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Wednesday, April 09, 2008

The Obama Doctrine

I meant to mention it more than a week ago, but Spencer Ackerman's "The Obama Doctrine" is a good read in the March TAP.

Ackerman takes note of Obama's intent to transform US foreign policy:
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."

..."This election is about ending the Iraq War, but even more it's about moving beyond it. And we're not going to be safe in a world of unconventional threats with the same old conventional thinking that got us into Iraq," Obama said.
Ackerman describes how Obama and his advisors support a "human dignity" agenda that would -- contra the current policy approach -- seek to "fill stomachs, alleviate malaria, or protect neighborhoods from marauding bands of militiamen."
Extremists will forever be able to demagogue conditions of misery, making continued U.S. involvement in asymmetric warfare an increasingly counterproductive exercise -- because killing one terrorist creates five more in his place. "It's about attacking pools of potential terrorism around the globe," [General Scott] Gration says. "Look at Africa, with 900 million people, half of whom are under 18. I'm concerned that unless you start creating jobs and livelihoods we will have real big problems on our hands in ten to fifteen years."

..."He goes back to Roosevelt," [Harvard's Samantha] Power says. "Freedom from fear and freedom from want. What if we actually offered that? What if we delivered that in the developing world? That would be a transformative agenda for us." The end of the Iraq War mind-set, it turns out, may be the beginning of America's reacquaintance with its best traditions.
I previously noted this "human security" agenda that runs through Obama's foreign policy speeches. As Ackerman notes, some conservatives charge that Obama seeks a "post-American" foreign policy.

That's only true if one only accepts a fairly narrow definition of what it means to be American.

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