Monday, July 07, 2008

Prescriptions and Predictions for an Obama Presidency

Michael Waltzer ( Can There Be a Decent Left? ) looks into his crystal ball and tries to figure out what may be the actual changes under President Obama. He counts a list of 9 hot-potato items, which will have to be addressed one way or another.

On the whole, he predicts no drastic shifts in any of the on-going policies but barring some (as yet) unforeseen disasters, the best consequence he can predict is that "the US will look a lot better if there is an Obama presidency, and if there is a large Democratic majority in congress... A different American foreign policy... won’t make a big difference unless it is accompanied/supported by different policies in other parts of the world."

Here are a few snippets which I found as more astutely thought out:

1) The end of Bush’s unilateralism, at least in the form of endless confrontation. American diplomats will be doing a lot of traveling and ... talking ... in Europe ..., but not only there. The policy of not talking to enemies will be explicitly rejected. We will be talking to any enemy... state.... The policy with regard to terrorist organizations will not change.

5) A stronger ... commitment to “the responsibility to protect” in places like Darfur or Myanmar – though the new administration is not going to be sending American troops into any countries where we are not already engaged. So who else might be ready to send troops? If anyone is ready, the United States under Obama might be probably be willing to support, help to pay for, help to equip, help to transport, the troops.

6) A clear ... recognition that the “war” against terrorism is mostly police work and political work, that it requires cooperation among many countries and that it can be and should be conducted within constitutional constraints...

7) A withdrawal... from Iraq? ....A formal policy of disengagement will certainly be announced, but in practice the disengagement will be very slow... Obama will find that the Kurds... the Sunni ..., the Shi’ite government..., the Kuwaitis, the Saudis, the Egyptians, the Israelis and the Turks don’t want us to leave. .... So the trick will be to leave and not leave at the same time.

9) A diplomatic initiative in Israel/Palestine, and also in the larger Israel/Arab conflict.... Obama is not going to force or to try to force an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank, until/unless it is clear that rockets won’t be aimed at Tel Aviv from the “liberated” West Bank... One possible surprise... Talking about the renewal of the Jordanian option...

This is not a list to gladden the hearts of Obama fans. Mostly cosmetic changes, some make-up application, a little diet, all designed to make America look better. Very small changes are anticipated, and even those are essentially hoped for, rather than foretold.

It appears that hope is still Obama's greatest currency. Hope and better looks. Ah, well.



Here is a similar view from Egypt, though much more straightforwardly articulated than mine:

"... Americans really want the world to like them, which is a silly desire shared by no other nation on earth. You don't see the Russians worrying about the world liking them, or the Chinese. Ok, you want a democracy? How about the French? Do you see the French worrying about whether or not the world likes them? Do you know of any other nation in the world who actually has this stupid girl-with-low-self-esteem-in- junior-high fixation? Hell, even the Israelis, arguably the current most hated country in the world (and who would like a nation of militaristic Jews who refuse to be wiped out? Those Damn Jooz!), are not as fixated on getting the world to like them the way the Americans do, because most of them have resigned themselves that the world really never will like them. So yeah, the Americans stand alone when it comes to that silly desire, and they have constructed a notion why the world dislikes them: It's because the world thinks that they are a racist nation that is also prejudiced against Islam. So, in order to remedy that, they vote and nominate a Black man with an arab middle-name who comes from a Muslim Background, as if saying, "Here! This is how far we all willing to go. Do you like us now?"

(Via: Solomonia)


At 8:31 AM EDT, Blogger kellie said...

My favourite part is the line in point seven: "So the trick will be to leave and not leave at the same time."

I'm sure Obama can get his head round this. After all, in response to talk of him shifting position on Iraq he said. "my position has not changed, but keep in mind what that original position was." If the position didn't change, why talk about an original position?!

My view on Obama and Iraq here.

At 1:36 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This Bush Unilateralism is bogus and way over played. He is no different than Clinton in this regard. Definitely not Unilateralist in the Reagan sense of the word.

As clear as anyone can make of his real position on Iraq, is that it is no different than McCains. The new South Korea.

Obama is a gifted speech giver and an empty suit.

His position on domestic fossil fuel development to move towards energy independence is right down the Democrat party line.

What a crashing bore?

All style, no substance.

He certainly has sent out the appeaser signals though.


At 5:56 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like Walzer and he is certainly more astute than I. Nevertheless, I’ll provide a point-by-point critique:

1) Obama will negotiate with terrorist organizations, including Hamas and Hizby. Neither is a “state”. More like a state within a state. Negotiating with these forces will undermine the state of Lebanon and the proto-Palestinian state.

5) Nothing will be done re: Darfur or anywhere else. Intervention, broadly perceived, is anathema to the progressive Democratic Party base. Instead, the solution will be working through the UN, African Union and the other forces of worthlessness.

6) No! No! No! The “police work” response is what made the attacks on September 11, 2001 possible. After the first WTC attack, we did not strike back. Ditto with attacks on U.S. embassies in Africa and the attack on the USS Cole. This emboldened our enemies. We need to strike and strike harder than ever. That does not mean carpet bombing civilians or large-scale destruction. It does mean recognizing, like President Alvaro Uribe in Colombia, that the intelligence agencies and military need to work much more closely together. Ideological war us precisely that, war.

7) You know my position on Iraq. I agree with Walzer here.

9) Is Walzer high? Bush has pressured the Israelis to give more “land for peace.” Obama will be far worse. Mark my words, he’ll promote E. Yerushalayim as the capital of the Palestinian state.

The reason we want the world to like us is we want to see ourselves as the perennial “good guys” on the world scene. Many Americans have been brought up to support the underdog and all that. Acknowledging we are the most powerful nation-state on the planet turns a lot of Americans off. Populist isolationism holds much appeal among the masses.

What elite (not elitist, there is a difference) intellectuals like Walzer have a difficult time with (because they spend so much time around other elite intellectuals) is we really have not lost any allies since the invasion on Iraq.

France? Last I checked they nominated a pro-American president. Germany? Merkel is much more pro-US than Schroeder. UK? Brown is no Blair, but still. Scandinavia? Who cares? Among our Arab allies in the Gulf, Bush and the Bush clan are homeboys with all of them. India? Relations are actually improving.

In Latin America, Chile, Colombia and Peru all have free-trade agreements with the U.S. Venezuela and Bolivia are more problematic. But as crime continues to increase and their economies continue to lag (even with Chavez flooding the region with petrodollars) they will come around. They always do…

Pakistan is a real and serious problem. So is Russia. In the latter case, by dealing with them as partners and equals, recognizing their power, size and influence, we can make a great deal of headway.

I’m not sure how to deal with Pakistan. My Indian in-laws have their ideas but they are not particularly politically correct so I’ll stop typing…


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