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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Post-American President?

Would Barack Obama be the first "post-American" President? Scott McConnell, who writes for Patrick Buchanan's The American Conservative thinks so:
He would not only be the United States’ first black president, but, to borrow immigration activist Mark Krikorian’s useful term, its first post-American one as well.

In his foreign-policy address before the Chicago Council on Global Affairs last April, Obama asserted that America’s security is “inextricably linked to the security of all people,” a recipe for global interventionism so promiscuous as to make neoconservatives almost prudent by comparison. He is a proponent of global free trade and high levels of immigration. Much of his memoir is devoted to his quest to connect with an extended family in Africa. This world-man aura is not without appeal, especially after eight years of a president deaf to what foreigners think and feel. But taken as far as Obama does, it would be an electoral liability.
The piece goes downhill from there, noting that Republicans would play up his unusual name, his middle name (Hussein), his race, etc.

It seems clear that Obama does NOT have in mind a "promiscuous" "recipe for global interventionism."

He was against Iraq as a "dumb war," and the standards he set for that conflict would obviously be applied to other potential conflicts. This is from that Chicago speech in April that McConnell references:
No President should ever hesitate to use force – unilaterally if necessary – to protect ourselves and our vital interests when we are attacked or imminently threatened. But when we use force in situations other than self-defense, we should make every effort to garner the clear support and participation of others – the kind of burden-sharing and support President George H.W. Bush mustered before he launched Operation Desert Storm.

And when we do send our men and women into harm’s way, we must also clearly define the mission, prescribe concrete political and military objectives, seek out advice of our military commanders, evaluate the intelligence, plan accordingly, and ensure that our troops have the resources, support, and equipment they need to protect themselves and fulfill their mission.

We must take these steps with the knowledge that while sometimes necessary, force is the costliest weapon in the arsenal of American power in terms of lives and treasure. And it’s far from the only measure of our strength.

In order to advance our national security and our common security, we must call on the full arsenal of American power and ingenuity. To constrain rogue nations, we must use effective diplomacy and muscular alliances. To penetrate terrorist networks, we need a nimble intelligence community – with strong leadership that forces agencies to share information, and invests in the tools, technologies and human intelligence that can get the job done. To maintain our influence in the world economy, we need to get our fiscal house in order. And to weaken the hand of hostile dictators, we must free ourselves from our oil addiction. None of these expressions of power can supplant the need for a strong military. Instead, they complement our military, and help ensure that the use of force is not our sole available option.
This is not the Bush Doctrine, clearly, nor a recipe for war-war-war.

Here's more from Obama's October 2007 foreign policy address in Chicago:
But it's also time to learn the lessons of Iraq. We're not going to defeat the threats of the 21st century on a conventional battlefield. We cannot win a fight for hearts and minds when we outsource critical missions to unaccountable contractors. We're not going to win a battle of ideas with bullets alone...

It's time to make diplomacy a top priority. Instead of shuttering consulates, we need to open them in the tough and hopeless corners of the world. Instead of having more Americans serving in military bands than the diplomatic corps, we need to grow our foreign service. Instead of retreating from the world, I will personally lead a new chapter of American engagement.

It is time to offer the world a message of hope to counter the prophets of hate.
Obama's speech is loaded with calls for diplomacy, arms control, and multilateralism. He also focuses on "human security" issues that require American attention, but not its military force -- global poverty, most prominently.

Procedurally, he wants to abandon torture, reduce secrecy, restrain presidential power and assure that the US is a good citizen on the international stage. In all, there is a great deal to like in the speech and not much to challenge.

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