Dems' Brzezinski on foreign policy: Obama > Clinton

Discussion in 'Politics & Religion' started by Cutten, Aug 24, 2007.

  1. One of the Democrats' leading foreign policy experts reckons Obama has a better grasp on foreign policy realities than Clinton:

    " Aug. 24 (Bloomberg) -- Zbigniew Brzezinski, one of the most influential foreign-policy experts in the Democratic Party, threw his support behind Barack Obama's presidential candidacy, saying the Illinois senator has a better global grasp than his chief rival, Hillary Clinton.

    Obama ``recognizes that the challenge is a new face, a new sense of direction, a new definition of America's role in the world,'' Brzezinski said in an interview on Bloomberg Television's ``Political Capital with Al Hunt.''

    ``Obama is clearly more effective and has the upper hand,'' Brzezinski, who was President Jimmy Carter's national security adviser, said. ``He has a sense of what is historically relevant, and what is needed from the United States in relationship to the world.''

    Brzezinski, 79, dismissed the notion that Clinton, 59, a New York senator and the wife of former President Bill Clinton, is more seasoned than Obama, 46. ``Being a former first lady doesn't prepare you to be president. President Truman didn't have much experience before he came to office. Neither did John Kennedy,'' Brzezinski said.

    Clinton's foreign-policy approach is ``very conventional,'' Brzezinski said. ``I don't think the country needs to go back to what we had eight years ago.''

    ``There is a need for a fundamental rethinking of how we conduct world affairs,'' he added. ``And Obama seems to me to have both the guts and the intelligence to address that issue and to change the nature of America's relationship with the world.''

    Negotiating With Foes

    Brzezinski also sided with Obama, who was criticized by Clinton as being ``irresponsible'' and ``naïve'' for saying he would meet in his first year as president with leaders of adversaries such as Iran and Syria. ``What's the hang-up about negotiating with the Syrians or with the Iranians?'' Brzezinksi said. ``What it in effect means'' is ``that you only talk to people who agree with you.''

    Clinton has the backing of her own Democratic foreign- policy heavyweights, including former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Richard Holbrooke, both of whom served in her husband's administration.

    Howard Wolfson, a spokesman for the Clinton campaign, had no comment on Brzezinski's remarks.

    Iraq

    Brzezinski, a harsh critic of the Bush administration's war in Iraq, slammed President George W. Bush for claiming progress is being made in Iraq and for asserting in an Aug. 22 speech that an early pullout would lead to the kind of bloodshed Southeast Asia experienced after American forces left Vietnam.

    The addition of about 30,000 U.S. troops in recent months ``may be making some progress in some suburbs of Baghdad, but I don't think anyone claims that it marks the turning point in what is clearly a failure,'' Brzezinski said.

    ``And the president's speech itself was an admission of a colossal failure, a colossal failure,'' he said. ``Four and a half years after his invasion of Iraq, he's now saying that if we withdraw, Iraq ends up like Vietnam or even worse.''

    A U.S. intelligence report released yesterday said the troop increase has had some success in curbing violence and there have been ``modest improvements in economic output,'' yet ``Iraq's sectarian groups remain un-reconciled'' and al-Qaeda ``retains the ability to conduct high-profile attacks.''

    Brzezinski said Bush wants to ``bequeath the war to his successor.''

    ``As long as that war goes, we're going to be tied, handcuffed in dealing with foreign affairs,'' he said. ``Our relations with China, with Russia are deteriorating, we don't have freedom of action, we're despised worldwide.'' "
     
  2. The most interesting parts of that article for me were these:

    "...the president's speech itself was an admission of a colossal failure, a colossal failure,'' he said. "Four and a half years after his invasion of Iraq, he's now saying that if we withdraw, Iraq ends up like Vietnam or even worse.''

    That's rather telling. Not anyone's definition of a success, and if in Jan 2003 you had given Bush, Cheney & Wolfowitz a crystal ball and told them this would be the situation now, there is no way on earth they would have contemplated an invasion (actually, Wolfowitz might just have been stupid enough to still do so, but no sitting politician would).

    The other telling comment was this:

    "As long as that war goes, we're going to be tied, handcuffed in dealing with foreign affairs,'' he said. "Our relations with China, with Russia are deteriorating, we don't have freedom of action, we're despised worldwide.''

    This is the thing that Clinton, and lots of Americans, don't get. The country, at least when associated with its government's foreign policy, is now literally despised across half the globe, and even notional allies are deeply suspicious. This is an enormous and extremely dangerous weakening of America's influence and ability to use "soft power" to promote the interests of freedom, democracy, and trade, not to mention national or Western interests. Whatever you think of him otherwise, it appears to me that Obama is the only current candidate who "gets it" in terms of foreign policy: American is currently loathed, which significantly weakens its influence. Any policy change must make addressing this unpopularity its overriding concern.

    The country needs to alter its foreign policy such that it only gets engaged in conflicts which are i) vitally important to US national interests ii) winnable iii) not likely to massively compromise the US's reputation, and therefore effectiveness, elsewhere. Note that Vietnam qualified on at least 1 of those factors, possibly 2 (it was winnable, and arguably important to national interest during the Cold War, under the "domino" theory). Iraq does not qualify under a single one of those categories. It is quite remarkable that Bush's Iraq campaign has managed to overtake Vietnam as the single most disastrous foreign policy mistake since WWII.

    This proposed shift in policy means restricting the policy to opposing invasions of sovereign nations (e.g. Korea, or the first Gulf War), intervening to stop genocide - preferably with a UN mandate (e.g. the US could easily have intervened in Rwanda, or East Pakistan in the early 1970s, as it did in former Yugoslavia), and co-operating militarily with allied nations (although even here, much of the US presence is not needed. There is no reason to have troops in Europe, for example, or Japan). It also requires toning down attempts to intervene in the internal affairs of sovereign states, and ceasing the policy of giving virtually unquestioned support to non-democratic states simply because they offer to dance to American's tune. The prospect of Pakistan's dictator stepping down and being replaced with a democratically elected politician shows the real danger of the US's "support friendly dictators" policy (as if Iraq had not already given adequate warning) - what will most Pakistanis think of the US, after the dictator goes? They will think that the US is at least partly responsible for democratic elections being postponed for so long, and they will think the US has no credibility whatsoever when it lectures other countries on the need for freedom and human rights. Since the US is not going to undertake a full-scale invasion of Pakistan, and yet at the same time needs all the help it can get in Afghanistan and the border with Pakistan, this is a real problem in confronting the security threat in that region. If American had kept Musharaff frozen out, and encouraged elections, it would probably now have reasonable influence with any incoming administration. All that was pissed away by ageing morons who still thought we were living in the 1970s.

    The fundamental reality is that American foreign policy is still stuck with a cold war mentality. Clinton, remarkably, buys into this, as does the entire Republican party. There is a necessity for someone who understands the realities today, not as they were a generation ago, and so far Obama seems to be the only guy with anything approaching a clue. Shame his domestic policy seems so leftist.
     
  3. I probably would have ignored Obama until this endorsement. Surprised by this.