Policy and politics should be about one's interest. This interest can be personal or pertaining to a larger group, but if policy/politics are not based on interest, then they will be based on some fantastical effort to create a friendly and profitable world that does not exist and is not likely to exist.
President Obama came to office without significant knowledge of or experience in foreign policy. In the early days of his presidency he seems to have believed that his university bull sessions and the idealistic dreams of the neo-liberal R2Pers represented a viable foreign policy. He was quite gullible and susceptible to persuasion and flattery. The decision to increase the numbers of the US armed forces troop strength for Afghanistan was a terribly poor decision. It was clear at the time of the decision that Afghanistan as a place for nation building existed only in the minds of people like the Kagans and other neocons. Generals are usually good at executing other peoples' plans but less good at "the vision thing' as Bush #41 called it. They usually have rigorous minds but not creative minds. During the Iraq War the generals embraced a lot of nonsense about the evolution of forms of warfare and the fabled COIN doctrine supposedly "written" by the "genius" soldier/scholar Petraeus. Having been convinced by the neocons that the COIN manual contained the secret to career vitality and democratization of the world, the COINista generals proceeded to "sell" Obama on the wonderfulness of applying this operational concept in Afghanistan. They also "sold" him the idea that they need another 30,000 troops to make their scheme function properly. They originally asked for 40,000, but he gave them the smaller number. Perhaps this reflected some doubt as to whether COIN and a supporting troop "surge" had really succeeded in Iraq as well as the generals, AEI/WINEP and their cretin media allies had claimed. In fact, it has become clearer and clearer that the "surge" in Iraq was too small to dominate the country as had been hoped and that it was the revolt of the Sunni Arab tribes against AQ tyranny that temporarily saved the situation in Iraq.
At the time of the Spanish-American War there was a ferocious political struggle within the United State over the acquisition of territories taken from Spain; Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Phillipines, Guam, etc. The United States itself was built in a process of acquiring territory from other people in our march from east to west but by 1900 the country had developed some degree of conscience about the process of smashing our way to manifest destiny. As a result of this development there arose something called the "anti-imperialist movement." As Barbara Tuchman recounts in her fine book, "The Proud Tower," the traditional imperialists and the anti-imperialists were locked in figurative combat over the fate of these territories. The anti-imperialists strongly opposed the permanent retention of the Spanish empire territories. The results of this struggle were mixed. Cuba was quickly released from US control. Guam and Puerto Rico were retained as was the Phillipine archipelago until FDR decided to grant independence in 1947.
In the period of the Cold War, this kind of American adventurism in the acquisition of territory largely disappeared as the country concentrated on cooperative defense arrangements for protection against the menace of the Soviet Union and communist China. The taste for occupation of foreign space and its permanent occupation by US military forces largely disappeared for a long time. US troops remained in Germany, Japan and South Korea long after World War II but this was in the absence of hostilities within these countries and in cooperation with them against the East Bloc.
The end of the Cold War and the disintegration of the Warsaw Pact created a vacuum of perceived purpose in the collective mind of the foreign policy and military community. For a decade the think tanks and government bureaucrats dithered and fretted over their role in life and how a new role could be used to justify budgets and pet projects. There was no resolution to this problem until 9/11. In spite of a wealth of evidence that Islamic jihadi groups were a gathering threat to the United States, the rulers of the foreign policy/military, were so focused on their traditional geopolitical obsessions that repeated warnings were not heeded. 9/11 opened new vistas for growth of government power, deficit funding for overseas campaigning, force structure expansion and the like.
Two disastrously uproductive and massive conventional wars followed. These were adorned with the mythology of war as social science experiment and nation building. Promotion rates went up in the military. Many more general officer positions were created and money flowed like water over Niagara Falls. That stream of borrowed money funded the wars themselves and all the development projects in the target countries that so enriched local oligarchs and their American consorts.
Now, to quote H. Rap Brown, "the chickens has come home to roost." The COIN strategy, "the surge," and the insistence by the US policy establishment that nose counting in any sort of election was more important than a rational calculation of forces all contributed to the present ongoing disintegration of Iraqi society and politics. The same fate awaits Afghanistan because of the wildly radical nature of US policy since 9/11. That policy has espoused the essentially Trotskyite notion of the blessed nature of continuous revolution throughout the world and that policy has failed miserably.
President Obama, for all his faults, seems to have learned not to listen to the jacobins and neo-Wilsonians when they prod him toward reflexive commitment of military force. The president's wise, if late, decision not to attack Syria's armed forces, his steadfast search for a negotiated solution with Iran against the pressure of the Zionists, his reluctance to plunge into the depths of the Ukraine crisis and his insistence on continuing the withdrawal from Afghanistan all pointed to a return the kind of rationalist foreign policy followed by the United States from the end of WW II until the hysteria of post 9/11 life swept away the careful consideration of risks and benefits that had controlled US policy.
President Obama's policy speech at West Point announces the end of jacobin imperialist dominated policy in Washington. pl