Thoughts on Obama's Foreign Policy Speech
by Matt Stoller, Tue Apr 24, 2007 at 08:19:32 AM EDT
There was an extraordinarily interesting conversation on Obama's speech yesterday, which I recommend you read. Taylor Marsh also chimed in with her thoughts. What's striking about the speech was no so much what he said, but the reaction. There wasn't one. This was supposed to be a grand pronouncement with a new vision for foreign policy, and yet, the speech could have been ripped out of John Kerry's camapign, Bill Clinton's 1992 campaign, or for that matter, Jimmy Carter's. I mean, Marshall McLuhan wrote about the global village in the early 1960s. Obama has a very forward-looking 20th century outlook.
I'm having a hard time actually taking his speech seriously, because it was just so awful. If you don't have the patience to read the speech, here's a shortened version:
Isolationists are bad, we need a bigger military, some troops should stay in Iraq to fight Al Qaeda, and we have to deal with loose Russian nukes, pandemics, global warming, all through corporate channels. Also, 9/11 changed everything, trade agreements are complicated, Iraq was a dumb war. Oops, our bad, can we get a do-over? Kissinger told me we could.
Obama framed everything as a security issue, and argued against the people that don't believe America should have a place as a global leader and against the throngs of isolationists on the left, who apparently exist somewhere in Samantha Power's imagination. I don't really get what motivates these people, but I'm tired of people like Obama telling me it's cynical to question the moral foundations of America after seven years when we've tortured a select few and killed hundreds of thousands of people based on a brief episode of national psycho-drama. And we're all tired of this whole national security state model which pretends that all our problems must be solved by pumping more money into a military-industrial complex that cannot account for a trillion dollars and centralizes power in the hands of an irresponsible elite. You see, if you put more money into the hands of defense contractors, you end up cutting money for everything else, and those contractors end up supporting the Republican Party.
Here's the most annoying line, though there are so many:
I believe that the single most important job of any President is to protect the American people.
We don't need a charismatic figure promising us his personal protection, we need leadership.
Can I get an 'arghh'? We'll end the national security state, but it's going to take awhile.
Update [2007-4-24 12:54:33 by Matt Stoller]:: Former TNR editor Andrew Sullivan loved the speech. Read him for an alternate point of view. And here's Kevin Drum's analysis. I respect Kevin, though he's definitely more of a centrist and seems wedded to the Clintonian/Carter model of militaristic liberal internationalism.
I don't expect to make up my mind on this score anytime soon. Most of the time I come down in favor of expanding the military, on the basis that (a) if you're going to do something, you should do it right, and (b) we're not likely to continue to be ruled by petulant children forever into the future. Needless to say, (b) is a gamble.