The Current Discussion: In their campaign, should Barack Obama and running mate Joseph Biden advocate a clean break in U.S. foreign policy, or should they rely on continuity and experience?
America’s polarized party politics of the last decade is a churned cocktail of often-conflicting ideology and erroneous ideals that, in turn, have damaged America’s national interests and its world standing. Both parties raced to come up with new ideas and fill the post-Cold War vacuum, set a direction, define an ideology, and chart a new course for America. In this confusion, the master plan process was influenced by skewed and narrow visions, spun by foreign lobbies, or hijacked for acrimonious purposes.
The last clean break whopper of grand ideas and new bearings was the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) and its “neo-conservative” think tank project, born in the mid-1990s with the American Enterprise Institute, and vapid ambitions to overthrow “Pop Internationalism” and install ultra-nationalism of the Eisenhower era, act like a deaf bull in a china shop and trash-talk loudly. An abuse of Reagan-era politics with militarist and world constabulary ideas, doctrines of pre-emptive strikes, self-proclaimed “liberation” stories (such as the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998) and a serial snuffing of civil liberties and the rule of law —all before 9/11 in 2001-- ensued. The neo-Bolsheviks of the 21st Century embarked on a long act of hubris to project angry, intolerant power with the excuse to put the “fun” into religious fundamentals. Their marketing strategy was a self-centred enigma of the 1950s that America “led the West to victory in the [Cold] War” and it now faces new “challenges and opportunities”.
The corrosive and abrasive doctrine to “remind America of its global responsibilities” led to increased defense spending, unnecessarily challenged regimes that America deemed hostile and aborted economic and political freedom of Americans in midstream of the globalization process. Multilateralism was cast aside as America set to teach the rest of the world how to live, borrow to consume, behave and “do the right thing.” The PNAC eventually transformed itself into a pack of political goblins and its home country as the angry, modern-day Rumpelstiltskin with a report card of errors, poor judgements, false estimations and a massively devalued political and financial capital. They simply didn’t think twice about alienating a billion Muslims or 1.3 billion Chinese (i.e. a third of world population.) As a result, America is now a wounded tiger, suffering from financial wounds and damaged credibility. A wounded tiger is a dangerous and unpredictable creature indeed.
To say that America needs to adjust its political bearings is an understatement. It is time to exorcise the old ghosts, hobs, and boggarts that are merely homemade products of xenophobia. The next president of the United States will be busy with a long and time-consuming agenda.
From my point of view, it is presumptuous to think that Barack Obama and Joe Biden will head the next administration. Polls of public opinion -in the country that re-elected George Bush—report that Senator McCain & Co. have an even chance to be elected and, in turn, this suggests the country will remain divided and polarized around two distinctively different mindsets and ideas.
So far, both the Democrats and Republicans have offered few details with firm, traditional party platforms as was required prior to the era of televisiocracy. In this hurried daily grab for airwaves and 30-second slices of reality, foreign policy errors of the last decade and the price of imported oil are the featured central point of American politics in a shallow blame game. Hollow words such as “victory and defeat”, popular one-liners or cheap appeals to fears of voters in pep talks have diverted the focus from reality and the root structure in need of attention.
To preserve national interests, the next president of the United States ought to embark on a series of modernization policies both at home and abroad. Looking backward and trawling for replicas of old, nostalgic ideas is not going to fix the problems. American foreign policies are in urgent need of repair, renovation or a complete rethink, if only for the fact that current policies are not sustainable nor financially affordable.
The first item of agenda is for America to rid itself of the stale, rusted Cold War mentality, just as Europe managed to overcome two bloody wars within living memory. A clear rethink of NATO, without a defined foe such as the Warsaw Pact, ought to be one of the main points of focus for the next American president. He must frame the far away (offensive) operation in Afghanistan matter in a realistic assessment: Has America been fooling itself with the expansion of NATO and can NATO survive with its old structure? And is it time to clarify whether it is a defensive military pact, a world enforcer, or a political club?
A clear decision about multilateral organizations are also necessary. Should America cast aside the UN, WTO and all other world bodies and go down this go-it-alone path of selective compliance with international law-- the latest being the illogical attempt to reward India with nuclear deals as India remains outside the Non-Proliferation Treaty and IAEA supervision? (But seek to punish Iran, a NPT member in compliance with the treaty)?
In this housecleaning, American leaders might wish to review the effect and the cost-benefit of its failed sanctions regimes. None has been effective. Save for reduced employment at home, what has been achieved by blocking civilian economic engagement with Cuba or Iran, Libya, Syria or others?
Clearly, America’s other policies are just as important for stability of the highly interconnected world. All must be modernized and fixed concurrently. Questions about financial disciplines, unchecked growth of public and private sector debt, looming doubt over America’s treasury debt rating as investment grade (publicly pondered by the U.S. Treasury Secretary with pending nationalizations of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and the mortgage mess.....), or globalization and trade issues, global warming, and immigration (especially from Latin America) are crucial.
In his farewell address, George Washington advised the United States to remain a neutral player in the international political game. He urged the newly-established republic to avoid conflicts and alliances with other nations as he urged economic ties with other nations to be promoted. Thomas Jefferson also stated that "I deem [one of] the essential principles of our government [to be] peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none...".
In these times of shallow political cross-dressing, the Obama-Biden faction are marketing a subtle image of the Kennedy era of change or that it is just another act of crafting a splinter neo-Mensheviks of foreign policy in the New World. In that light, it might be time to ponder whether the senators are merely a modern time Trotsky-Joffe ticket, cut out of the same old dysfunctional cloth.
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