Friday, November 21, 2008

Will Obama’s Foreign Policy Team Believe in Change (Or Is It Just Us?)


With Hillary Clinton supposedly ready to accept a Secretary of State post that carries the customary practice of bringing along one’s own set of advisors, I’m really starting to wonder about the veracity of Barack Obama’s "change" mantra, at least when it comes to foreign policy!

During the primary and general election campaigns, I really hoped that Obama would end up surrounding himself with people who embraced the new vision best captured in this excerpt from a memo issued by early Obama advisor, Samantha Power, ironically in response to attacks from Clinton:
American foreign policy is broken. It has been broken by people who supported the Iraq War, opposed talking to our adversaries, failed to finish the job with al Qaeda, and alienated the world with our belligerence. Yet conventional wisdom holds that people whose experience includes taking these positions are held up as examples of what America needs in times of trouble.

Barack Obama says we have to turn the page. We cannot afford any more of this kind of bankrupt conventional wisdom. He has laid out a foreign policy that is bold, clear, principled, and tailored for the 21st century. End a war we should never have fought, concentrate our resources against terrorists who threaten America. End the counter-productive policy of lumping together our adversaries and avoiding talking to our foes. End the era of politics that is all sound-bites and no substance, and offer the American people the change that they need.

Barack Obama’s judgment is right. It is conventional wisdom that has to change.
In this article, Spencer Ackerman details the paradox of expecting Clinton to be the one to facilitate foreign policy change that is “tailored for the 21st century;” and here Jeremy Scahill runs down a list of 20 former clintonites and neocons who are rumored to be in line to fill out many of the positions in Obama’s foreign policy team.

Disturbingly, while Obama may follow through on his campaign promise to get us out of Iraq, it appears there are going to be quite a few voices telling him that indefinite military action (in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and elsewhere) is the only viable option, while he may have nobody around who is inclined to offer an opposing viewpoint.

In fact, it seems that Obama is pretty much surrounding himself entirely with advisors who are firmly rooted in the centrist 1990’s. As Christopher Hayes points out here, there doesn’t appear to be a progressive voice in the bunch!

Since progressives were among Obama’s biggest supporters, having perhaps the greatest stake in the power of “believing in change,” I’m starting to understand what the religious fundamentalists would have felt like, if they didn’t just rely on their pastors to tell them how to feel, when the GOP shrugged them off immediately following election after election!

At this point, we can only hope that Obama himself is prepared to be the progressive "page-turning" counterbalance to everyone else in his foreign policy team!

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