolf
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The Polish Wolf

“You start out with the premise that Iraq and Libya are different because “Bush” did one, “Obama” the other.” Nope. I start with a very different premise. I start with the premise that one caused American and Iraqi deaths and tied our credibility to accomplishing goals we didn’t understand, while the other bolstered the credibility of American force, eliminated a long-term hostile dictator, and gave us access to strategic resources without killing any Americans and likely without killing any more Libyans than would have died in a null hypothesis. From that premise, I noted that indeed, they occurred under different… Read more »

Mark Tokarski
Guest
Mark Tokarski

You presume that the election of “Clinton” and “Bush” and “Obama” are the driving force. I assume that they are not, that once in office they are quickly brought to understand that it s a big enterprise and that many forces are out there and ready to pounce. Clinton, to his credit, had to be brought into line via Monica. Obama has been submissive from the beginning. As Sarkozi said on first meeting, this is a very weak man. Imagine as you will, have your fantasy. Your reasoning is strained to the point where a laxative is in order.

jack ruby
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jack ruby

We would have still been a colony of Britain if the French had not interfered in the civil war taking place on their sovereign territory in America. Its mixing apples and oranges a bit to compare what happened in Iraq with Libya given that Obama did not have the forces available to invade and occupy Libya even if he wanted to. Clearly, for the US, the costs in Libya were lower than Iraq. But if we were to assume regime change in Iraq as a legitimate goal of the US and one that would further US interests…the approach taken in… Read more »

Rob Kailey
Guest

or 2010 …

The Polish Wolf
Guest
The Polish Wolf

It’s true that forces available were different – Obama could hardly have managed an Iraq-scale invasion. But then, it should have occurred to Bush that he couldn’t handle an Iraq-scale invasion while also fighting in Afghanistan. Apparently it did not. Bush stretched the military beyond its capacity for effective action, and Americans died as a result. Obama recognized the limits of his depleted military power, acted within those limits, and was successful.

Jack ruby
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Jack ruby

We are getting pretty obscure now but I would disagree that the military was stretched beyond its capacity for effective action, if you mean effective in Iraq specifically. They were effective in Iraq for what they were trying to accomplish. The Bush crime family had no intention of occupying Afghanistan or committing the forces neccesary to ‘pacify’ that area. Assuming it would even be possible to do so. Rumsfeld was smart not to want to get tied up in a ground war in afghanistan and keep the eyes on his prize in Iraq. We would really see what it means… Read more »

Jack ruby
Guest
Jack ruby

lizard November 16, 2011 at 8:33 pm NATO should have stopped at what the UN resolution gave them authority to do, because once it became clear NATO was targeting Gaddafi, there was no incentive for any significant attempt at reaching a diplomatic resolution. the rebels knew this, and snubbed regional efforts to mediate.now that NATO and the Obama administration have totally squandered their credibility in the region, no western attempt to bring pressure on regimes in Syria, Yemen, or Bahrain will be effective. —– Fair enough. I would disagree that nato really had any credibility in the region to begin… Read more »

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