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Tilting at Windmills

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April 23, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

OBAMA'S SPEECH....Barack Obama gave his big foreign policy speech today. "There are five ways America will begin to lead again when I'm President," he said. Here they are:

  1. Get out of Iraq (but responsibly!)

  2. Increase the size of the Army and Marines by 92,000 soldiers and teach 'em some Arabic. Get support from other countries when we fight wars of choice.

  3. Get serious about stopping the spread of nuclear weapons.

  4. Rebuild our traditional alliances. Understand that things that affect other countries also affect us.

  5. Double the foreign aid budget.

After reading Michael Hirsh's cover story in our April issue, I read Obama's speech looking for influences from Samantha Power, a person I admire but who I suspect has rather too optimistic a view of the potential of American military power. I guess I saw that influence mainly in point #2, which suggests that Obama is assuming that we'll be conducting more foreign occupations in the future and is already thinking of ways to make them run more smoothly. After all, we hardly need more troops in order to fight the conventional phase of conventional wars.

As usual, I'm ambivalent about this. On the one hand, if we're going to occupy countries, we ought to have the troops to do it right. (Though I note very little in Obama's speech about what those 92,000 extra troops would be focused on.) On the other hand, I'd just as soon that we didn't occupy any more foreign countries, and a larger military simply encourages us to think we can do this effectively. On the third hand, not every war is a war of choice. We might well be faced with a defensive war in the near future, and if we are we ought to be prepared for both combat and occupation. On the fourth hand, if we are going to add a few divisions to the active force, it would also be nice to hear at least some lip service paid to scaling back some of our more fanciful technology expenditures.

I don't expect to make up my mind on this score anytime soon. Most of the time I come down in favor of expanding the military, on the basis that (a) if you're going to do something, you should do it right, and (b) we're not likely to continue to be ruled by petulant children forever into the future. Needless to say, (b) is a gamble.

On the whole, I thought it was a pretty good speech, one that set out a much-needed vision not 100% obsessed with terrorism and nothing else — though I'd add the caveat that it's actually easier to make a good foreign policy speech than a good domestic policy speech. Why? Because people expect policy details when you talk about domestic stuff, but not so much when you talk about national security. Soaring rhetoric ("pay any price, bear any burden....") goes over a lot better in the overseas sphere.

But even with that caveat, it was pretty good. Obama hit a lot of the right notes, offered more policy specifics than he had to, and set a good tone. Not bad for a guy who supposedly has no foreign policy experience.

Kevin Drum 6:50 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (87)

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We might well be faced with a defensive war in the near future

Really? Can you give an example of a defensive war in the recent past?

Posted by: william on April 23, 2007 at 8:46 PM | PERMALINK

William: Afghanistan. The Gulf War. "Defensive" here doesn't mean "fought on American soil," it means a war fought against someone who attacked us or an ally first.

Posted by: Kevin Drum on April 23, 2007 at 8:51 PM | PERMALINK

Meanwhile:

Task Force Lightning Patrol Base Attacked
Multi-National Division – North PAO

TIKRIT, Iraq – Nine Task Force Lightning Soldiers died as a result of injuries sustained
from an explosion near a patrol base in Diyala Province, Monday.

Twenty Soldiers and one Iraqi civilian were wounded when a suicide vehicle born
IED attacked the patrol base. Twelve Soldiers were returned to duty after initial medical
care, and eight Soldiers and the Iraqi civilian were evacuated to a Coalition Forces’
medical treatment facility for further care. Three of those Soldiers were later returned to
duty.

The names of the deceased Soldiers are being withheld pending notification of
next of kin and release by the Department of Defense.

Posted by: steve duncan on April 23, 2007 at 8:54 PM | PERMALINK

I hate to be a thread hijacker, but these kids are beyond plucky. I think they've earned some support from any of us who can afford to give it.
MORMON CHENEY PROTESTERS PAY THE PRICE (and could use a little help therewith)

Blood, sweat, and tears have all been spilt in the battle being fought by anti-Cheney students at Brigham Young University (BYU).

In the last three weeks:

-Organize protests against Dick Cheney's approaching graduation speech
-Start a petition
-Organize an "alternative graduation" ceremony
-Find speakers for the alternative ceremony
-Find a venue for the alternative ceremony
-Publicize everything
-Raise the $25,000 to pay for all of it

They have three more days to finish...


Posted by: cowalker on April 23, 2007 at 8:55 PM | PERMALINK

I suppose given the peculiarities of the American electorate crying for a bigger military is the politically smart move. But for what? To better coerce us with? You already spend as much as the rest of the planet combined. You've got mighty long teeth, grandma.

(bottom line: I trust Obama's FP instincts; though I doubt he agrees with my thinking (well, Lord Acton's) that a weaker and more constrained US would be all round a far better thing for the world which is I think pretty much the foreigner view).

Posted by: snicker-snack on April 23, 2007 at 8:57 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, and screw the environment, anyway.

Posted by: Kenji on April 23, 2007 at 8:59 PM | PERMALINK

Traditional alliances? We have none left except Britain, and only them because they fear a Frankish hegemony in Europe, so that's a meaningless statement. Double foreign aid budget? Why not double it or triple it? Another meaningless statement since what are you trying to accomplish?. Get out of Iraq responsibly? If getting out of Iraq in any way is irresponsible [as some would argue] then again a meaningless statement. Increasing size of military? Everybody's banging that drum so no big deal. Stop spread of nukes? Again, like getting out of Iraq, much more complicated than he makes it sound.

All in all - more drivel from a guy who has great intonation. Hard to imagine he could be worse than current prez, but don't really see anything that'd make me think he'll be better - unless you think good governance is all about giving nice sounding speeches.

Posted by: saintsimon on April 23, 2007 at 9:02 PM | PERMALINK

What the f do we need 92,000 more troops for? Both the invasion of Afghanistan and the Gulf War could be accomplished with a U.S. military at its current size.

Obama has already said that a Barrack Obama administration would *increase* the Pentagon budget. And this summary of yours, it'd appear, only reconfirms that assertion. Which annoys me, given the fact that our military budget is roughly the same size as the whole rest of the world's, combined (including, of course, our allies). So those of us who feel that our current superpowered military is already large enough can, I suppose, go get bent next November?

As for foreign aid: doubling our current outlay (0.22% of GDP) still brings us to less than half the outlay of Denmark (which devotes 1.12% of its GDP to foreign aid). Be still my beating heart. Add to that the fact that the single largest recipient of our aid (by orders of magnitude) is Israel (something I don't understand Obama to be agitating to change), and the result is one underwhelmed American progressive at this moment in time.

Thanks anyway, Barack. I'll go ahead and hold onto my donor dollars.

Patrick Meighan
Venice, CA

Posted by: Patrick Meighan on April 23, 2007 at 9:13 PM | PERMALINK

Missing from the speech was any mention of how to pay for it all. I suspect that will be the real international problem the next President of the US will face.

Posted by: CapitalistImperialistPig on April 23, 2007 at 9:15 PM | PERMALINK

That, and the environment.

Posted by: Kenji on April 23, 2007 at 9:20 PM | PERMALINK

Off topic: David Halberstam died. I liked his books.

Posted by: Mazurka on April 23, 2007 at 9:29 PM | PERMALINK

2. ... 'and teach 'em some Arabic' ..
Does this mean that OB's planning his own military adventure in Arab lands, once he completes Item 1 ?

If Iran is really the new focus, better to teach them Farsi ...

Posted by: number6 on April 23, 2007 at 9:29 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe the 92,000 would actually replace the over worked group of armed forces fighting now on their third and fourth tour in Iraq. Or, to get out of Iraq.

Posted by: Mazurka on April 23, 2007 at 9:33 PM | PERMALINK

Afghanistan wasn't a defensive war either. Afghanistan didn't attack us. Bin Laden did. He wasn't running the country. The Taliban may not have acquiesced to our demands to turn him over to us, but that doesn't mean that they were working hand in glove with Bin Laden. The correct action to take in the case of Afghanistan was a police action - like removing Noriega, only justified.

Posted by: heavy on April 23, 2007 at 9:39 PM | PERMALINK

Increase the size of the Army and Marines by 92,000 soldiers and teach 'em some Arabic.

Barry Obama, the neo-neo-conservative. Israel with its nuclear weapons is in no danger. Nor are we, for that matter, except from Hispano-fascism and political correctness.

Since the industrial revolution, military power derives from industrial power. Rather than increasing cannon fodder, we should buoy up defense contractors by borrowing more money from China.

Get support from other countries when we fight wars of choice.

LOL. Well, if Hitler could do it, I guess we can too. The Axis of Good.

Posted by: Luther on April 23, 2007 at 9:41 PM | PERMALINK

Getting out of Iraq "responsibly" sounds like a excuse to stay indefinitely until a "responsible" exit strategy presents itself. Who will he appoint to the committee to judge responsibility? Broder, Russert and Matthews?

MORE wars of choice? God help us, these goddamn dems are retarded! They don't learn a damn thing, do they? After his cave in to Bush's veto threat yesterday, I'm officially off the fence and anti-Obama. Please let him join the Connecticut for Lieberman party before the C4L party takes over the Dems (again). He's a spineless sell out.

Posted by: jussumbody on April 23, 2007 at 9:50 PM | PERMALINK

"On the fourth hand"? Kevin, you should have become an economist!

Posted by: Joel on April 23, 2007 at 9:57 PM | PERMALINK

Getting into Iraq was a stupid idea, but just packing up and leaving is not likely to work now either. One way or the other, we are going to be on the ground in the Middle East for a while. Obama's idea probably has as much hope as any.

Posted by: CapitalistImperialistPig on April 23, 2007 at 10:00 PM | PERMALINK

One step at a time, one hemisphere at a time.

First move:
Repair our relations with Latin America and the Caribbean. Abandon the Guantanamo Naval Station, tell the Cubans that we no longer wish to occupy their land under questionable legal/treaty provisions. This will push us to get a simple, quick fix for the detainee problem. Most of them can simply be sent home.

The result will be an immediate warming of relations with most Latin American countries, all of whom detest our occupation of Cuban territory.

With a renewed confidence in our friendship and common goals in this hemisphere, we can move on to the more complex matter of Iraq, Iran and the Middle East (Irael and Palestine).

I am inclined to support Obama. The things that will turn me and many others against him is his already manifest obeisance to AIPAC. And, if and when he travels to Miami the temptation to suck on the ever-available tit of CANF, Emigre-Cuban money and votes

Posted by: Jim Bouman on April 23, 2007 at 10:04 PM | PERMALINK

This was to try and draw some republicans and he'll give a real speech later for our side. Right? Right?

Posted by: R.L. on April 23, 2007 at 10:08 PM | PERMALINK

As for the influences from Samantha Power, how about this quote from Obama's speech:

No President should ever hesitate to use force – unilaterally if necessary – to protect ourselves and our vital interests when we are attacked or imminently threatened. [my emphasis]

Is Obama planning to keep the Bush preemption doctrine in the NSA?

Posted by: Bob W on April 23, 2007 at 10:11 PM | PERMALINK

As usual, I'm ambivalent about this. On the one hand, if we're going to occupy countries, we ought to have the troops to do it right.

Of course we could just not occupy other countries but I guess that would be to much like right.

Posted by: klyde on April 23, 2007 at 10:15 PM | PERMALINK

"Increase the size of the Army and Marines by 92,000 soldiers and teach 'em some Arabic. Get support from other countries when we fight wars of choice."

Barik "fresh face" Obama: apparently not such a fresh face after all. How 'Merica is supposed to have generous old age entitlements, low middle class taxes, and military spending many times more than any other country on earth in the context of an aging population, let alone all of these things plus universal health care and *increased* military spending is beyond my understanding.

Posted by: Linus on April 23, 2007 at 10:16 PM | PERMALINK

And Kevin there was nothing defensive about the first gulf war. It just like this latest debacle was for oil and about slapping down a wog who got above his station.

Posted by: klyde on April 23, 2007 at 10:18 PM | PERMALINK

Said it before, gonna say it again: Democratic politicians believe as fervently as Republicans do that the total political, military, and economic dominance of the world is necessary for the survival of the American way of life.

For those considering withholding support from Obama because of his foreign policy stance: Who are you going to support? Hillary, who is chomping at the bit to run the War on Islam her way? Edwards, who is as much of an Israel hawk as anyone out there? Does this mean I'll see you all down at Kucinich headquarters?

Posted by: dr sardonicus on April 23, 2007 at 10:21 PM | PERMALINK

Re my previous question: Al Gore ain't running. Any responses containing the name "Al Gore" will not be considered.

Posted by: dr sardonicus on April 23, 2007 at 10:25 PM | PERMALINK

Linus >"...How 'Merica is supposed to...is beyond my understanding."

[snark]
There you go, selling Mr. Laffer short. Have you no faith at all ? Do you really think St. Ronnie would ever, ever lie to us ?

You must not understand the voodoo economics.

What is it with this generation ?
[/snark]

"There are three kinds of men:
1. The ones that learn by reading.
2. The few who learn by observation.
3. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves." - Will Rogers

Posted by: daCascadian on April 23, 2007 at 10:30 PM | PERMALINK

Barik "fresh face" Obama: apparently not such a fresh face after all. How 'Merica is supposed to have generous old age entitlements, low middle class taxes, and military spending many times more than any other country on earth in the context of blah blah blah

Rolling back Bush's tax cuts on the upper class would be a start.

I hope you apply the same skepticism to Republican promises.

Posted by: Gregory on April 23, 2007 at 10:32 PM | PERMALINK

America hasn't fought a defensive war since 1812.

We could defend ourselves from any real world threat with two carrier groups and 20 nukes.

Our military is the tool of our ruling class and has nothing to do with defending America from any realistic military threat, of which there are none.

This is a truth too hard for 99% to even consider, which is why Obama and others must play along with the current popular delusion.

Our military adventures will end when the China and the rest of the world decide that they don't need our buyers that much. Then the debt support will go away, the world economy will probably crash, but we will have the rudest surprise of all.

America, the debtor superpower.

Posted by: Archie on April 23, 2007 at 10:38 PM | PERMALINK

This is Obama trying to look tough on defense (more troops + a "responsible" exit from Iraq), while tying to avoid alienating the anti-war Dem base (exit from Iraq). It's so predictable that it really isn't newsworthy. This from someone on the fence between Obama and Edwards, but wishing, just a little more each day, that Gore would get in (althoug I suspect his own policy proposals would be little different than these).

BTW Kevin, I saw your reply to the comment above and still found it lacking. We already demonstrated we could fight a "defensive war," and quite effectively, in Afghanistan and the first Gulf War. Where could we possibly fight in the world where an extra 92,000 troops would make a difference? They would only useful in a situation like Iraq, where our presence would be considered so noxious by what the British in the days of their empire used to call "the natives," that it would spark an insurgency. "Defensive wars" these days are short. Wars of choice, particularly the sort that would require large numbers of Arabic speakers, aren't.

Posted by: Martin Gale on April 23, 2007 at 10:43 PM | PERMALINK

" He who takes up the sword, will perish by the sword."
--Jesus

Posted by: Quotation Man on April 23, 2007 at 10:49 PM | PERMALINK

He who takes up the sword

Yeah, Jesus that wild-eyed dreamer. Some nice sentiments but talk about naive. Turn the other cheek?!? Guy needs a good talking to from Jim Dobson.

Posted by: snicker-snack on April 23, 2007 at 10:55 PM | PERMALINK

We don't need a larger army for defensive purposes, especially if we have the cooperation of the international community. The military needs to be smaller so that our fearless leaders aren't tempted.

Is it just me, or is '24' just a huge steaming pile of crap this year? It seems like it just gets worse every week. Does anyone care a lick about what happens to any of the characters? It's laughable.

Posted by: Matt Lantz on April 23, 2007 at 10:55 PM | PERMALINK

We don't need a larger army for defensive purposes, especially if we have the cooperation of the international community.

...and were it ever truly a defensive war, you'd have it.

...and were it ever truly a defensive war you guys would be united around it.

Gut the Pentagon, hang all the fuckers in its propaganda wing by the neck until they're dead, dead, dead (both actions metaphorically of course), turn around do the same to your spook agencies, tell the corporations to go fuck themselves when they try to dictate your FP, then try a little discourse and you might find the world's a less-dangerous looking place (and you might even save your democracy in the process).

Posted by: snicker-snack on April 23, 2007 at 11:05 PM | PERMALINK

Archie at 10:38 pm

Very well said. It never ceases to amaze me how our leaders, and our fuure leaders, continue to be subservient to America's continual need for militarism [see The New American Militarism by Andrew Bacecvich and Nemesis-The Last Days of the American Republic by Chalmers Johnson]. One wonders if the citizens of this country will be swayed the the charisma of Oback Obama or will they and the media decide to actually scrutinize and examine more closely the words of the Democrats' next apparent savior.

Posted by: Erroll on April 23, 2007 at 11:07 PM | PERMALINK

Afghanistan was *not* a defensive war, nor even a rational response. It was the "carpet of bombs" promised by Cheney's oil thugs when the Taliban refused to play ball on the pipeline. How convenient that Bin Laden was there and that he's all ready to play the part. Oh, that's right, Bin Laden was also in Afghanistan back when the CIA supported him, and now his family had no reason not to know where he lives or to tell their good friends the Bush family all about it.

Afghanistan, the good war? Please.

It's so damn easy to fool middle of the road guys like you Kevin. Not to be too hard, you have made great progress since 02, but still....geez.

Posted by: Archie on April 23, 2007 at 11:07 PM | PERMALINK

My apologies to what I had written at 11:07 pm. The last sentence should read "...by the charism of Barack Obama..."

Posted by: Erroll on April 23, 2007 at 11:10 PM | PERMALINK

Not that any of us little people can really know for sure all the reasons why we invaded Afghanistan. It may have less to do with a pipeline then with pressuring Iran, threatening Pakistan, influencing the new 'Stans.'

But we can be quite sure it really didn't have a damn thing to do with "defending America," because that's not the way we operate, to judge by publicly available information.

Posted by: Archie on April 23, 2007 at 11:13 PM | PERMALINK

So it seems I may yet be able to reconcile the two loves of my political life - WM and BObama

Posted by: Steve W. on April 23, 2007 at 11:15 PM | PERMALINK

"There are five ways America will begin to lead again when I'm President"

I can't think a better sentence to step into the batter's box with.
I bet you can't either.

Regarding Halberstam's death noted up above:

For that work, Mr. Halberstam shared a Pulitzer Prize in 1964. Eight years later, after leaving The Times, he chronicled what went wrong in Vietnam — how able and dedicated men propelled the United States into a war later deemed unwinnable — in a book whose title entered the language: “The Best and the Brightest.”

Emphasis added.......

Lots of good stuff on that page.

Posted by: ROTFLMLiberalAO on April 23, 2007 at 11:15 PM | PERMALINK

". It never ceases to amaze me how our leaders, and our future leaders, continue to be subservient to America's continual need for militarism"

Makes sense. But if you were a politician, you would be aware of how much knowledge it takes to govern effectively. If you were President, you would be surrounded by experts who would all agree that we need a huge military. You can't get things done by contradicting all the experts who know more then you and whose help you need to accomplish anything.

Never underestimate the ability of darn near anyone to get swept up in group think. Those who are immune make terrible politicians.

The trouble with Kevin is that, like too many in journalism these days, he confuses journalism with being a big success, and with politics. The only good journalists are those who don't expect to have a traditionally successful career.

Posted by: Archie on April 23, 2007 at 11:41 PM | PERMALINK

too optimistic a view of the potential of American military power

Posted by: Brojo on April 24, 2007 at 12:08 AM | PERMALINK

William: Afghanistan. The Gulf War. "Defensive" here doesn't mean "fought on American soil," it means a war fought against someone who attacked us or an ally first.

We were attacked by Afghanistan? Oh, that's right, we're suppose to believe that some cave-dweller in the mountains of Afghanistan masterminded a complex plot to funnel money via Pakistan's ISI to a cabal of deranged Saudi psychopaths.

And yes, thank God we defended Kuwait, which is the least we could do since days before the invasion, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq stated unequivocally to Saddam himself that his beef with Kuwait is between them and doesn't concern us, which all but gave Saddam the green light to savage the country which once lavished him with funds to defeat the "Iranian horde".

You gotta give us something more credible than these two examples.

Posted by: smedleybutler on April 24, 2007 at 12:15 AM | PERMALINK

The speech struck me as little more than standard Democratic boilerplate, something virtually any Democratic candidate could and probably will endorse, if they haven't already. It doesn't seem to extend in any interesting and concrete way things Obama has said in the past, with the possible exception of his plan to double foreign aid.

This, I gather, was supposed to be his big speech establishing that he had "substance". Not a lot of meat on those bones, as best I can see.

As per Obama's usual, very high style to substance ratio. Honestly, even the rhetoric doesn't much impress me -- it strikes me as bland and predictable, with not an ounce of wit, nor even a remarkably well chosen word.

Really, I don't get the star power here. It's like he's David Hasselhoff and I'm not German.

Posted by: frankly0 on April 24, 2007 at 12:17 AM | PERMALINK

The US already spends 43% of the worlds military budgets. It has almost all the superior weapons systems. It has 12 super-carriers compared to none for the rest of the world.

I would have been a hell of a lot more impressed if Obama had put at the top of his agenda all those multilateral negotiations that seek to limit and reduce the need for arms.

But that's way too sensible a reaction to the mess created these last few years, and way too wimpy for the xenophobic, overdeveloped machismo of the present-day US electorate.

Posted by: notthere on April 24, 2007 at 12:19 AM | PERMALINK

Yet another internationalist "Empire-lite" Democrat.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on April 24, 2007 at 12:29 AM | PERMALINK

This is standard Democratic policy. Spend money on troops, not high-tech pie in the sky hardware, and increase troop levels, not contractor levels.

As a military dependent living near another overseas base that's closing, I'm glad to hear this.

Posted by: KathyF on April 24, 2007 at 12:37 AM | PERMALINK

breaking down Obama's points:

Get out of Iraq (but responsibly!)

Would someone care to explain what a responsible pull-out from an illegal invasion looks like?

Increase the size of the Army and Marines by 92,000 soldiers and teach 'em some Arabic.

At least Obama understands that perpetual war with the Middle East is a fact of life; George Bush would be proud.

Get serious about stopping the spread of nuclear weapons.

Beginning with or own suspension of nuclear weapons technology research. Bunker Busters Banned by Obamma! Not. As usual, I think Obama means everybody else has to chill out with the nukes, just not us, or our friends.

Rebuild our traditional alliances. Understand that things that affect other countries also affect us.

(yawn)

Double the foreign aid budget.

Which is not saying much, given that we are by far the stingiest developed nation on the planet (when aid is measured as a percentage of GDP).

Not impressed at all.

Posted by: smedleybutler on April 24, 2007 at 12:43 AM | PERMALINK

I don't give a rat's ass about "foreign policy experience." History is full to the brim with politicians who had all kinds of foreign policy credentials and managed to make a mess of it anyway. In general, the notion of 'experience' is vastly overrated. IMHO it is really a plot to further the maintenance of the status quo. The same old tired but 'experienced' voices dominate our political discourse. Just check out the Sunday morning chat shows....

Posted by: global yokel on April 24, 2007 at 12:46 AM | PERMALINK

Politically, I understand this. Everything looks good for Obama right now, and he wants to keep it that way. Avoiding the saw blades of the MSM and the right is, and I sure wish it was otherwise, a good way not to go down in flames a la Howard Dean. And a good way to avoid saw blades is to be as militaristic and nationalistic as you can get away with as a Democrat. To me, that's what Obama's speech was - feeding the trolls to keep them focused on Edwards' haircuts and Hilary's everything-ness. And it may work.

But ethically and ideologically, I hate it. Hate it, hate it, hate it. Kevin Drum, give me a break. The candidate of expanding the military is John McCain. The defense budget is an out-of-control train wreck and needs to shrink. You will not stop seeing dumb*ss wars of choice when 40% of the public budget goes into defense.. You will not stop seeing wars of choice when the Pentagon outnumbers the rest of the government combined in staff, respect and aggressiveness.

Everything follows the money. Obama's speech is militarism in a thin candy shell. He's lost my donations. It may be true that none of the majors are any better, and I'm pretty sure that Obama won't be as militaristic in practice as a Republican, or Hilary, but the man doesn't strike me as having any more principle or courage than anyone else. He's just better at the appearance of courage and principle.

glasnost

Posted by: glasnost on April 24, 2007 at 12:50 AM | PERMALINK

Where's Peak Oil?

I'm still waiting for a Democratic candidate to actually mention Peak Oil as a serious future foreign policy consideration.

And, as for our "hard power"? We have the most high-tech AND the most high-mechanization military in the world. Peak Oil will hit our "throw weight" hard.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on April 24, 2007 at 12:53 AM | PERMALINK

On the other hand....

I just read the speech, and I think it was better than your summary describes it, Kevin. There's a lot of detail on non-military security challenges.

Posted by: glasnost on April 24, 2007 at 12:54 AM | PERMALINK

Ah, the splintered left... I was wondering where the hell yall went off to. it's good to know, as I read through these comments that I now know why we will most definitely be stuck with Hillary as the Democratic nominee.

*shakes his head in disappointment and disgust*

Comments From Left Field

Posted by: Mr. M on April 24, 2007 at 12:57 AM | PERMALINK

Though I note very little in Obama's speech about what those 92,000 extra troops would be focused on.

Note also that he only specifies additional Army and Marine forces. He says nothing about the total DoD force size, or associated weapons systems and management. I'd be all for that additional Army/Marine emphasis if it was coupled with an overhaul of those other areas.

Posted by: has407 on April 24, 2007 at 1:15 AM | PERMALINK

Ah, the splintered left... I was wondering where the hell yall went off to. it's good to know, as I read through these comments that I now know why we will most definitely be stuck with Hillary as the Democratic nominee.

Because she will raise an obscene amount of cash?

Posted by: smedleybutler on April 24, 2007 at 1:16 AM | PERMALINK

I agree that Kevin's summary is slipshod.

Posted by: has407 on April 24, 2007 at 1:20 AM | PERMALINK

Double the foreign aid budget?

How about apply some standards of decency with regard to WHO receives that money? The bar should be very high. Especially with regard to human rights. That hasn't been a priority of ours for some time now. In fact, it seems our only priority has been "anything goes, as long as we get the oil, and we kill dirty commies."

Posted by: bungholio on April 24, 2007 at 1:30 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin,

You still haven't learned anything from your support of the Iraq mess. Listen to your posters, really.

The American middle class is fading and they know it. Instead of taking on the ruling class and demanding their country back, they are settling for beating the crap out of helpless foreign countries.

We are in for a long ride. I keep telling my kids they are going to have to fight to save our country. The boomer generation dropped the ball bigtime. They still haven't realized they aren't big money, and never will be.

Posted by: TT on April 24, 2007 at 1:31 AM | PERMALINK

"Everything follows the money..."
Posted by: glasnost on April 24, 2007 at 12:50 AM

Absolutely. I've got a related, but different angle on all of this. Conservatives dismiss (publicly anyhow) the useful impact of government spending on the private economy. Basically, it still is Keynesian stimulus of domestic high-technology that bails us out of the doldrums every other business cycle. Reagan pumped up defense tech spending to offset the loss of domestic auto and consumer electronics mfg (i.e.). We backed off defense spending during Clinton (peace dividend) and that freed up money for the massive high tech boom in the civilian sector in the '90's. When that sector got shipped out to China in the last several years, defense spending was bolstered and picked up the slack. The next domestic high-tech bonanza could be an energy independence Manhattan project that could be fueled by a new "peace dividend" - a cut in defense spending.

It is true that foreign policy blather gets more mileage with less criticism, but the prize is going to go to an innovative domestic policy genius this time around IMO. The folks are tired of foreign adventurism and abstract nothingness. They want concrete stuff they can see in their states and communities.

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on April 24, 2007 at 1:57 AM | PERMALINK

Haven't read the speech, but assuming Mr. Drum has given a good synopsis, it's damn disappointing. The call to boost the army ranks -- without any sensible proposals about what we're supposed to do with all the new soldiers -- is about the 657th iteration of a Democrat trying to look tough by endorsing a thoroughly conventional "solution", and fooling nobody.

Dems need to be bold, both for their own political success, and the good of the country. Somebody upstream mentioned Andrew Bacevich -- his ideas would be a really good place to start. I'm going to read Obama's speech, but if this is his foreign policy, my hopes for the guy have just been dashed.

Posted by: sglover on April 24, 2007 at 2:04 AM | PERMALINK

The Democrats tend to use the military for humanitarian missions (Bosnia, anyone?) The military in the 90's was faced with MORE missions with fewer resources. And right now the military is stretched thin by Iraq and Afghanistan. Furthermore, there are people who want us to send troops to Darfur AND reasons to think that extremist Muslims will require our involvement in other places.

Obama has a legitimate reason to see the need for a larger military, and it doesn't mean he's planning another Iraq.

Posted by: k on April 24, 2007 at 2:41 AM | PERMALINK

Commentators have already pointed out the uselessness of extra men in the Army, let me look at it from a different direction.

I'd estimate the cost per troop at $50,000 a year minimum (not including retirement costs or economic loss), so that'd be $5 Billion dollars. Gee, I can't think of anyplace better to spend that money.

Or you could look at it this way: that is $4,000 per household in extra taxes.

Posted by: mcdruid on April 24, 2007 at 3:08 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin-
-"if you're going to do something, you should do it right"
And we did that when? Cuba, Grenada, Panama,
Dominican Republic, Haiti, Nicaragua, Vietnam,
Bosnia, Kosovo, El Salvador, Guatemala, Somalia,
Philippines, Puerto Rico? As Bismarck might well
have said: "Empires are like sausages, it is better not
to see them being made."

Posted by: Alan Coltharp on April 24, 2007 at 3:26 AM | PERMALINK

I'd estimate the cost per troop at $50,000 a year minimum (not including retirement costs or economic loss), so that'd be $5 Billion dollars. Gee, I can't think of anyplace better to spend that money.

Actually a better estimate is $100,000 a year. Salary, housing, medical care, training, equipment, transport, supplies, ammunition - it all adds up.

Maybe he plans to dock the Navy a few DDXs.

Posted by: ajay on April 24, 2007 at 5:55 AM | PERMALINK

Republican...Democrat...

Let's just keep growin' that military.

????

Sometimes I think you Yanks are insane.

Posted by: skeg on April 24, 2007 at 5:59 AM | PERMALINK

Sometimes I think you Yanks are insane.

Hey skeg, you seen these views from the streets of Texas? The voters Obama has to win over.

Watch out Kirghizstan!! And invading Canada gets a mention in there somewhere as well.

(it's not so much the ignorance - that exists in bounds everywhere - it's their willingness to expound when they know they don't know)

Posted by: snicker-snack on April 24, 2007 at 7:33 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin,

Have you read Samantha's book "America in the Age of Genocide"? From what I can tell- she wants the UN to do something about stopping things like genocide- with the US taking a lead in nobody else steps up. You make her sound kind of hawkish- which is not what I deduced. I don't think she wants to occupy countries but does want something to be done if genocide is happening.

Posted by: lori on April 24, 2007 at 7:51 AM | PERMALINK

Aside from the proposal to beef up the Army and Marine Corps, Obama's goals seem a little too fuzzy to be useful.

Posted by: Yankee Sailor on April 24, 2007 at 7:57 AM | PERMALINK

The additional 92000 troops is a bad idea. We already have more troops than we need. The problem is abuse of our troops by Bush. Additional troops will keep our defense spending higher than it should be and prevent us from addressing more important domestic problems.

Posted by: bakho on April 24, 2007 at 8:10 AM | PERMALINK

I am deeply disappointed that he called for expanding a military establishmnent that in fact needs to be drastically cut. We no longer live in an age when the big batallions can bring us security, nor in an age when we can afford to maintain an empire. How long will we have to wait for candidates who will explain these truths to the American people?

Posted by: Steve LaBonne on April 24, 2007 at 8:32 AM | PERMALINK

Rethinking what to do with the military is not a bad idea. I think Rumsfeld was trying to do that too, but being who he is, he got it all wrong. Never say never, but it does seem like the need for big armies to fight other big armies is passing or has passed. The world's problems need more "policing" than "armying". Imagine forces that could "police" (on a grand scale, granted) known trouble spots and were also able to train others to "police". Training is as important as doing if you don't want to be stuck somewhere forever. Another role would be providing some back up muscle to "negotiations". Obviously negotiating is better than blowing things up, but it seems that some people are more willing to negotiate than others, and need a bit of "persuasion".

It seems to me that people in other countries who have major problems (civil war, genocide, what have you) would probably not be averse to some sort of outside intervention if it were competent and effective. When it's incompetent and muddling things up more, though, people quite justifiably get angry at the "meddlers".

Posted by: JMS on April 24, 2007 at 9:25 AM | PERMALINK

There are, like, a billion other things that Obama didn't say that I think are equally outrageous! I mean, he didn't say what we were going to do with our rebuilt alliances, either! I mean, why should we waste millions of dollars flying diplomats around to reassure other countries of our goodness if we don't have a plan for what to do with that goodness? And why only double the foreign aid budget? Why not 2.5 times? or 2.7?

From this 60-word synopsis of a speech I didn't read, I find so many important things missing that I've decided to ignore the next year and a half of campaigns and just vote for the guy or gal that Brit Hume would like to have a beer with.

Thanks, Kevin, for saving me the trouble.

Posted by: brent on April 24, 2007 at 9:43 AM | PERMALINK

I don't see a problem with additional troops (not that I'm itching to be one of them, or anything). There are regions like Darfur where they could be needed. Or, in more ominous fantasies, Taiwan. Don't know how much good the Arabic would do them there though.

But mainly it would allow us to keep the National Guard here. You know, guarding the nation, fighting wildfires, etc.

Posted by: Mo MacArbie on April 24, 2007 at 10:46 AM | PERMALINK

Obama has a legitimate reason to see the need for a larger military, and it doesn't mean he's planning another Iraq.

Democrats will keep the military ready for the next Republican president to wage war with.

I was very disappointed Sen. Obama did not think our foreign policy requires safeguards to prevent another president from occupying other countries.

Posted by: Brojo on April 24, 2007 at 11:44 AM | PERMALINK

So is #3 basically a warning to Iran and a bid for AIPAC money?

What does it mean to get serious about stopping the spread of nuclear weapons? Are we just talking about persuading people not to sell the ingredients or will we attack Iran or North Korea? This whole idea of pre-emptive attacks against people with presumed weapons of mass destruction that haven't been used and really can't be used against us personally, needs more exploration. Just what are we getting into with Obama with that kind fo a statement?

I never could buy into the romanticization of JFK with the way he was willing to play chicken with the Soviet Union, and us the ones who'd have to pay the price if he'd lost. I don't want that kind of president.

Posted by: catherineD on April 24, 2007 at 12:27 PM | PERMALINK

I would like an "orderly withdrawal" of U.S. forces in Iraq.

Posted by: NeoLotus on April 24, 2007 at 1:08 PM | PERMALINK

Soaring rhetoric? Light on substance? Not ready for prime-time? YES! Yes. yessssszzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz...

Posted by: JoeCHI on April 24, 2007 at 1:21 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin,

What the hell does this mean: Most of the time I come down in favor of expanding the military, on the basis that (a) if you're going to do something, you should do it right,

Think about what you are saying. First, Expanding the military is premised on a view that is pre-WWII. I wish people would stop preparing for something that is no longer likely, except for Americans doing the aggressing.

Second, the world today is too deeply interconnected for anything other than expanding diplomacy instead of the military. If it wasn't for America taking up the "white's man burden" to spread greed and ignorance around the world we'd get along a lot better with others who have a social conscience and a desire to work things out in their own way.

The sheer nonsense of "needing" a military force is only for those who don't know or don't want to broker a treaty and then honor it.

It is more often the case that what you suspect of others is really only a projection of one's own fears. Trust is a hard won thing and right now America is not trustworthy at all. We are the consummate double-crossers and the best indication of no longer being a bully is to stand down the war machine and increase the diplomacy.

But of course that requires sane and truly humane people in our government. Obama is not it. That man is a total whore same as Biden and Lieberman. I say throw the bums out!

Posted by: NeoLotus on April 24, 2007 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK

92,000 addition troops would soak up some who won't be able to find work in the coming depression this administration has brought about.
I'd have no problem if any candidate tripled that number if they added they'd stop outsourcing security work to firms like Blackwater.

Posted by: shullat on April 24, 2007 at 1:44 PM | PERMALINK

It seems like a grab bag of foreign policy ideas already aired to me. I'm not feeling all this wide spread community support for Obama the media keeps insisting he has.

Posted by: alline on April 24, 2007 at 1:53 PM | PERMALINK

Not an Obama fan, but he's making the right points.

We can't just up and leave Iraq - it would just get worse Turkey/Iran/Syria/Russia vs. The Kurds, Saudi Arabia vs. Iran, Sunni vs. Shia, battle tested insurgents vs. the world (Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines). We have to minimize the damage or else.

Iraq, shows the limitations of the US Military, to counteract these limitations we need more boots on the ground.

While we don't want to invade other countries, we may have to keep that option as a credible threat. Saddam let the UN inspectors back in the country only after the Congressional authorization. North Korea is acting like they are because they know the US Military can't do anything.

The other stuff is dull but responsible, it's the stuff the GOP candidate is going to have to say and it's going to sound like he's just echoing Obama.

Posted by: Dervin on April 24, 2007 at 2:19 PM | PERMALINK

Just to quibble: Afghanistan and the Gulf War weren't defensive wars. They were certainly just, but we weren't fighting to keep a land from being invaded, we were retaking those lands for their rightful owners.

Posted by: Mike on April 24, 2007 at 3:44 PM | PERMALINK

I thought the speech hit all the right notes--I'm an apathetic independent who leans Libertarian, and stopped really paying attention a few years ago. I read the speech by accident, waiting for my wife to get out of the bathroom. If there are a lot of people like me, and I think there are, then Obama's on the right track.

Posted by: The House Whisperer on April 24, 2007 at 6:54 PM | PERMALINK

"we were retaking those lands for their rightful owners."

Not really. Kuwait was a creation of the West following WWI, and the Taliban are every bit as Afghani as any Afghans.

"Just War" is a fanciful theory. No such thing.

Posted by: Archie on April 24, 2007 at 7:52 PM | PERMALINK

"Just War" is a fanciful theory. No such thing.

Archie, have enjoyed your postings to this thread but this is just wrong.

Chinese battling the Japanese?
Filipinos battling US colonization?
Czechs fighting the Germans anschluss?

There is such a thing as naked aggression. And fighting for your survival is eminently 'just.'

If you qualified this to wars of choice I might agree.

Posted by: snicker-snack on April 24, 2007 at 8:11 PM | PERMALINK

Nuclear nonproliferation has been one of Obama's signature issues for a long time. Hilzoy wrote about a bunch of his policy initiatives in the Senate last October. Note her very first item.

The rest of the points might just be positions he's putting together to become president. But #3 has been a consistent position ever since he was running for Senate, and one that he has taken concrete steps to work on as Senator while almost no one else was paying attention. That one pretty clearly comes from the heart.

Posted by: DaveW on April 24, 2007 at 10:29 PM | PERMALINK

#3 however is a non-starter without the US getting more serious about its own obligations here.

Posted by: snicker-snack on April 24, 2007 at 11:56 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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