Obama's Foreign Policy: The Case for Pessimism His appointments augur ill


We know the sellout is a reality when we listen to Jamie Kirchick praise Barack Obama’s national security appointments: "Barack Obama isn’t even president yet, and he’s already angering some of his most devoted followers on the party’s left wing. This is the mark of what could be a very successful presidency," he snarks.

Kirchick, in his role as Marty Peretz‘s alter ego, is pleased as punch with the incoming Obama-ites, who appear to have abandoned their "netroots" early on and ceded the foreign policy realm to the pro-war Clinton wing of the party. He is mostly concerned with gloating over the fact that Joe Lieberman wasn’t expelled from the Democratic caucus, but the larger issue is the party’s foreign policy stance in general, which looks to be shaping up as distinctly right-of-center. ("Right," in this sense, means neocon, rather than authentically conservative, but then you knew that.)

As the last surviving representative of the Scoop Jackson Democrats, who have long been on the politically endangered species list, Lieberman has a special place in the hearts of neocons everywhere, but especially in the editorial offices of The New Republic, which, in spite of unconvincing efforts to suck up to the "new politics" wing, exists to hold high the banner of that hoary tradition.

Obama’s personal intervention on Lieberman’s behalf hints at where the Democrats are going as a governing party, and his appointments are rapidly confirming this trend: not only Hillary Clinton at State and Robert Gates at Defense, but also retired Marine Gen. Jim Jones as national security adviser. The former commander of U.S. forces in Europe and military head of NATO was described last year as a political "hot commodity" by the Wall Street Journal. In a piece that detailed the courting of the general by both political parties, Hillary is cited as saying she’d put him in her Cabinet, perhaps as defense secretary, although her campaign qualified this by saying that "it’s way premature" to speculate about such matters, as indeed it was. Jones is best buddies with John McCain, and, although he assiduously avoided a formal endorsement, he made an appearance with his old friend during the campaign. When Jones served on a commission evaluating our military operations in Iraq, he concluded that we ought to stay the course: “Understand the fact that regardless how you got there, there is a strategic price of enormous consequence for failure in Iraq.” His point of agreement with President-elect Obama is that he believes we’ve been grievously amiss in not escalating the fighting on the Afghan front sooner.

The argument for Gen. Jones as national security chieftain echoes the case for Hillary at State: "If Obama engages Iran," avers The New Republic, "it’ll be harder to dismiss his overtures as soft-headed or naïve with Jones coordinating foreign policy." The same malarkey is being uttered with a straight face by defenders of the Clinton appointment, such as Obamacon-in-chief Andrew Sullivan, who claim it will somehow give Obama the credibility to pull off a settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. This assumes, however, that his "team of rivals," as the pundits have deemed it, won’t mutiny. It assumes presidential omnipotence, when the reality is that without the cooperation of the vast and powerful national security bureaucracy, the White House will find it difficult to carry out its program. It also assumes Clinton and her menagerie won’t actively sabotage the policies she attacked during the primaries as "naïve" and "dangerous."

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