"Pre-emptive" war, then and now
yesterday's pessimism is today's optimism:
Paul Krugman on what to do
Eliot Spitzer on what to do
Frank Rich and David Corn are concerned about some of Obama's appointments.
Michael Hirsh of Newsweek wonders why Obama hasn't hired the one economic expert who's been right all along.
The Washington Independent notes that Obama's choices for White House advisors (as opposed to Cabinet picks) are notably progressive.
Steve Clemons thinks keeping Gates around might pay off
The NYT on Larry Summers
foreign policy musings...
E.J. Dionne Jr.:
The truth about Obama's worldview was hidden in plain sight in his most politically consequential foreign policy speech. Antiwar Democrats cheered Obama for addressing a rally against the Iraq war in Chicago's Federal Plaza on Oct. 2, 2002. His opposition to the war was a major asset in his nomination struggle with Clinton.
Obama did indeed denounce the impending war as "dumb," "rash" and "based not on reason but on passion." But in retrospect, the speech may be most notable for other things Obama said that separated him from some in his antiwar audience.
Not once but five times did Obama declare, "I don't oppose all wars." The first several paragraphs of the speech were devoted to the wars that Obama thought were justified: the Civil War, World War II -- in which, he said, "that arsenal of democracy . . . triumphed over evil" -- and the battle against terrorism after the attacks of Sept. 11. "I would willingly take up arms myself to prevent such tragedy from happening again," he said.
The thrust of his argument against the Iraq invasion was a classic realist's critique of a war he denounced as "ideological." It would, he said, "require a U.S. occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences." It also would "fan the flames of the Middle East" and "strengthen the recruitment arm of al-Qaeda."
In fact, Obama sounded a great deal like -- Brent Scowcroft. In a widely noted 2002 op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal, published six weeks before Obama gave his speech, Scowcroft warned that an invasion of Iraq "very likely would have to be followed by a large-scale, long-term military occupation." Going to Iraq, Scowcroft said, would "divert us for some indefinite period from our war on terrorism," and it could "destabilize Arab regimes in the region," "stifle any cooperation on terrorism" and "even swell the ranks of the terrorists."
Obama sees — correctly, in my view — this realist element of the Republican Party's tradition as offering a useful corrective to the occasionally hubristic proclivities of some folks inside the Democratic coalition. For a while now there have been a lot of calls to try to produce a higher synthesis of realism with the liberal impulse — Futuyama's "realistic Wilsonianism," Robert Wright's "progressive realism," Anatol Lieven's "ethical realism" — and Obama's setting himself up to move in just this direction.
The four basic conceptions of American foreign policy:
1. Neo-Isolationism - this is the view of complete disengagement held by some on the far right and far left. It's an essentially marginalized group with a philosophy championed by Pat Buchanan.
2. Selective Engagement - The policy that was pushed by realists in the 1990s. It argued for an approach focused exclusively on great power politics. It was probably best exemplified by President Bush's first campaign where he argued for a "humble foreign policy" and where Condi Rice wrote a Foreign Affairs article that essentially outlined this view.
3. Cooperative Security - Probably best exemplified by the first Clinton Administration and today's liberals. It argues that international institutions and spreading democratic values and freedom are the central vehicle for achieving stability and maintaining peace.
4. Primacy - This school believes in America's role as the undisputed global leader. It can be divided into two schools: hard primacy (i.e the Neocons), which is leadership achieved primarily through military means; and soft primacy (i.e the Liberal Hawks and second Clinton administration), which takes a more holistic view on primacy and uses all tools at America's disposal, including alliances and international institutions, but still believes in America as the indispensable nation.
What is interesting in my view is that what you now see forming is a broad consensus among liberals, liberal hawks and realists. There is relatively universal agreement among these groups that we need to begin withdrawing from Iraq, focus more on Afghanistan, opt for direct diplomacy with Iran, reengage with the world, improve our image, strengthen our alliances, close Guantanamo and deal with global warming and energy security.
That is a pretty broad consensus and it's one that politically was first pushed hardest by the left. On the traditional right-left spectrum, you would have to call this a solidly left of center consensus that has in fact been Obama's foreign policy platform for the last two years.
George Packer considers the moment
Thomas Frank: not only is healthcare reform the right thing to do, it will devastate the GOP.
Elizabeth Drew on the election and what it tells us about how Obama will govern.
(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
You can find many more great photos from the campaign here..