Barack Obama: Pragmatic Man of Principle or Just Another Neocon?

A note from the blog owner: Today I was planning to write a blog post entitled, “The Obama Doctrine: Practical Idealism” but before I could put virtual pen to virtual paper, I received a guest post from one of my regular readers and a former blogger in his own right, Hucking Fypocrites. Huck, no particular fan of President Obama, fairly captures the surprising situation the President finds himself in. The Nobel Peace Prize winner is becoming one of the most bellicose of Presidents, taking his predecessors two wars and upping the ante with a third one in Libya. And as I’ve said before, let’s not fool ourselves. We are at war with Libya and the turnover of responsibility to NATO today is next to meaningless as we are the prime mover and shaker in NATO. While I think it can be stated that Obama deliberates more than his predecessor and builds alliances faster, there is no doubt that the similarities in foreign policy between Obama and Bush cannot be ignored. Huck does an excellent job of spelling these out. Read and enjoy!

Respectfully,
Rutherford


The term “Neocon” has been tossed around for the last ten years as an insult toward what was perceived to be an exclusively conservative republican ideology. Its subscribers include former Vice President Dick Cheney, political columnist Bill Kristol, and, if the rhetoric is to be believed, Adolph Hitler, himself. However, a seemingly new generation of Neoconservatives are emerging, led by none other than President Barack Obama, suggesting that the rhetoric of the past decade against Neoconservativism has been nothing more than partisan hypocrisy solely intended to paint the foreign policies of former President George W. Bush in a negative light.

While having been around for decades, the current Neoconservative ideology has been largely attributed to the policy think-tank known as the Project for the New American Century (PNAC). Its core principles are that American military might should be used in a preemptive fashion in order to propagate American values and strengthen American interests throughout the world. According to the PNAC:

“American foreign and defense policy is adrift. Conservatives have criticized the incoherent policies of the Clinton Administration. They have also resisted isolationist impulses from within their own ranks. But conservatives have not confidently advanced a strategic vision of America’s role in the world. They have not set forth guiding principles for American foreign policy. They have allowed differences over tactics to obscure potential agreement on strategic objectives. And they have not fought for a defense budget that would maintain American security and advance American interests in the new century.

We aim to change this. We aim to make the case and rally support for American global leadership.

As the 20th century draws to a close, the United States stands as the world’s preeminent power. Having led the West to victory in the Cold War, America faces an opportunity and a challenge: Does the United States have the vision to build upon the achievements of past decades? Does the United States have the resolve to shape a new century favorable to American principles and interests?”

Many in the old Neoconservative camp believed that was a good question, and believed that they had an equally good answer—“yes!” By contrast, many outside of the Neocon fold preached that American military might should not be used in a preemptive fashion, and that the United States had no business sticking its nose into the affairs of others in imperialistic attempts to tell them people how to live.

Just how did the Neocons propose to enact their “New American Century?” According to their website [Note the bold portions]:

• we need to increase defense spending significantly if we are to carry out our global responsibilities today and modernize our armed forces for the future;
• we need to strengthen our ties to democratic allies and to challenge regimes hostile to our interests and values;
• we need to promote the cause of political and economic freedom abroad;
• we need to accept responsibility for America’s unique role in preserving and extending an international order friendly to our security, our prosperity, and our principles.

So how does Barack Obama play into all of this?

As early as 2002, the then Illinois state senator was extremely critical of sitting President George W. Bush’s foreign policies, all the while calling out some of the “armchair, weekend warriors” members of the PNAC because they had “shove[d] their own ideological agendas down our throats…”

But many of the Bush-era policies that state senator Obama once spoke out against, and indeed ran his presidential campaign against, are policies that President Obama has both championed and continued. And none of them have been championed louder, or more recently, than the Neoconservative ideologies that were once touted by anti-war advocates as evil and wicked. In fact, President Obama has enacted every one of the four key prescriptions laid out by the PNAC. Every. Single. One.

Take defense spending, for example. In his first two years in office, President Obama has twice proposed an increased budget on military spending. In his 2010 budget proposal (his first as president), Obama proposed a 4% increase on defense spending of the previous year. The $533.7 billion request topped what had been the highest level of US military spending since WWII. The next year, President Obama followed up that defense budget with an even higher proposal of $708 billion; an increase of 3.4%. Admittedly, the President’s non-Iraq defense budget was a mere $549 billion. However, that is still an increase of more than $11 billion from the previous record-setting year.

But Barack Obama’s Neoconservative tendencies have shown themselves on more than just military spending. As of Monday night (3/28/11), they have actually been integrated into his stated foreign policy doctrine. In his address to the American people regarding the United States military involvement in the conflict in Libya, the Commander-in-Chief fully embraced the Neoconservative ideology as he reminded us all of America’s “unique role as an anchor of global security and advocate for human freedom” and how, “when our interests and values are at stake, we have a responsibility to act.” Some of the very same words you read above to defend some of the very same ideas of the Neoconservative PNAC.

So what are we to make of all this? Is Barack Obama a pragmatic man of principle who can adjust his ideologies and practices as the situation calls in order to get good things done? Or is he nothing more (or less) than just another Neocon, like those he spoke out against in the past? Has he truly brought about his promise of change to American foreign policy, or has he continued the Neoconservative policies of his predecessor that he once believed had “failed?” Ultimately, the onus to answer those questions falls onto his supporters and the anti-war demonstrators who had once compared Neocons to Hitler. Thus far, their relative silence (Rutherford excluded) has been as deafening as it has been disappointing.

But there’s always hope, right? — Hucking Fypocrites (3/30/2011)

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Clowns to the Left of Me, Jokers to the Right

When it comes to Libya, you can look on either side of the political ping-pong table and find total nonsense. To my left is Senator John Kerry who proved he believes in fairy tales when he appeared on “Meet the Press” this past Sunday.

John, I hate to let you in on this but when you drop bombs on a country, you are at war with them. To say otherwise makes you look like a fool. To suggest that we can finish this mission with Gaddafi still in power makes you look sillier still. The threat to the Libyan rebels is Gaddafi. To remove the threat, you must remove Gaddafi, and unlike other examples of diplomatic measures pushing a despot out, here we have a bona fide madman. He is not going anywhere without a strong push. Either Kerry lives in a fantasy land or he is lying to me. I don’t like either possibility.

To my right is Senator Lindsay Graham. He appeared on “Fox News Sunday” and uttered his own brand of inanity.

Lindsay, this is not about who has the biggest dick. So France was out in front of us on this Libyan attack. So what? We didn’t play cowboy this time and we actually waited for someone else to push the agenda before we jumped in. Imagine that? We actually attempted to join a coalition instead of calling all the shots. No shame in that Lindsay if you’re really interested in the end game of saving lives. But no, Lindsay is more interested in our pumping our chest out and being the big bad leader of the free world.

But then I can almost forgive Kerry and Graham because our motives in this Libyan fiasco are as clear as pea soup. Clearly the humanitarian motives are suspect. We’ve got government snipers shooting citizens of Yemen in the head. We’re “appealing” to Yemen’s conscience. Not a bomb being dropped there. Pure bull. We are in Libya only to maintain a no fly zone. More bull. You don’t need to bomb Gaddafi’s compound to maintain a no fly zone. And the whole notion that we’re not leading (Graham’s big gripe) is itself a farce. We are leading the effort and it is not at all obvious to whom we will turn leadership over, in the next days — not weeks — as Obama has promised.

The fact is we’re being lied to folks. Yet I suspect many of the players don’t even know they’re lying. They buy their own malarkey. Whether it’s folks on the left or the right, Congress or the President, State or Pentagon, it’s a bunch of clowns and jokers.

Frankly, I’m filled with bipartisan disgust.

Respectfully,
Rutherford

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Nukes, Libya and Angry Libs

Nukes

Let’s talk about Russian Roulette. I hand you a revolver capable of firing six bullets. I only load one chamber of the revolver. I leave the other five empty. I spin the cylinder and tell you to put the revolver to your head and pull the trigger. Your odds are not bad. You have a five in six chance of emerging from the request happy and healthy. You have a one in six chance of being dead. Despite those odds, you decline my offer. I can’t blame you. Nuclear power plants operate along the same lines. The odds of a major disaster are small. But when it happens the results are devastating. The plant failure in Japan thanks to an earthquake and resulting tsunami have now surpassed the severity of our Three Mile Island disaster of decades ago but has not yet reached the proportion of the then USSR’s Chernobyl. Some here in the US say “nothing to see here.” The logic goes “when a plane crashes does everyone stop flying?” Well, the simple truth is there are a number of people who refuse to fly based on the risks. Those who fly do so by choice. Short of zoning ordinances, what choice do people have who live in the vicinity of a nuclear power plant?

To make matters worse, I heard an explanation the other night of how nuclear power plants work. I admit this was a “nuclear power for dummies” explanation but the explanation still blew my mind. You see, I was always under the impression that nuclear fission within the plants directly generated electricity somehow. What I discovered is that the nuclear fission (a controlled nuclear reaction similar to an atomic bomb without the blast) is used to heat water, which in turn creates steam, which in turn runs turbines or some such other contraption that generates electricity. Reminded me of the old children’s game “Mouse Trap”. For all its sophistication, it sounded awfully Rube Goldberg. It made me imagine an energy plant where the electricity was generated by treadmills. On the treadmills were humans running. Keeping them running was the threat that if they slowed down, they would be shot in the foot. A high risk to human health just to generate energy. We create nuclear reactions just to heat up water? Could this really be the basic way nuclear power plants are run? Isn’t there any safer, less expensive way to do this?

Nuclear plants are not cheap. Instead of continuing to build these accidents waiting to happen, let’s direct that money to the serious development of wind and solar solutions. Japan has taught us there are no fail-safe nuclear plants. We must ask ourselves is the gain really worth the risk.

Libya

As I write this, we have joined with a bunch of allies to drop bombs on Libya. Sugar coat it any way you like, it sounds to me like we are at war with yet another country. Like it or not, the least I want is an honest answer for why we need to get involved in this and President Obama handed me a load of bull yesterday when he announced the effort we were joining. But let me take you back to another famous speech made by a recent President.

Knowing these realities, America must not ignore the threat gathering against us. Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof — the smoking gun — that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud.

via Bush: Don’t wait for mushroom cloud – Page 5 – CNN.

This of course was the load of malarkey that George W. Bush handed us to justify invading Iraq. Not only were we told about nonexistent weapons of mass destruction but he upped the ante by suggesting that Saddam Hussein would nuke the United States of America. With that bit of manipulation in my rear view mirror, I heard these comments from our current President:

Now, here is why this matters to us. Left unchecked, we have every reason to believe that Qaddafi would commit atrocities against his people. Many thousands could die. A humanitarian crisis would ensue. The entire region could be destabilized, endangering many of our allies and partners. The calls of the Libyan people for help would go unanswered. The democratic values that we stand for would be overrun. Moreover, the words of the international community would be rendered hollow.

via Obama’s Speech on Libya Situation (Full Text) – International Business Times.

“The entire region could be destabilized.” Come again? I immediately thought, this is Obama’s mushroom cloud. How does a civil war destabilize an entire region? Qaddafi has acted like a tyrant for decades and the entire region was not destabilized by it. No sooner did this thought cross my mind then I heard my words echo back to me from the TV as Jack Jacobs, a retired US army colonel voiced the very same opinion and went even further to say that if anything, our intervention in Libya may be the destabilizing force there.

When President Obama tells me we can’t stand by and let people get slaughtered, I can understand that. But when he tries to scare me with conjecture about regional destabilization, he crosses the line into Iraq-era propaganda. I expected Bush to pee on me and tell me it was raining. I didn’t expect that from Barack Obama.

Angry Libs

I have long beaten the drum against the violent rhetoric of the right-wing ideologues in this country. I stand by it. Many of the signs carried by Tea Party members are beneath the dignity of anyone claiming to be a patriotic American. Worse than that, those in power in the GOP have not behaved much better, whether it be birther sympathizers or fools like Joe Wilson who yelled “you lie” to the President during a congressional address. I have also maintained that we don’t see this behavior coming from the left.

Until now.

As I have written in a recent article, the behavior of just about every politician in Wisconsin is reprehensible when it comes to this union busting legislation that was recently passed (and has now been legally challenged). When some of my readers confronted me about signs carried by the left-wing during the Wisconsin kerfuffle, I acknowledged that hateful signs from the left are no better than those from the right. However I maintained that left leaning politicians in Wisconsin still held to a higher standard than their GOP counterparts. Sadly I was mistaken. Wisconsin Democratic Assemblyman Gordon Hintz, reacting to the passing of the union busting bill, said to his Republican colleague, Michelle Litjens “you’re f*cking dead”. Where I come from, that makes Joe Wilson’s “you lie” sound like a compliment. Litjens described the incident to a reporter and appeared graceful in the face of disgraceful behavior.

A message to my fellow liberals: we need to walk it like we talk it. Our righteous and completely appropriate indignation at the likes of Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann and others who stoke anger and discontent among their followers amounts to nothing but rank hypocrisy when we tolerate the same behavior from our own. Hintz should be urged to resign for his remarks. His direct statement to Litjens amounts to a much more volatile act than cross-hairs on a campaign map.

Respectfully,
Rutherford

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