Making hay when the sun shines, foreign policy style.

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Many on the left seem to think that there is no difference between Bush and Obama in foreign policy – the idea being that since neither regarded sovereignty as inviolable, and both sought to decrease the number of regimes in the world unfriendly to US interests, the two were following identical foreign policies. There is a key difference, however, between current policy and the Neoconservative philosophy that I think can be summarized by the sound advice – Make hay while the sun shines. A reasonable foreign policy does just that – reacts to situations and opportunities as they arise, using circumstances to its advantage. A Neoconservative position, on the other hand, makes hay and demands that the sun shine. It’s a position of extreme arrogance, and is highly ineffective. The difference between policies is clear observing how Bush and Obama handled the revolutions taking place during their respective terms.

You see, Bush had his own set of opportunities in the form of the Color Revolutions in the former Soviet Republics. However, his administration did next to nothing to react to them, because they had already set the agenda – bring down the axis of evil, spread democracy in the middle east, and, most importantly, win re-election as a war time president. The US welcomed those new leaders in Georgia and Ukraine, but the priorities were already established and little was done to integrate those countries economically or politically into the ‘West’. As a result, they were vulnerable to economic manipulation and upheaval. Moreover, somehow Georgia came under the impression that they had a free hand to act aggressively against Russia, and the US and NATO failed to back them up, even as Georgian troops were fighting alongside NATO ones in Afghanistan. This can only be attributed to a failure in communication with Shaakashvili’s administration, compounded by a squandering of resources in Iraq and Afghanistan that left NATO and the US embarrassingly powerless.

The gravest failing of the previous administration, however, was to fail to react to the Andijan massacre in Uzbekistan. Rather than adjust their worldview to take into account the changing situation and to distance themselves from a regime that was demonstrating its brutality, as Obama did with Egypt and Yemen, the administration closed its eyes and pretended that what was happening fit their worldview – terrorists were causing trouble with a secular government. That the reality was of course different was obvious to everyone besides the US, China, and Russia, and a clear message was sent – our embrace of democracy coming to Christian former SSRs did not extend to the Muslim ones, and we are willing to accept ‘fighting terrorism’ as an excuse for any abuse (a fact Egypt, Israel, China, Russia, Colombia, and India, among others, noted with glee). The Andijan massacre was not an ideal situation to get tough on terrorism or stand by secularism in the Muslim world, but that was the hay the administration wanted to make, and they didn’t care one whit whether the sun was shining.

Obama’s treatment of the Arab spring? I’ve been over it too much already, but he has much more effectively taken opportunities when and to (only) the extent that they present themselves (Libya, Syria, Iran), cut losses where necessary (Egypt, Tunisia, and Yemen), and kept his nose clean where the result was inevitable (Bahrain).

I know I’ve written far too much, but the evidence is copious and deserves to be heard. You needn’t agree with Obama’s policies to see a clear difference in their execution, compared to those of the previous president. It’s also difficult, having seen the results of both, to deny the superiority of our current administration to that which preceded it, and to any of its likely replacements.

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The Polish Wolf

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Don Pogreba
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It was also handy for the Bush Administration to keep Uzbekistan quiet about some of our more egregious policies during the so-called War on Terror, too.

Ingemar Johansson
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Ingemar Johansson

Killing a US born citizen in a predator strike isn't "extremely arrogant"?

Let's go back in time, shall we.

Bush flies a drone over some country we're not at war with and sends two to the virgins. Can you imagine the cat calls?

How 'bout Pakistan? I'm thinking he'd be on the hot seat for even that one.

ThePolishWolf
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ThePolishWolf

Fortunately with the internet, we can go back in time. I have been blogging off and on on this blog for some time now. Go back in time, see if I ever criticized Bush for using predator drones in other countries. I addressed my opinions about Pakistan during the election, in a post entitled 'Allies like these", where I argued that if Pakistan doesn't allow us to kill or capture Bin Laden in their territory, they are not our allies, and we can't let respect for their sovereignty make it impossible to eliminate terrorists. I've actually been quite consistent in… Read more »

Ingemar Johansson
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Ingemar Johansson

Key words, "US born citizen".

Don't get me wrong, the guy deserved a agonizing death. I'm just in it for the comparison.

And now we have drones scheduled for "observation" over here. What's next? Check points and some Nazi TSA guys asking you for your papers?

Mark Tokarski
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Mark Tokarski

This is painful reading – "Apologetics (from Greek ?πολογ?α, "speaking in defense") is the discipline of defending a position (often religious) through the systematic use of information. Early Christian writers (c. 120-220) who defended their faith against critics and recommended their faith to outsiders were called apologists." You, sir, are an apologist and an Obamabot. This much is apparent. You do know that Libya is coming apart with internal violence? That they did not "cut losses" in Egypt, but kept the regime behind Mubarak in power, a change of face only? That rebellion never ended. That the war in AfPak… Read more »

ThePolishWolf
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ThePolishWolf

Ah Mark, I'm glad I didn't have to wait long for your response. Here we go, bit by bit, half at a time. "You do know that Libya is coming apart with internal violence?" That's like saying Libya is very hot and there's not enough water – in debate we call that a non-unique disadvantage. Libya was already in state of full scale civil, in other words, internal violence, when we began our overt involvement. Syria, where we allowed the Arab league to try implementing a peace agreement (precisely what some said we ought to have done in Libya), is… Read more »

ThePolishWolf
Guest
ThePolishWolf

"That the current executive tried until the very end to maintain troops in Iraq beyond December" You are a victim of perception. What Obama accomplished was to give the appearance of doing three popular domestic things simultaneously – Withdraw from Iraq to please his Democratic base, make it seem to Republicans as though his hands were tied by an agreement Bush signed, and re-affirm that American soldiers will never be tried by foreign courts. Internationally, however, the main point he was making was that the US wasn't withdrawing for our own sake, or because he promised it, but because the… Read more »

ThePolishWolf
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ThePolishWolf

Actually, I guess I had to go by thirds to get through all of your distractions. "Or most important, that the current executive is about to launch a monstrous attack on Iran" You see, I'm going to put that in the file labeled "Prophecies that would prove Marks point, if only they would come true." If the US launches a land invasion of Iran that results in millions of deaths, I will be right there with you denouncing Obama. I have gone to great lengths for some time to try to inform people and organize opposition to any potential attack… Read more »

ladybug
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ladybug

When you make hay, you get to keep the hay. There is a tangible benefit for all the hard work. Now, if the benefit of all this war is that Obama looks better than Bush, and wins in November, I guess I see your point, however irrelevant. On the expenditure side, however, it's hard to see the upside. And if you think any part of this so-called "damn good deal" is not as "fleeting" as the "progress" in Somalia, I would like you to kindly send me a small amount of whatever you're smoking. As America's perpetual foreign war(s) rage… Read more »

Mark Tokarski
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Mark Tokarski

I think you suffer many illusions, but occasionally some truth pokes its head through. One, you presume the right of the US to remove any government that it does not like, a classic imperialistic mindset, and then you engage in cult of the leader by telling us that Obama slices ham with a sharper knife, is a better chef. The combination of hubris and adulation is off-putting. Two, your presumption that there are changes in foreign policy since 2008 is a mental construct of your own making. It's almost as if you are trained to do this, as if you… Read more »

ThePolishWolf
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ThePolishWolf

"I'll just talk about one thirteen year interval where we had three different heads of state: 1989 to 2003, just to show that the American electorate is about as influential as Paris Hilton." Right, Mark, You'll "just talk about that" because I've shown that all the hogwash you threw out last time was utterly irrelevant. Your story is much more complicated that the obvious one- three Administrations, with three varying levels of bellicosity, used three different tactics – one used a limited invasion to deter an aggressive act, the next used a combination of air strikes and sanctions, and the… Read more »

Mark Tokarski
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Mark Tokarski

Man I hate it when you go all Kaley on me, dissecting every word, studying minutiae rather than the big picture. Ah well, here we go. ________ "Libya was already in state of full scale civil, in other words, internal violence, when we began our overt involvement. “ Why? God in a machine? http://pieceofmind.wordpress.com/2012/02/11/slaug… ________ "Syria, where we allowed the Arab league to try implementing a peace agreement (precisely what some said we ought to have done in Libya), is also embroiled in internal violence." Repressive regime, but who cares. Opposition well-armed. Poorly reported here. More complicated than this. You… Read more »

Mark Tokarski
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Mark Tokarski

“We will never completely destroy the Taliban, but if we can negotiate with them, we can almost certainly ensure that they are a minority in any power sharing agreement. The reason for the invasion, bin Laden et al., has been removed as well.” Taliban offered to negotiate and hand over bin Laden in 2001 if US could provide evidence of guilt. US declined. Bin Laden probably died that year. __________ “You are a victim of perception. What Obama accomplished was to give the appearance of doing three popular domestic things simultaneously – Withdraw from Iraq to please his Democratic base,… Read more »

Mark Tokarski
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Mark Tokarski

“ Bush managed to overthrow one government at the cost of a trillion dollars and thousands of American lives (and made some progress in Somalia, but that is fleeting); Obama has gotten one, weakened another, and witnessed a third split in half, for a thousandth the cost, losing no American lives and probably not causing any more death than would have happened without Us intervention. “ Cult of the leader. You don’t know the death count in Libya, the current facts on the ground, nor what would have happened without the US Attack. Suggest you look into facts on ground… Read more »

Mark Tokarski
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Mark Tokarski

I should add too, that the US and Iran mirror each other in that each has a titular head of state, and real power silent in the background – there the Mullahs, here the bankers.

ThePolishWolf
Guest
ThePolishWolf

Mark, I'll save us a lot of long comments here – you're right, Obama is still willing to remove regimes with whom he disagrees. I incidentally also agree with this policy. There is no evidence that interstate violence kills more people or is more destructive than intrastate. Therefore, there is no reason to believe that the worship of sovereignty is going to prevent anyone dying. So then the question is, which of us is focused on surface phenomena? The one who is concerned with the methods used to enforce the change in regimes, the difference between which amounts to trillions… Read more »

Mark Tokarski
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Mark Tokarski

Really, our difference is far more basic – you impute not only the right to overthrow foreign regimes, but also high motives. I see merely the corruption of power, of the most vile people among us having it and using it to megalomanical ends. You know, like world history in a nutshell? And every world power before us, be it Brits or Spaniards, Dutch or Russians, French or the Nazis, acted only out of positive intent and left the world better than they found it. Imperialistic hubris is not a new phenomenon. Good point on Libya. Interesting that the list… Read more »

ThePolishWolf
Guest
ThePolishWolf

"Really, our difference is far more basic – you impute not only the right to overthrow foreign regimes, but also high motives." Do I, Mark? Have I imputed any motives at all? Motivation is impossible to prove. Results matter,and it is results that differ between this president and the last. Moreover, I don't speak about rights. A right is a legal term. There is no effective international legal structure, therefore it makes little sense to talk about having or not having rights. Even if the UN were somehow magically binding, it's rules are so absurd as to be a thoroughly… Read more »

ladybug
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ladybug

"…Obama is still willing to remove regimes with whom he disagrees. I incidentally also agree with this policy." Wow! That's quite an image of Obama as action figure, hero, and imperial ruler of the so-called Free World.

What is most perplexing is how a low-level totalitarian presenter and enforcer is featured at a blog purporting to be "progressive." What is the meaning of this? "When words mean nothing I'll be here singing on and on and on and on…" – from Worlds Away by From First To Last.

Rob Kailey
Guest

"Progressive" or compliant to your view of 'the left'? Progressive. You keep using that word. I don't think it means what you think it means.

Rob Kailey
Guest

Fine. What of those words means "progressive"?

Mark Tokarski
Guest
Mark Tokarski

Are you now Yoda? Or better yet going Socratic on us? Too funny.

ThePolishWolf
Guest
ThePolishWolf

That's a good question, ladybug – what is a truly progressive foreign policy? I'm not totalitarian; I believe in Democracy, and not only that, I believe it exists and is superior to theocracy, monarchy, or military dictatorship on more than a surface level, whereas Mark has no preference. Where we differ is that I am neither an isolationist, nor do I believe in the superiority of a multi-polar world. Is that anti-progressive? Lets think of it this way. More people are living under some kind of democratic government, with some kind of rights guarantees (according to freedom house, the percentage… Read more »

Mark Tokarski
Guest
Mark Tokarski

If you only had not mentioned my name! I have no preference? I see three forces at work in your reasoning: intellectualizing, or over thinking; obfuscation, or confusion (deliberate or not) of multiple phenomenon as cause and effect; and rationalization, or avoidance of true explanations in favor of emotionally satisfying ones. It would take quite a long word barf to unravel all of that, and lord knows I can do it, and like T-1000, you'll merely reassemble. So I'll ignore your take on world affairs and merely lay it out for you – a bite of reality. There is no… Read more »

ThePolishWolf
Guest
ThePolishWolf

"neither China or the USSR dared interfere." That's absurd, and you know it. China my not have intervened directly as they did in Korea, but it was clear that their involvement was deep. Moreover, in the Vietnam war, we were defending the status quo, hardly a threat to China. However, had we attempted to re-unite Vietnam, do you really think it would have gone differently than Korea? We were limited in East Asia. As to Indonesia, come on Mark – it's an nation of islands; the one great deficiency of the Soviet Union was its navy. But it's not as… Read more »

Mark Tokarski
Guest
Mark Tokarski

US ability to intervene in The Kashgari case is not limited. All the executive has to do is say three words. The Saudis breathe at our command. US is intent on overthrowing Chavez and is staved off by his popularity. 2002 was our doing. US troops threaten his western border from Colombia. China "intervened" in Korea because US threatened its border. It was defensive. North Korea exists because China did not want Us bases that close. That was the extent of the Chinese shadow. No Russian presence in Vietnam, so say Pentagon Papers. Chinese and Vietnamese not allied, Chinese shadow… Read more »

ThePolishWolf
Guest
ThePolishWolf

Alright Mark, you needn't reply, but I'm keeping track of your prophecies; your religion relies heavily on them. So far we have –

1. A quagmire of American troops in Libya
2. American intervention in Syria
3. Nuclear war with Iran this spring
4. A resurgence of right wing dictatorships in Latin America

I will hold you to these.

Nuclear war with Iran in the next nine months

Mark Tokarski
Guest
Mark Tokarski

I try to get out, but they keep pulling me back in! I thought maybe you'd had enough and wanted to offer you an out. I desire to allow you the last word, but "religion"? What are the precepts of this religion? I place faith in no supreme being. I have no illusions about knowing the future. My only governing insight is that those who desire power for its own sake usually attain it because those who don't want it don't take steps to achieve it. This is why we say that power corrupts, but it is far more basic… Read more »

ThePolishWolf
Guest
ThePolishWolf

Keep going on, Mark. You predicted an invasion of Libya. You predicted an air war against Syria, followed by a potential invasion of Syria. You predicted millions of deaths in Iran – that's not consistent with tactical nuclear weapons used against hardened targets. I've read enough of Galeano to get the point, but what I'm telling you is that this president and this system, one of US hegemony, is different. Your religion is to insist that it isn't, despite all evidence to the contrary. You want to believe the Obama is no less inept or immoral at foreign policy than… Read more »

Mark Tokarski
Guest
Mark Tokarski

Don't (!), Obamabat, talk to me about religion! Religion is belief without evidence. I was an Obama supporter, I hoped for change. Then came Emanuel, meaning that progressives could fuck off, Geithner, signalling to Wall Street that nothing had changed, and Gates at the War Department, signaling to the world that there had been no change in foreign policy. Gitmo is still there, all Bush crimes are forgiven, new countries are invaded, the tax cuts still stand, the health insurance cartel is placated and Social Security funding is under attack … Based on evidence, I have altered my stance, and… Read more »

Mark Tokarski
Guest
Mark Tokarski

Did you take down my reply? I typed that thing out on an IPad, not an easy task. Leaving your own remarks up and taking down a reply is … Kaleyesque.

ThePolishWolf
Guest
ThePolishWolf

Mark – I don't think I even have editing permissions on this site.

Don Pogreba
Admin

When you write things like "low-level totalitarian presenter and enforcer," you're not making terribly effective arguments. Just a thought.

Mark Tokarski
Guest
Mark Tokarski

Oops. Did not mean to delete my own comment,but you get the drift. 4.0 philosophy guy is doing his obfuscation thing. He calls it Socratic, and it does have a Yoda feel to it, but it only leads to mush. Avoid it!

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