[Marxism] In response to Max Elbaum
lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Dec 2 07:25:54 MST 2008
Max has a piece on MRZine
(http://www.monthlyreview.org/mrzine/elbaum021208.html) that I commented on:
Obama projects a different mix of military force and diplomacy, of
unilateralism and cooperation with allies, than his predecessor. The
incoming President's bottom-line goal -- maintaining "U.S. world
leadership" -- remains the same. But it is apparent that Obama knows
there are limits to U.S. power and that various accommodations to other
countries' interests are necessary (if unpleasant) requirements in
today's multipolar world.
But in reality the Bush political/military doctrine of the 2001 to 2006
period roughly has been replaced by a more centrist one symbolized by
the rise of the State Department and Gates's role in the CIA. In effect,
you have a foreign policy that is more in line with George Bush '41.
Since Obama is a big fan of '41, it is no surprise that he retained
Gates and that Condoleezza Rice has gushed over Hillary Clinton becoming
Secretary of State. If you can stomach his unctuous prose, just read
David Brooks in today's NY Times op-ed:
NY Times, December 2, 2008
Continuity We Can Believe In
By DAVID BROOKS
The 2008 election results did not fundamentally change American foreign
policy. The real change began a few years ago in Afghanistan and Iraq.
It began with colonels and captains fighting terror on the ground. They
found that they could clear a town of the bad guys, but they had little
capacity to establish rule of law or quality of life for the people they
were trying to help. They quickly realized that the big challenge in
this new era is not killing the enemy, it’s repairing the zones of chaos
where enemies grow and breed. They realized, too, that Washington wasn’t
providing them with the tools they needed to accomplish their missions.
Their observations and arguments filtered through military channels and
back home, producing serious rethinking at the highest levels. On Jan.
18, 2006, Condoleezza Rice delivered a policy address at Georgetown
University in which she argued that the fundamental threats now come
from weak and failed states, not enemy powers.
In this new world, she continued, it is impossible to draw neat lines
between security, democratization and development efforts. She called
for a transformational diplomacy, in which State Department employees
would do less negotiating and communiqué-writing. Instead, they’d be out
in towns and villages doing broad campaign planning with military
colleagues, strengthening local governments and implementing development
Over the past year, Defense Secretary Robert Gates has delivered a
series of remarkable speeches echoing and advancing Rice’s themes. “In
recent years, the lines separating war, peace, diplomacy and development
have become more blurred and no longer fit the neat organizational
charts of the 20th century,” he said in Washington in July.
Gates does not talk about spreading democracy, at least in the short
run. He talks about using integrated federal agencies to help locals
improve the quality and responsiveness of governments in trouble spots
around the world.
He has developed a way of talking about security and foreign policy that
is now the lingua franca in government and think-tank circles. It owes a
lot to the lessons of counterinsurgency and uses phrases like “full
spectrum operations” to describe multidisciplinary security and
Gates has told West Point cadets that more regime change is unlikely but
that they may spend parts of their careers training soldiers in allied
nations. He has called for more spending on the State Department,
foreign aid and a revitalized U.S. Information Agency. He’s spawned a
flow of think-tank reports on how to marry hard and soft pre-emption.
The Bush administration began to implement these ideas, but in small and
symbolic ways. President Bush called for a civilian corps to do
nation-building. National Security Presidential Directive 44 laid out a
framework so different agencies could coordinate foreign reconstruction
and stabilization. The Millennium Challenge Account program created a
method for measuring effective governance.
Actual progress was slow, but the ideas developed during the second Bush
term have taken hold.
Some theoreticians may still talk about Platonic concepts like realism
and neoconservatism, but the actual foreign policy doctrine of the
future will be hammered out in a bottom-up process as the U.S. and its
allies use their varied tools to build government capacity in
Afghanistan, Pakistan, Lebanon, the Philippines and beyond. Grand
strategists may imagine a new global architecture built at high-level
summits, but the real global architecture of the future will emerge
organically from these day-to-day nation-building operations.
During the campaign, Barack Obama embraced Gates’s language. During his
press conference on Monday, he used all the right code words, speaking
of integrating and rebalancing the nation’s foreign policy capacities.
He nominated Hillary Clinton and James Jones, who have been champions of
this approach, and retained Gates. Their cooperation on an integrated
strategy might prevent some of the perennial feuding between the
Pentagon, Foggy Bottom and the National Security Council.
As Stephen Flanagan of the Center for Strategic and International
Studies notes, Obama’s challenge will be to actually implement the
change. That would include increasing the size of the State Department,
building a civilian corps that can do development in dangerous parts of
the world, creating interagency nation-building institutions, helping
local reformers build governing capacity in fragile places like Pakistan
and the Palestinian territories and exporting American universities
while importing more foreign students.
Given the events of the past years, the U.S. is not about to begin
another explicit crusade to spread democracy. But decent, effective and
responsive government would be a start.
Obama and his team didn’t invent this approach. But if they can put it
into action, that would be continuity we can believe in.
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