Friday, August 31, 2007

10. The foreign policy of other candidates

"If this phrase of the 'balance of power' is to be always an argument for war, the pretext for war will never be wanting, and peace can never be secure."
– John Bright (1811-1889), British statesman and co-founder of the Anti-Corn Law League

"The urge to save humanity is almost always only a false-face for the urge to rule it."
– H.L. Mencken (1880-1956)

In Washington DC, conventional wisdom has long held that the US government should maintain an interventionist foreign policy to
secure our "national interests" and ensure "stability" around the world. For many years, American politicians have invoked these vague rationales to justify a host of unwise and unseemly activities abroad. In a previous post, I described some of these routine practices, which include:
  • The arming and funding of tyrants,

  • Military occupation of more than 100 countries,

  • Covert operations to manipulate the internal affairs of other nations, and

  • Overt participation in foreign conflicts.
These practices foster deep-seated, anti-American sentiment, while diminishing the economic and civil-liberty prospects for future generations of Americans. Moreover, our hyper-interventionist foreign policy illustrates the 'Law of Unintended Consequences,' as past interventions produce results that were either unforeseen or unheeded by the planners -- complications that, in turn, serve as the rationale for future interventions. (For an illustrative piece on past American forays in the Middle East, see this sad but amusing clip from the Daily Show with Jon Stewart.)

Of the current field of presidential candidates, only Dr. Ron Paul opposed the interventionist paradigm throughout the Clinton/Bush era. While forewarning of the consequences of modern US foreign policy, Dr. Paul consistently advocated a return to the principles of strength, neutrality, restraint, and federalism advised by the Founding Fathers (a forgotten tradition I'll address in my next post).
In the eyes of most other candidates, all of planet Earth now falls under the jurisdiction of the US government, and the President has the authority to intervene abroad as he (or she) sees fit. In principle, none of the "top-tier" (i.e. media-anointed) candidates oppose the rise of the "Imperial Presidency," a trend that has eviscerated Constitutional checks and balances while centralizing power in the executive branch -- they simply differ over which one of them should be the next Caesar.

From what I've seen, the other Republican candidates endorse a belligerent foreign policy that would continue America's involvement in an endless series of wars. Regrettably, the leading Democrats aren't much better. As evidenced by the articles below, the media-anointed candidates in both parties accept the premises and practices of American interventionism, while limiting their public debate to questions about logistics and implementation, such as:
  • How many troops should remain in Iraq indefinitely?

  • Which thugs should the US arm and finance now?

  • Which country should the US bomb or invade next?

  • And, most alarmingly, which civilian populations should the US threaten with a nuclear attack?
Of course, one can learn just as much about a politician by paying close attention to what he (or she) does not say, as what he does say. For instance, to the best of my knowledge, none of the media-anointed candidates have:
  • Called for a complete withdrawal from Iraq. If they broach this topic at all, they speak only of partial 're-deployment,' while making no mention of the 14 permanent military bases recently constructed in that country.

  • Challenged the influence of special interests on American foreign policy -- most notably, the military-industrial-congressional complex (MICC) and the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

  • Repudiated the doctrine of 'pre-emptive' war (i.e. aggressive war).

  • Called for any reduction in global US meddling, occupations, or militarism. On the contrary, most stump for a more 'vigorous' and 'robust' foreign policy.
But perhaps most importantly, none of the other candidates acknowledge that US global interventionism is simply unsustainable in the long run. Eventually, all empires collapse of their own weight, and the United States is rapidly approaching the point of no return. Today, "defense" expenditures total over $1 trillion annually, and the national debt has soared to over $50 trillion (official debt plus projected entitlements; approximately $166,000 per American).

So the question is not IF the United States should retract its global grip, but rather WHEN will it do so, and under what circumstances. Will it be a time of America's choosing, under reasonably amenable conditions -- or a time when a draw-down is necessitated by fiscal, military, and/or logistical reality?

As awful as it is, the Iraq War is merely a symptom of the root problem -- America's hyper-interventionist foreign policy. Not only has Dr. Paul accurately diagnosed the problem for many years -- he's the only presidential candidate who confronts the issue while prescribing the only effective cure.

"Interventionism is done with a pretense of wisdom believing we always know the good guys from the bad guys, and that we will ignore the corporate and political special interests always agitating for influence. Nothing could be further from the truth."
– Ron Paul in the House of Representatives, April 21, 1999

Neo-Libs and Neo-Cons: United and Interchangeable, by Philip Giraldi (former CIA officer and a partner in Cannistraro Associates)
  • "(M)any of the leading candidates' advisers are graduates of the same school of thought, i.e., that the United States must use its military power to impose certain standards on the rest of the world. Neoconservatives and neoliberals are really quite similar, so it doesn't matter who gets elected in 2008. The American public, weary of preemptive attacks, democracy-promotion, and nation-building, will still get war either way."

  • "(Hillary Clinton's) foreign policy advisers are a who's who of neoliberal hawks, including former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who famously believed that the deaths of 500,000 Iraqi children due to sanctions was 'worth it.' Clinton is also being advised by Richard Holbrooke, who is reported to be close to Paul Wolfowitz ... (and) has been a supporter of the Iraq war."

  • "(Giuliani advisor) Norman Podhoretz has called for a World War IV against Islamofascism, which presumably means a war against all Muslim countries until they surrender ... Fred Thompson is being advised by Elizabeth Cheney, daughter of the vice president."

  • "It is very discouraging to note that the advocates of the Iraq war, which is almost universally seen as Washington's greatest foreign policy blunder of the past hundred years, are continuing to play a major role in the shaping of policy for the next generation of political leaders of both parties."
Democratic Double-Speak on Iraq, by Ira Chernus (Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Colorado, and author of Monsters to Destroy)
  • "(T)he Democratic front-runners must promise voters that they will end the war ... while they assure the foreign-policy establishment that they will never abandon the drive for hegemony in the Middle East (or anywhere else). In other words, the candidates have to be able to talk out of both sides of their mouths at the same time ... The Democrats currently topping the polls ... are proving themselves eminently qualified in doublespeak."

  • "A senior Pentagon officer who has briefed Clinton told NPR commentator Ted Koppel that Clinton expects US troops to be in Iraq when she ends her second term in 2017 ... 'America must be the world's leader,' (Clinton) declared last month. 'We must widen the scope of our strength by leading strong alliances which can apply military force when required.'"

  • "(Obama's foreign policy) delights neoconservative guru Robert Kagan, who summed up Obama's message succinctly: 'His critique is not that we've meddled too much but that we haven't meddled enough.… To Obama, everything and everyone everywhere is of strategic concern to the United States.'"

  • "'Stabilization' is yet another establishment code word for insuring US control.... The top Democrats agree that we must leave significant numbers of U.S. troops in Iraq ... to prevent chaos and bring order and stabilization to that country -- as if US troops were not already creating chaos and instability there every day. But among the foreign policy elite, the US is always a force for order, 'helping' naturally chaotic foreigners achieve 'stability.'"

  • "With an election looming, the Democrats portray themselves as the polar opposite of the Republicans. They blame the Iraq fiasco entirely on Bush and the neocons, conveniently overlooking all the support Bush got from the Democratic elite before his military venture went sour."

  • "The outcome (of the election) will undoubtedly make a real difference, especially to the people of Iraq, but it's still only a dispute about tactics, never about goals, which have been agreed upon in advance. Yet it's those long-range goals of the bipartisan consensus that add up to the seven-decade-old drive for imperial hegemony, which got us into Vietnam, Iraq, and wherever we fight the next large, disastrous war. It's those goals that should be addressed.... Unfortunately, the leading Democratic candidates aren't about to take up the task."
Rudy Giuliani: Confused, Ignorant, or Deceitful? by Doug Bandow (former Special Assistant in the Reagan Administration)
  • "Giuliani's plea for remaining in Iraq sounds an awful lot like the man who murders his parents and then requests public assistance for being an orphan. Yes, we blew up Iraq and the Mideast and created an awful mess. Yes, we opened Iraq to religious strife and immeasurably strengthened Iran's geopolitical position. Yes, we set the stage for regional Sunni-Shi'ite conflict. But now you have to support us as we attempt to clean up the mess. Otherwise things will get really bad."

  • "(T)he American people understand what Giuliani does not: fighting an unnecessary war in a hostile land that is viewed unfavorably around the world creates more terrorists than it kills... Daniel Benjamin of the Brookings Institution told Congress earlier this year that 'the invasion of Iraq gave the jihadists an unmistakable boost. Terrorism is about advancing a narrative and persuading a targeted audience to believe it.' U.S. policies 'have too often lent inadvertent confirmation to the terrorists' narrative.' "

  • "Is (Giuliani) prepared to conscript American young people if they don't share his enthusiasm for fighting the many wars he expects to wage around the world?The problem is not an insufficient military, but too many commitments. Why are U.S. troops still stationed in Germany, South Korea, Great Britain, Japan, and more? Giuliani doesn't say. Yet he wants the U.S. to guarantee the security of more nations. "

  • "What is Rudy Giuliani's foreign policy? A bigger Army, Navy, and Air Force. Prosecuting the war in Iraq until liberal democracy emerges. Bombing Iran. Invading more countries to defenestrate bad regimes and suppress disorder. Attacking more countries to kill the additional terrorists created by his more frequent interventions. Confronting China and Russia.... George W. Bush already has done his best to bankrupt the nation and anger the world. Giuliani would go double or nothing. It's a gamble the American people cannot afford."
Democrats say leaving Iraq may take Years, by Jeff Zeleny and Marc Santora (New York Times)
  • "Even as they call for an end to the war and pledge to bring the troops home, the Democratic presidential candidates are setting out positions that could leave the United States engaged in Iraq for years."

  • "John Edwards, the former North Carolina senator, would keep troops in the region to intervene in an Iraqi genocide and be prepared for military action if violence spills into other countries. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York would leave residual forces to fight terrorism and to stabilize the Kurdish region in the north. And Senator Barack Obama of Illinois would leave a military presence of as-yet unspecified size in Iraq to provide security for American personnel, fight terrorism and train Iraqis."
The Democrats are Selling Out the Peace Movement, by Justin Raimondo (Editorial Director of
  • "(T)he whole point of leaving Iraq – aside from stopping the killing, the senseless American sacrifices, and the billions draining out of the Treasury – is to ensure that we don't get sucked into a conflict beyond that country's borders."

  • "When the rhetoric (toward Iran) really begins to smoke, they'll spark a shooting war by overblowing some border incident and framing the war question in terms of regaining America's 'honor.' Will we 'cut and run'? Or stand and fight? It's an argument the War Party always wins – until it comes out that the incident in question was either completely manufactured (as in the Gulf of Tonkin incident during the Vietnam War era), provoked by the Americans, or wildly exaggerated."

  • "The ugly truth of the matter is that the Democrats' capitulation on the Iraq war funding issue was rationalized by the pork ladled out to compliant 'antiwar' lefties in Congress. Bribery, in short, in the form of tax dollars handed out to favored interest groups, enabled the party leadership to whip the 'antiwar' faction into line. Pork trumps principle, every time: that's life in the Imperial City, and it's part of the reason why this war is dragging on in spite of the fact that it's wildly unpopular."

  • "Anyone who believes the Democratic party leadership is committed to getting us out of Iraq, and out of the business of world-saving, democracy-exporting, neo-colonialist base-building, is living in a dream world. The party Establishment is in cahoots with the War Party, and not only on the Iraq issue. The neocons, for their part, are just as comfortable supporting Democrats as they are Republicans."

  • "The neocon project is all about creating a reliable ally in the region, a base from which to wage new wars of 'liberation' – and ensure American control over much of the world's dwindling oil supply. What the Democrats are promising, therefore, is to be more successful at being imperialists than their incompetent Republican rivals. This is a distinction without a difference, one that is certainly not worth either voting for or even passively cheering on in the name of 'change.'"