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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

34 Comments

  • 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.

  • 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.

    • 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 that realm. I'm not saying, however, that all liberals share that consistency, because I'm sure some of them accept Obama doing exactly what they would criticize Bush for.

      • 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?

  • 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 is essentially lost? That the current executive tried until the very end to maintain troops in Iraq beyond December, only deciding that they would withdraw when the Iraqis, with huge popular support not reported here, insisted that Americans be subject to Iraqi law for crimes committed? That the Syrian uprising is being fueled by outside weapons in huge quantities, and is wildly misreported here?

    Or most important, that the current executive is about to launch a monstrous attack on Iran, risking world-wide conflict, sure to kill millions, and unprovoked? Remember why they hanged at Nuremberg – aggressive war. Iran has done nothing, threatens no one, but committed the unforgivable crime: Ignoring the Washington Consensus, sometimes called neoliberalism, indistinguishable from neoconservativism. Iran also threatens the petrodollar, the only thing holding up our currency.

    And you've apparently forgotten the list of seven countries the Bush executive wanted to topple, probably before 9/11, but enabled after: Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Iran. The current executive carries forward as if there had been no election.

    And surely, if you simply remove the titular head of state and observe events without cult of the leader, you'll see that we march on as if elections did not affect foreign policy – surely!

    I clearly remember Iraq policy, 1990 to 2003, marching forward as if there had been no elections. You are an apologist, nothing more, nothing less.

    • 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 also embroiled in internal violence. So, even if the violence continues and no government coalesces, we're at a neutral position from a humanitarian perspective, and we have still gotten rid of Gaddafi, a long term goal.

      "That they did not "cut losses" in Egypt, but kept the regime behind Mubarak in power, a change of face only?"

      That's what cutting losses means, Mark. Mubarak was our ally, he had kept peace with Israel and thus saved thousands of Egyptian and Israeli lives (and if we compare him to your preference, Nasser, a fair number of Yemenis as well). But, he could no longer retain power. So, rather than backing him and having the country descend into a bloodbath and the peace with Israel collapse, we let Mubarak go and and see what sort of deal a new leader can negotiate with the people (recently it seems like perhaps the Egyptian army will also fall out of favor with the US, however, so we'll see where that goes).

      "That the war in AfPak is essentially lost? '

      You have a very American view of winning and losing, Mark. From every objective standard, Afghanistan has made great strides in human rights and material conditions since 2001. 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.

    • "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 Iraqi government requested it, thereby re-affirming their legitimacy and status as THE national government of Iraq.

      "That the Syrian uprising is being fueled by outside weapons"

      What's your point? Mine was that the US has noted that Syria isn't a conflict susceptible to foreign intervention, at least not currently. Whatever the situation there, it will weaken the Assad regime and thus be generally beneficial to the US. That the weapons originate from outside is no surprise; the Syrian army is also being supplied with 'outside' weapons, as are most armies. Moreover, I'd like to see Assad complain about 'outside weapons' coming into his country to the UN, just so I could see the Lebanese delegation literally laugh him out of the room.

    • 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 on Iran. I do not believe, however, that that is currently likely.

      "Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Iran."

      The current executive carries on because the removal of those regimes is most certainly in our national interest (except for Lebanon, I would say) – they are undemocratic and unfriendly. Every country tries to influence the governments of its neighbors. It is the manner in which we attempt to do so that makes such a grave difference. 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.

      So, remove the titular head of state and observe events without cult of leader, and we have thousands more American soldiers coming home safe to their families and an additional trillion dollars in our pockets. That's a damn good deal.

  • 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 on, no amount of spin will bring us peace or prosperity. Call it neoliberal, neocon, or whatever, continuing the guns AND butter routine will bring us to our knees.

  • 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 teach international relations or something, as you put on a great air of expertise. But in the end all you have done is use different words to describe the same phenomena, now praising the leader rather than criticizing him. Your reason for using different words is a different lens by which you view affairs, that being an election here in the home of the brave. We must matter, somehow, we must be a democratic regime here. Elections matter, dammit!

    I'll just talk aout 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.

    Iraq had long been an annoyance, sitting atop huge undeveloped resources, black dog on a manger, playing the USSR off the US. The Soviets contract, there is a vacuum. Within two years, the US launches a brutal attack directly targeting the civilian infrastructure. But the country is strong and possesses chemical weapons. So the decision is made to delay a major land invasion, to use the UN to disarm them, and to soften them by starving then of food, depriving them of necessary supplies to rebuild water plants and electrical grids. The natural victims if such a policy, kids, die by the hundreds of thousands. Saddam Hussein, a foolish man, decides that disarmament is the wise course.

    Once they are [reasonably] assured that the weapons are gone, the US attacks. Oh yeah, and there were three different titular heads of state while this policy was carried out. Also, the OJ trial went on, Forrest Gump won best picture, all of no consequence.

    I could go on. All the signs – troop and hardware movements, ramping up of agitprop, indicate an attack on Iran – the executive knows that by depriving Iran of its European market that the oil merely goes somewhere else, as that market is tight. But in so doing, Iranian oil might be traded in non-dollar currencies. Oil s the only thing that keeps the dollar afloat. Invasions are never launched for one reason only, but the petrodollar is huge. Hussein traded In Euros, as did Qaddafi. Both are dead now, both murdered.

    This could all be designed merely to intimidate Iran, to achieve corporate objectives by threat of violence rather than the real thing. Iran is well-armed. Your comments about a land invasion are off-target, as that would be too costly to us. I'm thinking nukes, as our war planners are fucking madmen. Don't rule it out. Obama is not involved in any of this. He's a ribbon cutter. If there is a difference in leadership right now versus 2008, it is that Obama is smart enough to know this, while Bush really imagined hisself the decider.

    War on the horizon? My crystal ball is cloudy, but the signs are all there for a spring attack. The War Department appears to want this one, the American media are ramping up agitprop. Your best sources of information are foreign outlets, Al Jazeera and RT are pretty good at following real news.

    But my only point is that domestic politics barely affects domestic policy, much less foreign policy. All of that is a mental construct on your end, nothing more.

    And please, get it out of your mind that our war planners care about human beings, human rights or democracy. Those are just words they use to keep you pacified. What they care about is stability – and that word is shorthand for American corporations having access to the world's resources without hindrance by other forces. That is where foreign policy originates – corporate board rooms.

    Enuf.

  • "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 last used a full scale, regime-change invasion.

    Now, right now the two narratives seem equally possible, but consider them in this context:

    1. H. W. was clearly a fan of quick but massive invasions with limited objectives; he had ordered one in Panama and served under Reagan, who ordered the invasion of Grenada. Iraq was of a larger scale, but the guiding principles were the same – set limited objectives, use overwhelming force, limit risk to American soldier, and get out of the country as quickly as possible. The invasion of Iraq followed the same pattern, on a large scale – accomplishing a set goal with minimal risk and no long-term entanglement.
    2. Clinton dealt with Iraq the same we he dealt with Serbia – air strikes and sanctions. The combination was enough to force Milosevic out of power, and it served to keep Iraq weak without any need to put forces on the ground to fill the power vacuum that would be left by Saddam. Again, a new president, a new dogma about the use of force, one that was followed in Iraq and elsewhere.
    3. Finally, W. The second Bush had already launched one major invasion when he went after Iraq. It had, at the time, seemed successful, even though the initial conditions (lack of a coast or reliable bordering allies) seemed worse. Bush also had an increased tolerance for lost American lives and extended warfare. Therefore, an American invasion of Iraq didn't seem so bad.

    So, far from one coherent policy, we have administrations, all following three different policies toward Iraq, all distinguishable as their favored policies because they were actions they had taken before in different circumstances. Therefore, even ignoring the last four years, your analysis of the previous thirteen is fatally flawed.

    "Or most important, that the current executive is about to launch a monstrous attack on Iran"
    "War on the horizon? My crystal ball is cloudy"

    Backed down pretty quickly on that one, didn't you?

    However, you did inspire me to begin reading Al Jazeera again . The headlines are not much different than BBC, but there are some interesting articles. I don't read Arabic though, so maybe their coverage is much different in their native language. The article they highlighted seemed to back my position more than yours, though:

    "So here's a theory: Netanyahu and his camp followers here do not really want a war now. They just want it understood that they can dictate whether there is one or not. And when. In other words, they want to show who is boss (it's not like we don't know).

    As for Obama, he may just be playing along with Netanyahu and AIPAC because he understands their strategy. Perhaps he knows that it isn't war they want but the illusion of control.

    Only, it's not an illusion. And it certainly won't be if Netanyahu gets the president he wants in November – a Republican who will fight the war Netanyahu wants but isn't eager to fight himself. Surely Mitt or Rick or Newt will do it for him."

    Finally, one point about human rights – even if they are not the true motivation behind an action, they are nonetheless appropriate measures for measuring the results of one.

    On an unrelated note, have you seen the film 'Kagemusha', by Akira Kurasowa? I think you would enjoy it quite a bit; it's set in the Takeda clan immediately prior to the Tokugawa shogunate, and it's all about deception and the difference between the visible head of state and the true power in it; right up your alley, I should think!

  • 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 over-simplify to the point of useless commentary. You have to understand the underpinnings of the revolt, the assets that Syria possesses, and the positioning of American power around it to grasp this situation. As with Libya, though by different means, it's about strategic resources.
    __________
    …and we have still gotten rid of Gaddafi, a long term goal.

    False. They were fine with him till he got off the petrodollar and attempted to shake down oil companies.
    __________
    Mubarak was our ally…, he had kept peace with Israel …and thus saved thousands of lives …(?)Nasser(?)But, he could no longer retain power….we let Mubarak go and and see what sort of deal a new leader can negotiate WITH THE PEOPLE (recently it seems like perhaps the Egyptian army will also fall out of favor with the US …

    Secured southern border allows Israel to invade Lebanon. Thousands dead. Dead Palestinians, Gaza a Gitmo, Egypt assists. West Bank stolen. Some people matter to you, others not.
    __________
    “From every objective standard, Afghanistan has made great strides in human rights and material conditions since 2001. “

    Put up your “objective standards.” I'll be I can offer some better ones.
    __________

  • “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, 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.”

    Cult of the leader. You attribute good events to your leader, bad events to one you don't worship. Domestic politics does not interfere with foreign policy.
    __________
    “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 Iraqi government requested it, thereby re-affirming their legitimacy and status as THE national government of Iraq.”

    Rewriting of facts on the ground. Executive only decided to withdraw when Iraqis made it clear that crimes would be punished. And, they only withdrew to perimeter. Fact is that war was lost too, though we have the power to crush the place if things get out of hand. If government is compliant, we'll hold the gun on them without firing it.
    ___________
    “Syria isn't a conflict susceptible to foreign intervention, at least not currently. Whatever the situation there, it will weaken the Assad regime and thus be generally beneficial to the US. That the weapons originate from outside is no surprise”

    From where? Where are the weapons coming from? Cui bono?
    ____________
    “The Syrian army is also being supplied with 'outside' weapons, as are most armies. Moreover, I'd like to see Assad complain about 'outside weapons' coming into his country to the UN, just so I could see the Lebanese delegation literally laugh him out of the room.”

    You miss the point. The uprising is really an outside-sponsored coup, badly misreported by American “news”. I regularly hear from people on my own little blog who say that the Western media is distorting that situation to US advantage.
    ____________
    Iran already covered. I pray you're right, but note that the idea that we have the right to attack them is absurd and dangerous. Since I am aware of Godwin's law, I'll stop there.
    ____________
    Your discussion of differences between HW, BC and GW shallow, and inductive, claiming that each president determined a new policy without eyes on big picture. Any damn fool can write such stuff.
    ____________
    "Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Iran." … you’re hooked on surface phenomenon, the fact that the War Department does not use the same tactic in each country, and attributing the difference to the new President. Too easy, un-thoughtful. And, of course, typical American hubris, you’re only aware of American lives. Others don’t matter.
    ____________

  • “ 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 via foreign news sources of your own choosing.
    ____________
    “So, remove the titular head of state and observe events without cult of leader, and we have thousands more American soldiers coming home safe to their families and an additional trillion dollars in our pockets. That's a damn good deal.”

    Soldiers are not coming home, dude. They are being re-stationed. I suspect that was the reason for “killing” OBL – that troops were needed elsewhere.
    ____________

    “As for Obama, he may just be playing along with Netanyahu and AIPAC because he understands their strategy. Perhaps he knows that it isn't war they want but the illusion of control. “

    Cult of the leader.
    ____________
    “Only, it's not an illusion. And it certainly won't be if Netanyahu gets the president he wants in November – a Republican who will fight the war Netanyahu wants but isn't eager to fight quitehimself. Surely Mitt or Rick or Newt will do it for him.”

    Too much emphasis on domestic politics, your fatal flaw. Even if Obama loses, someone else will become titular head. Money-financed system assures that whoever it is will be a defused bomb, like Obama.
    ____________
    “Finally, one point about human rights – even if they are not the true motivation behind an action, they are nonetheless appropriate measures for measuring the results of one. “

    Agreed. Please do so using on-the-ground-non-American news sources. Start with Falluja. That was a crime of amazing proportions. Oh, wait. Different titular head of state. Obama would have crushed Falluja by sheer cleverness.
    ___________
    “On an unrelated note, have you seen the film 'Kagemusha', by Akira Kurasowa? I think you would enjoy it quite a bit; it's set in the Takeda clan immediately prior to the Tokugawa shogunate, and it's all about deception and the difference between the visible head of state and the true power in it; right up your alley, I should think!”

    Not my avenue of inquiry. Films are useful – I think that Scorcese, though I could have the wrong guy, referred to them as a way to "smuggle truth" to the American people, bypassing the normal censors. [retraction: I'll run it down sounds interesting.]

    The phenomenon of the fake leader is not unique here – it is less obvious in parliamentary countries, as voting in places like Canada or France, while surely imperfect, can impact policy. But our form of government, with privately financed elections and only “two” parties, assures that whoever gets elected is predetermined to be safe.

    Our constitutions is really obsolete, with too small a House, directly elected president, unrepresentative Senate, and a Supreme Court with King-like powers. I would not amend it. I would scrap it.

  • 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.

  • 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 of dollars and the lives of thousands of Americans and tens of thousands of civilians, or the one who is concerned with the violation of sovereignty, a concept invented with the Treaty of Westphalia and never respected since? That is the root of our disagreement.

    Now to clear up a few miscellaneous points –

    If the bombing of Libya was based on its threat to petrodollar, based on his proposal that African resources such as oil be sold in Gold Dinars, a plan he revealed, as far as I can tell, in 2009. Why, then, was Libya on the list of countries to overthrow as early as 2003? Why did the US and Europe continue to sell military equipment to Libya after it was clear Libya threatened the system of selling oil in dollars?

    I agree that it is absurd and dangerous to consider attacking Iran, but the idea of having a 'right' to do so is a little silly. It's like saying I've no right to watch copyrighted material on the internet. The technical illegality of an action means little in the absence of anything approaching consistent enforcement.

    As to American sources – I rarely use American news, unless you count watching the Daily Show. I read the BBC as a general rule, Publico to practice my Portuguese. I used to read Al Jazeera and ought to start again. Speaking of Al Jazeera, the last part of my post, regarding AIPAC and Netanyahu and expressing fear that a Republican will be elected next? That came from a column in Al Jazeera English. I thought I made it clear I was quoting.

    • 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 was Post9/11, yet after that Bushies made nice with Qaddafi, lifting sanctions and welcoming him back to the world fold. Even though the Libyans did not do Lockerbee, they agreed to pay reparations, and then turned on the oil companies operating there an put the squeeze on. More to know, as always. Documents won't be released for fifty years. In the meantime, we have to use our intelligence and ignore official truth.

      I lost faith in BBC after Blair shook them down, and even the Guardian is useless these days. It's very difficult to piece events together from varied sources and have an idea of what is really happening. But it is our job as citizens never to trust our leadership and always to hold them to account. That's my biggest problem with Democrats – that blind trust you demonstrate.

      Your fallback position on Iran is amoral and convenient. I find that disturbing.

      And it's nice that you brought yourself around to say "tens of thousands" of civilians died. Try hundreds, or go back to NSA of 1947 and use the word "millions." this country has been a scourge on the planet since the end of the war. The reason? There was no one to stop us. Power corrupted us absolutely.

      [Footnote: Waltier Lippmann offered up moral justification for fake democracy – that the voters are uneducated, emotional and mercurial, and cannot be trusted and should not be consulted on policy matters. He merely gave voice to what was known, and since the beginning of the universal franchise, elections have been more for show than substance.]

      • "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 useless legal framework. They do not have any provision for preventing Pol Pot from killing his own people, but it was technically illegal for any nation to interfere. It's absurd.

        This doesn't mean my position is amoral; invading or bombing Iran, barring a major change in circumstances, would certainly be immoral. Invading Iraq was absolutely immoral. But whether it was legal, or we had a right to it, is irrelevant.

        Every country makes efforts to change the policies of its neighbors, some more aggressively than others; this includes many of the regimes most admired by progressives, such as Venezuela or Cuba in its heyday. Interestingly, the assumption by you and ladybug that they oughtn't implies that governments in all cases know what's best for their people and shouldn't be interfered with.

        Legalism is a completely absurd basis for judging a foreign policy. Motivation is impossible to measure, and thus is also a poor basis. That leaves us with judging the outcomes. Admittedly, this is tricky as well, because it involves determining if the outcome that occurred is better than what would have happened with the alternatives. It's hard enough to determine the situation on the ground; there's clearly no certainty in determining what would have happened under different circumstances. It's totally possible, then, for you and I to disagree on whether intervening in Libya was the best option. I don't think peace was possible, judging both from Gaddafi's previous behavior and the roughly analogous situation in Syria. However, it's not impossible that the violence resulting from the lengthening of the war was worse than would have happened if Gaddafi had retaken power. So, we can can come to opposite conclusions based on our beliefs about what is and what would have been. With a fiasco like Iraq, however, there can be little discussion on either a moral or a practical basis. That's a pretty big contrast, enough for me to think Obama is the better option.

  • "…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.

    • 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 of people living in free countries has nearly tripled since 1975). Literacy and lifespans are up, infant mortality, child labor, violent deaths are all down. As the US gained more power relative to the USSR, these trends have accelerated. The age of globalization, allowed by a unipolar system, has greatly narrowed, not widened, the gap between th rich countries and the rest. It therefore seems to me that the continuation of a unipolar system is more progressive than its replacement by a multi-polar system. Can it last forever? I doubt it. However, the longer the unipolar system persists, the more likely the poles that join ours will be democratic and liberal.

      • 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 thrust for democratic governance in US foreign policy. Democracy is only allowed when it does not interfere with our objectives. Far more often the case we prefer tyrants, and because we have a compliant media, we ignore them*. Our attention is only focused on tyrants who interfere with our objectives. Thus we now focus on Syria (authoritarian) and Iran (at least as fake-democratic as we are).

        The game is unfettered access to resources by the corporations and concentrated wealth that runs our government behind the scenes (our mullahs), or the MIC as Ike warned us about as he slithered out of office (but not before leaving office!) It's not new. The Middle East, however, is the most stupendous prize in human history – vast quantities of petroleum, and unfortunate people living atop them, Churchill's black dog on a manger. They have to allow us unfettered access, or we remove them. This has been the game since the early twentieth century, World War I and the demise of the Ottomans.

        Your "bipolar" world was largely an illusion – the Soviets (not a benign force) had some ability to rein us in, but notice how we attacked Vietnam right under China's nose, and neither China or the USSR dared interfere. The same as a million people were quietly dispatched in Indonesia at the same time – supposedly a "communist" movement, but the big daddy of the communists unable to help them. But the Soviets, a much smaller force than we imagined, did cast a shadow over the Middle East, and to a degree that allowed for some peace in the region during the period we call the Cold War**. (The 1979 Iranian breakaway led to the Iraqi attack on Iran and a devastating war, with us arming both sides – war for its own sake – I don't ignore that horrible conflict.)

        1989 the Soviet shadow retracts, the US can attack without meaningful resistance. 1991, the US attacks, and has been working hard since that time to bring down every government in the area. We are not after democracy, do not care about humans or human rights. It's The Prize.
        ________
        *Malaysia released a political prisoner over the weekend, a poor schmuck who had Twittered something disrespectful about Allah. He's headed back to Saudi Arabia now, where he will be beheaded. Mum's the word here, even though a mere word from The One would save his life. Why does a ruthless tyrannical government like S.A. get a pass in your unipolar democratic world?
        *** Again, the Soviets were not benign, but their military power created a stalemate in that part of the world.

        • "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 if the Soviet Union blunted our aggressive tendencies, or us theirs. For each, the existence of the other produced a profound paranoia, which, as paranoia is wont to do, sharpened the violence and ruthlessness inherent geopolitics. How many elected leaders were killed or overthrown because they leaned left? Do you think Chavez could have lived this long during the cold war? Morales, Correa? The would have gone to join Allenda, Lumumba, and Mossadegh. The atrocities tolerated during the cold war, stemming from the bipolar paranoia, were far worse than those since.

          The emergence of US hegemony, then, has enhanced human rights in at least two ways unrelated to our intent to spread Democracy. First, we can tolerate Democracy to a much greater extent when those nations who oppose us are not in any danger of directly supporting our enemies. Chavez can rail about us all day long, but he'll still sell us oil. Since the end of the Cold War, the US has focused on overthrowing totalitarian governments as opposed to democratic ones. Why? It's far more practical, for one thing, and better PR.

          The second reason is that the allure of revolutionary socialism has been near destroyed, which is frankly the best thing that could have happened for socialism. The states Chavez and Lula built will serve their people better, and hopefully stand longer, than those founded by violent revolution. Democratically initiated socialism is spreading beyond Europe, and now that the US is willing to tolerate, provides an alternative to the Washington consensus that doesn't require a repressive government to uphold. Democratic Islamism, in countries where mainstream Islam is an overwhelming majority religion (for countries like Syria and Egypt, this is more difficult to imagine) could do the same thing if the US were to accept it, though it is my personal hope that secular socialism will be more attractive to those voters.

          This, Mark, is why I support the unipolar system for as long as it can last, and fervently hope that it will last long enough for Brazil and India to be poles equal to Russia and China.

          "*Malaysia released a political prisoner over the weekend, a poor schmuck who had Twittered something disrespectful about Allah. He's headed back to Saudi Arabia now, where he will be beheaded. Mum's the word here, even though a mere word from The One would save his life. Why does a ruthless tyrannical government like S.A. get a pass in your unipolar democratic world?"

          Again, I wouldn't know that the media had ignored this. It was all over BBC. America's ability to intervene in situations like this is limited, especially if we can't trust that what we offer for it will be kept a secret. Hopefully it happens that this guy gets a reprieve, and hopefully we never know why. If we do ask for him to be pardoned, and it comes out that we did so, our ability to do so again will be compromised. Similar things have happened in Pakistan, you'll recall. I'm all for replacing the Saudi government with something less brutal, but how do we do that when the best organized groups promoting this in the country would like it to engage in a more, not less, strict in its interpretation of Sharia?

          • 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 did not prevent saturation bombing of North Vietnam or protect Laos

            Indonesian example only used to show no Russian influence in that part of world. Your answer affirms.

            Paranoia during Cold War in the US was agitprop. Fear of Soviets did not reach high into government. CIA predicted Soviet collapse in 1970's but US needed an official enemy and so made it so. "Terrorism" now and "communism" then served same purpose – as a cover for real reasons for US aggression.

            Democracy is not tolerated in places where US is not liked -most of the world. A fake or Vichy democracy is tolerated. Free governments in such places as Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Somalia, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia etc. would be anti-US and control strategic resources. So the battle is to prevent democracy. You have it all backward. There are indeed democratic forces in Latin America – unipolar or bipolar did not affect that region as there was no Soviet presence there. That siuation is unchanged, those governments will be brought down. New Pinochet's are in the wing.

            In other words, you misread events to a high degree, and though you have backed off some, still regard the US as a force for good, at this point more as unintended consequence. I trust you will back off there too as events unfold and the old spin seems inappropriate. I hope, anyway.

            Read Stripping Bare The Body – Mark Danner's on-the-ground journalism about Haiti and Bosnia. Clinton, US, don 't come off well. And Kosovo, Milosevich – you've misread that as well. Milosevich was demonized by agitprop. Kosovo served as prop for major new base, Bondsteel. That was real intent, and Serbs did not want either US corporate or military presence. So we bombed 'em. Like usual.

            I think we're done here, however. Till we meet again.

            • 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

              • 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 – the mantle of power is irresistible, and like the ring in the trilogy, it affects people deeply, but only the most craven among us achieve it because you have to fight really dirty and have a kill instinct.

                If you need to put human faces on it, think of Cheney and Rove, as they are handy and visible. I could say they are "evil", but they are only Machiavellian – they see ends and use whatever means available to achieve them. They understand how to manage public opinion, and they know how to use power to control people at high levels. Anyone who crosses them is severely punished. Yes, this includes murder. To overlook an offense, to fail to punish somene who crosses them is seen as a demonstration of weakness. In the Great Game, you Never, ever display weakness. It's an invitation to be attacked. This was Saddam's mistake. He disarmed his country. He is one of the great fools of all time.

                Rove claimed that we would have a "permanent Republican majority," and what I did not realize was that he meant that Democrats would be part of it. Obama is a face, and is merely a continuation of the Bush regime. We are sorely in need of regime change in this country, but it's not in the tea leaves right now with our one party monopoly on power.

                I do not know the future. I try to understand the present. If we do not currently have quagmire in Libya, it will do until quagmire gets here That operation was run by the traditional imperialist powers, and I do 't know how they will manage it except that much more violence lay ahead. They intend to replace Qaddafi with Qaddafi 2, but I don't know his name.

                The American intervention in Syria is going on before your eyes as well. Are you blind? We have also enlisted "Al Qaeda" to help – that is not a formal structure _ just a ragtag group of highly trained operatives that we use for various covert operations. They came about in the 1980's ("Mujahadeen") and are extremely useful as agents provocateur. This is the first time we've openly allied with him. (Whoever did in 9/11 have long departed the scene.) The name "Al Qaeda" was an American invention – in the wake of the first World Trade Center attack, prosecutors wanted to invoke RICO, but there has to be an organizational structure in place for that statute to have effect, so we invented one and gave it that name.

                Iran is surrounded and threatened by all f the Western powers, but is well-armed with conventional weapons and a population willing to fight to the death. So conventional war is going to be costly – to us, and Americans may not have the stomach for a long war with many casualties. Economic strangulation is being attempted but China, Greece, Spain and Russia are not cooperating. That leaves one option – WMD's. I know you are thinking mushroom cloud, but our tactical nuclear arsenal is far more sophisticated. Keep in mind that this will be a Nuremburg offense, and that Obama and company will be worthy of hanging with feet a-twitching their final twitches. This is mass murder. Just so you know which side you are on.

                And Democracy's flowering in Latin America, but the US cannot allow it to stand. That's been the case for two centuries. Do you even read history? You might start with Galeano's Open Veins.

                • 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 Bush, so you have to believe that he is going to kill hundreds of thousands of people in the next seven months, that he is going to overthrow the Democracy that is flourishing in Latin America, that somehow we are going to end up involved in Syria and Lebanon, because that's what our policy was in the cold war, that's what our policy was under Bush. Don't you understand that if these things don't happen, your entire belief system is turned on its head? That's why I'm tracking your prophecies, Mark, and I'm not letting you wiggle out of them.

                • 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 no longer believe in Obama. You are the man of faith, while I alter my views as changing evidence dictates.

                  Let's be honest about my "predictions", which my "religion" holds must come true:

                  1. A quagmire of American troops in Libya
                  Well under way, but nowhere did I mention American troops. You only need look for it, you will find it.

                  2. American intervention in Syria
                  Before your eyes, grasshopper. Our old buddy, Al Qaeda, is aboard now. It's about Iran, of course, and in the bigger picture, about Shiite alliances. It's the same "intervention" that's been going on since Nasser threatened Washington with Arab unity. Nothing has really changed since then.

                  3. Nuclear war with Iran this spring
                  Don't know, not privy, but signs point towards an attack. Tactical nukes are a necessity. American public will not embrace a major land war costing troops, so that it has to be done from the sky with shock and awe. Iraq is lost, Afghanistan is lost, the US has military power but no moral influence … the only option is violence. Scary shit.

                  4. A resurgence of right wing dictatorships in Latin America .
                  The breakaway from the US is remarkable. CELAC replaces the old front group. Our dispute is about whether the US ever supported democracy down there. Since you only glimpsed at Galeano, I presume that you don't want to know more than you do. Will the new independence stand? I hope so, but not if our government can help it.

              • 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.

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

  • 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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