Time for a Foreign Policy Paradigm Shift

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And now we have Barack Obama, who campaigned against George Bush’s foreign policy by evoking once again this irrelevant and delusional narrative. As a Senator, Obama called the successful 2007 “surge” of troops to Iraq a “reckless escalation,” and introduced legislation to remove all combat forces by March 2008. During the campaign, his 2007 Foreign Policy article sounded all the themes of the Vietnam narrative. The war in Iraq is a “civil war,” he wrote, resurrecting the argument critics of the Vietnam War used to rationalize U.S. inaction. He called the Iraq war a “morass,” evoking the dreaded “quagmire,” and counseled withdrawal of our forces before any more disastrous “escalation.” George Bush’s cowboy “unilateral” use of force of the sort allegedly proven ineffective in Vietnam was discarded for “a restoration of multilateralism and participation in international institutions.” Bush’s illegal detaining, interrogating, torture of prisoners, redolent of Nixon’s “rogue elephant” CIA, had to be stopped. American exceptionalism, a euphemism for what Senate dove J. William Fulbright in 1966 called “the arrogance of power,” was discarded, replaced by a global “partner mindful of his own imperfections.”

As President, Obama acted on these assumptions. He issued Executive Order 13491, banning the use of enhanced interrogation techniques like waterboarding, the same techniques that contributed to the discovery and killing of Osama bin Laden. He promised to close down Guantanamo, rejected military tribunals for trying captured terrorists, allowed his Attorney General to hound CIA agents who had been involved in enhanced interrogations, released the Justice Department memos that legally vetted, and described in detail, the interrogation techniques used by the CIA, thus giving our enemies invaluable intelligence about resisting those techniques. And fearful of the Vietnam “quagmire,” he has announced “deadlines” for American withdrawal from Afghanistan, convincing the Taliban and its Pakistani enablers that all they have to do to win is wait for us to leave. All of these actions reflect the tendentious leftwing narrative of the excesses that were indulged during the Vietnam War, and that the left is adamant about never repeating, no matter the cost to our national security.

Worse yet for the war against jihad, Obama has based his “outreach” to the Muslim world on the old paradigm of American guilt and the need to atone for its neo-colonial sins. His June 2009 speech in Cairo attributed the “tensions” between Islam and the West to “colonialism that denied rights and opportunities to many Muslims, and a Cold War in which Muslim-majority countries were too often treated as proxies without regard to their own aspirations.” In other words, Western and American foreign policy crimes, not supremacist Islamic doctrine and jihadist ideology, must bear the responsibility for Muslim terrorism. Based on this paradigm of American guilt and atonement, Obama has reached out repeatedly to the mullahs in Iran, receiving in return contemptuous dismissals and continuing efforts to develop nuclear weapons. He has sent an ambassador back to Syria despite that regime’s support of insurgents killing Americans. He has pressured our best ally in the region, Israel, to make concessions to the Palestinian Arabs despite the lack of any reciprocal concessions. On the contrary, the Palestinian Authority has broken off talks and reconciled with a genocidal Hamas. He has abandoned allies like Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, opening space for the Muslim Brothers and their anti-American, anti-Israel jihadist ideology. In Libya he has been “leading from behind,” involving American power and prestige in a genuine civil war that so far has bogged down in a genuine “quagmire.” And Pakistan increasingly acts against our interests, as in the recent arrest of the Pakistani agents who had helped us locate bin Laden.

Of course, the political dialectic of ideology and self-interested opportunism has also been evident in Obama’s calculations. He did send more troops to Afghanistan, he has kept many Bush-era policies, such as rendition, that he demonized as a candidate, he has stepped up Predator drone attacks, he didn’t object to the reauthorization of the Patriot Act, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed will not be given a civilian trial in Manhattan, military tribunals are still operative, and Guantanamo remains open for business. Yet while these policies are correct, their main function is to give Obama some foreign policy credibility, and forestall the possibility of another terrorist attack that would destroy his chances of reelection. And combined with his Carter-like groveling and appeasement of our enemies, this inconsistency sows confusion among our allies even as it heartens our enemies, who view it as a sign of weakness and fear.

The paradigm of American neo-imperialist, neo-colonialist sins as the cause of our enemies’ aggression, one allegedly legitimized by the disaster of the Vietnam War, must be put to rest. We must take off the “kick me” sign the left has hung on America’s back for forty years, and develop a new paradigm: a foreign policy based on the unembarrassed assertion of American power in service to American goodness, backed up by a demonstrated willingness to stand by our allies and punish our enemies. If we do, we will find it much easier to pursue our global interests and defend our security.

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  • Fray222

    Of course Obama has betrayed the leftists that got him into power, he has expanded the war in Afghanistan, he is keeping troops in Iraq indefinitely, he is launching new wars in Libya and Yemen, he is threatening war with Syria. He has broken his promise to close Guantanamo. By any objective standard, the Obama administration is the most hawkish in modern American history.
    At least now the Republicans are starting to break free of neo-con control, not one of the Republican candidates today are willing to defend the war in Libya, the party is turning rapidly against a policy foreign intervention. And is actually beginning to defend the constitution on War powers and patriot act.
    Vietnam was a liberal war, it was started by Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson, liberals have traditionally been far more supportive of military intervention than conservative, but of course the neo-cons would like you to forget all of American history prior to 9/11.

  • Dispozovdaburka

    It is too late for our foreign policy.
    Our friends are now the muslims and
    Israel is the bad guy on the block.
    Tipping point of the war was 9/9/09.
    Freemasons held the "Muslim prayer Day" later in September,
    thereby altering our future destiny to Islam.
    We have been sold out..

  • Amused

    Oh gimme a break Thornton . Study the history from WW2 to present . Democrats AND Republicans have played an equal part in playing "cops of the world " , Democrats AND Republicans haved pressured Israel , for one reason or another over the decades from the settlements issue , to halting Israel's advances after Arab initiated wars . There are several examples, from toppling governments in Iraq , to supporting the oppressive Shah of Iran , refusals of military aid to Israel as a lever to placate the arabs for the sake of Saudi Oil , taking the side of West Pakistan in the 70's amidst of the obvious slaughters perpetratedon the East , support Sukarno in Indonesia , man the list goes on . Political Spin bordering on revisionism ! Better get out TWO signs to hang on the backs of BOTH parties .

    • ObamaYoMoma

      There are several examples, from toppling governments in Iraq , to supporting the oppressive Shah of Iran ,

      The government of Iraq should have been toppled a long time before it happened but without the subsequent insane fantasy based nation building mission that followed and that inevitably turned into an unmitigated disaster.

      I hate to rain on your clueless parade bud, but the Shah of Iran wasn’t oppressive. He was trying to lift his country out of 7th century Islamic barbarianism and into 20th century modernism, and, of course, the Muslims waged very violent and extremely brutal jihad against him and his government as a direct result, which was also joined by opportunist leftwing useful idiots. Thus, those so-called oppressions you stupidly refer to were really a manifestation of the jihad that was being waged against the Shah and his government.

      Nevertheless, that self-hating loon Jimmy Carter pulled the Persian rug out from under the Shah, which enabled Islamic strongmen to take over Iran, which the Left like loons consider to be a success and a major accomplishment of Jimmy Carter to this day, but in reality is one of the biggest strategic blunders ever in history, as the Islamic regime that Carter enabled to take over Iran executed a hundred times more people the first year of being in power, including all of the leftwing useful idiots that stupidly assisted them to cease power, than the Shah ever came close to doing in his entire career, and the level of oppression and brutality of the new Islamic regime made the Shah look like a rank amateur when it comes to brutality, torture, and viciousness. Your problem is not only are you completely oblivious of Islam like most delusional useful idiot leftists, but you also adhere to the same self-hating leftwing ideology that Thornton just railed against.

  • Richard Ong

    A most interesting and impressive article. Your new paradigm is vastly more appealing than the old one.

    I did cringe at the "power in service to American goodness" thought. Do we really want our diplomats at punch bowls around the world thinking they're there in aid of "American goodness"? Do French or Russian diplomats act as though they are serving the cause of French or Russian goodness? I care about the French and Russians, good or bad, depending on whether they oppose or support us.

    Let's just advance American interests on the assumption that our country is just fine and entitled to protect and advance its unique interests because they're our interests and forget about whether some damn foreigner thinks this is a good nation. I want ours to be a tough, realistic, formidable nation.

    • http://www.okcteaparty.org dan

      Excellent observation. Agree with tough, realistic (based on needs, not fuzzy "wants"), and (always) formidable. While what's "good" is in the eye of the beholder and can be ideologically twisted, we should always have a grasp of and not be afraid to identify and stand up to what's wicked (like,er,uh, man instituted and managed Theocracies and Sharia Law).

      • Richard Ong

        Thanks, Dan.

  • zsqpwxxeh

    Good historical analysis. One thing, though. Before paradigms can be shifted, Obama has to be shifted out of office. That's the indispensible precondition. And then the real work begins. It's not just damage control and cleaning up the mess that lefty fools like Obama and Clinton have made; it involves positive assertion of what we stand for as a great nation. Only a true conservative foreign policy can restore American status and influence in foreign affairs.

  • WilliamJamesWard

    Leftists control the Congress, have political appointment and civil service
    positions that destroy conservative values while serving a President of
    enmity towards America as his chief pursuit. A good third of Americans
    are indoctrinated and active leftists which will continue to work towards
    destroying American identity, create world socialism and use Islam as
    a tool for subverting our National security. America must be purged of
    the anti-American leftist destruction, it is infesting every aspect of our
    lives and all we do is under attack, everything is shrouded in false guilt.
    Communists that found a new home in the environmental movement
    have destroyed our wealth from plentiful natural resources and made
    us dependent on Nations who are our enemies and we have transferred
    wealth unheard of in human life and with it our future. Conservative
    foreign policy with a hard line pro- American attitude is all that will
    return America to a position of leading the world, but one we are not
    being made chumps by……………………………………….William

  • Zanabear

    This infusion of leftist guilt into American politics is sordid at best. I prefer PM Stephen Harper's unwavering support of Israel and no more 'land for peace' deals.

    Obama is trying to play on leftist sympathy while opening up a chasm that may lead to yet another full-scale war in the Middle East. Refusing to stand firmly by Israel is going to cost him in the long run. Mark my words.

    • http://Unclecephas.blogspot.com Cephas

      Stephen Harper makes me proud to be 1/4 Canuck.

      • Zanabear

        I am a dual citizen (American and Canadian). I'm glad you're a proud Canuck, as am I. When Harper won the majority I was the happiest I'd ever been in my new home (well, 15 year home) of Canada and I was even more pleased to hear him stand firmly with Israel.

        Obama seems to be forgetting that he leads the American nation and can firmly put his foot down in the roots of Israel and the nation will admire him for it. This wavering support looks bad for him. I've been trying to figure out for weeks why he's obsessed with some notion of '67 borders? What is driving him to do this? Is he giving Ahmadinejad a baby bottle to make him go nigh nigh?

  • http://none Danika Calligaro

    Hi there would you mind stating which blog platform you’re working with? I’m looking to start my own blog soon but I’m having a hard time making a decision between BlogEngine/Wordpress/B2evolution and Drupal. The reason I ask is because your layout seems different then most blogs and I’m looking for something completely unique. P.S My apologies for being off-topic but I had to ask!