For all the talk about Obama being “all talk,” I hope that people more journalist begin to pay closer attention to the potential policy positions he’s taking, or is likely to take, based on who his advisers are.
The American Prospect gives the first detailed analysis of the “Obama Doctrine,” especially as it relates to an anti-terrorism policy. It’s an interesting position–the cynical side of me wants to call it “neoliberal”, but it seems a little more nuanced that. It makes me realize I need to read Samantha Power books to get a better sense of what his influences are in terms of international policy.
Here’s a segment of the story (worth the full read), which frames the Obama foreign policy as a policy of “dignity.”
“What’s typically neglected in these arguments is the simple insight that democracy does not fill stomachs, alleviate malaria, or protect neighborhoods from marauding bands of militiamen. Democracy, in other words, is valuable to people insofar as it allows them first to meet their basic needs. It is much harder to provide that sense of dignity than to hold an election in Baghdad or Gaza and declare oneself shocked when illiberal forces triumph. “Look at why the baddies win these elections,” [Samantha] Power says. “It’s because [populations are] living in climates of fear.” U.S. policy, she continues, should be “about meeting people where they’re at. Their fears of going hungry, or of the thug on the street. That’s the swamp that needs draining. If we’re to compete with extremism, we have to be able to provide these things that we’re not [providing].”
This is why, Obama’s advisers argue, national security depends in large part on dignity promotion. Without it, the U.S. will never be able to destroy al-Qaeda. Extremists will forever be able to demagogue conditions of misery, making continued U.S. involvement in asymmetric warfare an increasingly counterproductive exercise — because killing one terrorist creates five more in his place. “It’s about attacking pools of potential terrorism around the globe,” Gration says. “Look at Africa, with 900 million people, half of whom are under 18. I’m concerned that unless you start creating jobs and livelihoods we will have real big problems on our hands in ten to fifteen years.”
Obama sees this as more than a global charity program; it is the anvil against which he can bring down the hammer on al-Qaeda. “He took many of the [counterinsurgency] principles — the paradoxes, like how sometimes you’re less secure the more force is used — and looked at it from a more strategic perspective,” Sewall says. “His policies deal with root causes but do not misconstrue root causes as a simple fix. He recognizes that you need to pursue a parallel anti-terrorism [course] in its traditional form along with this transformed approach to foreign policy.” Not for nothing has Obama received private advice or public support from experts like former Clinton and Bush counterterrorism advisers Richard Clarke and Rand Beers, and John Brennan, the first chief of the National Counterterrorism Center.”
Alot of my good ole lefty friends have critiqued Obama for his talk of going into Pakistan to “take out” Al Qaeda if he had evidence of their location. While I agree that I am not interested in pursuing more US military misadventures, and would hope Obama would resist pursuing military actions at all, I wonder can the Left also develop a nuanced critique of Al-Qaeda–beyond the fact that they had been supported by previous Republican administrations?
I’m interested to know what folks think.