Monday, March 31, 2008

USA: Obama and the Democrats' Foreign Policy

By Shane Jones
Monday, 31 March 2008

"War is politics by other means." - Carl von Clausewitz

"I am not opposed to all wars. I'm opposed to dumb wars." - Barack Obama

Many people are looking to the Democrats, and in particular to Barack Obama for a real change, specifically when it comes to the Iraq war. But on the question of war and foreign policy, does Obama really differ from the current White House administration, or from his party mate Hillary Clinton, or for that matter, from the entire DC political establishment?

You can tell a lot about a person based on the company he or she keeps. Obama is backed by people like billionaire Warren Buffet, who has made his fortune forming and investing in companies that exploit literally millions of people around the globe. Obama's main foreign policy advisor is Zbigniew Brzezinski, a staunch anti-communist who was a key player in the U.S. support and aid to the counter-revolutionary Mujahedin in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

In a time of true Double Speak, where "democracy" means "imperialism" and "freedom" means "occupation", "reform" means cutbacks and attacks on social services. In Obama's case, "change" means the continuation of the current state of affairs. He has sung the praises of people like Ronald Reagan, who oversaw a huge expansion of the U.S. military at the expense of the standard of living of millions of U.S. workers and the poor.

When it comes to foreign policy he is a regular smoke and mirrors magician. While boasting about his tough stance against the war on Iraq, he is at pains to prove his reliability to the interests he truly serves. Far from calling for an immediate withdrawal, Obama says that U.S. forces may remain in Iraq for an "extended period of time" maintaining "a reduced but active U.S. military presence" that "protects logistical supply points" protecting "American enclaves likes the Green Zone" so that U.S. troops "remaining in Iraq" will "act as rapid reaction forces to respond to emergencies and to go after terrorists."

Obama has also suggested that he would be in favor of attacking Iran under the pretext of stopping its nuclear program:

"We should take no option, including military action, off the table, sustained and aggressive diplomacy combined with tough sanctions should be our primary means to prevent Iran from building nuclear weapons."

And on another occasion:

"In light of the fact that we're now in Iraq, with all the problems in terms of perceptions about America that have been created, us launching some missile strikes into Iran is not the optimal position for us to be in ... On the other hand, having a radical Muslim theocracy in possession of nuclear weapons is worse. So I guess my instinct would be to err on not having those weapons in the possession of the ruling clerics of Iran."

Obama, who would "take no option of the table," clearly sees the limits of the Bush style of maintaining U.S. imperialist hegemony, and understands that the threat of overt military force must be coupled with maintaining U.S. imperialist power through an international web of diplomacy, that is, deals where others carry out the dirty work at the behest of the U.S.:

"Tough-minded diplomacy would include real leverage through stronger sanctions. It would mean more determined U.S diplomacy at the United Nations. It would mean harnessing the collective power of our friends in Europe who are Iran's major trading partners. It would mean a cooperative strategy with Gulf States who supply Iran with much of the energy resources it needs. It would mean unifying those states to recognize the threat of Iran and increase pressure on Iran to suspend uranium enrichment. It would mean full implementation of U.S. sanctions laws. And over the long term, it would mean a focused approach from us to finally end the tyranny of oil, and developing our own alternative sources of energy to drive the price of oil down."

When it comes to Israel, Obama is committed to the status quo:

"We must preserve our total commitment to our unique defense relationship with Israel by fully funding military assistance and continuing work on the Arrow and related missile defense programs."

He even goes the extra mile to show his support for the Israeli ruling class:

"We should never seek to dictate what is best for the Israelis and their security interests. No Israeli prime minister should ever feel dragged to or blocked from the negotiating table by the United States."

When pressed on comments he made about the "suffering of Palestinians" Obama makes his position very clear:

"Well, keep in mind what the remark actually, if you had the whole thing, said. And what I said is nobody has suffered more than the Palestinian people from the failure of the Palestinian leadership to recognize Israel, to renounce violence, and to get serious about negotiating peace and security for the region. Israel is the linchpin of much of our efforts in the Middle East."

Although he said he would be willing to meet with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, Obama has personally helped advance imperialist propaganda against the Venezuelan Revolution. He co-sponsored a resolution that urged Venezuela to re-open "dissident" radio & TV stations. Like much of the propaganda produced at the time by corporate media, the resolution blurred the issue with that of free speech:

"[The Senate] expresses its profound concern about the transgression against freedom of thought and expression that is being committed in Venezuela by the refusal of the President Hugo Chavez to renew the concession of RCTV ... [The Senate] strongly encourages the Organization of American States to respond appropriately, with full consideration of the necessary institutional instruments, to such transgression."

RCTV was not a "dissident voice". Rather, in 2002, with the backing of the U.S., the Venezuelan ruling class staged a coup in which many people died, and the democratically elected government was thrown out along with the new constitution which had been written with the involvement of millions of ordinary Venezuelans. RCTV was an integral part of the coup, intentionally broadcasting false information and helping to lay the basis for the violence that followed. In 2007, the Venezuelan government simply did not renew RCTV's license to use the publicly owned air waves. RCTV still operates on private cable and satellite feeds. Obama, however, was ready and willing to confuse the issue in the interests of U.S. imperialism.

He has also come out in favor of opening up relations with Cuba. But what does his mean in practice? He would immediately pressure the Cuban government to open up the doors to U.S. corporations and the privatization of the planned economy. And while Obama has paid some lip service to the notion of closing the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo, he has yet to sign on to any legislation that would actually do so.

Obama has also said he would use military force in Pakistan even without consent, under the guise of fighting al-Qaeda:

"If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won't act, we will."

But he is also willing to bribe a path for U.S. interests too, as he said he would make the hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. military aid to Pakistan conditional on following U.S. "suggestions".

On March 17th it was reported that the U.S. launched missiles in the tribal area of Waziristan in Pakistan. The strike was unannounced by the U.S. and unauthorized by Pakistan. Obama is a proponent of this very type of aggression:

"The first step must be getting off the wrong battlefield in Iraq, and taking the fight to the terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan."

Obama also sees no problem with the Colombian military crossing the border into Ecuador to launch an attack:

"The Colombian people have suffered for more than four decades at the hands of a brutal terrorist insurgency, and the Colombian government has every right to defend itself against the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC)."

While Obama squarely blamed the FARC, he was silent on the role of Colombian government and military, the Colombian paramilitaries, and the huge sums of military "aid" that have flowed there since the 1960s. In the last 20 years, 2,574 union organizers and thousands of political activists, peasants, workers and youth have been assassinated by the Colombian government. Is this the "every right to defend itself" that Obama speaks of?

Obama also supports expanding the military. When asked if he would vigorously enforce a law that allows military recruiters on campus, Obama gave an affirmative "Yes". He goes right along with the so-called "war on terror" as a justification of such expansion:

"Our most complex military challenge will involve putting boots on the ground in the ungoverned or hostile regions where terrorists thrive." and "That should mean growing the size of our armed forces to maintain reasonable rotation schedules, keeping our troops properly equipped, and training them in the skills they'll need to succeed in increasingly complex and difficult missions."

He also voted to renew the Patriot Act, and has voted to militarize the border between the U.S. and Mexico.

Obama, who is playing on people's sincere desire for change, has taken a slightly more nuanced approach to foreign policy. Whereas Bush is only semi-coherent, Obama is capable of spinning words to soften the real role he hopes to play to keep the U.S. capitalist class dominant both at home and abroad. Fundamentally, Obama represents the same class interests as Bush and co., but is able to pass it off as though he is something fresh and new. We must understand that real change can only come through our class moving in a revolutionary direction to break the domination of the capitalists. Short of this anything else is simply a "changing" of the guard. RENEGADE EYE


Lew Scannon said...

All three major candidates are espousing the same policies (more or less), and are deep in the pockets of the corpocracy. Obama is just McCain better packaged, a hipper Clinton, but the end result would be more of the same.

Anonymous said...

We must understand that real change can only come through our class moving in a revolutionary direction to break the domination of the capitalists.

Just out of curiosity, what is "our" class and how does it differ from the "capitalists"?

Anonymous said...

Ren: I'm glad you're taking an anti-'Bama stance, but my question is: Who are you endorsing for the presidency?

troutsky said...

One definition of insanity: Doing the exact same thing over and over but expecting different results.US voters are collectively insane.

Farmer, to find your class ask yourself this question. Do I create profit for someone else or extract profit from others wages?

Foxessa said...

Obama, as much as Clinton, as much as anyone in D.C., has no policy for the Caribbean, Central America or Latin America. They don't take them into account, because these regions aren't in their minds' eyes, even occasionally. They are at best, 'merely' safe balls to kick around -- particularly Cuba -- to show how tough they are on terrorism, communism, whatever the Big Bad of the Day happens to be.

None of them speak Spanish, either.

Love, C.

steven rix said...

What if Obama would decide to remove the troops from Iraq?
I did not change my integrity, I will vote for anybody who is in favor of a pullout in Iraq and anyone who comes up with a comprehensive economic package/rescue. It means I might not vote at all.
More and more economists acknowledge that the war in Iraq is part of the economic crisis in the USA.

Anonymous said...

Do I create profit for someone else or extract profit from others wages?

Don't we ALL do BOTH?

sonia said...

Do I create profit for someone else or extract profit from others wages?

By that definition, Castro is the worst proifiteer and exploiter in the universe. He extracts profits from all Cuban workers, paying them in Cuban pesos, a worthless currency that cannot even be used in the best stores in their own country (where only the convertible pesos are accepted).

And Shane Jones is an apologist for such totalitarian oppressors and exploiters.

Intrepidflame said...

Great post. I need it for many of my Obamawagon friends.

white rabbit said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
white rabbit said...

suppose that if I were American I would hold my nose and vote for Obama but mainstream US politics is not going to produce anything better than a more effective Carter for the forseeeable future and - as regards the Middle East - Obama is not even up to Carter speed. Particularly odious is his selling out of the Palestinians when his previous pronouncements would suggest that he knows better. The 'blame the victim' routine as regards Palestinians 'failing' to 'recognise Israel' grates. Palestinians recognise exactly what Israel is.

brotherkomrade said...

Hmmm I liking this blog...I'll keep my eye on you, komrade.

Anonymous said...

I found a classic. This one should be posted far and wide on the world wide web:

Palestinians recognise exactly what Israel is.

Absolutely agree! Palestinians recognize Israel is the enemy. The enemy should be mericelessly cut up, raped, and his belongings pillaged or even better, plundered. The fate awaiting the enemy should be the same as it (should have been) 60 years ago: to go swimming in the Meditteranean. Yeah! We all know how our friends whom we feed, cloth and provide electricity for feel about us.

Anonymous said...

p.s. feel free to stop by my blog any time and tell me any other pertinent info. concerning the Palestinians.

Frank Partisan said...

Thank you everybody, for the response to this post. Shane managed to have something for everyone to have an opinion on.

Lew: I agree with everything you said.

Farmer: Just out of curiosity, what is "our" class and how does it differ from the "capitalists"?

Is that a riddle? What's the punchline? I think you know what's Shane's answer.

Eithan: I can't endorse any candidate this time around. If there is a left party where you vote, I would vote for them as a symbolic gesture. America needs a labor party.

The key to Palestinians winning statehood, or anything else they want collectively, is aligning with the Israeli working class.

Troutsky: That sounds like a reasonable question to me.

Intrepid Flame: Welcome back to the fold.

White Rabbit: It is endless how much the Democrats use the lesser evil argument, and align with the worst evil. The Democratic Party can't be reformed.

Sonia: If Castro was motivated by profit, there would be easier ways to get rich. Cuba doesn't have a capitalist class.

Foxessa: I think Latin America is on the ruling class's mind. Everyday there is some intrigue against Venezuela. Don't forget the Monroe Doctrine.

Politiques: I agree.

Brotherkomrade: Welcome to this blog. Don't hold back here. Your story is interesting.

I hope I can get Shane to comment.

Anonymous said...

Ren: what would my gesture be symbolizing? A double standard?(I voted for the N.U. and the Herut-both religious Zionist parties while in Israel) A lack of belief in the things I represent/stand for?

Oh, and the comment about visiting my blog was directed at the guy pushing Palestinian rights to drown us in the Meditteranean but I'm glad you chimed in.

Graeme said...

Don't we ALL do BOTH?

Well, I suppose there is always a pimp who is a step higher.

Jobove - Reus said...

Once again we enter to your blog to spend a good moment, in spite of the difficulty of the language
A strong embrace of your friends of Reus Catalunya Spain

Anonymous said...

Is that a riddle? What's the punchline?

Nope. Call it honest ignorance.

Well, I suppose there is always a pimp who is a step higher...

Castro? Even he had to labor to bring the other pimps under his control...

Anonymous said...

Cuba doesn't have a capitalist class

Nope. Just an indistinguishable bureaucratic one.

I don't suppose you've ever read Plato's "Hipparchus" (The Profiteer) or Xenophon's "Oeconomicus"... because your conception of the term "profit" seems a bit "muddled"...

Oh, that's right. Marx was a materialist whose entire oevre was a criticism of Smith and Malthus. No wonder Marxists are clueless when it comes to economics...

Frank Partisan said...

Té la mà Maria - Reus: Thank you for visiting.

Farmer: There are great differences between a bureaucracy, and a capitalist class. I know on the surface, that seems odd. Max Schachtman thought the old Soviet Union had a state capitalist class. It seems trivial, but it led to conclusions that made him and his followers, turn to being writers for "Dissent" and "National Review,"

Smith and Malthus ended up in the dustbin of history.

Graeme: OT I met someone from the IWW at a meeting last night meeting.

sonia said...


There are great differences between a bureaucracy, and a capitalist class.

Correct. Bureaucracy is worse. Both oppress and profit, but only bureaucracy wastes all the profits.

Go to tourist resorts in Cuba and El Salvador. In Cuba, all guests are foreigners. No Cuban, not even a director of a huge state enterprise, can afford to go there. In El Salvador, half of the guests are local - members of the emerging capitalist class.

Capitalism: good for the rich, bad for the poor.

Socialism: bad for everybody, equally.

Smith and Malthus ended up in the dustbin of history.

In 1989, Marx ended up on the dustbin of history, and Smith has emerged triumphant ever since.

Frank Partisan said...

I'm having computer problems, I'm not home. If I can't fix the problem, my blogging will be slower.

Sonia: Stalinism went into the dustbin of history, as and how Trotsky predicted. Both capitalism and Stalinism, have an interest in people believing that distortion of socialism, is what real socialism is about.

Tina said...

I am beyond tired of always having to pick the lesser of evils, but given the choices we have, at least I feel like I work very hard to pick the LESSER of the evils... unlike so many who happily choose the GREATER of the evils and scream from the rooftops that they alone have morals and/or patriotism and/or religious standards and/or God on their side. Until we have r-e-a-l choices, it will always be this sad, sad system that serves so very, very few.

Frank Partisan said...

I used my great technical expertise, to fix my computer. I turned it off for a few hours, and the problem resolved itself.

Tina: Your party doesn't believe in your ideals. They have all the rhetoric to get votes of progressive people. All they want is your vote, not you.

If labor left the Democrats, that would be like Russia 1917 here.

Duncan said...

America needs a labor party.

You should be careful what you wish for Renegade Eye...

white rabbit said... may get it.

I gotta agree with Duncan Money.

The problem with Labour parties is that they aren't any more if you get my drift. The British Labour party is an extreme example. It would now be appalled at the idea that it was the political wing of organised labour, which was its original conception. Now it is (a) not a mass party - its membership has nosedived over the last 10 years ago as people leave - mostly but not exclusively in disgust over the Iraq invasion and (b) in thrall to neoliberalism and 'flexible markets' etc. It is a strange state of affairs when a British Labour government combined with the Italian Berlusconi government - which included neo-fascists - to make a minority of two in opposing EU workers rights proposals.

Old Labour should not be sentimentalised - it had a strong authoritarian streak combined with a bureaucratic and centralising approach to public ownership but at least it believed in equality in a garbled sort of way. New labour has retained Old labour's authoritarianism but abandoned its impulse to equality.

Frank Partisan said...

In the US we have nothing rresembling a mass, progressive party, that is based on the working class.

Everything said about the Labor Party in UK is true. Still it's the place to recruit from and try to reform. Maybe it'll take 30 years to reform it, so be it.

Bob said...

With the current state of organized labor in the US, a labor party is not a good idea. The AFL/CIO, Teamsters, and UAW have sold out the rank and file for the sake of corporate profits.

A progressive party centered on the working class modeled after the SPA of the early 20th century, however, isn't a bad idea and could find themselves in office, or at the very least having their policies and platforms adopted by the Democrats.

Daniel said...

Why can't we have sociacaptism which is a combination of socialism and capitalism?

Seems to encapsulate the best of both worlds: make lots of money which you give away as you make it.

There. Problem solved. Can I go home now?

Frank Partisan said...

Bob: In Louisiana there was formed last year an embryonic party called The Reconstruction Party. It was formed by the black community post Katrina. Maybe a labor party would take a form like that.

Daniel: Socialism by definition is transitional, and includes capitalist enterprise. Communism is the next stage. That is different than Stalinists, who welcome private enterprise.

Larry Gambone said...

"Bureaucracy is worse. Both oppress and profit, but only bureaucracy wastes all the profits."
Says Sonia.

Not true, at least from my experiences living in Canada for the last 63 years, nor in some rather lengthy visits to European social democracies. State enterprises such as Quebec Hydro and BC Hydro function very well. So too the governmental medical system as compared to either the US or Chilean corporate model. Generally speaking government services and industries worked very well in Canada in the 1950s, '60's and '70s. They only started coming apart with the wave of neo-liberalism that began in the 1980', and this was due to cut-backs and so-called privatizations. I should add that these government industries and services were developed in the first place because corporate capitalism could not deliver the goods. This is not to say that I prefer state ownership/control, as a socialist, of course not, worker-self-management being the hall mark of genuine socialism.

Mark Prime (tpm/Confession Zero) said...

The whole lot of choices (3) is getting to be a real pain in the neck! The lesser of two (three) evils still leaves us with evil! Drat! I do so want to believe that there is a leader out there that can lead us out of the dessert I call "corporatism", but those that have a chance at actually making it as president have been groomed long before they cut thier teeth on the national stage. They've been smoothed over, bought and sold to the corporatists. I would vote for a revolutionary, or a revolution, because that seems to be the only light at the end of this nightmare.

The whole process is meant to confuse, not originally, but in its present state.

The only change, and it isn't even that, was/is Obama. By change I mean he seems different. A black man on the edge of making history in the US. On the same hand, Hillary could make history as the first woman president, but it matters not if the change is merely a physical trait.

Kucinich! He represented the possibility of real change. Even Ron Paul might possibly have fit that bill somewhat. Gravel? Hell! The US needs to wake up to the fact that the lesser of two evils is not the same as choosing between chocolate ice cream and vanilla or strawberry. It isn't a choice, well maybe the ice cream is, but not three evils wrapped in rhetoric signifying nothing will (can) change under their stewardship.

I've been watching the John Adams series on HBO and it is quite good. I become very excited about the possibilities and then I listen to our candidates speak and it all seems so empty. I suppose because it is.

Mark Prime (tpm/Confession Zero) said...


Anonymous said...

I was interested in Gravel, planning to vote for Kucinich, then picking Edwards to vote for on second or third choice, then faced with a Clinton vs Obama choice rolled the dice for Obama, did so without enthusiasm, then got enthusiastic, or more enthusiastic, not because I think he will change us but that by electing him, if we do, we will change ourselves.

McCain's a *lot* worse than Clinton or Obama, who are Republicans lite, agreed, but still represent something other than the ultra- old guard, and I think it speaks well of Republican voters that they didn't go for someone even more reactionary than McCain.

This is why I still suspect I should vote Democratic in the fall ... for strategic reasons ... although what I *want* to do is vote McKinney (or somebody like that, if they're available or if the ballots we get allow us to write anyone in).

So you see how I waffle: I can see the logical reasons for either action.

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