December 02, 2008

Clinton in the Cabinet

Obama?s devout supporters on the antiwar Left shouldn?t have been so surprised when their Messiah chose establishment and hawkish?and not to mention conventional and boring?figures for his foreign policy team. The Nation‘s Katrina vanden Heuvel asks, ?Maybe being right about the greatest foreign policy disaster in US history doesn’t mean much inside the Beltway? How else to explain that not a single top member of Obama’s foreign policy/national security team opposed the war?or the dubious claims leading up to it?? No, being right doesn?t mean much inside the Beltway?indeed, being consistently wrong is often grounds for promotion. But vanden Heuvel should have known that Obama has been moving away from his initial ?end the war!? position for quite some time now. By mid-summer, Obama was right with McCain when it came to plans for a slow withdrawal from Iraq (with an implied long-term presence), a ?surge? into Afghanistan, ?confronting Iran,? and support for Israel that seems nothing short of unconditional. Obama might shuffle the troops around a bit, but they most definitely aren?t coming home any time soon. 

And the economic meltdown makes Obama even more likely to defer to the establishment hawks and wonks. My sense is that Obama will give foreign affairs over, almost entirely, to the ?neos??the indistinguishable neocons and neoliberals?and keep domestic policy all to himself, focusing his energies on things like federal work programs, a ?bailout for the middle? (that is, having the Fed print up some checks), and the rest of his ?New New Deal.? The real question is whether the DailyKos types and the ?netroots? will dare attack Obama as a sellout to the Antiwar cause. At the moment, there are only rumblings? Vanden Heuvel, for instance, was able to swallow her skepticism over the appointment of Clinton as Secretary of State by reminiscing about how she once heard Hillary talk about ?elevating women’s (and girl’s) rights as human rights.? Vague lefty-talk is always reassuring. 

It?s sad but true?our trillion-dollar American Empire will only shirk when Washington can simply no longer afford it, or when government and nation become completely insolvent. No state has ever voluntarily decreased its sphere of influence?even long after it had become crystal clear that the imperial expanse was an entirely unnecessary and costly burden. (Ron Paul alluded to as much in a speech last fall I helped organize with Marcus Epstein, Daniel McCarthy, and Kevin Deanna.) And as for the notion that the new Obamaian Left will mark a dramatic change in American foreign policy… Well, I think we should give up Hope. 

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