The American Spectator rightly calls President Obama out on his military and foreign policy:
You will remember the Obama campaign of 2008. His was a fresh and pleasingly multicultural face and his candidacy, although unexamined by an incurious national media, took pains to present a foreign policy sharply different from either the meliorism of Hillary Clinton or the jingoism of John McCain. Barack Obama was unambiguously the peace candidate and it was on that basis that he became our President.
That was then. Once in office, Obama established Ms. Clinton as his Secretary of State, listened long and mindfully to Sen. McCain, and then proceeded to outreach both of them in an intermittently coherent but unmistakably neoconservative assault on the Middle East (however horrified the anti-Israeli Obama would be to know he’s acting neoconservatively). Obama amped up the war in Afghanistan, started another one in Libya, helped to topple a staunch U.S. ally in Egypt, and launched “kinetic military actions” against Somalia and Yemen that, to the locals, looked very much like war. All of these initiatives were undertaken in the name of Western democratic values and, unlike the Bush wars, could not be said to have been contaminated by either a thirst for Arab oil or a hunger for Israeli favor. Obama’s policy was manifestly propelled by neoconservative impulse, most brightly illuminated in the putsch against Mubarak. In that instance, the U.S. made it clear that it would support any successor regime. Our strategic judgment, ultimately arrived at, was this: better the street mob, any street mob, than the aging autocrat, even a reliably pro-American autocrat. That judgment represented neoconservatism in its distilled form.
On these matters, President Obama has certainly not honored his campaign promises in 2008.
He has not helped himself politically either for the future. For 2012, what is the practical difference in foreign and military policy between President Obama and Perry, Bachmann, or Romney? How can President Obama differentiate himself from the belicosity of his likely GOP opponents? He can’t.
At this point, politically, President Obama reminds me of former Democratic President: Lyndon Johnson. LBJ too initiated grand domestic policies with his Great Society to only be overshadowed in scale by his escalation of military commitments in Vietnam and southeast Asia. Likewise, President Obama’s eagerness to engage in foreign wars has not seen limitation. We are now up to seven wars and counting. (see here and here)
LBJ never faced an electoral consequence for his policies because, seeing the writing on the wall, he withdraw from the campaign in 1968 after another candidate entered the race: Bob Kennedy. RFK presented a wholly new vision for America and the Democratic Party. Not only did he present a bold voice for ending poverty and inequality, promoting racial reconciliation, and making our communities livable, he also triumphed ending the Vietnam War. Shortly after announcing his candidacy, RFK said:
All this bears directly and heavily on the question of whether more troops should now be sent to Vietnam — and if more are sent, what their mission will be. We are entitled to ask — we are required to ask — how many more men, how many more lives, how much more destruction will be asked, to provide the military victory that is always just around the corner, to pour into this bottomless pit of our dreams?
But this question the Administration does not and cannot answer. It has no answer — none but the ever-expanding use of military force and the lives of our brave soldiers, in a conflict where military force has failed to solve anything in the past. The President has offered to negotiate — yet this weekend he told us again that he seeks not compromise but victory, “at the negotiating table if possible, on the battlefield if necessary.” But at a real negotiating table, there can be no “victory” for either side; only a painful and difficult compromise. To seek victory at the conference table is to ensure that you will never reach it. Instead, the war will go on, year after terrible year — until those who sit in the seats of high policy are men who seek another path. And that must be done this year.
For it is long past time to ask: what is this war doing to us? Of course it is costing us money — fully one-forth of our federal budget — but that is the smallest price we pay. The cost is in our young men, the tens of thousands of their lives cut off forever. The cost is in our world position — in neutrals and allies alike, every day more baffled by and estranged from a policy they cannot understand. . .
It may be asked, is not such degradation the cost of all wars? Of course it is. That is why war is not an enterprise lightly to be undertaken, nor prolonged one moment past its absolute necessity. All this — the destruction of Vietnam, the cost to ourselves, the danger to the world — all this we would stand willingly, if it seemed to serve some worthwhile end. But the costs of the war’s present course far outweigh anything we can reasonably hope to gain by it, for ourselves or for the people of Vietnam. It must be ended, and it can be ended, in a peace of brave men who have fought each other with a terrible fury, each believing he and he alone was right. We have prayed to different gods, and the prayers of neither have been answered fully. Now, while there is still time for some of them to be partly answered, now is the time to stop.
President Obama is certainly facing very similar political dilemmas as LBJ.
“The issue was not simply Johnson’s loss of popularity, it was his loss of credibility.” Reflecting on this turning tide, Johnson admitted to Goodwin, “I felt that I was being chased on all sides by a giant stampede coming at me from all directions.”
“When Johnson continued to insist that America was making progress, fewer and fewer people believed him,“ historian McCullough remarks. “No one directly accused the president of lying; they called it ‘the credibility gap.’”
I certainly desire for President Obama to make bold moves in foreign policy and return us to the principles of Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and the Democratic Party: a foreign policy of moderation dedicated to keeping America free, prosperous and at peace.
Will Obama have a RFK in 2012? Certainly, not from the current GOP field. Except for Ron Paul, each GOP candidate has not seen a foreign policy problem which they believe should not be solved by military entanglement.The President will probably not see an opponent from the Democratic Party, either; although 28% of Democrats desire to see a new candidate according to a recent CNN poll.
Nevertheless, this battle can be fought in US Congressional and Senate races. We need a new crop of RFKs at the legislative level willing to fight to bring American brave soldiers home. Disentangling our country from all these foreign wars is electorally smart too; its what the people want.
A strong majority of voters in Virginia, a state that is home to the Pentagon, Naval Station Norfolk (the world’s largest naval base), U.S. Joint Forces Command, and the fourth highest percentage of veterans of any state, want American troops out of Afghanistan and Libya.
According to a Quinnipiac University poll, 55 percent of Virginians polled think the United States “should not be involved in Afghanistan now,” and 60 percent oppose involvement in Libya.
According to the poll, fewer Virginians support those wars than any of the other people or topics the poll asked about. Only 38 percent now support the Afghan war, and 31 percent support the Libyan military involvement, compared to 42 percent who don’t want to repeal the 2010 health care law, 43 percent who would vote to re-elect President Obama, 48 percent who approve of Obama’s job performance, 42 percent who would vote for George Allen for senator, and 43 percent who would vote for Tim Kaine.