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Currently viewing the tag: "Foreign Policy"

I didn’t realize that Rand Paul signed onto the now-infamous Iran letter. A true man of principle. This seems applicable:

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The thing that it’s important to remember when reading neocons and Washington Post-style liberal hawks acting oh-so-angry about Pres. Obama opening up Cuba is that they don’t really care much about human rights or democracy or any of that. That’s just spin, obviously. What really makes them mad about a Fidel Castro, or a Hugo Chavez, or an Evo Morales, or a Vladimir Putin or a Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is the idea that someone is allowed to talk shit about American policy and values, possibly even to deal us some modest setbacks, and get away with it. That’s the bitter pill for these people. Castro was in many ways the role model of this–the originator of a trend that the others have in various ways adopted, and that they get this reaction out of these people has helped each one out at home. To so many of these folks, the idea that Fidel Castro could “get away” with the crime of remaining in power for nearly five decades despite our wishes, denouncing the United States and engaging in (mostly) mildly disruptive activities against it–the Cuban Missile Crisis I tend to blame more on Kennedy, and the twin decisions of the Bay of Pigs and wimping out over Berlin giving the Soviets the impression that he was incompetent, weak and unstable–plus surviving a bunch of oddball assassination attempts. This is a grievous insult to their pride. They simply can’t bear it.

Because they are five years old, mentally speaking.

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As usual, the smartest take on the politics of recent Cuba developments comes from Daniel Larison, who concludes that this is very much part of Obama’s way of patterning foreign policy to domestic policy considerations. It makes a lot of sense. Though while this isn’t a change in strategy per se, it departs from the typical, depressing obeisance they have to hawkish opinion outlets like the Washington Post‘s op-ed page. In this case, they told those people to screw off. Then again, he was willing to ignore them to negotiate with Iran, so perhaps this isn’t so much a departure as the established pattern of ignoring these people over diplomacy, but desperately trying to appease them with hawkish rhetoric (or action) otherwise.

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That’s a hell of a thing. Nicely done, Obama Administration! Obviously this is a small thing, but I’ve long thought that the travel ban to Cuba was one of the most obvious outright abridgments of freedom still on the books–there’s no other country Americans are legally forbidden from traveling to, even North Korea. It’s their right to allow us in or not, but the notion that a country is so evil that we have to be prevented from going there is just insane (China, of course, is also not banned). Re-examining this would be a fine next step.

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So we’re going to have a debate on the ISIS war three months (and however many billion dollars) into it. Funny that this comes out right after the election ends. Seems no logical reason for it, unless you assume that Obama wanted to spare Democrats a vote before the election, or that he figured a Republican Senate was likely and that they’d give him more power to make war than Democrats would. Or both! Not that he’s going to take no for an answer, so it’s all a farce anyway.

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Jim Webb should run for president. This is sort of a better version of the Schweitzer for president idea–a presidential run focusing on a critique of hawkish foreign policy would be a worthy endeavor, considering that upwards of 70% of the Democratic base is dovish, and yet the Democratic Party is thoroughly hawkish in its elite makeup. Webb would be easily able to make a strong argument and communicate it well, and it would be unusually credible coming from him–even the mainstream media treats him as an authority on these issues, and he has the right resume–and he has nothing really to lose. It is admittedly very hard to imagine Webb assembling a winning coalition against Hillary–he would be in a good position to attract netroots activists and perhaps some conservative Democrats, though it’s hard to envision him really snapping up minority voters and women who strongly favor Hillary–but if he were to capture media attention and win a couple of primaries, it’s hardly inconceivable that it will force Clinton to make promises on the use of force that would constrain her later. There certainly is merit in providing a voice for the silent majority in any event, and a presidential campaign could be an easy way to create organization around the issue that will serve it going forward. Really, there’s nothing but upside to this whole concept. Also, he doesn’t stick his foot in his mouth every damn day he talks.

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It’s eerie to see it laid out like this:

Obamafp

It’s been a year since he’s even broke even. And it’s clear that our year of intractable foreign crises can’t fully be blamed: this slide began last year. The key drop happened about a year ago, which was the time of the Syria debate. Then a little bounce back after that happened, followed by an even steeper drop.

What’s interesting is that this is entirely a second-term phenomenon, if you check the link you see that Obama’s approval ratings have been lame forever, but his actively terrible foreign policy ratings are rather new. It’s not even a matter of hawkishness per se, as the first term included the Libyan operation. I’ve been thinking recently about what’s different between the two terms of Obama, and probably the most interesting one is that Libya was sold self-consciously as an international, burden-sharing operation, while both Syria and the new Iraq thingy have been sold as American first and last. This is easy enough to explain away as the increased influence of Samantha Power, Obama’s UN Ambassador who hates the UN and loves unilateral action. (Just read her books.) The Libya bombing was a bad idea with bad results, but Americans were at least marginally willing to go along because of the work the Administration did to get allies on board. Obama’s second term has had the strong implication that America has to handle every world crisis alone, which is just about the worst argument you can make to the public at this time. They just won’t hear it, and I think this is where you see Power’s influence quite strongly. She’s a genocide scholar who unsurprisingly wants to stop what she sees as imminent genocides, immediately. On a side note, my wife (who is a genocide scholar as well) tells me that these are the last people in the world that you’d want setting foreign policy, almost universally they tend to be extremely hawkish and despise realism and practicality. We can in addition say they tend to ignore the political dimension as well.

You also begin to see just how much ground liberal hawks have had to give up between the disastrous outcomes of past adventures they support and the political realities they’ve helped to create. Obama seems to have absorbed the public’s severe distaste for ground troops or nation building and I believe him when he says there will be no troops. However, at some point liberal hawks will have to just confess that Iraq destroyed their worldview, since at present it can only offer bombs to any kind of crisis they want to go to work on. The question of “What comes next?” can no longer be answered. Compare this with the misguided but at least robust worldview of the Clinton-Blair days, where that question was UN Peacekeepers, basically. Didn’t work so well, but it was something, unlike the utterly intellectually unsatisfying liberal hawk worldview of today, where contradictions have been heightened to such an extent that all that remains is sanctimony and contempt for the limitations of power. Can’t wait for Hillary ’16!

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