Foreign Policy Failure Foretold
One of Obama's serious character deficiencies seems to be that he believes he's smarter than everybody around him. I wonder whether that helps to make him comfortable by being unaware of others' ideological, venal, and frankly criminal motivations. In any case, despite — or perhaps because of — his delusions of brainy superiority he has accepted a charmingly naïve view of establishment virtues, particularly those accruing to the foreign policy and national security establishments. And, probably due to his lack of experience with the Federal bureaucracy, he also seems to believe that, when he is president, people will do what he tells them to do. These two cognitive errors have produced a situation where, by naming only creatures of the establishment to his foreign policy and national security staff, not a single one of them will think to question currently prevailing assumptions. Nor will they allow creative career bureaucrats to suggest alternatives. Moreover, if Obama were to push his staff to rethink things they would collectively resist. Just looking at who he's surrounded himself with, it's easy to predict, already, that the first year or two of Obama's presidency will be a foreign policy disaster.
Take Afghanistan, for example, where, at his direction, Obama's staff will seek to procure a "victory." For whatever confusion of reasons the establishment has yet to figure out that not only is there no military victory to be had in Afghanistan, ever, but that the longer we remain militarily active there the more we destabilize Pakistan and the greater the risk, therefore, of out of control nuclear proliferation. Establishment priorities, in short, are 100% wrong.
But it is much too far-fetched to imagine that Clinton, or Gates, or Jones, or Steinberg, or any of the rest of Obama's senior staff will advocate getting out of Afghanistan while trying to stabilize Pakistan with something other than military hardware. Since Obama himself has always talked tough on Afghanistan there's nobody left who's in a position to advocate alternatives. The ultimate reality check — as unfortunately all too often happens — probably will have to come from a further calamity in the region.
Or take Israel, regarding which the entire Obama organization has proceeded in lockstep, apparently on the assumption that it's OK for right wing Jews to control U.S. middle east policy. From a domestic political calculus that may make a certain amount of sense although it's probably reasonable to ask whether over the longer term the American public will accept this situation, given its costs to them. As an immediate matter of U.S. national security, however, the Obama approach makes no sense either. None whatsoever. The Zionist, apartheid state is inherently unstable: unless and until Israel adopts a modern vision of itself, recognizing and enforcing through the law equal civil and human rights for Jews and Palestinians alike, the dynamic of apartheid policies will drive Israel into increasingly insane acts of barbarism. It's a problem Obama won't be able to ignore, but it's also a problem that neither he nor any of those around him appear equipped to understand.
Or what about Russia? Will Obama throw away a perfectly good opportunity for substantial new nuclear arms control agreements just for the sake of baiting the bear? Will he prod China over Tibet and Darfur? Will he even go so far as to threaten Iran over its nuclear program? To ask these questions is almost to answer them. Take any specific case in foreign affairs and try to figure out what a sensible U.S. policy should be — the Obama apparatchiks almost certainly will seek to do the opposite.
When will Obama learn?