Monday, March 24, 2008

Dignity Promotion? The Obama Foreign Policy Doctrine

What would Barack Obama do in foreign policy? Bring the troops home? Champion the United Nations?

Sure, and a lot more that than, according to Spencer Ackerman at American Prospect. Obama's international policy is apparently the "most sweeping liberal foreign-policy critique we've heard from a serious presidential contender in decades":

When Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama met in California for the Jan. 31 debate, their back-and-forth resembled their many previous encounters, with the Democratic presidential hopefuls scrambling for the small policy yardage between them. And then Obama said something about the Iraq War that wasn't incremental at all. "I don't want to just end the war," he said, "but I want to end the mind-set that got us into war in the first place."

Until this point in the primaries, Clinton and Obama had sounded very similar on this issue. Despite their differences in the past (Obama opposed the war, while Clinton voted for it), both were calling for major troop withdrawals, with some residual force left behind to hedge against catastrophe. But Obama's concise declaration of intent at the debate upended this assumption. Clinton stumbled to find a counterargument, eventually saying her vote in October 2002 "was not authority for a pre-emptive war." Then she questioned Obama's ability to lead, saying that the Democratic nominee must have "the necessary credentials and gravitas for commander in chief."

If Clinton's response on Iraq sounds familiar, that's because it's structurally identical to the defensive crouch John Kerry assumed in 2004: Voting against the war wasn't a mistake; the mistakes were all George W. Bush's, and bringing the war to a responsible conclusion requires a wise man or woman with military credibility. In that debate, Obama offered an alternative path. Ending the war is only the first step. After we're out of Iraq, a corrosive mind-set will still be infecting the foreign-policy establishment and the body politic. That rot must be eliminated.

Obama is offering the most sweeping liberal foreign-policy critique we've heard from a serious presidential contender in decades. It cuts to the heart of traditional Democratic timidity. "It's time to reject the counsel that says the American people would rather have someone who is strong and wrong than someone who is weak and right," Obama said in a January speech. "It's time to say that we are the party that is going to be strong and right." (The Democrat who counseled that Americans wanted someone strong and wrong, not weak and right? That was Bill Clinton in 2002.)

But to understand what Obama is proposing, it's important to ask: What, exactly, is the mind-set that led to the war? What will it mean to end it? And what will take its place?

To answer these questions, I spoke at length with Obama's foreign-policy brain trust, the advisers who will craft and implement a new global strategy if he wins the nomination and the general election. They envision a doctrine that first ends the politics of fear and then moves beyond a hollow, sloganeering "democracy promotion" agenda in favor of "dignity promotion," to fix the conditions of misery that breed anti-Americanism and prevent liberty, justice, and prosperity from taking root. An inextricable part of that doctrine is a relentless and thorough destruction of al-Qaeda. Is this hawkish? Is this dovish? It's both and neither -- an overhaul not just of our foreign policy but of how we think about foreign policy. And it might just be the future of American global leadership.

Read the whole thing.

There's much more under this than "dignity promotion."

Obama's positions are in essence the dream foreign policy of the antiwar left. When we hear the notion of ending "the mind-set that got us into war in the first place" and eliminating "the rot" in "the foreign-policy establishment and the body politic," we're looking at something a little more substantial than traditional isolationist (or realist) restraint in world politics.

In the quotes here, and in this discussion of "dignity promotion," we're seeing the advancement of a radical left-wing foreign policy agenda hopped-up in people-pleasing phraseology.

Ackerman, the author of this American Prospect piece, as well as folks like Matthew Yglesias, Glen Greenwald, and the terrorist-backers at Newshoggers, are as far from Democratic foreign policy centrism as one can imagine. True, they start with some elements of Clintonian liberal interationalism, but they modify it radically to import the full-blown antiwar foreign policy agenda that's been struggling to break out in the American left since Vietnam.

Note first
what Charles Krauthammer indicates about liberal internationalism, which Ackerman cites with glee at the end of the essay:

They [the liberal internationalists] like to dream, and to the extent they are aware of our unipolar power, they don’t like it. They see its use for anything other than humanitarianism or reflexive self-defense as an expression of national selfishness. And they don’t just want us to ignore our unique power, they want us to yield it piece by piece, by subsuming ourselves in a new global architecture in which America becomes not the arbiter of international events, but a good and tame international citizen.
The key point here: Liberal internationalists abhor the use of power for raw realpolitik policy interests, like the protection of oil, or regime change to consolidate America primacy through Middle East democracy promotion.

But the very essence of this new "Obama Doctrine" is its antiwar essentialism.
Obama's become the genuine antiwar candidate of the anti-Bush, anti-military forces of the left. With opposition to the Bush/Cheney regime becoming the key litmus test among Democratic Party activists, Obama's got the requisite bona fides for the nihilist hordes (even though, actually, Obama's war positions have been fairly malleable).

For this faction, opposition to the Bush administration and Iraq is rooted in the maturation of antiwar ideology emerging from the Vietnam era. It's composed of the complete moral and political condemnation of the use of American military force. This position has become an unquestionable aspect of left-wing politics. It's preached like gospel, and any advocate for the robust use of military power is pilloried as nothing less than a stormtrooper in a new fascist project of imperial domination. This ideology goes behind mere policy differences, to utter demonization, to the most extraordinarily venomous displays of hatred to any and all things supportive of martial traditionalism in American domestic politics.

Take Ackerman, for example. While he's by day an apparently respectable correspondent at the American Prospect, he's also
a prominent attack blogger for the new left-wing blogging commentariat. His blog postings are extremely vile and derogatory, marking some whacked alterego style of antiwar writings. Perhaps the use of four-letter expletives gives more incendiary power to his condemations of the war.

Either way, his oeuvre's representative of much of the commentary among current antiwar radicals who're positioning their work as
some righteous new model of foreign policy expertise in the age of online political mobilization.

This is why Obama's purported "transformative" agenda of "dignity promotion" is pumped up by Ackerman with an almost fanatical religious breathlessness. An Obama adminstration provides the best chance for the radical left to implement a drastically new direction in American international affairs - a "most sweeping liberal foreign-policy" for the 21st century.

See more analysis at Memeorandum.