It isn’t too early to project what an Obama Administration might look like, at least in terms of its foreign/national security policy. He has a track record in the Senate, and now statements on the campaign trail, but most important is a constellation of advisors who — even as it is in flux in anticipation of the general election and beyond that, the possible formation of a new Administration — point to an identifiable philosophy that reveals a bit more than his thin record, or his antiseptic speeches and position papers.
Obama’s group of foreign policy staff and advisors may, like Gaul, be divided into three parts: the young and inexperienced, retreads from the Carter and Clinton Administrations, and the, shall we say, usual suspects — the floating, independent gray matter from liberal universities and think tanks.
There are necessarily differences in their views, but with appropriate caveats about generalizations, all of them are behind a collective vision that may be the most left wing since the craven days of George McGovern. They are refugees most of them from a well-trod path of disappointment and failure; a path no doubt paved with good intentions but especially dangerous as the 60s generation may finally have the executive power of the presidency powerfully sustained by control of both Houses of Congress.
This is not your father’s Democratic Party of optimistic, pro-American, gimlet-eyed Cold War liberals.
Despite his uplifting and optimistic rhetoric, many of Obama’s national security policies are crabbed, cringing or backward looking — the new face of the New Left.
Woulda’, shoulda’ and coulda’ is the mantra of Team Obama: if only the Bush Administration had been the Gore or Kerry Administration; or better, perhaps, the Carter Administration: Kumbaya, y’all.
Just a taster of those who have advised Obama on foreign policy should supply an adequate flavor . . . .
Among the gray eminences are Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Carter’s National Security Advisor and veteran of multiple failures in Iran; Lt. General Merrill McPeak (ret.), architect of premature Air Force retrenchment and unsuccessful change during the Clinton Administration; Lawrence Korb of the left wing, John Podesta-directed, George Soros-funded Center for American Progress; and Gregory Craig, aide to Ted Kennedy and yeasty Clinton partisan who defended the President following impeachment and worked to return Elian Gonzalez to Cuba.
Other senior advisers have included Anthony Lake, a Professor at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, and Dennis Ross, currently with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Their thinking isn’t necessarily to the conservative taste, but in all fairness it is within the pale of the loyal opposition, and they could just as easily serve some Republicans — as in fact both did: Ross with George H.W. Bush and Anthony Lake with Henry Kissinger.
Former Assistant Secretary of State Susan Rice, as well as now-departed-but-likely-to-return Samantha Power — both apprentice members of the great and the good — are fondly known on the left for their emphasis on human rights, multilateralism and international institutions — the black hole of talk and inaction.
Among the lesser-known lights are Zbig’s son, Mark Brzezinski, a lawyer/lobbyist who blindly insists on negotiations with Iran; Richard Clarke, former terrorism czar who claimed the Bush Administration was indifferent to the threat of al Qaeda leading up to 9/11; and, Major General J. Scott Gration (ret.), CEO of African anti-poverty organization Millennium Villages, who has compared Obama to Nelson Mandela.
Also among those who have advised the tyro Illinois Senator are James Ludes, former national security policy advisor to Sen. John Kerry; Denis McDonough, of the Center for American Progress and former adviser to Sen. Tom Daschle; and, Sarah Sewell, currently with Harvard’s Carr Center for Human Rights Policy and former aide to Sandy Berger. Enough said
Obama, then, has stocked up on advisors with what might be termed a metrosexual foreign policy: an instinctive aversion to muscular use of American power, a forward foreign policy and unilateral use of force. They lament the alleged deterioration of our reputation abroad, and generally favor humanitarian interventions over those that advance American political and economic interests.
As The Nation put it, Obama’s foreign policy advisors are “more likely to stress ‘soft power’ issues like human rights, global development and the dangers of failed states.”
It’s a group that has elevated wishful thinking to a policy. They generally believe that Saddam could have been contained; offer no coherent strategy for dealing with terrorism; maintain an almost mystical belief in the value of negotiations with tyrannies; favor the power of positive propaganda and “engagement”; and, are overly enthusiastic about disarmament, and international institutions and agreements.
Obama’s team tends to downplay the threat of Islamofascism, while overemphasizing the compromises on civil liberties that has come with war. They believe the Iraq War is a failure and are ready to scuttle away without regard for the future in the Arab Middle East. And they are distinctly chilly toward Israel, urging more concessions from the Jewish state and failing to see the true nature of her — and our — adversaries.
Obama’s advisers are prone to the superficial “solutions” offered by Jimmy Carter, either in the name of “realism” or naïve idealism. With a lack of intellectual and moral clarity about global threats and how the U.S. must respond, they are unable or unwilling to play the crucial deeper game. Their theories are largely untested, and too many of their failures — often the genesis of today’s challenges — have been obscured by a sympathetic press.
Obama needs to be judged by the company he keeps, whether it’s Pastor Jeremiah Wright, American terrorist Bill Ayres, or the flakes and failures among his national security policy advisors with disturbing track records who shelter behind his bright and shiny position papers, website and speeches.
Winston Churchill once said that the Americans always do the right thing — after they try every other alternative. In the days when Churchill was Britain’s Prime Minister, there was enough of a margin for error so that we almost always had another chance.
But with 24 hour news cycles, a culture of opposition to authority and tradition in the West, and weapons of mass destruction in the hands of terrorists or apocalyptic fanatics, Obama and his advisors may not have that precious gift of more than one chance to get it right.
Right now, they look set to test Churchill’s proposition. Let’s hope they don’t test it to destruction.