Friday, December 28, 2007

Barry and the Problem of Sovereignty

Golden Boy Barry is having a bad time maintaining the fiction that his own awesomeness somehow trumps the fact that he actually hasn't done jack shit anything at a national (let alone international) political level. The spewing by his campaign cheif Axelrod, trying to make Barry's meaningless declaration that he wouldn't have given Bush any powers in Iraq stretch to cover all foreign policy situations, would be stomach turning if it weren't so ludicrous.

News flash Barry: Bill Clinton was talking about the dangerous conditions in south Asia in the 1990s. I remember several statements by the Big Dog about the Kashmir region being the most dangerous place on earth because of the role it plays in the cold (and sometimes smoking) war between two nuclear powers, exacerbated by Afghanistan, a failed state infested with Islamic extremists who have declared war on modernity. That's why he kept trying to take out Osama bin Ladin. That's why he kept trying to keep on good relations with Pakistan under Bhutto, despite the deep corruption of her government - to reduce the tensions between Pakistan and India, to offer carrots and pry sticks out of hands, to prevent Muslim and Hindu nationalists from gaining the upper hand.

It was George Bush and the undead corpse of Cheney who have abused this part of the world, ignoring the dangers and offering incentives that destabilize it yet more. Then, when they realize how much they have fucked it up, they do what Daddy Bush did to the Shia in Iraq - tempt Bhutto back into the country to rouse opposition and then abandon her to be martyred.

Barry, meanwhile, has adopted the Bush/Cheney big stick approach to Pakistan, and advocated unilateral invasions and bombardment of a sovereign nation (Hmmm, where have I seen that happen before? I know, Iraq!) in order to get bin Ladin. Obama was burned in effigy in Pakistan for those words. Oh, yeah, great judgment on display there, Barry.

There have been blow-by-blow write ups of the hole Barry keeps digging himself into at Taylor Marsh, No Quarter, The Washington Note, Talk Left and The Left Coaster (to name only a few), addressing not just the Obama pratfall but other issues related to the very grave situation in Pakistan.

What I take away from Axelrod's idiocy is that Obama has just run, full-tilt, into the limits of his biggest claim to fame - the tired excuse that he wouldn't have voted for AUMF had he been in the Senate. On the one hand, nothing in his Senate career thus far, most especially anything connected to his foreign affairs work, provides any proof that he would have done anything different than Clinton, Biden, Dodd or Edwards. He talks a good fight, but his actions do not support his rhetoric. On the other hand, it is becoming painfully obvious that, aside from this one sound bite, he doesn't have much to say for himself on the foreign policy front. He surrounds himself with Clinton advisors after claiming he is going to do things a new way, he can't talk off the cuff on foreign policy matters without sounding like a moron, he says outrageous and inflammatory things about other nations, and he tries to wrap everything into this moldy blanket of "I would have done different than HRC," as if that is an answer to any substantive foreign policy challenge.

What the tragedy in Pakistan also points out is the limits of US power in foreign affairs, particularly after Bush/Cheney. We can't simply order other nations to do our bidding, as the neocons fantacize doing, and our ability to persuade and influence has been greivously reduced becuse of the neocon adventures. The US gains nothing by threatening other nations the way Obama did Pakistan. More to the point - Pakistan is not here to serve the US, or be a tool in our foreign policy. It's called sovereignty. We are dealing with other sovereign nations and it's time we acknowledge that truth.

Wes Clark gets it and that's why he is always talking about the centrality of diplomacy in rehabilitating US influence in the world. Diplomacy means understanding our own national needs and interests clearly enough to locate common ground where it exists and to contain conflict where it does not. It means treating others with respect, not babbling about your own wonderfulness, and it means understanding everything possible so that you are prepared to do the impossible when crisis arrives.

Sovereignty is also what underlay Al Gore's famous words from the Rolling Stone interview, back when I still hoped he would run for President, that we need to be sure that our manner of leaving Iraq does not create a worse situation than our invasion. Sadly, I'm not sure that is possible. This is what drives me crazy about "Troops out now!!!!" obssessives. They don't understand that by performing an unconscionable act of violence upon the people of Iraq and upon their nation's sovereignty, we have incurred obligations to both. We cannot simply throw them down, like toys we no longer want, and move on to the next imperial adventure.

HRC gets this, as do Dodd and Biden. It's more than just US interests at work here, it is also US obligations. That is why their responses to Bhutto's assassination were the best, because all three spoke from a position of respect for Pakistan and for Ms. Bhutto, recognizing the reality that we can only, ethically, offer assistance, not attempt to engineer the situation to meet US desires. This in contrast to the White House demanding that the elections go on, and most other presidential candidates trying to use it for very crude campaign advantage. While I admire Edwards' initiative in calling Musharraf, that was not something that a candidate should do in an international situation. Do a twist on this - how would you feel about Mike Huckabee or Mitt Romney calling up a foreign head of state during an international crisis when a Democratic president is handling the situation?

What Bhutto's assassination does is raise the stakes in the most dangerous part of the world and quickly separate out those candidates who are ready to handle an explosive situation and those who simply treat it as another bit of campaign fodder.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What I liked were the comments on Pakistan Defense site blog at the time of the effigy burning. Some direct and angry, some poohpoohing Obama. I've got them at my LJ.

Hillary scolded Obama at the time, but at the NH debate the other dems sounded just as hawkish, darn it.