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Barack Obama: Closet Neocon?

May 4, 2007

In the interest of praising the good where I find it- even in the Democratic party- let me highlight for you this analysis of a recent speech by candidate Obama.  The thesis is quite daring:

Obama’s Monday night foreign policy speech is more than just clever language. He displays a commitment to moral principles and a serious foreign policy usually found in the halls of the American Enterprise Institute, or the pages of the Weekly Standard: promoting the American interest through a strong offensive military that, in conjunction with diplomatic, political and economic means, is used to remake foreign nations in a liberal democratic image.

Key quotes from Obama:

“We must lead by building a 21st century military [that] stays on the offense.” 

“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.”

No problem with that here. Of course the Dems have been frantically re-defining “imminent” to not include 9/11-era Sadaam- even they for the most part all agreed on the severity of the threat at the time. Moreover, their incautious rhetoric aimed at securing a larger majority and the Presidency in 2008 will come back to haunt them in the future should they see the need to act on a such a threat. The exact locus of “last resort” when it comes to declaring war or military action- is not going to be easy to see in the world we now live in. But don’t worry- the Democrats aren’t cowards, the just have high standards!

It may be that the Dems “can do it better”, and if elected, I certainly hope that they do. On a good day, I can see how they dynamic between the two parties can not only lead to a beneficial paralysis (when hasty action would be a mistake), but also give each other cover to continue policies neither would have started, but are necessary for the good of the republic, if not the world. There is far more continuity between the policies of the two parties than would ever be admitted under normal circumstances. To wit:

In a recent Foreign Affairs article Professor Drezner of Tufts’ Fletcher School shows how the Bush Administration used executive power to “reconfigure U.S. foreign policy and international institutions in order to account for shifts in the global distribution of power. American interests are shifting geographically as new powers, such as India and China, displace old powers such as France and Germany. Obama shows a similar acuity when he calls on the U.S. “to build new alliances and relationship in other regions [like Asia] important to our interests in the 21st century.”

Far from disdaining multilateralism, the Bush administration put outcome above process. The 2006 National Security Strategy says that “where existing institutions can be reformed to meet new challenges, we, along with our partners, must reform them. Where appropriate institutions do not exist, we, along with our partners, must create them.” Obama uses similar words: “reform of [the United Nations, the World Bank, and other organizations] is urgently needed if they are to keep pace with the fast-moving threats we face.” Taking a page from Paul Wolfowitz’s efforts at the World Bank, he also insists that we must “couple our aid with an insistent call for [government] reform.”

That’s why in part I have chosen not to dwell two much on the current kabuki dance of surrender bills and vetoes, or even the finer points of Obamas plans for Iraq. It can only become irrelevant in the near future. The compromise will come, action will be taken and that’s ultimately what matters not the prattlings of our master-debaters on the Hill.

This analysis of Obama gives me hope though that some sense might prevail whoever is in the White House in 2009. Let the pre-emptive healing begin!!!

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Tim C. permalink
    May 7, 2007 10:49 am

    Appreciate your honest praise of Obama’s foreign policy speech… And that there is “some sense” to be found there… You are right I think that in many regards there is less distance between the parties than the edges of the groups would have us believe….

    And I do think that (with some important differences) neo-conservativism has more in common with a Wilsonian “liberal internationalism” described here by Barack — which is where neoconservative thought started at and split from — than it does say, a conservative isolationism.

  2. May 27, 2007 5:57 pm

    One of the first places to deal with is right in our back yard — Haiti.

    The govt is weak as are the supposed UN “peacekeepers”. Haiti needs a good year or two of good solid policing to clean up some of the street thuggery and corruption that’s been dragging the place down for the last 10 years. The majority of the Haitian population would welcome us back.

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