Archive for category Foreign Policy
Here’s the take-away from President Obama’s speech today at the National Defense University at Fort McNair, in Washington DC.
The drone surge may finally be over. By some estimates, 98% of drone strike casualties were civilian noncombatants (50 for every one “suspected terrorist”). The Bureau of Investigative Journalism issued a report detailing how the CIA deliberately targeted rescuers who show up after an attack, and mourners at funerals as a part of a “double-tap” strategy eerily reminiscent of methods used by terrorist groups like Hamas.
In the months and years ahead, drone strikes once conducted by the CIA will become more of a U.S. military responsibility. The rules for launching the strikes will become stricter — there must be a “near certainty” that no civilians will be killed, for instance — and they’ll become less frequent. “To say a military tactic is legal, or even effective,” Obama said… “is not to say it is wise or moral in every instance.”
Yet neither Obama nor senior administration officials ruled out the most controversial aspect of Obama’s counterterrorism measures: so-called signature strikes, in which the CIA does not know the identities of the people it targets, but infers terrorist affiliation based on their observed patterns of behavior.
President Obama says he’s sorry.
Of the civilians who have died in the strikes, Obama said: “For me, and those in my chain of command, these deaths will haunt us as long as we live, just as we are haunted by the civilian casualties that have occurred through conventional fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq.”
Of course, the other guys kill civilians too.
“Let us remember that the terrorists we are after target civilians, and the death toll from their acts of terrorism against Muslims dwarfs any estimate of civilian casualties from drone strikes,” he added.
PFC Bradley Manning has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Alfred Nobel’s will left funding for a prize to be awarded to “the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.”
The intent of the prize was to fund this work. As a result of enormous legal expenses, Bradley Manning is in need of that funding (currently $1.2 million).
A record 259 nominations have been received for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, with candidates including PFC Manning and 15-year-old Malala Yousafzai, an education activist who was shot in the head by Taliban militants while on her way home from school in Pakistan. Around 50 of the nominations are for organizations. Last year, the prize went to the European Union for promoting peace and human rights in Europe following the devastation of World War II. Nobel Prize winners are usually announced in October.
UPDATE: It’s a fake.
‘How Americans Live Today’: Fake North Korean Propaganda Video Punks The Internet
This North Korean news report, titled “How Americans Live Today,” may be in need of a little bit of fact-checking.
“This is how Americans live today- drinking coffee made from snow and living in tents, and buying guns to kill each other, especially children. Some people complain about the guns…”
Kim Jong-un has a serious problem – how to keep his people convinced that their country is a relatively nice place to live, despite starvation, prison camps, power shortages, and a leader who clearly doesn’t know what he’s doing. Possession of foreign-made video CDs is a serious crime in North Korea.
Despite the propaganda, some people have a clue.
Defectors have told U.S. officials that the North Korean people—probably not a majority, but still a growing number—are aware of the glaring contrast between their own lives and the rest of the world.
Of course, if Paul Ryan gets his way maybe we can reduce the contrast between us and North Korea…
Another horrifying round of attacks on the besieged people of Gaza, just ahead of the Israeli elections. Pam Bailey on AlterNet:
The right to self-defense (most often through “retaliation”) is enshrined in international law and was America’s own first response after it was attacked on Sept. 11, 2001. Why was it ethical for the U.S., but not for Palestinians?
As one young Gazan wrote on Facebook: “When you see your family killed by Israeli soldiers in front of your eyes and you see your house demolished in front of you, you feel so angry that you want to fight back. But once you fight back, you are called a terrorist and the aggressor becomes the victim who has the right of defense.”
Israel started it, again. And the blockade of Gaza continues.
Israel does not accept Palestine’s right to exist, even though it is constantly demanding that everyone, including the displaced and occupied Palestinians, recognize Israel’s right to exist.
UPDATE: Glenn Greenwald: The ‘both-sides-are-awful’ dismissal of Gaza ignores the key role of the US government. “The temptation to wash one’s hands of the whole conflict is understandable, but US support of Israel is a central force driving it all.”
Question for the Obama campaign: Why is this a close election?
America is divided between the 99 Percent of people who work for a living, and the 1 Percent who control the political process in Washington. So how come the polls are tied between Romney and the President?
Could it be that both major political parties are fundamentally the same? They both want tax cuts for the rich and budget cuts for everybody else. Their foreign policy is the same, war with no end in sight even though 2/3 of Americans are against it.
Make your voice heard. Vote third-party in 2012.
UPDATE: In an off-the-record interview with the Des Moines Register, President Obama said that his goal in a second term would be to pursue a “grand bargain” with Republicans to “meet the target that the Bowles-Simpson Commission established of $4 trillion in deficit reduction, and even more in the out-years.” Of course, Obama can’t get re-elected without the votes of Americans who hate the Catfood Commission– which by the way never established anything because it never produced a final recommendation.
The problem with tonight’s presidential foreign policy debate is that both major political parties are committed to the almost the exact same foreign policy. Despite the fact most Americans are against it.
E-mail from RootsAction:
Even the New York Times has reversed its position of over 11 years and editorialized for withdrawal from Afghanistan now.
The crowd at the Republican National Convention cheered for immediate withdrawal when Clint Eastwood and Senator Rand Paul proposed it.
The U.K. and other allies are speeding up their withdrawal plans.
A strong majority of Americans has favored withdrawal in polls for years now.
And who’s left favoring two more years of war, followed by 10 more years of lower-level war?
These guys: Obama, Romney, Biden, and Ryan.
The military-industrial complex shouldn’t get to have two candidates for president.
UPDATE: What Jill Stein would say if she were allowed to debate tonight:
“We support a Green New Deal, which will put everyone back to work, at the same time that it puts a halt to climate change and it makes wars for oil obsolete.”
I’d be surprised if we hear the term “climate change” tonight from either Romney or Obama.
NYT: “Mr. Romney’s problem is that he does not actually have any real ideas on foreign policy beyond what President Obama has already done, or plans to do.”
Obama boasts of the massive amount of military spending under his presidency. Romney then says he wants to spend more. It is inconceivable that anyone would suggest that spending almost more than all other countries on the planet combined is excessive. That is the election in a nutshell.
…A primary reason this debate is so awful is because DC media people like Bob Scheiffer have zero interest in challenging any policy that is embraced by both parties, and since most foreign policies are embraced by both parties, he has no interest in challenging most of the issues that are relevant: drones, sanctions, Israel, etc.
That’s my take-away from tonight’s vice-presidential debate. Vice President Biden kept asking Congressman Ryan to take responsibility for the nation’s well-being, something the Republicans in Congress have conspicuously refused to do. Their plan has been to sabotage the economy and try to blame the Obama administration.
VP Biden nailed Ryan on his faux concern for the middle class:
Stop talking about how you care about people. Show me something. Show me a policy. Show me a policy where you take responsibility.
And by the way, they talk about this Great Recession as if it fell out of the sky, like, oh my goodness, where did it come from? It came from this man voting to put two wars in a credit card, to at the same time put a prescription drug benefit on the credit card, a trillion- dollar tax cut for a — very wealthy. I was there. I voted against him. I said, no, we can’t afford that. And now all of a sudden these guys are so seized with a concern about the debt that they created —
Biden went after Ryan on his party’s obsession with tax cuts for the rich.
“Instead of signing pledges to Grover Norquist not to ask the wealthiest among us not to contribute to bring back the middle class, they should be signing a pledge saying to the middle class we’re going to level the playing field,” the vice president said.
“It’s about time they took responsibility,” he added.
Now that Ryan is running in a national election, he won’t say what plans he and Willard (“Mitt”) Romney have. He won’t give details or accept any responsibility for tax policy, the budget, national security or foreign policy. In contrast, VP Biden kept emphasizing that President Obama has taken responsibility and made some hard decisions that turned out pretty well.
In all, Biden used the word “responsibility” 13 times. Rep. Ryan used it once, in his closing statement – “We will take responsibility,” Ryan said defensively. But he was referring to a hypothetical future, not now.
Moderator Martha Raddatz deserves credit for excellent follow-up questions, especially on foreign policy. Also for ignoring the rule against addressing Ryan as “congressman.” But she said, “Both Medicare and Social Security are going broke.” That’s false.
Transcript: Biden-Ryan Vice Presidential Debate
At The Vice Presidential Debate: Ryan Told 24 Myths In 40 Minutes
Biden says Romney revealed true self with ’47 percent’ remarks
ThinkProgress Liveblogs The Vice Presidential Debate
President Obama gave a great speech at the United Nations General Assembly this morning. The rest of the world wants to believe that America has not abandoned its founding principles, and our President says we have not. If only his actions conformed to the Constitution, I’d be happy to support him.
We were inspired by the Tunisian protests that toppled a dictator, because we recognized our own beliefs in the aspirations of men and women who took to the streets.
We insisted on change in Egypt, because our support for democracy put us on the side of the people.
We supported a transition of leadership in Yemen, because the interests of the people were not being served by a corrupt status quo.
We intervened in Libya alongside a broad coalition, and with the mandate of the U.N. Security Council, because we had the ability to stop the slaughter of innocents; and because we believed that the aspirations of the people were more powerful than a tyrant.
And as we meet here, we again declare that the regime of Bashar al-Assad must come to an end so that the suffering of the Syrian people can stop, and a new dawn can begin.
We have taken these positions because we believe that freedom and self-determination are not unique to one culture. These are not simply American values or Western values – they are universal values.
American foreign policy ought to be on the side of the 99 Percent. Similarly, our government ought to stand up for the 99 Percent of Americans.
Citing Nelson Mandela, President Obama received loud applause.
And yet the turmoil of recent weeks reminds us that the path to democracy does not end with the casting of a ballot. Nelson Mandela once said: “to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” True democracy demands that citizens cannot be thrown in jail because of what they believe, and businesses can be opened without paying a bribe. It depends on the freedom of citizens to speak their minds and assemble without fear; on the rule of law and due process that guarantees the rights of all people.
In other words, true democracy – real freedom – is hard work. Those in power have to resist the temptation to crack down on dissent. In hard economic times, countries may be tempted to rally the people around perceived enemies, at home and abroad, rather than focusing on the painstaking work of reform.
And he offered this comment on the limits of American power:
Just as we cannot solve every problem in the world, the United States has not, and will not, seek to dictate the outcome of democratic transitions abroad, and we do not expect other nations to agree with us on every issue.
He implicitly rejected the neocon view of a world divided, but failed to address the violence against innocent civilians that is perpetrated by the USA:
A politics based only on anger –one based on dividing the world between us and them – not only sets back international cooperation, it ultimately undermines those who tolerate it. All of us have an interest in standing up to these forces. Let us remember that Muslims have suffered the most at the hands of extremism. On the same day our civilians were killed in Benghazi, a Turkish police officer was murdered in Istanbul only days before his wedding; more than ten Yemenis were killed in a car bomb in Sana’a; and several Afghan children were mourned by their parents just days after they were killed by a suicide bomber in Kabul.
…We know from painful experience that the path to security and prosperity does not lie outside the boundaries of international law and respect for human rights.
President Obama concluded (as he began) by citing the example of Chris Stevens, our murdered ambassador to Libya.
And today I promise you this – long after these killers are brought to justice, Chris Stevens’ legacy will live on in the lives he touched. In the tens of thousands who marched against violence through the streets of Benghazi; in the Libyans who changed their Facebook photo to one of Chris; in the sign that read, simply, “Chris Stevens was a friend to all Libyans.
They should give us hope. They should remind us that so long as we work for it justice will be done; that history is on our side; and that a rising tide of liberty will never be reversed. Thank you.
The study’s purpose was to conduct an “independent investigations into whether, and to what extent, drone strikes in Pakistan conformed to international law and caused harm and/or injury to civilians”.
In his first major foreign policy address, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney today laid out a vision for international development steeped in Tea Party ideology… Romney …threw some red meat at his base by ticking off unfavorable developments currently faced by the U.S. in the Muslim world, listing among them the fact that “the president of Egypt is a member of the Muslim brotherhood.”
…A foreign policy expert texted me a single word: “Thud.”
The Romney-Ryan campaign achieved a new low on September 11. Willard (“Mitt”) Romney attempted to suggest that President Obama is in league with Arab terrorists, and implied that “American values” include bigotry and hatred based on religious differences. He left the press conference with a self-satisfied smirk reminiscent of the last Republican president. Indeed, Romney’s irresponsible reaction to violence in Libya and Egypt is the surest indication that he plans to repeat the mistakes of George W. Bush.
Because Romney has had almost nothing to say about foreign policy, not enough attention has been focused on who he would appoint to key positions in the White House, Pentagon, and State Department. Of Romney’s forty identified foreign policy advisers, more than 70 percent worked for Bush. John Bolton and other rabid neocons head the list.
Bolton is one of eight Romney advisers who signed letters drafted by the Project for a New American Century, an influential neoconservative advocacy group founded in the 1990s, urging the Clinton and Bush administrations to attack Iraq. PNAC founding member Paula Dobriansky, leading advocate of Bush’s ill-fated “freedom agenda” as an official in the State Department, recently joined the Romney campaign full time. Another PNAC founder, Eliot Cohen, counselor to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice from 2007 to 2009, wrote the foreword to the Romney campaign’s foreign policy white paper, which was titled, perhaps not coincidentally, “An American Century.” Cohen was a tutor to Bush administration neocons. Following 9/11, he dubbed the war on terror “World War IV,” arguing that Iraq, being an “obvious candidate, having not only helped Al Qaeda, but…developed weapons of mass destruction,” should be its center. In 2009 Cohen urged the Obama administration to “actively seek the overthrow” of Iran’s government.
…Romney’s team is notable for including Bush aides tarnished by the Iraq fiasco: Robert Joseph, the National Security Council official who inserted the infamous “sixteen words” in Bush’s 2003 State of the Union message claiming that Iraq had tried to buy enriched uranium from Niger; Dan Senor, former spokesman for the hapless Coalition Provisional Authority under Paul Bremer in Iraq; and Eric Edelman, a top official at the Pentagon under Bush.
There is plenty to criticize in President Obama’s foreign policy, including his conduct of the war in Afghanistan, the failure to close Guantanamo and end preventive detention, the out-of-control drone war in Pakistan, Yemen and other countries, the Libya intervention without congressional authorization, and his attempt to retain military bases in Iraq. However, short of starting a war with Iran, it would be hard to imagine how Obama could do as badly as Bush. America’s allies around the world (with the possible exception of Netanyahu’s Israel) see the Obama administration as an improvement. Our relations with Russia and China have gotten better, too.
Far from creating his own crisis as Bush did, Obama was hit with one, the Arab Spring. We can’t know how all that will turn out, and things certainly look bleak at this moment in Egypt and Libya. But Obama did the only things that could be done at the time. Can you imagine the United States siding with Hosni Mubarak against those people in Tahrir Square, or permitting the pre-advertised massacre of thousands in Benghazi?
The world is the world. Obama can’t wave a wand at it. But he can do what he has done, which is to run a sober and responsible foreign policy, not one based on theories developed in think-tank seminars underwritten by some hawkish Israeli billionaire. Obama’s approach to foreign policy is the one that has guided this country at its best moments (which have not, alas, been as frequent as we’d like), and it’s the foreign policy most Americans want.
UPDATE: Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) says President Obama “is apologizing because he didn’t like America.” With friends like Akin, Romney doesn’t need enemies.
UPDATE: Bob Cesca: Mitt Romney Kneejerks Into Another Colossal Blunder (Given an opportunity to look presidential, Romney decided to channel Rush Limbaugh instead)
Seeing that we have a lot of posts on domestic policy, I think it’s time we discuss foreign policy. We all know about drone strikes. Basically it’s another way of saying you kill enemies of the state by having a military soldier who doesn’t have the balls to get into an A-10 and putting him in a cubicle to bomb someone half a world away. That is a drone strike. Now Obama has been getting flack for it because these strikes kills civilians and the target’s family. But somehow this complaint seems rather off considering that the last way we took out members of Al Qaeda was to invade a country. So with that, I will give out a comparison of Bush’s method of combating terrorism as opposed to Obama’s method of combating terrorism.
Bush’s policy was to invade a country that no empire has ever held onto before. That tactic forced the Taliban into a neighboring country that has nukes and as a result, Swat Valley is in Taliban Control.Then he completely ignored Bin Laden and went after Iraq to take their oil at the cost of a million lives.
Obama’s policy is to do it by espionage. Use the CIA to track down terrorists and then either order special forces to attack or use drones to take them out, minimizing collateral damage. The end result shows Al Qaeda faltering. No terrorist attack as of yet.