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29 April 2007

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Will

Obama is an idiot that has drunk the Kool-Aid. He's against talking to Hamas b/c it doesn't recognize Israel's right to exist. As long as Israel only has a green line and no international border, as Israeli peace activist Uri Avnery has pointed out, Israel itself has not recognized the Palestinians' right to exist. Mutuality counts for something.

But being a younger idiot than the others, he may still be salvagable

from a recent David Brooks column on him

"“Have you ..read .. Niebuhr?”

“I love him. ...”

"So I asked, What do you take away from him?

“I take away,” .. “the compelling idea that there’s serious evil in the world, and hardship and pain. And we should be humble and modest in our belief we can eliminate those things. But we shouldn’t use that as an excuse for cynicism and inaction. .. we have to make these efforts knowing they are hard.. not swinging from naïve idealism to bitter realism.”

"In Chicago this week, Obama argued against the current tides of Democratic opinion. There’s been a sharp rise in isolationism among Democrats, according to a recent Pew survey, so Obama argued for global engagement. Fewer Democrats believe in peace through military strength, so Obama argued for increasing the size of the military."

"In other words, when Obama is confronted by what he sees as arrogant unilateral action, he argues for humility. When he is confronted by what he sees as dovish passivity, he argues for the hardheaded promotion of democracy in the spirit of John F. Kennedy.

"The question is, aside from rejecting the extremes, has Obama thought through a practical foreign policy doctrine of his own — a way to apply his Niebuhrian instincts?"
....
"If you ask him about the Middle East peace process, he will wax rhapsodic about the need to get energetically engaged. He’ll talk about the shared interests all have in democracy and prosperity. But then when you ask him concretely if the U.S. should sit down and talk with Hamas, he says no. “There’s no point in sitting down so long as Hamas says Israel doesn’t have the right to exist.”

"When you ask about ways to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, he talks grandly about marshaling a global alliance. But when you ask specifically if an Iranian bomb would be deterrable, he’s says yes: “I think Iran is like North Korea. They see nuclear arms in defensive terms, as a way to prevent regime change.”

"In other words, he has a tendency to go big and offer himself up as Bromide Obama, filled with grand but usually evasive eloquence about bringing people together and showing respect. Then, in a blink, he can go small and concrete, and sound more like a community organizer than George F. Kennan."

"Finally, more than any other major candidate, he has a tendency to see the world in post-national terms. Whereas President Bush sees the war against radical Islam as the organizing conflict of our time, Obama sees radical extremism as one problem on a checklist of many others: global poverty, nuclear proliferation, global warming. When I asked him to articulate the central doctrine of his foreign policy, he said, “The single objective of keeping America safe is best served when people in other nations are secure and feel invested.”

"That’s either profound or vacuous, depending on your point of view. "

b

Kagan had certainly fun with some selective quoting.

People should probably read the speech before any hasty judgement.

And no, I don't agree with Obama.

psd

"The last thing the USA needs is another destiny driven president. I yearn for candidates like the ones produced in my youth in smoke filled rooms."--pl

oh, yeah, some days those smoke-filled rooms look pretty good in comparison to these media-hyped, 2+-year presidential runs, BUT I'm afraid a smoke-filled room may still have gotten us a Dubya.

jonst

Pl wrote: >>>>The last thing the USA needs is another destiny driven president. I yearn for candidates like the ones produced in my youth in smoke filled rooms<<<<

Man o man do I second that! Nor do I want someone who, because of his youth, and party affiliation feels like his has to prove something I deem silly and dangerous; to someone, who will not be convinced, under any circumstances anyway.

Charles

re: "boots on the ground"
Methinks(with no experience):What a f***ing idiot.

"the ability to put boots on the ground will be critical in[MAINTAINING] the shadowy terrorist networks we now face."

a517dogg

I fear that Obama and other Democrats will, like JFK, feel so pressured by accusations of being "soft" that they will overcompenstate to prove they are "tougher" than Bush.

Of course there's always the possibility that they actually believe the crap they're saying. I'm not sure which one I fear more.

Matthew

I'm glad I haven't given Obama any money yet. It saves me having to ask for it back.

The military's only proper use is to defend America. When you pre-emptively kill other people for an idea, there is a world for that: murderer.

zanzibar

The Dem Presidential candidate debate was instructive for me. In response to the question is there such a thing as GWOT Obama and Clinton believed there was such a thing. Additionally these two were hot on not leaving any option off the table (code for attacking Iran) and Obama was forced to say that he had no plans to nuke anyone. So we have the two top Dem candidates who are as hawkish as the Repubs and may try to out hawk everyone to gain the reputation of "strong on terror" candidates. Reminds me of the Clinton triangulation special with the Sista Souljah moment.

We can be certain that with Clinton and Obama the "pre-emptive war" party will still remain in power if they win. So too with McCain and Guiliani. I suppose we are going to have to live with more and more strike first and think later policies no matter which of the leading candidates wins.

anon

I am a Dem. My opinion is that the Democrats have been so brutalized by poisonous attacks of treason and drug-addled hippy pacifism by the reactionary wing of the GOP for so long, that most Democratic candidates for national office feel that they need to talk tough. So they say stuff that sounds tough, and whether it means anything at all, or is coherent, or makes sense, is a secondary issue. Since the warmongers who currently run the GOP are also incoherent, the Democratic incoherence cannot be considered a significant demerit.

I think the Col does allude to an incoherence in popular US feeling. The majority of voters simultaneously want to build strong multilaterial institutions, and work through them. However, they also like aggressive talk, and seem somehow reassured by politicians who assure them very strongly, broadly and repeatedly that they will not hesitate to blow stuff up if things get dicey in unspecified ways. The proportion of that kind of aggressive talk in comparison to the probable instances when such a violent and short tempered US foreign policy would be most effective, and wise, seems very high to me.

I disagree strongly with this kind of Democratic behavior. I don't think you can really know what Obama thinks from these speeches. I think any Democrat who can just tell their GOP and media accusers to go $#$!@ themselves, and strongly assert a coherent strategy without symbolic genuflections to cowboy war talk might actually be a sign of competent leadership in foreign policy. We might not be able to get that for 2008, but considering what the leading GOP candidates are offering, the option of not totally incompetent looks pretty good to me. If Hagel decides to stay out, looks like it will stay that way.

anon

Re incoherence of reactionary warmonger wing of GOP:

Rice seemed to say today that wrt Iraq, 'imminent threat' meant invading Iraq immediately because it looked like it was the best time to invade, if you're going to do that sort of thing. But Rice also seemed to say later that after the CIA wrote a memo stating the Al Qaeda was determined to strike inside the US, she didn't know what could or should have been done about striking terrorist camps in Afghanistan.

For goodness sake, until mainstream media and politicians in both parties strongly question Bush/Cheney on nonsense like that, there is little hope for sane discussion of foreign policy in this country.
http://thinkprogress.org/2007/04/29/imminent/

http://www.crooksandliars.com/2007/04/29/condi-we-were-supposed-to-do-something-about-bin-laden-before-911/#more-16781

peterp

Color me cynical but I think this is a case of "watch what he does, not what he says." Obama is trying to buy himself a little protection from The Lobby and from the neocon-infested editorial pages of the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, etc. To the effect that Bob Kagan is calling him an "interventionist," he has succeeded. This puts him in a position later, during the heat of the primary season, to wink and nod at the hawks as he publicly panders (and pander he must) to the anti-war Democratic base.

Obama's goal -- assuming he's the skilled politician everyone says he is -- is to emerge with the nomination and as much manuevering room as possible to go left or right, hawkish or dovish, int the general election campaign, as circumstances dictate.

Couragous and principled? No. But if you want a president who takes a fixed view and sticks with it, no matter what the cost or consequence, then the past six years have must have been your idea of political Nirvana.

MarcLord

Barack Obama is an economic populist and an actual old-fashioned Christian. He has spent much of his adult life figuring out how to get jobs and money to the poor and former felons in south Chicago. His core mission is to narrow income inequality at home and abroad. As for anti-terrorism, he subscribes to the philosophy of "Draining the swamps of poverty in which terrorism thrives," as Wallis the Sojourner described it to Dubya back in '02.

Obama is the biggest threat to the Property Party this country has seen since FDR. Naturally enough, Wall Street is inclined to think he's a communist and the Neocons saw him as the Anti-Trotsky. Unless he can get both groups to believe otherwise, he can't become President, because the hatchet job on him would either come through the media or cold death.

Do I like that this is the country we live in? That a candidate has to say these kinds of things to assuage the wrath of our Masters? Hell no. But right now that's how it is. Obama's real agenda is to untie the economic straps that hold up the bloated Fourth Estate, and he's willing to spout the required unction and platitudes to his enemies in order slide past their flanks. If they're dumb enough to fall for the ruse, bravo.

Valuethinker

'smoke filled room candidate'

It's probably worth remembering that Warren Harding was the prototypical 'smoke filled room' candidate-- literally so, they sat deadlocked in a smoke filled room, smoking, until someone suggested Harding. So the history of such types is anything but good.

I think if the smoke filled rooms were still running, it would be Mrs. Clinton against Mitt Romney. Chuck Hagel (who has a more conservative voting record than John McCain) would be an outside chance.

Both with strong pedigrees to party stalwarts (husband and father). Both 'insiders' (mitt of business, Mrs. Clinton of government).

Both would probably offer sensible government. Although as a science fiction reader, I can say Mitt Romney's taste in science fiction is disturbing (Battlefield Earth is a piece of Scientologist agitprop) and he is clearly quoting some of Orson Scott Card's more outlandish remarks (this false claim that marriages in France now only, legally, last 7 years)-- Card is a Mormon as well, btw. I worry about presidents who start with those kinds of intellectual antecedents.

Newt Gingrich was also a science fiction fan. I happen to think he did enormous damage to American democracy.

Don't any of these people read Roger Zelazny, or even Arthur Clarke? (best science fiction story about military technology and the dangers of over complex weaponry ever written 'Superiority'-- Clarke worked on weapons development during WWII for the British government).

http://www.scribd.com/doc/41054/Superiority

America being America, it will probably fall on 'critical' questions like 'is America ready for a black president?' 'Is Obama 'black' enough?'. 'Is America ready for a woman president?' (unlike say, the UK, Germany or nearly France). 'Does John Edwards pay too much for his haircut?'

The danger, Mr. Lang, as you have identified, is the search for another charismatic leader. Americans choose charisma over policy-wonkishness every time: think Al. Gore v. George Bush, or Bush I v. Mike Dukakis.

Bill Clinton was such a charismatic leader, for all his policy wonkishness. So was Jimmy Carter (believe it or not) in the primary season. So was Ronald Reagan (a calculated rejection of wonkishness in favour of 'feel good' presidency). So was JFK, who led America into a series of messianic wars in the third world.

My hope is Obama is more than that, that he is playing to the audience. In that, he might be another FDR.

If it is Giuliani on the Republican side, then there is an aspect of Giuliani's personality which is positively Nixonian: a mean-minded history of 'getting' his rivals, of hogging the limelight whenever possible. The US Constitution is badly weakened by the Bush years, I would hate to see it assaulted by a really smart politician.

It makes one nostalgic for Harry S. Truman. But then, Truman left office with a lower approval rating than Bush has now.

It almost makes one nostalgic for Richard M. Nixon. If you're going to have a machiavellian Prince running the White House, at least have one who is *smart*, who believes in diplomacy and avoids spreading dead American boys across foreign lands.

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