ANTIWAR GROUPS FEAR BARACK OBAMA MAY CREATE HAWKISH CABINET
By Paul Richter
** Activists note that most of the candidates for top security posts voted for the 2002 resolution authorizing President Bush to invade Iraq or otherwise supported launching the war. **
Los Angeles Times
November 20, 2008
WASHINGTON -- Antiwar groups and other liberal activists are increasingly concerned at signs that Barack Obama's national security team will be dominated by appointees who favored the Iraq invasion and hold hawkish views on other important foreign policy issues.
The activists are uneasy not only about signs that both Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates could be in the Obama Cabinet, but at reports suggesting that several other short-list candidates for top security posts backed the decision to go to war.
"Obama ran his campaign around the idea the war was not legitimate, but it sends a very different message when you bring in people who supported the war from the beginning," said Kelly Dougherty, executive director of the 54-chapter Iraq Veterans Against the War.
The activists -- key members of the coalition that propelled Obama to the White House -- fear he is drifting from the antiwar moorings of his once-longshot presidential candidacy. Obama has eased the rigid timetable he had set for withdrawing troops from Iraq, and he appears to be leaning toward the center in his candidates to fill key national security posts.
The president-elect has told some Democrats that he expects to take heat from parts of his political base but will not be deterred by it.
Aside from Clinton and Gates, the roster of possible Cabinet secretaries has included Sens. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) and Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.), who both voted in 2002 for the resolution authorizing President Bush to invade Iraq, though Lugar has since said he regretted it.
"It's astonishing that not one of the 23 senators or 133 House members who voted against the war is in the mix," said Sam Husseini of the liberal group Institute for Public Accuracy.
Clinton, who was Obama's chief opponent during the Democratic presidential primaries, appears to be the top candidate for secretary of State in his administration. Speculation about Clinton has dismayed some liberal activists but has cheered some conservatives such as former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and editor William Kristol of the Weekly Standard.
Clinton voted in favor of the Iraq war resolution, and despite pressure, she never said during the primary campaign that she regretted that vote. She also favored legislation last year to support the designation of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization, another decision that pleased conservatives.
In a move to advance her candidacy, Clinton's husband, former President Clinton, has agreed to take steps to avoid conflicts of interest posed by his far-flung financial dealings, Democrats close to the discussions said Wednesday.
Bill Clinton has agreed to check with the Obama administration before giving a paid speech. He also has agreed to disclose the sources of new contributions to his charitable enterprise, the William J. Clinton Foundation, those close to the matter said on condition of anonymity.
He also is trying to devise a way to share the identity of past donors, a touchy matter because some contributors do not want their identities divulged, said one Democrat.
Knowledgeable Democrats say that Gates is under consideration to remain in his post for at least several months even though he frequently has said he wants to return to private life when the Bush administration leaves office.
Activists note that Vice President-elect Joe Biden, also expected to be a leading voice in the new administration's foreign policy, voted for the 2002 war resolution.
Another possible contender for the diplomatic post, former U.S. diplomat Richard C. Holbrooke, also backed the Iraq invasion.
Kevin Martin, executive director of the group Peace Action, said that although Obama had campaigned as an agent of change, the president-elect is "a fairly centrist guy" who appears to be choosing from the Democratic foreign policy establishment -- "and nobody from outside it."
"So, in the short term, we're going to be disappointed," he said. "They may turn out to be all pro-war, or at least people who were pro-war in the beginning."
Martin said that his group was concerned about Gates and Clinton as well as Rahm Emanuel, Obama's choice for White House chief of staff. He also said his group was trying to mobilize its grass-roots supporters with e-mail alerts, but recognized that it must approach the subject delicately because of public euphoria over Obama's historic victory.
"There's so much Obama hero worship, we're having to walk this line where we can't directly criticize him," he said. "But we are expressing concern."
Peace Action urged in a letter for its members to speak up because "we can be sure that the Obama team is under pressure to dial back plans to withdraw from Iraq."
Despite concerns, some groups are trying to remain conciliatory.
Tom Andrews, national director of Win Without War, said that although he finds Sen. Clinton's views "very troubling," Obama should be given the benefit of the doubt.
"I take him at his word that he is committed to ending the occupation of Iraq in 16 months and that he's going to assemble a team that's committed to that goal," Andrews said.
Obama campaigned on a promise to remove all combat troops from Iraq in 16 months, or roughly one brigade a month.
Since winning the White House, Obama has affirmed his pledge to remove the troops but has left himself some flexibility on the withdrawal timetable.
In an appearance on CBS' "60 Minutes" on Sunday, Obama promised a troop pullback but described it in broad terms.
"I've said during the campaign, and I've stuck to this commitment, that as soon as I take office, I will call in the Joint Chiefs of Staff, my national security apparatus, and we will start executing a plan that draws down our troops," the president-elect said.
--Richter is a writer in our Washington bureau.
--Times staff writer Peter Nicholas in Washington contributed to this article.
ROBERT GATES: AS BAD AS RUMSFELD?
By Ray McGovern
November 19, 2008
"As Bad As Rumsfeld?" The title jars, doesn't it. The more so, since Defense Secretary Robert Gates found his predecessor, Donald Rumsfeld, such an easy act to follow. But the jarring part reflects how malnourished most of us are on the thin gruel served up by the Fawning Corporate Media (FCM).
Over the past few months, Defense Secretary Robert Gates has generated accolades from FCM pundits -- like the *Washington Post*'s David Ignatius -- that read like letters of recommendation to graduate school. This comes as no surprise to those of us familiar with Gates' dexterity in orchestrating his own advancement. What DOES come as a surprise is the recurring rumor that President-elect Barack Obama may decide to put new wine in old wineskins by letting Gates stay.
What can Barack Obama be thinking?
I suspect that those in Obama's circle who are promoting Gates may be the same advisers responsible for Obama's most naïve comment of the recent presidential campaign: that the "surge" of U.S. troops into Iraq in 2007-08 "succeeded beyond our wildest dreams."
Succeeded? You betcha -- the surge was a great success in terms of the administration's overriding objective. The aim was to stave off definitive defeat in Iraq until President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney could swagger from the West Wing into the western sunset on Jan. 20, 2009. As author Steve Coll has put it, "The decision [to surge] at a minimum guaranteed that his [Bush's] presidency would not end with a defeat in history's eyes. By committing to the surge [the president] was certain to at least achieve a stalemate."
According to Bob Woodward, Bush told key Republicans in late 2005 that he would not withdraw from Iraq, "even if Laura and [first-dog] Barney are the only ones supporting me." Later, Woodward made it clear that Bush was well aware in fall 2006 that the U.S. was losing. Suddenly, with some fancy footwork, it became Laura, Barney -- and Robert Gates. And at the turn of 2006-07 the short-term fix was in.
BUT PLEASE, NO MORE TROOPS!
By the fall of 2006 it had become unavoidably clear that a new course had to be chosen and implemented in Iraq, and virtually every sober thinker seemed opposed to sending more troops. The senior military, especially CENTCOM commander Gen. John Abizaid and his man on the ground, Gen. George Casey, emphasized that sending still more U.S. troops to Iraq would simply reassure leading Iraqi politicians that they could relax and continue to take forever to get their act together.
Here, for example, is Gen. Abizaid's answer at the Senate Armed Services Committee, Nov. 15, 2006 to Sen. John McCain, who had long been pressing vigorously for sending 20,000 more troops to Iraq:
"Senator McCain, I met with every divisional commander, General Casey, the corps commander, General Dempsey, we all talked together. And I said, in your professional opinion, if we were to bring in more American troops now, does it add considerably to our ability to achieve success in Iraq? And they all said no. And the reason is because we want the Iraqis to do more. It is easy for the Iraqis to rely upon to us do this work. I believe that more American forces prevent the Iraqis from doing more, from taking more responsibility for their own future."
The U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad sent a classified cable to Washington warning that "proposals to send more U.S. forces to Iraq would not produce a long-term solution and would make our policy less, not more, sustainable," according to a New York Times retrospective on the surge by Michael R. Gordon published on Aug. 31, 2008.
Khalilzad was arguing, unsuccessfully, for authority to negotiate a political solution with the Iraqis.
There was also the establishment-heavy Iraq Study Group, created by Congress and led by Republican stalwart James Baker and Democrat Lee Hamilton. After months of policy review during 2006 -- with Gates as a member -- it issued a final report on Dec. 6, 2006, which began with the ominous sentence, "The situation in Iraq is grave and deteriorating." The report called for:
"A change in the primary mission of U.S. Forces in Iraq that will enable the United States to begin to move its combat forces out of Iraq responsibly . . . By the first quarter of 2008 . . . all combat brigades not necessary for force protection could be out of Iraq."
Robert Gates, who was CIA director under President George H. W. Bush and then president of Texas A&M, had returned to the Washington stage as a member of the Iraq Study Group. While on the ISG, he evidenced no disagreement with its emerging conclusions -- at least not until Bush asked him in early November if he might like to become secretary of defense.
Never one to let truth derail ambition, Gates suddenly saw things quite differently. After Bush announced his nomination on Nov. 8, Gates quit the ISG, but kept his counsel about its already widely reported recommendations.
GATES TO THE RESCUE
Gates would do what he needed to do to become defense secretary. At his confirmation hearing on Dec. 5, he obscured his opinions by telling the Senate Armed Services Committee only that "all options are on the table in terms of Iraq." Many Democrats, however, assumed that Gates would help persuade Bush and Cheney to implement the ISG's recommendation of a troop drawdown.
With unanimous Democratic support and only two conservative Republicans opposed, Gates was confirmed by the full Senate on Dec. 6, the same day the ISG report was formally released.
Yet, the little-understood story behind Bush's decision to catapult Robert Gate into his Pentagon perch hinges on the astonishing fact that Donald Rumsfeld, of all people, was pulling a Robert McNamara; that is, he was going wobbly on a war based largely on his own hubris-laden, misguided advice. As Robert Parry of Consortiumnews.com has reported, in the fall of 2006 Rumsfeld was having a reality attack. In Rumsfeldian parlance, the man had come face to face with a "known known."
On Nov. 6, 2006, a day before the midterm elections, Rumsfeld sent a memo to the White House. In the memo Rumsfeld acknowledged, "Clearly, what U.S. forces are currently doing in Iraq is not working well enough or fast enough." The rest of his memo sounded very much like the emerging troop-drawdown conclusions of the Iraq Study Group report.
The first 80 percent of Rumsfeld's memo addressed "Illustrative Options," including his preferred -- or "above the line" -- options like "an accelerated drawdown of U.S. bases . . . to five by July 2007" and withdrawal of U.S. forces "from vulnerable positions -- cities, patrolling, etc. . . . so the Iraqis know they have to pull up their socks, step up, and take responsibility for their country."
Finally, Rumsfeld had begun to listen to his generals and others who knew which end was up.
The hurdle? Bush and Cheney were not about to follow Rumsfeld's example in going wobbly. Like Robert McNamara at a similar juncture during Vietnam, Rumsfeld had to be let go before he caused a president to "lose a war."
Acutely sensitive to this political bugaboo, Rumsfeld included the following sentences at the end of the preferred-options section of his Nov. 6 memo:
"Announce that whatever new approach the U.S. decides on, the U.S. is doing so on a trial basis. This will give us the ability to readjust and move to another course, if necessary, and therefore not 'lose.'" (emphasis added)
The remainder of the memo listed "Below the Line -- less attractive options." The top three in the "less attractive" category were:
" -- Continue on the current path.
" -- Move a large fraction of all U.S. forces into Baghdad to attempt to control it.
" -- Increase Brigade Combat Teams and U.S. forces substantially."
In other words, a surge. (It is a safe bet that people loyal to Rumsfeld at the National Security Council alerted him to the surge-type of plans being hatched off line by neoconservative strategists, and that he and his generals wanted to bury them well "below the line.")
But in the White House's view, Rumsfeld had outlived his usefulness. One can assume that he floated these trial balloons with Cheney and others, before he sent over the actual memo on Nov. 6, 2006. What were Bush and Cheney to do?
It was awkward. Right up to the week before the mid-term election on Nov. 7, 2006, President Bush had kept insisting that he intended to keep Rumsfeld in place for the next two years. Suddenly, the president had to deal with Rumsfeld's apostasy.
The secretary of defense had strayed off the reservation and he was putting his "above-the-line" recommendations in writing, no less. Rumsfeld had let reality get to him, together with the very strong protestations of all senior uniformed officers save one -- the ambitious David Petraeus, fingered to become Petraeus ex machina for the White House. With the bemedaled Petraeus in the wings, the White House just needed a new Pentagon chief who could be counted on to take Rumsfeld's place, do the White House's bidding, and trot out Petraeus as needed.
On Nov. 5, 2006, Bush had a one-on-one with Gates in Crawford and the deal was struck. Forget the tortuously hammered-out recommendations of the Iraq Study Group; forget what the military commanders were saying. Gates suddenly found the surge an outstanding idea.
Well, not really. That's just what he let Bush believe. Gates is second to none -- not even Petraeus -- in ambition and self-promotion. He wanted to be secretary of defense, to be back at center stage in Washington after nearly 14 years in exile from the big show. And so he quickly agreed to tell Gen. Abizaid to retire; offer Gen. Casey a sinecure as Army chief of staff, providing he kept his mouth shut; and eagle-scout his way through Senate confirmation with the help of pundits like Ignatius composing panegyrics in honor of "Gates the realist."
So relieved were the Senators to be rid of the hated-but-feared Rumsfeld, that the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Dec. 5 on Gates' nomination had the aura of a pajama party (I was there). Gates told them bedtime stories. He said he thought there were no new ideas to be had in addressing the conflict in Iraq, and vowed to show "great deference to the judgment of generals." (sic)
TRYING TO EXPLAIN THE SURGE
It was hardly two years ago, but memories fade and the FCM, of course, is no help in shedding light on what actually happened. Gates did his part in getting rid of Abizaid and Casey, but the administration faltered embarrassingly in coming up with a rationale to "justify" the surge. The truth, of course, was not an option. The White House could not exactly say, "We simply cannot live with the thought of losing a war before we leave town."
On Dec. 20, 2006, President Bush told the Washington Post that he was "inclined to believe we do need to increase our troops, the Army and Marines." He added, tellingly, "There's got to be a specific mission that can be accomplished with the addition of more troops." And he said he would look to Gates, just back from a quick trip to Baghdad, to help explain.
By way of preliminary explanation for the surge, President Bush wandered back and forth between "ideological struggle" and "sectarian violence." He told the Post, "I'm going to keep repeating this over and over again, that I believe we're in an ideological struggle" and, besides, "sectarian violence [is] obviously the real problem we face." (Sic)
When it became clear that those dogs wouldn't hunt, the White House justified the surge as necessary to give Iraqi government leaders "breathing space" to work out their differences. Breathing space for the leading Iraqi officials was the rationale offered by Bush in a major address on Jan 10, 2007. Pulling out all the stops, he raised the specter of another 9/11, and spoke of the "decisive ideological struggle of our time."
Bush dismissed those who "are concerned that the Iraqis are becoming too dependent on the United States" and those whose "solution is to scale back America's efforts in Baghdad -- or announce a phased withdrawal of our combat forces." The president did warn that the year ahead would be "bloody and violent, even if our strategy works."
One would be tempted to laugh at Bush's self-absorption -- and Gates' ambition -- were we not talking about the completely unnecessary killing of over 1,000 U.S. troops – a quarter of all U.S. troops killed in this godforsaken war/occupation.
In reality, by throwing 20,000-30,000 additional troops into Baghdad, Bush and Cheney were the ones who got the two-year breathing space.
But what about that? What about the thousand-plus U.S. troops killed during the surge? The tens of thousand Iraqis? The hundreds of thousands displaced from their homes in the Baghdad area?
I fear the attitude was this: Nobody important will get killed; just a bunch of Iraqis and GIs mostly from small-town and inner-city America. And, anyway, our soldiers and Marines all volunteered, didn't they? (I almost did something violent to the last person I heard say that.)
Bush, Cheney, and Gates apparently deemed it a small price to pay for enabling them to blame a successor administration for the inevitable withdrawal from America's first large-scale war of aggression.
And sure enough, in late 2006 a small group of "neoconservatives," including members of Bush's National Security Council, came up with a plan called "Changing the Dynamics: Surge and Fight, Create Breathing Space and Then Accelerate the Transition." It called for a substantial troop increase in Baghdad and other hot spots.
RUMSFELD OUT, GATES IN: CLEAR SAILING
The FCM missed it (surprise, surprise) but one did not have to be a crackerjack intelligence analyst to see what was happening. At the time, Col. W. Patrick Lang, USA (retired), and I wrote a piece in which we exposed the chicanery and branded such a surge strategy "nothing short of immoral, in view of the predicable troop losses and the huge number of Iraqis who would meet violent injury and death."
Surprisingly, we were joined by Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Oregon, who explained to ABC's George Stephanopoulos why Smith had said on the Senate floor that U.S. policy on Iraq may be "criminal."
"You can use any adjective you want, George. But I have long believed that in a military context, when you do the same thing over and over again without a clear strategy for victory, at the expense of your young people in arms, that is dereliction. That is deeply immoral."
GO WEST, YOUNG MAN
There are a host of reasons why Robert Gates should not be asked to stay on by President-elect Obama. Robert Parry has put together much of Gates' history in Parry's 2004 book, Secrecy & Privilege; readers may also wish to see what former intelligence analysts and I, who knew Gates at CIA, have written by going to Consortiumnews.com's Gates archive.
For me, Gates' role in the unnecessary killing of still more Americans and Iraqis is quite enough to disqualify him. I have known him for almost 40 years; he has always been transparently ambitious, but he is also bright. He knew better; and he did it anyway.
One can only hope that, once President-elect Obama has time to focus seriously on prospective cabinet appointments, he will discount advice from those taken in by the cheerleading for Gates or from the kind of dullard who suggested Obama finesse the FCM's simplistic embrace of the surge by saying it "succeeded beyond our wildest dreams."
For Gates, Rumsfeld was an extremely easy act to follow. But, at least in one sense, Gates is worse than Rumsfeld, for Rumsfeld had finally begun to listen to the right people and adjust. It now seems the height of irony that the adjustments he proposed in his memo of Nov. 6, 2006 would have had most U.S. troops out of Iraq by now.
But can one portray Gates as worse than Rumsfeld across the board? I think not. When you crank in torture, lying, and total disrespect for law, Rumsfeld has the clear edge in moral turpitude.
Still, I suspect this matters little to the thousands now dead because of the surge that Gates did so much to enable -- and to the families of the fallen.
Surely, it should not be too much to expect that President-elect Obama find someone more suitable to select for secretary of defense than an unprincipled chameleon like Gates.
Behind the headlines
WHAT THE CLINTON APPOINTMENT MEANS
By Justin Raimondo
** And why we won't see any change in American foreign policy **
November 19, 2008
The American people are sick and tired of the Bush era, and they are counting the days until Barack Obama is inaugurated. The reasons for this are manifold, of course, but the one that concerns us especially here at Antiwar.com is the vital question of war and peace. American foreign policy had become so relentlessly aggressive, and with such disastrous results, that John McCain's alleged national security credentials were moot. Even if the economy hadn't tanked so spectacularly at a crucial point in the election season, I contend that Obama would've won in a landslide anyway. And it surely didn't help when the author of our disastrous foreign policy, Vice President Dick Cheney, was wheeled out to issue his kiss-of-death endorsement: talk about the stab in the back!
In any case, what I really mean to say is that our crazed foreign policy was a major reason why Americans gave Obama such a stunning victory. There's just one problem: our foreign policy is going to remain pretty much the same.
That's right: you heard me. No change in that department. Why is that, you ask? The reason is because the War Party has a strategy perfectly suited to solving their major problem, which is that they lack any kind of popular support, as the McCain campaign discovered to its horror. So instead of playing the game, they decided to rig it and greet the incoming Obama administration with a fait accompli. The Bush administration is now engaged in the last throes of its torturous negotiations with the Iraqis, who have finally agreed to the terms of a status of forces agreement with the U.S. What this means, in short, is that U.S. troops will be authorized to stay in the country until 2011 -- way beyond what Obama promised. Of course, this doesn't mean that they will stay in that long, necessarily, only that the new president has cover now to break his campaign promise, without much of a fuss being made by the Iraqis. As for the Americans, Congress won't mind, and if it comes to a vote the pro-war faction of the Democrats can always line up with the GOP, as they did in the Bush era.
In order to understand how the sellout happened, however, let's rewind the tape. As luck would have it, the economy's collapse occurred just at the high point of the general election campaign. This was a big break for the War Party: it meant, first of all, that the focus was taken off two losing wars -- their gift to the new president. It also meant that the incoming president would have his hands full with domestic issues. People are losing their jobs, their homes, and their minds; this is no time to worry about the fate of South Ossetia. Indeed, the problems of the U.S. economy -- and the global market -- are so overwhelming, that certainly President Obama will have to make them his first and virtually sole concern from the moment he's sworn in.
The necessity of a disciplined division of labor sets the stage, in this scenario, for the Great Concession, as it may deserve to be called. Obama may have won the Democratic nomination, but his victory at the convention and at the polls in November surely did not weld together a united Democratic Party. Indeed, taking the White House just accelerated the ongoing intra-party strife between the Clinton faction and the "new politics" wing led by Obama, because it meant a new struggle over the spoils -- and much bitterness on the part of the losers.
Obama, however, being the consummate politician that he is, had a solution: hand foreign policy over to the Clintons. Cede Hillary the international arena -- his area of greatest weakness -- and use her connections to his own advantage. This would free him to roll up his sleeves and tackle the great problem of how to kick-start America's economic engine.
Obama, of course, is still the president, with the final word on all matters foreign and domestic. Yet by conceding de facto direction of our overseas operations -- two wars, and a few more in the making -- he could solve his three biggest political problems: (1) The Clintons, who, by their very existence, pose a threat; (2) His own inexperience in the field of foreign affairs, and his lack of personal connections in this rarefied realm; and (3) The very high expectations that demand total concentration on solving the single most important problem facing the country.
Obama's interests, from what I can tell, are primarily domestic: he was a community organizer working with those who fell through the cracks in our economy, and his very real empathy for ordinary people drives him toward his goal of reforming the structure of American society, which he believes promotes inequality and continuing insecurity.
Be that as it may, my longtime readers know I have major problems with Obama's domestic agenda, being a libertarian and all. What they may not catch is that this agenda will have unfortunate global consequences, most immediately in the area of international trade. The protectionist impulses of the Democratic Party and its labor union base are not only bad for America economically, they also promote war hysteria: as a great libertarian economist put it, if goods don't cross borders, then armies soon will.
Aside from that, however, the decision to concede the foreign policy realm to the Clintons -- yes, both of them, as I discussed the other day -- will have horrific consequences as far as the peace movement is concerned.
Just to give you some idea, Monday night, Peter Beinart was on "Hardball," and Chris Matthews was wrinkling his brow with worry that there was something more to this Hillary appointment than met the eye. You could tell he didn't like it, and he had booked Christopher Hitchens to play the devil's advocate. The devil, however, wasn't very forthcoming. Hitchens hates the Clintons, but he seemed too stoned to give any good reasons as to why Obama was doing this, or why it was a bad idea.
Beinart, on the other hand, was ecstatic and said she would be great. Not a very surprising endorsement: a Clintonian foreign policy, the very policy that prepared the way for the invasion of Iraq and ravaged the former Yugoslavia, perfectly reflects the historical stance of the magazine he used to edit.
There is not a single war in modern American history that the New Republic, since its founding in 1914, hasn't enthused over. The magazine made a name for itself immediately by hailing World War I as a grand crusade to make the world safe for democracy. World War II was its heyday, as it screamed abuse at antiwar dissenters and demanded their jailing. Vietnam was, for TNR, another test of American resolve: the editors backed the Hubert Humphrey-Scoop Jackson wing of the Democratic Party, while antiwar protesters were beaten in the streets. Iraq War I, Iraq War II, and the much-anticipated attack on Iran that's even now waiting in the wings -- the Peter Beinarts of this world live to praise such folly. Beinart's endorsement is the equivalent of the Good War-making Seal of Approval.
It gets worse, however. The culture of corruption that was the leitmotif of the Clinton administration will now be given international scope. If the president and absolute ruler of Kazakhstan wants increased military aid or wants us to overlook the monstrous abuses that take place on his prisons, he has only to make a contribution to the Clinton Global Initiative, and it's done. That's the face of American foreign policy for the next four years, at least.
It's disgusting to contemplate, and a great disappointment to those very sincere voters who saw -- and still see -- the hope of real change in our foreign policy. Many will resist drawing the appropriate conclusions. Their fallback argument is that Obama is, after all, ultimately at the helm of the ship of state and can be trusted to guide us safely through troubled international waters without starting another major war.
The first part of this argument -- that Obama's in charge -- is not strictly true, as I discussed above, and to make things clearer: what's happening is very similar to what happened to Rome as it crossed the Rubicon that separates republic from empire. The first and second triumvirates, and, later, the division of the empire into West and East, were responses to the problem of enormous scale. Faced with a crisis where a quicker response was required than the empire was capable of, the Romans were forced to delegate power.
The American empire is responding to a systemic crisis in a similar fashion. By delegating authority over one aspect of the presidency to the Clintons, Obama lifts a great burden from his shoulders, which, added to the weight of the domestic crisis, might have brought him to his knees in the first few months. As it is, he is now free to confront the demons of the economy -- and good luck to him with that.
I'll just point out, as Ron Paul has on many occasions, that if we ended our foreign policy of global interventionism, we'd have plenty of money to solve our economic problems, or at least put us on the road to economic solvency. Empires are a costly luxury, in this the age of hard economic realities, and we can hardly afford to maintain this one for much longer. Our economy will pull out of the doldrums once we stop diverting wealth to uneconomic purposes -- like wars, for example, or "foreign aid" that winds up in the hands of corrupt government officials. Unfortunately, with the Clintons as Obama's partners in what amounts to a team effort, or a de facto triumvirate, that possibility is just as distant as it ever was.