Only a few commentators, including the president, seemed to sheepishly realize the irony of his receiving the prize shortly after escalating one war and while continuing to fight another. You would have thought that the escalation alone would have been enough to satisfy all of the warheads at home; but to stanch the domestic fallout from being associated with too much peace, Obama, when accepting the peace award, gave a speech defending war.
In the 20th century, the few successful counterinsurgency campaigns run by an outside power—the Americans in the Philippines after the Spanish-American War at the turn of the last century, the British in Malaya in the 1950s, and the Americans in Iraq—have one thing in common: the insurgency became divided.
But isn’t there hope for Iraq and Afghanistan because opposition forces are divided and often unpopular? Not really. The problem in Iraq is that as U.S. forces draw down, the now reduced guerrilla war could turn into a civil war among the Sunni, Shi’ite, and Kurdish ethno-sectarian groups. In Afghanistan, Afghans regard the United States as a foreign occupier, are suspicious of the U.S. long-term military presence, do not support a surge in U.S. forces, do not think it will defeat the Taliban, and thus support negotiating with the insurgents.
McChrystal, much like Gen. Douglas MacArthur during the Korean War, has publicly spoken out about decisions that are the exclusive purview of the elected civilian leadership. At great cost to his popularity, President Harry Truman cast a great blow for the critical republican principle of civilian control over the military by firing the insubordinate MacArthur. President Obama could do the same with far less cost; McChrystal just took his job and is not a popular war hero, as was MacArthur.
Because he wanted to get out of Iraq and because Republicans always score points by calling the Democrats soft on national security, Obama evidently felt he had to be in favor of some war and thus reluctantly succumbed to pressure to augment U.S. forces in Afghanistan. If he had been smart, on his second day in office, he would have instead announced the rapid withdrawal of U.S. forces.
Instead of coddling oil-producing tyrants like Moammar Gadhafi and the Saud family, the United States and other industrial countries should let the market work. We should not pay a premium for oil by sacrificing our principles or pursuing unnecessary, costly and counterproductive military activities.
If the U.S. gives up fighting such ill-advised wars of choice and concomitant occupations, Rumsfeld’s concept of fewer ground forces and a heavier reliance on airpower can be viable. The concept is not the problem, but it’s not going to work if the United States continues such drawn-out imperial quagmires.
Barack Obama’s reaction to the mass protests and violence in Iran shows he is following through on his pledge to be more like George H.W. Bush rather than his son, George W. Bush. Obama has admired the father’s realism and has criticized the idealistic neo-conservatism of the son. But is realism a better foreign policy [...]
When massive turmoil occurs in an important country, U.S. policymakers struggle to make heads or tails of it and arrive at an appropriate reaction. Kibitzers and pundits, however, have no trouble reaching immediate and sweeping conclusions and egging on the policymakers to further their own agendas. So far, President Obama has done a reasonably good [...]
One election in Iran will not significantly change U.S.-Iran relations—only a change in U.S. thinking and policy will do so. Historically, the U.S. government, under both Republican and Democratic presidents, has painted relatively poor third world regimes that don’t toe the empire’s line as “evil”—Moammar El-Gadhafi’s Libya in the 1980s, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in the [...]
Fearing a new, more formidable opponent than the often buffoonish and macho cowboy George W. Bush, the two leaders of al Qaeda have tag teamed Barack Obama with twin audiotapes condemning him. Unlike Bush—who made little effort to understand the Islamic world and whom al Qaeda could easily bait into reckless acts that raised its [...]
Hillary Clinton’s blunt public statement that President Obama “wants to see a stop to settlements—not some settlements, not outposts, not natural growth exceptions” made for good headlines. The Israelis were shocked and upset that their slavish ally had acted slightly less obsequious and engaged in a public spat with them. This ballyhooed baby step came [...]
A few—and only a few—prescient commentators have questioned whether the U.S. can sustain its informal global empire in the wake of the most severe economic crisis since World War II. And the simultaneous quagmires in Iraq and Afghanistan are leading more and more opinion leaders and taxpayers to this question. But the U.S. Empire helped [...]
Neo-conservatives used the Republican Party as a vehicle to promote and employ their policies of muscular nation-building overseas. But like the parasite that eventually kills its host, the Republican Party’s virtual collapse, in large part because of the failed nation-building adventure in Iraq, has left neo-conservatives discredited and facing policy extinction. Unfortunately, neo-conservatism will probably [...]
Although Barack Obama should be applauded for stopping torture by the U.S. government and pledging to close the infamous Guantanamo and worldwide CIA secret prisons, he is nevertheless playing politics with the issue to get the best of both worlds. To poke his predecessor, Obama released graphic memos from the Bush Justice Department that appallingly [...]
The Pentagon’s annual publication, Military Power of the People’s Republic of China 2009, accused China of stocking its military with weapons that can be used to intimidate or attack Taiwan and mitigate U.S. air and naval superiority near its territory. Even if the Department of Defense’s report has not exaggerated the threat from China—unlikely since [...]