2008 — Choose Your Foreign Policy Poison

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Right now, the 2008 election shapes up like this. The Republican frontrunners are Senator John McCain (Az.) and Senator George Allen (Va.). McCain is ahead of Allen. Giuliani is running third, quite far back.

Hillary Clinton is the Democratic favorite with Governor Mark Warner (Va.) running a distant second.

The Republicans are slight favorites to retain the White House. All these rankings are from Tradesports contracts.

Senators McCain and Clinton are competing intensely in an Iran War tournament. First prize goes to whoever stakes out the most pro-war position. Both are hawks. Both are prepared to bomb Iran. Choose your war crimes poison, Republican or Democratic.

In a speech that could have been written and proofread by AIPAC, Clinton loudly clanged all the pro-Israel and anti-Iran bells: "We cannot and should not — must not — permit Iran to build or acquire nuclear weapons." McCain ratcheted up the Iranian confrontation to the most serious since the Cold War and declared that "a nuclear capability in Iran is unacceptable." Is Iran a child in need of correction? Choose your hectoring poison, red or blue.

Senator George Allen of Virginia is another Iran War hawk. To him "Iran remains a great threat to the United States and their neighboring countries [sic] by continuing to acquire weapons of mass destruction." In a masterpiece of logic, Senator Allen lauds his co-sponsorship of the Iran and Libya Sanctions Act of 2001 while stating "my sincere hope that by opening up economic channels and foreign investment to Iran, it will help bring capitalism and greater freedom to the Iranian people."

The 2001 Sanctions Act and its predecessor try to squash any investment to develop the petroleum resources of Iran and Libya! What stronger incentive for development of nuclear power could there be? Choose Allen as your dark horse poison.

Congress housed hundreds of co-sponsors of the sanctions against Iran. Choose your poison, a hawkish Congress or a hawkish Executive.

Governor Warner may be running for Vice-President. He has no foreign policy experience, but that doesn’t disqualify him. Most Presidents and Vice-Presidents have no foreign policy experience, nor do they seem to learn much while on the job.

The Governor has occasionally spoken out on foreign matters, albeit briefly. He views nuclear proliferation as a "tremendous challenge," especially in Iran and North Korea. This means that he doesn’t want to see it happen, he does not see a low-cost way to prevent it, but he’s against it. He also thinks that "Islamic extremism is a challenge." This means he’ll continue the war on terror. In 1996, Warner favored the deployment of U.S. ground troops to Yugoslavia. He favors foreign and economic aid when they are used to further U.S. interests. It looks again like a case of choose your poison. This poison may have more of a Bill Clinton flavor.

The good thing about 2008 is that Bush will become an ex-President. The bad thing is that whoever replaces him will probably continue his policies, which are in turn extensions of policies that go back decades. Congress repeatedly has made clear its support of America’s Empire. America will continue to ally itself with some and make enemies of others.

For what reasons? No one can deny the role of the interest groups, foreign and domestic, that have had their say and gotten their way. Yet beyond the imperatives of money and interests, in the main American politicians are now become a crowd, an unthinking herd that sounds a variety of refrains with a single voice — nuclear threat, weapons of mass destruction, democracy, freedom, terror, the homeland, national security, vital interests. Maybe a Hillary Clinton calculates her words, and maybe a John McCain does not. But they come out very nearly the same. We do not have a single Cato demanding that Carthage must be destroyed. We have a chorus of them.

The Communists did not subvert the United States of America. We ourselves accomplished that. In the process, we subverted thoughtful thought.

Too many opinion leaders and too many rulers have listened to the same idiotic phrases, the same simpleminded interpretations, the same falsified history, and accepted them. This makes for an unthinking crowd. Too many have been lulled into a condition of unthinking acceptance of wild phrases and ideas. They spout what they hear. They spout to the camera. They spout what a speech writer puts in front of them. If they are Senators, they simply spout.

We now have wall-to-wall commentators whose main claim to fame is an unfettered gift of gab when the cameras are running — speaking a mile a minute, interrupting each other, yelling at each other, and striving to come out on top. Reporters have become stars in their own right. Their questions are speeches, running longer than the answers of those whom they interview.

Choose your poison, Republican or Democratic, red or blue. It is as you might choose a dry breakfast cereal. They occupy an entire aisle, but you will find they are all pretty much the same, jacked up with sugar, vitamins and iron. They all promise health, a healthy heart, that you will lose weight, and conformity with a new and revised food pyramid. In the same way will our major parties offer a choice of more of the same.

The great excitement will be within each party as the zealots eagerly create PACs and raise money, pushing their newly-minted men and women of the hour, the new photogenic centrists who will capture the opposition vote and return the party to power. To do what? To reform education, wean the country away from oil, save Social Security and Medicare, and now to fight the never-ending war on terror and preserve the security of the "Homeland."

Homeland is an odious term! What’s wrong with America and Americans? Why do we need a German-sounding phrase, reminiscent of heimat or vaterland, a word with overly nationalistic and ethnic, even Nazi connotations, a word that attempts to unite all Americans into one fearful unit? Perhaps Karl Rove was responsible for this concept. Let us reject it and the Department of Homeland Security that goes with it. Let us choose none of the poisons proffered to us under any and all guises.

Michael S. Rozeff [send him mail] is the Louis M. Jacobs Professor of Finance at University at Buffalo.

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