Wednesday, August 01, 2007

'bama brings it

A major foreign policy speech of his today---full text here.

--Tough talk on Pakistan.
--Tough talk against Congress (i.e. Clinton)
--Tough talk on the failure of the intelligence apparatus and Homeland Security.
--Promises to close Guantanamo, get rid of the Military Tribunals, re-instate the Army Code and Geneva Conventions. And this line:
Our Constitution works. We will again set an example for the world that the law is not subject to the whims of stubborn rulers, and that justice is not arbitrary.
--Calls for civilian action teams made up of State, Pentagon, and Reconstruction (Sounds as lot like Dept. of Failed States)
--Good stuff on locking down nuclear material (with Hagel and Lugar)
--And this interesting "audacious" proposal:
As President, I will create a Shared Security Partnership Program to forge an international intelligence and law enforcement infrastructure to take down terrorist networks from the remote islands of Indonesia, to the sprawling cities of Africa. This program will provide $5 billion over three years for counter-terrorism cooperation with countries around the world, including information sharing, funding for training, operations, border security, anti-corruption programs, technology, and targeting terrorist financing. And this effort will focus on helping our partners succeed without repressive tactics, because brutality breeds terror, it does not defeat it.
He puts a great deal of emphasis on the openness of information transfer and informing the local citizenry, using bottom-up, sense and respond mechanisms, as opposed to the top-down bureaucratic mess that is the Bush administration's (non)response in disaster situations (e.g. post-Saddam Iraq, Katrina).

If he gets his legs at delivering this message--the language in parts is deeply moving--with a presence of solidity and a voice of power that rings true to the power inherent in the words themselves, then he could electrify and blow Hillary out. I think Obama is much better in a general than Hillary, but is a harder sell in the primary. Maybe this will turn that around.

An Obama election certainly sets a major reset button on much of the anti-Americanism (which is really anti-Bushism). If you think American foreign policy would head towards closing in on itself, with this vision, think again. This thing is hawkish. But it's looking for smart hawkishness and realizing who the real enemy is: hardline trans-national Salafi jihadism. Take care of that and then start the rollback and the further connection to the global economy and then deal with the next round of reactionaries who will undoubtedly emerge.

--The major lacuna for me is that the pullout of Iraq is going to longer and more painful than his speak would suggest. Link this vision up with Biden's plan and you really have something then.

tags technorati :
tags technorati :


At 11:08 AM, Anonymous md said...

the stuff on Pakistan is naive and stupid. John Podhoretz said why better than I could, so here he is:

I'm getting a lot of enraged e-mails from Obama defenders who are accusing me of caricaturing his position on Pakistan, or of being an apologist for somebody or other, or something. So let me be clear about one thing: Obama is full of it. This country is never — never — going to stage a major military action against Pakistan. Pakistan is a nation of 170 million people that has nuclear weapons and whose admittedly problematic and troublesome regime has, to some extent, cooperated with the United States in the war against Al Qaeda both in ways we know and ways we have no idea about. The concern that this strategically vital county might become an Islamic fundamentalist state is, should be, and will be paramount in every and all discussions about how to conduct the fight against Al Qaeda.

What's more, every serious person knows the United States won't invade Pakistan, even with Special Forces — since the reason we cancelled the proposed action against Al Qaeda in 2005 is that it was going to take many hundreds of American troops to do it. This isn't 15 people dropping like ninjas in the darkness. It's an invasion, with helicopters and supply lines and routes of ingress and escape. It would have had unforseen and unforeseeable consequences, but it would have been reasonable to assume the Pakistanis would have turned violently against the United States and hurtled toward Islamic fundamentalist control.

If the evil Bushitler Cheney Rumsfeld Monster wouldn't do it, nobody will do it. And you can bet there isn't a single person in line to run a Democratic State Department or Democratic Defense Department who would give the idea three seconds of thought. Obama is using Pakistan to talk tough, in the full knowledge that he will never actually pull the trigger.

He is trying to put one over on the American people, which is certainly using the "audacity of hope" in an entirely new way.

At 10:22 PM, Blogger CJ Smith said...


Hope the new digs are well.

A couple of thoughts.

1)I don't think you grasped how political this speech was. Most commentary seems to be focused on how it targets Clinton, but I think its the Republicans he's really after.

Giuliani is running as Mr.9/11 and saying the Democrats are the Party of Defense/Retreat/Defeat. He will keep us, he says, "on offense."

Obama knows if the Democratic candidate runs simply on "I'll get us out of Iraq" s/he will lose.

This way he undercuts the argument about being in a defensive crouch--the piece is far from defensive. Could be argued reckless at points, but definitely not defensive.

He shifts the debate to "What kind of Offense?" He'll counter a Giuliani/Romney by saying they have fundamentally missed who the enemy is (and who it isn't) and thereby advocated the wrong policy (occupation): i.e. some variant of the basic Bush theme. He even gets Clinton as "Bush-Cheney" lite for bonus points.

And sidelines Edwards who (dumbly) states the War on Terror is a bumpsticker. For Obama it's not a bumper-sticker but it's also not the Bush version of GWOT.

2)On Pakistan. I saw it much more as psychops than he's actually going to invade Pakistan. If we can't occupy and keep violence down in a country of 28 million, of course 170 million can't work. The message is no more free rides for Musharraf. I think a well timed statement, given what is going on there (check out for coverage).

Musharraf's government can't stand as it is currently constituted. The real charge is against the Pakistani military establishment , large sections of would still like to support the Taliban (a Pakistani-ISI creation).

Otherwise Musharraf plays the game all Sunni dictators play--the destroy the liberal opposition leaving only the Islamists. So the people are left only with the choice of a dictatorship or Islamist radicals. The Saudis and The Egyptians also do this. And for the record, as Peter Bergen has showed, it was Musharraf who rigged the last elections so the Islamists parties disproportionately won. An election in Pakistan would reduce their influence.

I see Obama saying this choice between dictators and Salafi jihadism can not be the only choice for the Arab and Muslim world. Isolation won't work, re-entrenching "moderates" (who are actually dictators) doesn't work, nor does long term occupation.

Again I think the Pakistani stuff is psychops. It's to send a message not to bee taken too literally. Could be wrong on that part.

But if, God forbid, al-Qaeda were to land another strike on US soil or (as seems more likely) to me they use a shoulder-launch missile to take down a commercial airliner, then by the same logic that correctly put us in a war in Afghanistan, we would have no choice but to invade Pakistan. It's not that crazy.

On the other criticisms, namely that it is all vision no details, that's true. I'm not a huge fan of this major policy statements on everything under the sun in the primary season. Politics and life happens. The best laid plans....

So the criticism of the lack of concreteness is true, but just as true as say Rudy's 12 point plan. No more, no less as far as I'm concerned.

His other initiatives--the more visionary ones--I read that as poking and prodding into a Truman-like realization that there must be institutions (civil, diplomatic, governmental) that are built for this long war (a la Cold War). Because there will be Republican and Democratic Presidents during this Epoch. Probably Rep. and Dem. Congresses as well.

The institutions need to last longer than individual personalities and most be much wider than simply military. Bush failed on both these accounts.

For example, Obama mentioned Homeland Security and Directorate of National Intelligence. He's wisely (I think) criticized Republicans for forgetting their own principles: namely huge top-down bureaucratic mechanisms do not work. Subsidiarity, de-centralization of power and authority, and empowerment at the local level.

The combination of that plus the America shines for all the world, plus the tough life on security, along with outlandish proposals all sounded very Reagan-esque to me. For better and for worse.

Like I said I think the criticism that is valid is that the plan relies on a quick exit from Iraq. I do not see that happening. I think the pullout is going to get very ugly. No matter how well thought out.

Peace. Chris


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