Thursday, August 2, 2007

The Obama Doctrine?

Senator Barack Obama--on the heels of his tussle with Hillary Clinton over foreign policy matters--delivered his most extensive speech on coping with terrorism. You can read it here. It's long and a shrewd attempt at blending get-toughism with let's-talk multilateralism. Below are a few interesting excerpts with commentary:

After 9/11, our calling was to write a new chapter in the American story. To devise new strategies and build new alliances, to secure our homeland and safeguard our values, and to serve a just cause abroad. We were ready. Americans were united. Friends around the world stood shoulder to shoulder with us. We had the might and moral-suasion that was the legacy of generations of Americans. The tide of history seemed poised to turn, once again, toward hope. But then everything changed.

We did not finish the job against al Qaeda in Afghanistan. We did not develop new capabilities to defeat a new enemy, or launch a comprehensive strategy to dry up the terrorists base of support. We did not reaffirm our basic values, or secure our homeland.

Instead, we got a color-coded politics of fear. Patriotism as the possession of one political party. The diplomacy of refusing to talk to other countries. A rigid 20th century ideology that insisted that the 21st century's stateless terrorism could be defeated through the invasion and occupation of a state. A deliberate strategy to misrepresent 9/11 to sell a war against a country that had nothing to do with 9/11....

This is the standard Democratic critique of George W. Bush's foreign policy misadventures, and it's certainly well founded. But this is nothing that John Kerry did not say in 2004.

By refusing to end the war in Iraq, President Bush is giving the terrorists what they really want, and what the Congress voted to give them in 2002: a U.S. occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences.

It is time to turn the page. When I am President, we will wage the war that has to be won, with a comprehensive strategy with five elements: getting out of Iraq and on to the right battlefield in Afghanistan and Pakistan; developing the capabilities and partnerships we need to take out the terrorists and the world's most deadly weapons; engaging the world to dry up support for terror and extremism; restoring our values; and securing a more resilient homeland.

The first step must be getting off the wrong battlefield in Iraq, and taking the fight to the terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan....

Again, more from Kerry's playbook.

As President, I would make the hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. military aid to Pakistan conditional, and I would make our conditions clear: Pakistan must make substantial progress in closing down the training camps, evicting foreign fighters, and preventing the Taliban from using Pakistan as a staging area for attacks in Afghanistan.

I understand that President Musharraf has his own challenges. But let me make this clear. There are terrorists holed up in those mountains who murdered 3,000 Americans. They are plotting to strike again. It was a terrible mistake to fail to act when we had a chance to take out an al Qaeda leadership meeting in 2005. If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won't act, we will....

Now, this is new. Obama is threatening U.S. military attacks within Pakistan. This is the get-tough aspect I referenced above. He may be right. But Pakistan is a dilemma for the United States. In Pakistan, Washington supports a strongman who took power in a coup that overthrew a civilian and democratically elected government, and it depends upon Musharraf for many counterterrorism operations. Should the U.S. lean on him, his government could be toppled by a military coup more amenable than he is to Islamic fundamentalism. Meanwhile, the democracy movement in Pakistan has increased its strength lately. So ought the United States push in that direction? Pakistan ain't easy. (Ditto for Saudi Arabia.) A U.S. military attack there might take out real evildoers. It could also backfire.

To succeed, we must improve our civilian capacity. The finest military in the world is adapting to the challenges of the 21st century. But it cannot counter insurgent and terrorist threats without civilian counterparts who can carry out economic and political reconstruction missions – sometimes in dangerous places. As President, I will strengthen these civilian capacities, recruiting our best and brightest to take on this challenge. I will increase both the numbers and capabilities of our diplomats, development experts, and other civilians who can work alongside our military. We can't just say there is no military solution to these problems. We need to integrate all aspects of American might.

Elsewhere in the speech, Obama calls for improving U.S. intelligence capabilities. All of this is much more easier said than done. Can a president snap his (or her) fingers and produce a corps of diplomats and government experts who speak obscure languages and understand distant cultures? Of course not. Six years after 9/11, the U.S. government still wants for Arabic speakers. Obama's intentions are solid, and this goal is noble. It entails a tremendous amount of hard work.

One component of this integrated approach will be new Mobile Development Teams that bring together personnel from the State Department, the Pentagon, and USAID. These teams will work with civil society and local governments to make an immediate impact in peoples’ lives, and to turn the tide against extremism. Where people are most vulnerable, where the light of hope has grown dark, and where we are in a position to make a real difference in advancing security and opportunity – that is where these teams will go.....

A Peace Corps with guns? I'm being facetious. This is a grand aim. But, as mentioned above, creating such a force--one that can be effective and function in isolated areas of the globe--is a bigger dream than landing a man on the moon. Obama is outdoing JFK.

It's time to turn the page on the diplomacy of tough talk and no action. It's time to turn the page on Washington's conventional wisdom that agreement must be reached before you meet, that talking to other countries is some kind of reward, and that Presidents can only meet with people who will tell them what they want to hear.

President Kennedy said it best: "Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate." Only by knowing your adversary can you defeat them or drive wedges between them. As President, I will work with our friend and allies, but I won't outsource our diplomacy in Tehran to the Europeans, or our diplomacy in Pyongyang to the Chinese. I will do the careful preparation needed, and let these countries know where America stands. They will no longer have the excuse of American intransigence. They will have our terms: no support for terror and no nuclear weapons.

In other words: I'm not backing off my reply at that debate--not one inch. Obama vowed at the last Democratic face-off to meet with the leaders of Iran, North Korea, Syria, Cuba and Venezuela without considering any preconditions. Hillary Clinton and John Edwards quickly jumped on him for that. Now he's trying to turn what was portrayed as a gaffe into an asset. Maybe it will work. But my hunch is that when American voters think of "Washington's conventional wisdom," they're not saying to themselves, "Gee, it's that damn Washington groupthink that prevents the president from meeting with Kim Jong Il." Putting that aside, Obama does run into a pothole here. He justifiably slams the Bush administration's "intransigence." But in the next sentence, he presents a black-and-white ultimatum to Iran and others: you can have no nuclear weapons. To some, that will come across as intransigence, even if appropriate intransigence. In dealing with Iran, there is a bottom line: what if Tehran really, really wants nuclear weapons? What would Obama do then? This is a problem for all the Ds and Rs who are not willing to start another war.

A little more than a year after that bright September day [9/11], I was in the streets of Chicago again, this time speaking at a rally in opposition to war in Iraq. I did not oppose all wars, I said. I was a strong supporter of the war in Afghanistan. But I said I could not support "a dumb war, a rash war" in Iraq. I worried about a "U.S. occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences" in the heart of the Muslim world. I pleaded that we "Finish the fight with bin Ladin and al Qaeda."

The political winds were blowing in a different direction. The President was determined to go to war. There was just one obstacle: the U.S. Congress. Nine days after I spoke, that obstacle was removed. Congress rubber-stamped the rush to war, giving the President the broad and open-ended authority he uses to this day. With that vote, Congress became co-author of a catastrophic war. And we went off to fight on the wrong battlefield, with no appreciation of how many enemies we would create, and no plan for how to get out. Because of a war in Iraq that should never have been authorized and should never have been waged, we are now less safe than we were before 9/11.

Senator Obama, a question: was Hillary Clinton part of that rubber-stamping process? Is she partly to blame for the United States now being less safe than before 9/11? Obama is certainly right to note that he got the war right. He deserves much credit for this. But how far will that get him in the Democratic contest? The Democrats in 2004 had a choice between a candidate who had opposed the war (Howard Dean) and one who had voted to authorize it (Kerry), and they opted for the latter. Four years later, will Democratic voters assign more importance to the question of who was right in 2002?

Hillary Clinton has been rather wily on this front--slowly tacking to a position where she is now as against the war as Obama and Edwards (who also voted to authorize the war). Will harking back five years do much for Obama? Probably not. But if he wants to give it a shot, he'll have to be more explicit: She helped get us into this mess; I tried to keep us out. But if he's playing for the veep position, he cannot strike her too hard. And he is also boxed in by his politics-of-hope rhetoric that seeks to position him above the usual blast-your-opponent campaigning. Slamming Clinton on the war--though he has her on points--will not be easy.

Overall, Obama's speech was a good and clear articulation of a progressive and Democratic alternative to Bushian foreign policy. It does not create much space between him and either Clinton or Edwards. But it shows he can pull together a national security team that can devise as good a campaign policy as anyone else in the race. That's not bad for someone who wants to be president.

Posted by David Corn at August 2, 2007 07:54 AM


capt said...

Mr. David Corn,

I thought we needed a smarter president not another tough talker.

I think both HRC and Obama are GOP lite. If the race ends up being either of these mega-dollar corporatists we are completely screwed.

Think of the possibilities we have either Joe Lieberman’s protege or a DLC wannabe hawk ex-Walmart board member.

Jeeze, we are so fucked.


capt said...

Cheney admitted he was wrong about the “last throes” but I am reminded his comment was the explanation for the increased violence in Iraq (many moons ago). So we should revisit the original question - “Mr. Veep if we are making (so-called) progress in Iraq why the increase in violence?” and this time we know the violence is not because the insurgents are in the “last throes, if you will”.

I think a candidate should say they will fire anybody on their staff that ever answers an honest question with “I don’t recall” - people in the rank and file are not that memory challenged. We elect people that are suppose to be better than “I don’t recall” and they are trusted to hire the best people. What ever happened to the boss taking responsibility for everything?

Any question that cannot be answered with a yes or no should be answered in writing.

The slugs that wield power today seem to take credit for their fantasies while they claim ignorance of their or their subordinates actions on record. They offer excuses like “I’m just in charge I don’t actually do anything” or "my department employs thousands, I can't know what everybody is doing all the time"

"I don't recall" should require a memory test before the forgetful person can return to work. I fear a spate of memory loss indicates a medical concern.

If any person can't stand by their actions they shouldn't have a drivers license - let alone be in charge of part of the government.

"I don't recall" means the person is either incompetent or a liar.


capt said...

Russia stakes Arctic claim

MOSCOW yesterday fired the starting gun on the world's last colonial scramble when a manned submersible planted a Russian flag on the seabed at the North Pole.

The rust-proof titanium flag was planted on the seabed 4261 metres under the surface of the Arctic Ocean, the ITAR-Tass news agency quoted Vladimir Strugatsky, vice-president of Russia's polar exploration association, as saying on board a support vessel.

Russia wants to extend the territory in the Arctic it controls right up to the North Pole. The region is believed to hold vast untapped oil and gas reserves.

Soviet and US nuclear submarines have often travelled under the polar icecap, but no one had so far reached the seabed under the Pole, where depths exceed 4000 metres.

Expedition leaders said their main worry was to resurface at the ice hole where they dived as the mini-submersibles are not strong enough to break through the North Pole's desolate icecap.

Two Russian ships had spent more than a week ploughing their way through deep ice towards the North Pole. In a nation that, in Soviet times, pioneered Arctic exploration, the expedition has fired the public's imagination.

"Our main aim is to remind the whole world that Russia is a great polar and scientific research power," the veteran Arctic explorer Artur Chilingarov, who is also a deputy speaker of the lower house of parliament, had emailed from the expedition's research ship.

"You can understand that to touch the seabed at such depth is something like taking the first step on the moon."

But Mr Chilingarov also caused international concern after declaring that the Arctic and the North Pole were Russian.

Global warming has given renewed impetus to the race for control of the Arctic. Melting ice sheets could open up the fabled North-East Passage, the quest for which claimed countless sailors' lives, for the first time. The route, which could dramatically cut the length of a journey from Europe to Asia, could become navigable to commercial traffic within eight years.

There is another tantalising prospect. By some estimates, the Arctic holds a quarter of the world's untapped energy reserves - now more accessible than ever.

But some see the expedition as little more than a public relations stunt designed by the Kremlin to attract public support for Russia's long-held claim to a vast chunk of the Arctic - about half the size of Western Europe.

The Kremlin has long believed the territory belonged to Russia and it was marked as such on Soviet maps from the 1920s.

But in 1997 Russia ratified the United Nations Convention on the Laws of the Sea, which limits the five nations on the Arctic Ocean - Russia, Norway, Canada, the United States (through Alaska) and Denmark (through Greenland) - to 200 nautical miles of territorial waters.

Under the treaty, the five nations are allowed to file claims to a UN commission for greater territory if they can prove that their continental shelves are geographically linked to the Arctic seabed.

In 2001 Russia became the first country to file a claim, arguing that the underwater Lomonosov Ridge was not merely a chain of mountains in international waters but an extension of Siberia's continental shelf.

The commission asked for seismology reports and sonar measurements in support.

After a six-week expedition that ended in June, Russia's Institute of Ocean Geology maintained that it had a vital breakthrough - a claim that prompted Mr Chilingarov to set off on his patriotic mission.

The development has galvanised other Arctic nations into action. Denmark is to submit its own claim and Canada says it will build eight armed ships capable of cutting through the ice.

Reuters; Telegraph, London


*****end of clip*****

Oh my, this could become another mess.


O'Reilly said...

Corn loves campaigns, democratic campaigns for president with all the drama and political gamesmanship.

Nontheless, I agree duscussion of when and how to use the military could not be more important, nor the budget we provide for it.

capt said...

Some things are more important than ice cream or Oreo’s

capt said...

The three stooges

The president won't fire Alberto Gonzales. He needs him to protect White House secrets, including the scheming roles of Cheney and Rove.

Omertà (or a code of silence) has become the final bond holding the Bush administration together. Honesty is dishonorable; silence is manly; penitence is weakness. Loyalty trumps law. Protecting higher-ups is patriotism.

Stonewalling is idealism. Telling the truth is informing. Cooperation with investigators is cowardice; breaking the code is betrayal. Once the code is shattered, however, no one can be trusted and the entire edifice crumbles.

If Attorney General Alberto Gonzales were miraculously to tell the truth, or if he were to resign or be removed, the secret government of the past six years would be unlocked. So long as a Republican Congress rigorously engaged in enforcing no oversight was smugly complicit through its passive ignorance and abdication of constitutional responsibility, the White House was secure in enacting its theories of the imperial presidency. An executive bound only by his self-proclaimed fiat in his capacity as commander in chief became his own law in authorizing torture and warrantless domestic wiretapping and data mining. Following the notion of the unitary executive, in which the departments and agencies have no independent existence under the president, the White House has relentlessly politicized them. Callow political appointees dictate to scientists, censoring or altering their conclusions. Career staff professionals are forced to attend indoctrination sessions on the political strategies of the Republican Party in campaigns and elections. And U.S. attorneys, supposedly impartial prosecutors representing the Department of Justice in the states, are purged if they deviate in any way from the White House's political line.

Last week, for example, the Washington Post reported that William R. Steiger, director of the Office of Global Health Affairs in the Department of Health and Human Services, suppressed the 2006 "Call to Action on Global Health" report of U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona, which explained the connection of poverty to health and urged that attacking diseases become a major U.S. international commitment. Steiger, who has no credentials in the field, is the son of a former congressman who was Vice President Cheney's earliest patron, giving Cheney his first congressional job as a staff intern. At the White House's behest, Steiger acts as a micromanaging political commissar. His insistence on approving every single overseas appointee of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has left many of its posts empty. "Only 166 of the CDC's 304 overseas positions in 53 countries are filled," the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported in April. "At least 85 positions likely will remain unfilled until 2008." Such is the theory of the unitary executive in action.

Just this week, Jeffrey Toobin wrote in the New Yorker about the suspicion that fell on the U.S. attorney in Washington state, John McKay, who was fired in the wholesale purge because of his interest in devoting full resources to an investigation of the murder of an assistant U.S. attorney, Tom Wales, who had been a prominent local advocate of gun control. On July 31, the U.S. attorney in Roanoke, Va., John Brownlee, testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee that the night before a guilty verdict was delivered in his case against the drug manufacturing company that produced OxyContin, he received a call from a Justice Department official asking him to slow down his prosecution.


capt said...

The New Turn

Washington's Orwellian foreign policy maneuver


The consequences of this new turn in American policy are not too hard to predict. The Bush administration is setting off a regional arms race that is practically forcing the Iranians to go the nuclear route. After all, the U.S. is not about to invade North Korea, and everyone knows the reason why. If a nuclear arsenal is what it takes to stave off the American wolf and its Sunni allies, then that is the course the Iranians will take. They tried to negotiate, remember, and were rebuffed – and the latest negotiations are likely to be sabotaged by Vice President Dick Cheney, just like last time.

The antiwar movement is focused exclusively on Iraq, but that Rubicon was crossed fours years ago: now we approach the River Styx, the demarcation line between the world of the living and Hades, the land of the dead. As we make the approach, ghosts and demons weep and wail, warning us away – yet we keep on going, walking blindly ahead, until we're standing at the edge of oblivion.

It won't take much to push us over – and it's a long way down.


capt said...

Little Fish: Suddenly They're All for Impeachment...of Gonzales


Is impeaching Gonzales meant as a sop to placate angry progressive Democratic voters--a way of avoiding public wrath for not supporting impeachment of the president and/or vice president (impeachment activists in Rep. Inslee's district tell me that for several months now he hasn't been able to hold town meetings there without the majority of attendees yelling at him for opposing impeachment of the president)?

Or is it that impeaching Gonzales on the narrow issue of lying about NSA spying avoids the messy problem of having to admit that all too many Democrats have been complicit in or even supportive of most of Bush's and Cheney's crimes against the law and the Constitution?

Clearly, impeaching Bush or Cheney for lying about the war would be an embarrassment to many Democrats, like Sen. Hillary Clinton, for example, who supported those lies and supported the illegal invasion of Iraq.

Clearly, impeaching Bush for violation of the Geneva Conventions, for overturning habeas corpus, and for spying on Americans, would likewise embarrass some key Democrats.

So maybe this is all about finding a "safe" impeachment that these compromised Democrats can get behind.

At least, at this point, constituents of these members of Congress who would impeach Gonzales but not Bush or Cheney should be demanding, during the August recess, an explanation for why it's okay to impeach an administration lightweight, but not the leaders of this criminal administration.


*****end of clip*****

It’s never too late to do the right thing. We have to encourage every right action taken. No action being mutually exclusive to another.


David B. Benson said...


Badly run gov'mint boondoggle.

Get rid of it.

Gerald said...

I do not know if Obama will gain political points from his willingness to talk to foreign leaders but talk is cheap and murdering human beings damns the soul for all eternity.

Obama said that he would attack Pakistan to fetch out the terrorists. There seems to be some inconsistencies in his thinking. America must be a model of democracy for other nations to follow but Bush/Cheney have policies of death and destruction and we are hated more now than ever before.

I am an American but I have come to believe that we are an evil country. In the history of the universe we are the most evil country to have ever been born.

capt said...

"The right to revolt has sources deep in our history." -- William O. Douglas - (1898-1980), U. S. Supreme Court Justice Source: An Almanac of Liberty, 1954

"Here in America we are descended in blood and in spirit from revolutionists and rebels -- men and women who dare to dissent from accepted doctrine. As their heirs, we may never confuse honest dissent with disloyal subversion." -- Dwight D. Eisenhower - (1890-1969), 34th US President, WWII General Source: Speech, Columbia University, 1954

"Revolution is not something fixed in ideology, nor is it something fashioned to a particular decade. It is a perpetual process embedded in the human spirit." -- Abbie Hoffman (1936-1989) Activist

Over grown military establishments are under any form of government inauspicious to liberty, and are to be regarded as particularly hostile to republican liberty: George Washington

War grows out of the desire of the individual to gain advantage at the expense of his fellow man: Napoleon Hill


Thanks ICH Newsletter!

Gerald said...

Twelve Steps to a True American Democracy

Gerald said...

The free ride is over

Gerald said...

Praying for the end time

Gerald said...

War, chaos and Bush's faith
The first lesson of Iraq: Beware of those who play dice with God.

By Gary Kamiya

In the last few weeks, as the dreadful consequences of George W. Bush's "war on terror" continue to unfold in Pakistan, Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon and Palestine, a disturbing thought is rising to the surface: There may be no way to clean up the mess he has made.

Ironically, this is the very argument that Bush and his supporters are now using to justify keeping U.S. troops in Iraq indefinitely -- or at least onto the next president's watch. They insist that disaster looms, and that only the blood of American troops, infused into a slow-drip I.V., can keep Iraq and the entire region from dying. Bush understands that there only two things that can save his legacy: either victory, or a worst-case scenario in which all of his threats about the all-powerful Islamo-fascist menace come true. The frightening thing is that for Bush, there's no difference between the two outcomes. For this president is at once a true believer who sees himself leading a great war against evil, and a shrewd politician who wants to escape the blame for his Iraq disaster. Hence his refusal to cut America's losses -- and the very real possibility that he might roll the war dice yet again, this time in Iran. If the world blows up as a result, that will just prove that he was right about the evil jihadists.

Gerald said...

Published on Thursday, August 2, 2007 by
The Uncounted Casualties of War
by Amy Goodman

U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Jeffrey Lucey is not counted among the Iraq war dead. But he did die, when he came home. He committed suicide. His parents are suing the Department of Veterans Affairs and R. James Nicholson, the secretary of veterans affairs, for wrongful death, medical malpractice and other damages.

Kevin and Joyce Lucey saw their son’s rapid descent after he returned from combat in Iraq in June 2003. Kevin said: “Hallucinations started with the visual, the audio, tactile. He would talk about hearing camel spiders in his room at night, and he actually had a flashlight under his bed, which he could use to search for the camel spiders. His whole life was falling apart.”

Jeffrey told his family that he was ordered to execute two Iraqi prisoners of war. After he killed the two men, Jeffrey took their dog tags and wore them until Christmas Eve 2003, when he threw them at his sister, calling himself a murderer. A military investigation concluded the story is without merit, but Kevin Lucey says: “An agency investigating itself, I have a lot of problems with that. We fully believe our son.” Joyce Lucey added: “It really, to us, didn’t make a difference what caused Jeffrey’s PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder]. We know that he came back different, so something happened to him over there.”

Jeffrey got worse, secluding himself in his room, watching TV and drinking heavily. Jeffrey was reluctant to seek care, fearing the stigma that he felt accompanied mental-health treatment. Finally, on May 28, 2004, the Luceys had Jeffrey involuntarily committed. The Veterans Affairs hospital released him after three days.

On June 5, 2004, Jeffrey had deteriorated significantly. His sisters and grandfather brought him back to the VA. Joyce said the VA “decided that he wasn’t saying what he needed to say to get involuntarily committed. Later we were to find out that they never called a psychiatrist or anybody that could have evaluated him. And they have this all on the record. It said that the grandfather was pleading for his grandson to be admitted.”

The Luceys later learned from staff notes that Jeffrey talked about three ways to commit suicide. His father explained: “He told them that he would suffocate himself, he would overdose or he would hang himself. He also shared with the psychiatrist how he had bought a hose. And, of course, on June 5, when we tried to admit him the second time and the VA declined, Joyce and I went through the house, we took everything that he could hurt himself with, but we never thought of a hose.”

Turned back by the Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Jeffrey spent his last two weeks alive at home. Kevin Lucey describes the night before his son killed himself: “It was about 11:30 at night, and I was exhausted, Jeff was exhausted. He asked me if he would be able to sit in my lap. And so for 45 minutes we rocked in silence, and the therapist told us after Jeff died that that was no doubt his last place of refuge, his last safe harbor that he felt that he could go to.”

The next evening, after returning home from work, Kevin raced inside: “I went to his bedroom, and the one thing I noted was that his dog tags were laying on his bed.” He made his way to the cellar, where he found his son Jeffrey dead, a hose double-looped around his neck.

Three years later, his parents have filed suit. They are not alone. A separate class-action suit was filed by Veterans for Common Sense and Veterans United for Truth on behalf of hundreds of thousands of veterans who have been denied medical benefits.

Jeffrey Lucey’s suicide note begins, “Dear Mom and Dad, I cannot express my apologies in words for the pain I have caused you but I beg for your forgiveness. I want you to know that I loved you both and still do but the pain of life was too much for me to deal with.”

Supporting the troops means taking care of them when they return home.

Gerald said...

Dems Complicit in Bush's Power Grab

capt said...

New Thread