Posts Tagged ‘U.S. foreign policy’

Obama and the Iranian Election

June 26, 2009

Obama has been getting quite a bit of flack for the way he has handled the recent Iranian election fiasco. From the inflammatory neocon pundits like Limbaugh, Hannity, and Coulter, to the Republican politicians like Dana Rohrabacher, Richard Perle, Mitt Romney, Lindsey Graham, Charles Grassley, and John McCain are angry that Obama has not been more aggressive in responding to the Iranian tragedy. Even hawkish Democrats like Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden think that the president should be more forceful in his reaction.

Why? What purpose would it serve? No one has directly suggested military intervention, or even new economic sanctions. They simply seem to want the President to be more forceful in condemning the election results and the government crackdown, or in expressing support for the dissidents. Do these people think that simply by uttering his disapproval, Obama can undo the election? “If Obama would only disapprovingly shake his finger at them, they’d learn they’re lesson!” Have they caught Obamania that much?

While it is extremely unlikely to help the situation, stern words could make things worse. As Obama himself mentioned in his recent press conference, Iran’s government would have no hesitation to play up any US rhetoric for the extremist crowd which is their base. Worse, saber rattling by its very nature implies the potential for drawing that saber. Such a stance might well escalate and draw the nation into yet another Middle Eastern military fiasco. Yet if he refused to back his words with deeds, Obama would look weak and ineffectual.

(I suppose this might well be the strategy of the neocons attempting to goad Obama into a more belligerent stance; either they get the further interventionism they desire in order to create their “New American Century,” or they get the president to make himself look weak.)

In 1991, fresh of his victory in the first Gulf War, President H.W. Bush heartily endorsed dissident factions in Iraq and encouraged the overthrow of the Hussein regime. Emboldened by the implied support of the US, the Kurds and Shia began a revolt. The military support which they assumed backed Bush’s words never came. The revolt failed, and the dissidents were slaughtered.

Is it worth the risk of seeing the same thing in Iran just to satisfy the egos of those who want to see the US play John Wayne?

My thoughts, wishes, and prayers are with these brave Iranian protesters who are fighting for a nation which respects the will of the people and individual rights. I’m inspired, as I’ve been by the “Tank Man” and others at Tiananmen Square, by their courage and determination. But I am no less suspicious of the path of interventionism in Iran than I’ve been in Iraq, Afghanistan, or any other nation. We can not hope to impose democracy from without. We have not the capacity, especially now. Nor is it the role of the US to play nanny to the rest of the world. Obama has made essentially the right decision in this situation. Let’s hope that Obama is able to continue to ignore the taunting of the militarists, and that the Iranians are able to find the power within themselves to liberate themselves.

Somalia Revisited

December 8, 2008

A couple of years ago, I wrote the post “Somalia and U.S. tendencies in Foreign Policy.” In the essay, I criticized the US response to the turmoil in Somalia. That response involved support for warlords against the Islamic Courts Union, which had recently formed a government and begun to establish some semblance of peace in Mogadishu and the surrounding area. Given that the ICU and the Somalia Muslim community was considered by most experts to be rather moderate, I insisted that the U.S. policy of undermining the ICU was ultimately self-defeating.

Since that time, the U.S. made a change. Sadly the change was only tactical, not policy. Rather than relying on Somalian thugs, the administration heavily supported Ethiopia’s invasion of Somalia to oust the ICU.

And as one might well have guessed, US intervention in Somalia—albeit by proxy—has been about as successful as their other fronts on the “War on Terror.” The latest reports indicate Ethiopia has failed dismally to erect any sort of peace through their occupation. It should not be terribly shocking that Somalians do not appear to appreciate the intervention of a historic nemesis, and have galvanized quite an insurgency. Ethiopia is unable to maintain the occupation, announcing that they will withdraw shortly. Worst of all, the conflict has greatly strengthened the hands of radical Islam. The militant Al-Shabaab has taken the reigns of the Muslim movement in Somalia, winning control of the southern regions and creeping northward. Foreign radicals have flocked to Al Shabaab’s aid.

How long until we realize that interventionist policies do not succeed? How many times must we kick the hornet nests before we learn?

If neo-con grand-poobah Bill Kristol has his way, at least once more. Using the escalation of Somalian piracy as an excuse (can anyone doubt that the fiasco shoreside has something to do with rise in piracy?), Kristol recommends that the president invade.

…perhaps he [President Bush] could tell various admirals to stop moaning about how difficult it would be to deal with the pirates off the coast of Somalia (isn’t keeping the shipping lanes open a core mission of the Navy?) and order the Navy to clobber them. If need be, the Marines would no doubt be glad to recapitulate their origins and join in by going ashore in Africa to destroy the pirates’ safe havens (“Before He Goes,” Weekly Standard)

Retired Navy Commander Jeff Huber heaps well-earned scorn on Kristol’s hair-brained scheme.

It was only a matter of time before Long Bill Kristol and his scurvy dogs of war used piracy as an excuse to goad young Mr. Bush into invading one last country before the door hits him. In the latest gurgitation of the Weekly Standard, Bill suggests that the best thing young Mr. Bush can do in his final days as commander-in-chief is send the Marines into Somalia to deep-six those pesky buccaneers. Now: if we can’t identify and capture pirates while they’re plundering ships on the bounding main, I’d like to know how the yo-ho-ho Bill thinks the Marines can tell the pirates from the rest of the poor starving Somalis once they go ashore.

Bill also remarks how Bush can do the nation a service “by reminding Americans of our successes fighting the war on terror.” One wonders if Bill is no fooling unaware that terrorists are on the verge of a sparking war between two nuclear powers, or that a congressionally mandated task force has reported that “it is more likely than not that a weapon of mass destruction will be used in a terrorist attack somewhere in the world by the end of 2013,” or that, according to the respected analysts at the Rand Corporation, Mr. Bush’s pursuit of a military-centric counter-terror strategy “has not undermined al Qaeda” and that the terrorist group “has remained a strong and competent organization.”

One would hope that given the enormous influence he wields, Bill is at least partially cognizant of the world around him, that he just talks that way because he’s a master of Socratic dialectic who recites gibberish until people agree with him so he shuts up…

Seemingly aware of his limitations, Long Bill normally delegates the hardcore humbuggery required of any given subject to one of his more gifted mateys, and the pirate issue is no exception. Seth Cropsey’s “To the Shores of Tripoli…” is a standard neocon compendium of fuzzy premises and fear and loathing and the sort of logic that insists ear is to hearing as nose is to face.

The first thing that struck me about the piece was Cropsey’s apparent alarm over the estimated $30 million ransom money the Somali pirates raked in this year. Cropsey must have shared a cryogenic chamber with Dr. Evil. We’re chaffing $10 freaking billion into Iraq every month, which isn’t a pismire compared to the $7 freaking trillion we’re going to spend trying to fix the freaking economy, and Cropsey wants to send the Marines ashore for $30 measly million that didn’t even belong to us?

…Only slightly less ludicrous is Cropsey’s admonition that “Americans ought to know the limits of relying on naval power alone to stop piracy as a result of the nation’s experience in the Barbary Coast wars.” Comparing the present Somali pirate situation to our Barbary Coast wars of the early nineteenth century is as tidy an apples-to-elephants analogy as you’ll ever find…

…Thomas Jefferson’s America also didn’t possess a couple fistfuls of fixed wing aircraft carrier strike groups, two of which, with their E-2 Hawkeye surveillance aircraft and the rest of their air wings, could turn the whole Indian Ocean into a no-pirate zone faster than you can say “Avast.” Yeah, at first blush it’s overkill to use more than $10 billion worth of carrier and air wing and escorts to stop a few measly millions worth of piracy, but what else do the carrier groups have to do right now: bomb Muslim weddings in the Bananastans? Heck, the Navy’s got cruise missile equipped nuclear submarines to bomb Muslim weddings with.

And if it ever happens that the nuclear submarines can’t bomb Muslim weddings any more because, oh, what…because they run out of fuel when the Iranians go and gobble up the whole world’s supply of uranium, say, well we have a whole separate service branch that pick up the Muslim wedding bombing slack. It’s called the Air Force, which has these really, really expensive things called, oddly enough, bombers.

…Plus, if the Navy can solve the pirate problem, there’s no need to get our land forces tangled up in another pointless quagmire, which Cropsey admits a Somali invasion would be. “Somalia’s descent into turmoil began almost two decades ago,” he writes, and is “unlikely to be reversed” by military intervention.

…And as if the article weren’t already sufficiently stunning, Cropsey closes with the neocons’ favorite propaganda ploy, the taunt. Failing to hit the beaches of North Africa “will increase the jihadists’ contempt for us.” Psst. Ahmed over there just called you a booger nose. What are you going to do about it??

Thanks for the info, Crops. Oh, did Ahmed tell you your fly is open?

It’s well and good to have a good laugh at Kristol’s unholy crew of blobs, buffoons and bull feather merchants. They not only deserve ridicule, they demand it. It is vital to the continued health of our nation that we lay bare the absurdities inherent in the neoconservative philosophy early and often and forever.

But it’s also imperative to remember that this collection of ideological sideshow amusements steered our ship of state and dictated the fates of nations for eight years, and that some of the people in Barack Obama’s national security team still take them seriously (“Shiver Me Neocons,” Pen and Sword, emphases in the original).

Let us pray that Bush isn’t delusional enough to consider Kristol’s advice. Let us also hope that Obama will be true to his word to provide change; change from the policies of interventionism which so many of his predecessors have foolishly pursued. In this time of global economic struggle and international tension, the world cannot afford the consequences of more of the same.

The Iraq Status of Forces Negotiations: Exposing the Republican Lie

June 19, 2008

For five years now, Republicans high and low have scoffed at the Iraq War skeptics. They’ve routinely protested any suggestion that the conquest had anything to do with oil or empire. This is a war of liberation, an act of benevolence to free an oppressed people, a noble act to spread Democracy. The regrettable use of military force was necessary, but was merely temporary. Our forces will be removed as soon as the legitimate government of Iraq no longer needed or wanted our services.

Variously naive and duplicitous, these assurances have been proven wrong. We now know that the Bush administration has been in negotiations for a new Status of Forces Agreement with the Iraqi government, one which would permit U.S. forces to maintain dozens of indefinite-term military bases, control of Iraqi airspace, carte blanche to pursue military operations, and immunity from Iraqi law for not only members of the U.S. military, but U.S. contractors.

That is not a mutual aid agreement between sovereign nations. That is a pact turning Iraq into a client state of the U.S.

Yes, the conservatives insist that the bases are intended to be temporary. The bases in Saudi Arabia established during Gulf War I were supposedly temporary as well. So was Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo, but the idea that this sprawling, expensive base will be dismantled anytime soon is rather absurd. As Chalmers Johnson pointed out in his book The Sorrows of Empire, its network of military bases is a primary means by which the U.S. stretches its influence and exerts political pressure on nations throughout the world. This is nothing more than the neo-imperialism practiced by the U.S. for the better part of a century.

You don’t think the war had anything to do with petroleum? I have a hard time believing that the administration didn’t see potential of leveraging the influence of long-term military bases to help assure the pipeline to the U.S.

And what of the desires of the legitimate government in Iraq? They find the U.S. demands to be unacceptable.

We have reached an impasse, because when we opened these negotiations we did not realise that the US demands would so deeply affect Iraqi sovereignty and this is something we can never accept (Iraqi PM Nouri Maliki, from “Impasse in US-Iraqi forces talks,” BBC)

It reminds me a great deal of the agreement between the U.S. and Cuba after the Spanish-American War. Cuba, now “liberated” from Spain, was required to grant the U.S. military bases (of which Guantanamo is a remnant), exempt U.S. entities from Cuban law, and even permit the U.S. government a veto over the Cuban legislature. Some liberation.

It is worth considering that the hubris of the U.S. and their insistence that Cuba become a vassal played a very key role in the resentment which ultimately enabled a meglomaniacal dictator to lead an uprising and defy the U.S. for almost half a century now.

Time for the conservatives to face facts and or own up to the lies. There are clearly ulterior motives at play—motives which must be terminated. The Middle-East is explosive enough right now without pouring more gasoline on the fire.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.