Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Foreign Policy a la Obama

Much hue and cry over the Samantha Power interview.

Power is fond of Viera de Mello's quote, "Fear is a bad adviser." There's a well-defined narrative centered around the US acting out of fear, manipulating the electorate with fear, and promoting fear instead of hope. It's a powerful narrative. All things being equal, I'd rather be hopeful than fearful.

But it's appropriate to fear things that are a threat to national well-being, to say nothing of national survival. Furthermore, it's at least supportable to act against things that are a threat to global well-being, especially since the US is always the prime beneficiary of other nations' good fortune. So it's better to ask, "Are there serious threats? If so, how do we defuse or eliminate them?"

Non-state, massively destructive terrorism is a threat. It's foolish to think that this type of terrorism can be mitigated solely by improving conditions in the Islamic world. The lunatic fringe will always be there. The only way to prevent these guys from perpetrating horrifically destructive acts is to destroy their ability to plan, train for, and support such attacks. That's a military problem.

Nuclear proliferation in the Middle East is a threat, at least as long as we're dependent on oil from the Persian Gulf. This may be a problem with no military solution but I certainly wouldn't want to rule one out a priori. Ms. Power advocates negotiating with the Iranians to solve problems, rather than negotiating as a reward. Well, OK, but where's the quid pro quo? What can we give them that's more valuable than the ability to achieve nuclear domination over their neighbors and immunity from attack by the US? Where's the problem to be solved?

Ms. Power (odd how ambiguous are the sentences constructed using her name without an honorific) views the Israel-Palestinian conflict as the central problem in the Middle East. She apparently hasn't noticed that all the action's occurring several hundred miles east of there.

I have little problem with Bush's Middle East foreign policy, other than how maladroitly it's been executed. I have no doubt that Obama would have a much defter touch. But I'm not too enthusiastic about what he'd do strategically.

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