Will Obama carry out his foreign-policy campaign promises? Given the Democratic candidate's stated hawkish views, Justin Raimondo hopes that Obama has been telling us a pack of lies but fears that he will give us the awful truth:
Obama lied – people died! How long before we see that slogan emblazoned on a placard at a rather sparsely-attended antiwar rally?
But of course he didn't lie, and isn't lying now. He's telling us he wants to confront Russia and Iran. He's telling us he wants to increase a military budget already larger than the total military expenditures of all other nations combined. He says he won't hesitate to invade Pakistan – and, presumably, any nation anywhere – if we have some reason to believe Osama bin Laden and his cohorts are in the vicinity. I think he's telling the truth – and I challenge the Obamaoids, especially the ones who claim to be sick of eight years of constant warfare, to prove otherwise. If Obama is indeed giving us the real story, and if he actually implements his foreign policy proposals, we are in a world of trouble.
Cockburn on Obama's Pro-War Record: The Dead Hand of the Past
Alexander Cockburn breaks ranks with many of his fellow progressives who support Obama. Here's why:
Obama invokes change. Yet never has the dead hand of the past had a "reform" candidate so firmly by the windpipe. Is it possible to confront America's problems without talking about the arms budget? The Pentagon is spending more than at any point since the end of the Second World War. In "real dollars" – an optimistic concept these days – the $635bn (£400bn) appropriated in fiscal 2007 is 5 per cent above the previous all-time high, reached in 1952. Obama wants to enlarge the armed services by 90,000. He pledges to escalate the US war in Afghanistan; to attack Pakistan's territory if it obstructs any unilateral US mission to kill Osama bin Laden; and to wage a war against terror in a hundred countries, creating a new international intelligence and law enforcement "infrastructure" to take down terrorist networks. A fresh start? Where does this differ from Bush's commitment on 20 September 2001, to an ongoing "war on terror" against "every terrorist group of global reach" and "any nation that continues to harbour or support terrorism"?
Economist Friedrich A. Hayek was not considered a critic of empire yet his warning about the "fatal conceit" of economic central planning can be equally applied to foreign policy. David Henderson offers this Hayekian critique of U.S. empire:
Unfortunately, both of the major candidates running for president are what Adam Smith would call "men of system." McCain and Obama have shown that they believe they can plan affairs in Afghanistan (both), Pakistan (both), and Iraq (McCain). Both, but especially Obama, think they can move us Americans around on the domestic chessboard also. Both are wrong. Each of us has his or her own "principle of motion." Unfortunately, whoever gets elected, we will pay for what Hayek would have called their "fatal conceit."
Is Obama planning to impose a military draft? He says he won't but statements like this don't inspire too much confidence:
But it’s also important that a president speaks to military service as an obligation not just of some, but of many. You know, I traveled, obviously, a lot over the last 19 months. And if you go to small towns, throughout the Midwest or the Southwest or the South, every town has tons of young people who are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. That’s not always the case in other parts of the country, in more urban centers. And I think it’s important for the president to say, this is an important obligation. If we are going into war, then all of us go, not just some.
Scott Horton just did an hour-long information-packed interview with Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff for Secretary of State Colin Powell. Speaking from much experience, Wilkerson discusses his dealings with Rumsfeld, Cheney, and the neocons. You don't want to miss this. Here is the audio.
[haw-info] Historians and the Elections. TIME SENSITIVE
This is a message from Carolyn "Rusti" Eisenberg, Beth McKillen, and Margaret Power on behalf of the Steering Committee of Historians Against the War.
Although temporarily eclipsed by the economic crisis, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the possibility of an armed confrontation with Iran will loom large in the next administration. And while this is barely mentioned, the $612 billion in defense spending for FY 2009, just authorized by the House of Representative, could seriously constrain the ability of the US government to provide urgently needed domestic expenditures.
Across the country, students are paying unprecedented attention to this presidential election. This is a "teachable moment," when we can provide vitally needed education on the issues and on the role of office-holders.
*Many historians and social scientists around the country have scheduled on-campus forums to engage questions of war and peace. However, if such programs have not occurred we encourage historians to take the lead in creating pre-election educational events. These can be modest initiatives- a film showing, a panel discussion that draws on local expertise, a campus debate. Or you may wish to draw upon our list of outstanding scholars and peace activists who have agreed to speak on campuses and to waive an honorarium if the school lacks sufficient funds. (This would be a last minute invitation, but there are many flexible people on the list...who might agree to participate even on short notice.) HAW Speakers list: http://www.historiansagainstwar.org/teachin/speakers.htm
* While maintaining a non-partisan stance, we can provide information about the record of Congressional office-holders. Over the past two years, Congress has taken numerous votes on the Iraq war and all incumbents have made a clear record. Yet most constituents have no idea where their elected officials actually stand. You can obtain Congressional Report Cards for your district and state from United for Peace and Justice by clicking here. Please distribute widely and forward to friends.
And keep us posted on your campus events. firstname.lastname@example.org. For additional information, contact us at:
As McCain and Obama call for admitting Georgia and Ukraine to NATO, it is worth remembering that another candidate who opposed creation of that alliance in the first place, once came within a hair of winning the Republican presidential nomination. His critique still makes sense today.
In 1950, Senator Robert A. Taft of Ohio firmly explained to dumbfounded interviewers on “Meet the Press” why he opposed sending more U.S. troops to Europe. He condemned the deployment as encirclement and warned that it needlessly provoked the Soviet Union. To hear the entire audio of the interview, go here.
Be patient, the audio might be slow in loading and you'll have to listen a couple of vintage 1950 commercials but it is well worth the wait.
Kudos to Scott Horton at Stress for putting up the audio link.
After much discussion, and helpful input from HAW members who responded to the initial tentative draft, the Steering Committee of Historians Against the War has adopted the following resolution regarding the US/NATO war in Afghanistan. We encourage members to consider including the Afghanistan war in any teach-ins or forums that are involved in. We will also post Afghanistan materials on our web site (suggestions are welcome at email@example.com).
1. Whatever views we hold on the initial US military intervention in Afghanistan in the wake of the September 11 attacks in the US, it is now clear that the US/NATO presence in this country has become an occupation, increasingly resented and opposed by large sections of the population.
2. Despite the relief that met removal of the totalitarian Taliban government by US and NATO forces, the new government, chosen under the direction of the Bush administration, has distanced itself from the people, is rent with corruption, and barely governs anything. Outside of Kabul, warlords and criminal elements operate with impunity, the opium trade grows, violence -- including violence by the occupation forces -- proliferates, and the Taliban is resurgent.
3. The support for fundamentalist warlords and the corrupt Karzai regime demonstrate that the purpose of US policy in Afghanistan is not to support the self-determination of the Afghan people, but to extend the bankrupt global war against terror deeper into Central Asia, and to strengthen US geopolitical power in this region. The US/NATO war on Afghanistan is not a "good war" in contrast to the "bad war" on Iraq.
4. The current consensus in higher political circles, including both major party candidates for president, that the war in Afghanistan must be escalated will only deepen the regional crisis and suffering of the Afghan people. The historical experience of other outside powers trying to control Afghanistan (most spectacularly, the Soviet Union from 1979 to 1989, invading from next door over a wide common border) suggests that even a greatly escalated US/NATO war effort will only multiply the deaths and the suffering.
5. The US and NATO should immediately begin withdrawing their military and political assets from Afghanistan so that the Afghan people can have room to decide their own future. Continued US/NATO action in the country is a large part of the problem and cannot be the solution.
6. We call for regional agreement among Afghanistan's neighbors to guarantee Afghan stability, to preserve the ethnic and religious diversity of the country, to assure the full participation of women in social life, and to provide space for all of the people of Afghanistan to fully exercise their right to self-determination.
As last night's debate again illustrates, the differences between the candidates are mostly paper think on foreign policy issues. The antiwar movement (and HAW) is in for a long-hard fight, no matter who wins. Justin Raimondo has this to say about the dreary state of affairs:
As the campaign progressed, however, it soon became all too obvious that a candidate raised up by the "antiwar" wing of the Democratic Party was and is a committed interventionist – and, not only that, but one who is still maintaining some of the hoariest old clichés of interventionist dogma, such as the apparently intrinsic aggressiveness that animates the Russian elite, the supposed centrality of Israel's security to our policy in the Middle East, and the moral imperative of "humanitarian" interventionism, starting in Darfur and ending God knows where.
Here is an excellent breakdown of the views of Palin and Biden on foreign policy from the indispensable antiwar.com
The first and only 2008 Vice President Debate is over, and between Governor Sarah Palin’s “shout out” to third-graders from a particular elementary school and imploring “Joe Six-packs” and “Hockey Moms” to band together or Senator Joe Biden’s quip about the “ultimate bridge to nowhere” and comments about how much time he spends at the Home Depot in Wilmington, Delaware the two actually spent quite a bit of time discussing their respective positions on foreign policy.
Republican nominee Sarah Palin insisted that “we have a good plan” in Iraq. She further declared that the success of the surge was “proven” and claimed incorrectly that American forces in Iraq were back down to pre-surge levels. She also praised General David Petraeus as a “great American hero,” and insisted that there was a plan in place for withdrawal.
Democratic nominee Joe Biden claimed that the deal presently being negotiated by President Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki was essentially Senator Barack Obama’s plan. He also insisted that there needs to be a timeline for withdrawal from Iraq, which Gov. Palin condemned as “a white flag of surrender.”
Sen. Biden promised “we will end this war,” while Gov. Palin insisted that the US military commanders would be the ones who will tell the President when the war is finished. Gov. Palin also claimed “deep respect” for her opponent’s family and their service in Iraq. Her respect for Sen. Obama, however, she said was a different matter. Sen. Biden retorted that Senator John McCain had been “dead wrong” on the war in Iraq.
Sen. Biden also insisted his vote in favor of the use of force in Iraq was not really a vote in favor of war, to which Gov. Palin quipped that the Senator “was for it before he was against it.”
Later, the two clashed on whether the war in Iraq was the center of the war on terrorism. Sen. Biden predicted that any future attack against the homeland would come from Afghanistan or Pakistan, while Gov. Palin maintained that both Gen. Petraeus and al-Qaeda agree that Iraq is the real center of the conflict.
Both candidates agreed that Iran could not be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons. Gov. Palin went the extra mile, declaring Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad “not sane” and insisting that Iran couldn’t even be allowed a civilian nuclear energy program. She also attacked Sen. Obama for saying he would meet with Ahmadinejad without preconditions.
Sen. Biden denied the charge, insisting that Sen. Obama would not meet with the Iranian President without certain preconditions being met. He also claimed that Iran was not close to getting a usable nuclear weapon, however in a later comment he claimed the nation was drawing “closer to a bomb.”
Both candidates likewise agreed that stability in Pakistan was a major concern. Sen. Biden went further in this declaration however, warning that Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal was a threat to Israel and that a stable government needs to be established there to win the hearts and minds of the tribal area residents.
The two candidates clashed bitterly regarding a quote by General David McKiernan regarding whether or not “surge principles” in Afghanistan would be successful. Sen. Biden maintained correctly that Gen. McKiernan cautioned that an Iraq-style surge would not be successful in Afghanistan, while Gov. Palin insisted that the quotes in no way meant that an adaptation of “surge principles” to Afghanistan might not work.
Sen. Biden called for “more money” and “more troops” in Afghanistan, while Gov. Palin attacked Sen. Obama as “reckless” for pointing out that US forces had killed Afghan civilians in air raids.
Both candidates declared their love for Israel, with Sen. Biden claiming to be “Israel’s best friend” in the United States Senate. Biden also condemned the Bush Administration’s policy on Israel as an “abject failure” and bragged that he and Sen. Obama had opposed the elections in the West Bank which brought Hamas to power. He also supported a call to place NATO troops in Lebanon to protect Israel from Hezbollah, and said the failure to do so had led to Hezbollah gaining a legitimate role in Lebanon’s government.
Gov. Palin, meanwhile, said that the US must take steps to assure Israel that it will never allow a “Second Holocaust,” which she accused Iran of plotting. She also praised Israel as a “peace-seeking nation” and cited their relationships with Jordan and Egypt as a successful track record of making peace with their neighbors.
Sen. Biden expressed his support for military intervention in Darfur, responding to a question about whether Americans would support it with “the American public has a stomach for success” and saying that “we should rally the world” to halt the genocide in Darfur. Gov. Palin gave a slightly more reserved “all options are on the table” comment with respect to the situation in Darfur, while trumpeting her efforts to divest the Alaska Permanent Fund from Sudanese investments.
Sen. Biden used his support for US military intervention in Bosnia during the 1990s as an example of a successful US war he helped to start. He called himself a “catalyst for change” and termed the situation “genocide,” insisting that the Bosnian strategy “worked.” He also claimed that Bosnia and Kosovo have “relatively stable” governments.
On Nuclear Arms Control
Gov. Palin insisted that dictatorships which hate America for its tolerance mustn’t be allowed to possess nuclear weapons. In particular she mentioned Iran and North Korea. She said a nuclear attack would be “the end all be all” of too many people, and claimed that America’s nuclear arsenal was simply for deterrent purposes, which she termed a “safe, stable way to use nuclear weapons.”
Sen. Biden attacked Sen. McCain for opposing American participation in the test ban treaty, saying that the world needs a “nuclear arms control regime.”
What Was Missing:
Conspicuously absent from the debate was any substantive mentioning of Russia, the expansion of NATO, the war in Georgia, or the prospect of a new Cold War. Also unmentioned were the US role in the conflict in Somalia, the role of AFRICOM, or any foreign policy with respect to Venezuela, Colombia, or any other nation in South America.