Saturday, August 9, 2014

"The myth of American omnipotence"

From this liberal's perspective, most of what has gone wrong in American foreign policy has happened when - due to ideology or corporate interests - we have assumed that we can dictate what happens in other countries (usually through either covert or overt military intervention).  

From both a pragmatic and ideological perspective, President Obama has consistently rejected that path. He is steering our ship of state in a different where we provide assistance, advice, support - but the end result is up to the people of individual countries to decide.

This requires a big change in our view of how the world works. We have to give up our assumptions of control via dominance and embrace the possibilities of partnership. When we see pundits and neocons reacting to President Obama's strategy in Iraq, the resistance to that change is on display. 

This morning President Obama gave a master class on all this at his press conference about Iraq. Michael Cohen captured the reason so many don't get it.  

We've been fed this myth so consistently that - like an addict - we can't see that it is the cause of our problems rather than the solution. When challenges arise around the globe, we simply look for another "fix," even though it never works.

The path President Obama is suggesting as an alternative is hard. That's because it requires that we give up the idea that we can control things and join him in his "shocking, almost certifiable faith in humanity" to chart their own course. Of course, almost 240 years ago, some folks staked a pretty important claim on that same shocking, almost certifiable faith in humanity.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed...


  1. nowadays the myth takes the specific form of raising the bar when it's Obama's turn to jump, and then lowering it when it's anybody else's.

  2. I watched that news conference and all I can say is Thank You President Obama. I am so glad he is our President CIC at this time. The WHPC are lazy people, I won't even call them journalists. They don't deserve that name.
    Tank you Nancy.

  3. This is all stuff people say to cover up their serial failures. The US conquered the Empire of Japan in a war of near annihilation, occupied the home islands, established an American viceroy/proconsul/however you want to describe it, and devised a new system of government for the vanquished and wrote their own constitution for them...and almost seventy years later, that society is fabulously wealthy and successful and a threat to no one.

    You can absolutely win, you just have to want to win. And try and try and try and adapt and observe and change and try and try and keep trying until it's done. Like any other successful venture in life.

    The world ganged up on Iran and confiscated the money and foreign reserves it had parked in Europe. Nobody talks about American impotence when it comes to stealing Iran's money, squeezing its imports and forcing it into hyperinflation and compliance with international accords. Iran built (and will keep) its enrichment capability, but only the most ardent haters start from the premise that action against that country is impossibly hopeless and doomed to fail.

    First the US illegally and recklessly invaded and occupied Iraq. Then it dissolved the Baath party and institutions. Then it sent right-wing ideologues to "govern" the country by policy white papers. Then it initiated several notorious massacres and a nationwide (and international) torture apparatus. Then it failed in its war with al-Sadr. Then it failed in its war with jihadists from Jordan and Syria. Then it picked a stranger from the Dawa party to run the government. Then it watched a civil war happen. Then it watched widespread ethnic cleansing happen. Then it attempted to address the terrorist problem by empowering militias unaccountable to Baghdad. Then it just kind of hoped the militias would take care of themselves someday. Then a new American government came to power and was deliriously happy to begin withdrawing. Then it shrugged when Maliki remained in power (despite not actually winning the election) and the new government was transparently assembled in Tehran. Then we disappeared into the night. Then we watched terrorists in Syria acquire materiel and experience and success in a massive civil war without end. Then we watched those terrorists take their game to Iraq. Then we watched them team up with old Baathists, dissolve their army opponents with a handshake deal and take over half the country. Then we watched them absorb cities and put their enemies to the sword. In all those years and trillions spent, no successful effort was made to build an Iraqi air force (could've used that one, eh?) or a command-and-control for the military that wasn't run out of the prime minister's office and only operates in Baghdad. In all those years and trillions spent, no American, left or right, military or civilian, built up any indigenous alliance with Iraqi politicians, parliamentarians or civil, civic or even religious groups. It's not even about not having a "man in Baghdad," we don't have anyone to turn to. It's completely ridiculous.

    It's really holier-than-thou to laud President Obama for his benevolent wisdom in presiding over a new world order when he's really just another one of the serial screwups whose foreign policy in Iraq failed at every step and has had obviously lethal consequences. The Republican theories on war in Iraq were catastrophically wrong, the Democratic theories on post-war Iraq were catastrophically wrong, and now unwelcome emergency measures are necessary.

  4. President Obama's Iraq policy was to follow the agreement Bush & Al Maliki made that US troops would be out of Iraq by the end of 2011. He allowed Iraqis to govern Iraqis, that's the way it's supposed to be, right?

    Or is it the responsibility of the US to step in and interfere in every country just because the leadership sucks?

    Iraq was broken, given a chance to fix itself, and instead, chose to exclude and undermine itself.

    Now al Maliki is saying he won't step down. His behavior and (lack of) leadership is not the fault of President Obama. But you probably already know that.