As the brief marketing campaign to make Tulsi Gabbard 2020 a thing flares up (but before it dies out in approximately a week) it's as good a time as any to talk about the most glaring weakness shared by all of the factions to the left of the Republican Party: foreign policy. Depending on where you're focusing the spotlight, the foreign policy across the left spectrum today is either nonexistent, totally incoherent, or coherent but terrible. Take your pick.

Broadly speaking, there are three very bad categories.

One, more popular among leftist-progressive types, is essentially a repackaged version of Gilded Age and Interwar isolationism. War is bad (which is true, but not a foreign policy). Any outcome that does not involve the United States engaging in military action is good (usually true, but not universally). Picking sides is bad, because without any real thought about what American goals are – Humanitarian? Strategic? Public relations? – everything gets reduced to Philosophy 101 guy-who-didn't-do-the-readings logic: Who's to say who's right here? There's also an alarming tendency for people of this mindset to be manipulated by obviously bad actors – Jill Stein and Glenn Greenwald and their "What's so bad about Russia Today?
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It's just like the BBC!" shtick, or Gabbard and her "I went and talked to Assad and he agrees with me" stunt. When no goal or policy beyond "Let's stay out of it" can be articulated, you make yourself pretty easy to manipulate.

The second, represented by center types like Biden or Hillary Clinton (and Bill for that matter), is basically neoconservatism. This strain is a remnant of Democrats old enough to remember the Carter-Mondale-Dukakis era in which Republicans seemed to score endless political points by accusing Democrats of being Weak. Weak on defense, Weak on crime, Weak on everything. So the reaction, spearheaded by Bill Clinton, was to go full hawk to preempt the right. Out-hawk the hawks; brilliant! This kind of "Who will be tougher on the Soviets," put-Dukakis-in-the-tank mindset is out of date by about 30 years and gives live ammunition to the cynical "There's no difference between the parties" worldview.
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Finally, there is this younger (Beto, Booker, etc) set that seems not to want to talk about foreign policy at all. They believe, right or wrong, that voters want to hear about the $15 minimum wage or Medicare for All and since nobody cares about foreign policy anyway it is best dealt with as little effort or commitment as possible. Address it in platitudes, say some stuff nobody can really disagree with, praise The Troops, and be done with it. This of course leads to a status quo bias because candidates who don't care about foreign policy have a huge incentive simply to placate the power players and walk away. Kiss AIPAC's ass, promise the defense contractors that you won't mess with the Pentagon budget except around the edges, and say some generic "Let's be strong, also let's end the wars" kind of stuff that you have no intention of thinking about again after getting elected.

Those are three bad options. The first is basically Trumpism, with its underlying belief that authoritarians around the world really aren't so bad. The second is George W. Bush foreign policy, the whole "I voted for the Iraq War but I was also critical in some vague way that affected nothing." The third is effectively punting and admitting that the Pentagon and military-industrial complex can kind of do whatever they want as long as it happens in the background.

I have no answers. If I did I certainly wouldn't give them away for free. The situation seems to boil down to whether the center, liberals, and the far left collectively or individually decide this is important enough to devote time and energy to. Quite a few far-left Bernard Brother types have been writing about this actively since 2016, but it doesn't gain much traction. The mainstream Democratic Party seems content to pull an Obama and basically promise to do what neocons propose but, uh, you know, do it better or nicer or smarter or something. And the young progressive-adjacent mainstream types do not appear to care at all, which I can't imagine working out well in the long run. Because when they achieve some kind of position of power and there's no coherent policy, they will default to "Find some Generals who seem like they know what they're doing and delegate everything."

A good place to start might be to think about what underlying values and principles – big picture stuff – should be at the heart of America's interactions with the rest of the world. What is it we want? What are we trying to do? Those are questions that the left largely has ignored since the end of the Cold War. While the Beto generation is right to point out that the average voter does not care much (and is appallingly uninformed about) foreign policy, that doesn't mean political leaders can share the same attitude.

Collectively the left can advance some pretty compelling domestic policy ideas that appeal strongly to most Americans. But it's time to admit – as the 2020 potential candidates demonstrate all too well – that foreign policy has withered on the vine and become a black hole.

56 thoughts on “ALL GREEK”

  • Include stuff like "We will lean heavily on nations that violate human rights, etc., in the search for a slice of our exported manufacturing or industrial capacity.", and then point out that will help repatriate jobs.

    "We will levy penalties in in order to achieve integration in our tax system between foreign and domestic corporate accounts.", and then point out that will help end offshoring and corporate vampirism.

    Basically every leftist foreign policy needs to, for the time being, loop back into a domestic justice-for-all initiative.

  • Any kind of foreign policy that recognizes and learns from the ramifications of past action would be welcome.
    No more BFFs with Kissinger.
    I'd settle for a foreign policy that considers brown people human enough to stop dropping bombs on them constantly and stop overthrowing their governments.
    I'd settle for a foreign policy that recognizes how badly we've fucked up in the past; that the only thing we would ever provide now would be humanitarian aid.
    I've become convinced that ideology matters more than plans and practicality and I want a true believer.

  • With politicians you have to buy the whole package. Since there are only so many candidates running, this means one has to prioritize one's issues. A voter has to judge how much more important domestic issues are as opposed to foreign issues. Sure, ending the Infinity War would be nice, but so would Medicare for All and a host of other things. Voting machines don't let one mix and match.

    There is also the problem of what computer security people call "attack surfaces". Setting out a foreign policy in more than vague platitudes provides a means of political attack. What better way to knock out a higher minimum wage than by pointing out that a candidate hasn't adequately denounced Netanyahu? Why should a candidate or movement offer more attack surfaces than unavoidable? Maybe there is some value in actually winning the election.

    I suppose I'm one of those old fashioned Americans that Revel admired in his 'Without Marx, Without Jesus'. I don't need a consistent overriding ideology. I like to pick problems and solutions rather than searching for an overall world view. This isn't being a centrist. We need some radical solutions. This sometimes means fighting the wrong battle, but at least it is actually fighting.

  • If there is to be a progressive foreign policy, it needs to be based on principles. I would suggest respect for human rights of all people, use of military force by any nation as a last resort, and a commitment to international law and international institutions to resolve conflict. It would mean an end to US unilateralism and exceptionalism and a reduction in our military forces and spending as a result.

  • An interesting post. However, I fear you are lumping non-neocon Democrats with neo-con supporting Democrats with the second category. The Cheney-Bush "plan" to go into Iraq was not dependent on 9/11 happening—9/11 just facilitated the plan that the PNAC group had been cooking up for at least 5 years. It was truly a crazed, "shock doctrine" moment.

    I think it is entirely possible that a different administration—hell, even a different GOP administration—might well have been able to have acted on the intelligence that could have prevented 9/11. As well, I seriously doubt that an Al Gore Administration would have gone into Iraq. Perhaps the Afghan adventure was doomed completely from the start, but undistracted by Iraq and with a narrower mission (say, to locate the key members of Al Qaida) we might not have been there 17 years & counting.

    The insinuation that the Bush-Cheney/PNAC/Achmed Chalabi/Laurie Mylroie mission in Iraq was quite likely going to be followed by any number of Democrats is truly unfair. It not only was based upon cooked "intelligence," it was apocalyptically stupid and destructive. Beyond the lives lost, it ruined many critical American alliances, and opened up opportunities for Russian opportunistic adventurism. Yes, Hillary supported the war. But she did not win in 2008 and she did not win in 2016. Kerry, in 2004, could not undo all of the damage, but he could have pushed back from the entrenchment that led to the ruins that now describe the region.

    Yes, Bill Clinton intervened in Kosovo, but that hardly qualifies as comparable to the massive drunken cowboy adventurism and pillaging that was Iraq. After two interventions during the Bush-1 four-year presidency, the Clinton years could hardly be described as militaristic. No, the entire region—and numerous key alliances—were knocked on their ass by what happened in the eight rotten years of Bush 2.

    Putting Democrats in that category is problematic. Hillary voted for Bush's war, but good god, I doubt very strongly that she would have initiated it. Kerry would not have. Gore would not have. Obama would not have.

  • What you're ignoring, LarsMacomb, is that invading Iraq was the sine qua non of neocon prescriptions – emerging directly from the epicenter of neocon policy thought – Project for A New American Century. It does not get anymore "core neocon" than that. You're also giving those named Dems a pass on incredibly stupid and destructive FP initiatives, e.g. Syria and Libya, not to mention Clinton continuing the Bush I sanctions on Iraq which killed ~1 million people.

    While perhaps not on the same scale of folly as invading Iraq, this kind of perfidious stupidity must be ended, denounced, and rejected in its entirety before we can even begin discussing a successor. While intervention is not ipso facto dumb or evil, the entire record of american intervention post WWII (skip the previous for brevity) is either dumb, evil, or both. Any notion of an interventionist FP must begin with that acknowledgement.

  • Actually, I'll take it a step further. We have to eschew intervention for all but the most imminent national security needs because we are just to dumb and reckless to to get it right. When your track record is as bad as ours the only decent and moral answer is to retire from public life and refuse all entreaties to return.

  • Ed sez: "… the Beto generation is right to point out that the average voter does not care much (and is appallingly uninformed about) foreign policy, that doesn't mean political leaders can share the same attitude." At the risk of sounding provincial, it's not so much that I don't care as I don't possess the time and expertise to track foreign policy. Our elected representatives are empowered to do this (but often don't).

    As to big picture values, I doubt anyone wants to go nearly as big as needed, namely, to the wellbeing and indeed survival of the citizenry now severely imperiled on many sides. Instead, the systems and structures being supported through government action are plainly military-industrial-corporate with side action relegated to party affiliations and individual candidacies. To resolve the big picture properly would IMO mean a return to ringing phrases such as "of the people, by the people, and for the people."

  • Pancho V Delgado says:

    I thought US foreign policy was written in Tel Aviv, but that's an ignorant desert rat's observation.

  • I'll take option one over the status quo. Not picking a side is a marked improvement over supporting dictators and terrorists. And frankly, it's not like much of the resources put to suppressing our national enemies is put to good use. No Iranian ever denied me healthcare. No North Koreans are shooting innocent people in our cities.

  • Re: Punting–

    The fact that universal healthcare, living minimum wage, and "free" college dominate the discourse to the exclusion of foreign policy for the Yutes is telling. It's because most people under the age of 35 are enslaved to debt–the vampire conglomerate that owns us has carefully cultivated our society to be watered with the blood of The Unwashed; the cause of which being some combination of getting sick or giving birth at some point, having been sold the Great Meritocratic Lie that you'll be set if you work hard and go to college (rather than simply receiving a piece of paper that may get you that second interview at Staples, plus a $120k hole in your pocket), and working 60 hours a week at two jobs and STILL having to compulsively worry about the possibility of paying your credit card bill 18 minutes late and being slammed with a fine and 20% interest rate for the next 7 years. You're not worried about what's happening on shore if you're caught in an undertow and drowning. Most Americans live paycheck to paycheck anymore and can barely imagine a life where they have their basic needs secured and can go out to dinner without doing a complex series of calculations to decide whether or not they can afford it. We're in survival mode. Whatever's happening on the outside is practically another universe.

  • I agree that a sensible foreign policy starts with not murdering scary brown people for sketchy reasons, but I'd argue that it also involves preventing OTHER people from murdering those THEY'RE afraid of for sketchy reasons, with force if necessary. Both the Obama and Trump administrations haven't done much about Rohingya genocide, apart from some very sternly-worded hand-wringing at the UN. The ability to pave the earth carries with it the responsibility to keep others from paving chunks of it.

  • My understanding is that China is using projects such as construction of ports and some commercial port acquisition as well as other infrastructure projects to further their foreign policy goals. It's also my understanding that this is working quite well for them in their ability to influence other countries without resorting to military action.

  • Perhaps there'd be less trouble in the world if so much of it wan't a Hell hole to live in. Wouldn't it be more fun if; Most of international trade wan't arbitrage of some form, the most free trade would be with entities with safe workplaces and functional environmental protection? The third world Hell holes would have an incentive to give their people a better life. If the "War on drugs" was rethought as a medical problem, and we stopped inadvertently funding narco thugs?
    The opposition to such ideas looks, from my un-exalted perspective, to be a small minority that wish to live as Gods, on a shining mountain, looking down on squalor. Everyone living well looks like a lot more fun, and would solve some of the foreign policy issues.

  • "Depending on where you're focusing the spotlight, the foreign policy across the left spectrum today is either nonexistent, totally incoherent, or coherent but terrible. Take your pick."

    The U.S. had shitty foreign policy since it's had foreign policy–actually going back to at least the 1750's if history of her majesties colonists prior to the American Revolution are to be believed.

    We've always sought to dominate our weaker allies and finesse the stronger ones. I'm pretty sure that's how it works in most nations over most of history.There are fewer instances of genuine statecraft, by far, than gunboat diplomacy or economic pressure from the greater to the lesser nations to get whatever it is that the greater* nation wants.

    The only difference that I ever see is that the democratically controlled governments of the last 50 or so years have been a bit less rapine.

    It's not a perfect world, obviously; I'll settle for less murderous and, ultimately, STUPID shit that makes the U.S. a pariah–to countries that we are IN alliances with.

    That modest goal will not be achieved with the GOP/ONF at the controls.

    * Greater and lesser merely being indicators of power and the desire to run the whole show than wimpyvalues like nobility and equality.

  • @E:

    You could probably throw the I Ching and get something better than the status quo, just as you probably can from accepting Glenn Greenwald's contrarian trolling as a policy prescription. I think the point is that the left needs something more coherent and useful than a mix of Trump and Ron Paul, which is what it will get from Tulsi Gabbard.

  • Stephen Johnson says:

    How about start with "First, do no harm"

    Second might be "What are we trying to do, how long do we think it will take, and how will we know when we're done?"

    I think effective foreign policy has to be performed on a carrot and stick basis, based on current actions of the other players – principally, but not exclusively, nation states. US policy, however, is almost always based on the perception of whether the other actor is, in general, "good" or "bad" – and the thinking goes, you should NEVER reward "bad" countries (or, for that matter, punish "good" ones). This means that in dealing with nations like N.Korea, Russia, or Iran, the US can offer no actual rewards for increments of good behaviour. Similarly, when Israel or Saudi Arabia behaves badly, there is no credible stick. So, you have no ability to influence other nations at the margins, and are gradually forcing nations like Iran (and, for that matter, Iraq) into the other side because you can't let up on the hostility. This is regardless of who's in office, I think, and until you can successfully articulate a counter to that, nothing will change.

    As some others have said, neo-isolationism is pretty rubbish, but it's less bad than the other options currently available. Maybe set a list of nations you'd be willing to help out and let them use the bat signal, rather than the US initiating things? Don't have military basis in some insanely large number of countries? I don't have a perfect answer, but acknowledging the problem at a national level is sure to help.

    My two cents worth

  • I think you make a decent point in that left-wing non-interference needs to be more forcefully articulated as an ideal, separate from nativist isolationism. It isn't hard to look for models to articulate same — from Star Trek's Prime Directive to the Tao te Ching to "don't try to fix things you don't understand", the concept that it is best not to interfere unless you are *very* sure you know what you are doing (hint: you are not as sure as you think you are) i s familiar and broad and easily understood.

    The root of left wing isolationism is not the same as the root of right-wing isolationism; it is not based on nativist fear, but rather on the realization that shoving our military into everywhere doesn't usually result in an improvement. Our military is not a scalpel, it's a hammer, and doctors rarely improve things via hammer-based surgery. Left wing and progressive candidates need to do a better job of articulating that, though.

  • @Huey: Do you really imagine that military intervention on behalf of the rohingya would really improve matters? Given our track record I expect it would create another Libya, a failed state, ten thousand dead, and ten million refugees. Maybe "the ability to pave the earth" is the thing we need to work on.

    @demmocommie: Slightly less prone to overt plundering, certainly, but no less rapacious in the end. The real problem is that, even with good intent or perceived justification, we keep wrecking the place. I'd argue that we're simply less competent than the pre-war states – they got gold and oil at least.

    Lastly, I would argue that there are not and never have been a significant number of isolationists, left or right, it's a slur tossed by interventionists to discredit their opponents. Whatever a person's other political views, if they oppose intervention, it's because (a) waste of blood and treasure and (b) make things worse. The only distinction is which they consider more important.

  • Davis X. Machina says:

    There shouldn't even be nation states:
    Die Arbeiter haben kein Vaterland

    That's the true Left position and anything short of that is a sellout, like the SPD voting war credits in 1914.

  • mojrim, I think the Rohingya would be happier if only 10,000 of them were dead; as far as anyone can tell, 5 or even 10 times that many have been killed so far.

    Intervening in a foreign country is going to kill people. When it is done successfully, it kills fewer people than would have died if the perpetrator of whatever crime you were hoping to stop goes unmolested.

    Arguably Libya was successful, too, by that metric. The 20-30,000 people who have been killed there since 2011 represents a much smaller death toll than the (at minimum) 500,000 people killed in Syria after a similar revolution was met with a similar crackdown from the government without any international body intervening to prevent it.

    And even in Syria, few on the left oppose the US establishing a no-fly zone for the YPG and conducting air strikes in support of Kurdish forces against ISIS; I've even heard a few condemn Trump for abandoning them lately.

    So when the US does attempt to use force for a good purpose, and when it does it somewhat intelligently, it is possible to have a better result than doing nothing. That isn't to say that the US always (or even usually) has good intentions, but if you're trying to win control of the government then surely you're trying to change that, right?

    You're in category 1.

  • @callum: Are you kidding me?

    Libya: We destroyed an extant state and replaced it with a Mad Max theme park. It's weapons stockpiles are now on sale from the gulf to the atlantic and millions of refugees have been set in motion.

    Syria: Our assistance to various rebels is the sole reason the stupid thing dragged on more than two years. That Quixotic rebellion is what gave IS a foothold. How many dead now? How many refugees? How many decades of advancement lost?

    If I'm in "category 1" it's because I've been an enforcer of this imperial folly for half my adult life, beginning in 1986. I have yet to meet one local whose life has been improved by what we did. Indeed, what I have seen is bombed out buildings, refugee camps, mass graves, rampant disease, and razed infrastructure. Why do you imagine so many try to leave the field with us and seek asylum in the US after we've helped?

    We are the David Brooks of international relations.

  • @ mojrim:

    While I disagree with you on a number of things here and there, we are in complete agreement as to the state of U.S. foreign policy. To me, it appears to be the denouement of a 200+ years long disaster–and I don't see a happy ending.

  • Find some Generals who seem like they know what they're doing and delegate everything.

    I'll agree that this is a crappy policy, but it's at least an improvement over "find some generals who've been so hypnotized by Faux Nooz that they spend half the day shouting KILL KILL KILL and frothing at the mouth – and delegate to THEM".

  • mojrim, the reason you're in category 1 is that you've been manipulated into confusing solidarity with authoritarian governments with solidarity for people in their countries.

    In both Libya and Syria, there were genuine popular revolts against Qaddafi and Assad, and for very good reason; you would presumably not accept either leader in the US for one term, let alone for decades (unless you believe all the shit about Qaddafi being some sort of misunderstood progressive, in which case… bye).

    So really, as leftists, our solidarity should be with them. But you and many other people on the left have been manipulated into adopting a foreign policy totally in line with the desires of the far right: Supporting authoritarian kleptocrats against popular revolts. You've probably solidified this mistake by convincing yourself that these revolts were fabricated by the CIA (they weren't) or that the US has made meaningful efforts to support the FSA against Assad (it hasn't, US aid has been paltry and conditional on recipients handing over their AAA and only fighting ISIS).

    But you should still be able to see the contradiction that you are standing alongside David Duke and Mike Cernovich and, lately, Trump himself – to defend a fascist dictator with a neoliberal economic policy who used to torture people for the CIA – from a popular revolution.

  • @Callum:

    At some point, people stopped reading Chomsky and started reading cynical scumbags like Greenwald and Michael Tracey instead.

    "Leftists" sucking up to Putin, Kim, and Assad might be the most quintessentially American thing ever.

  • @Callum: Don't patronise me. I have been to these places, fought beside some of these people, and have a very clear picture of how the world works outside The West.

    This isn't about some fanciful notion of solidarity, it's about cause and effect, the end result. That there were popular uprisings is well known and largely meaningless here. Staying out of Libya means it ends with 30-40k dead and an unpopular government that keeps some semblance of public order. Intervention has given us the current situation: a mad max//ren faire crossover. Public order is gone, tens of thousands of tons of ordnance are loose, millions of refugees are on the move, and hundreds of thousands more dead to come because of that chaos.

    The exact same thing is true of Syria only with far more visible effects. Had we not covertly armed the rebels the whole thing would have ended much sooner. Propping up and encouraging the Kurds induced them to seek greater kurdistan, which Turkey will kill literally any number to prevent. The ongoing civil war created the space for IS, while our flirtation with "moderate rebels" encouraged gulf entities to fund them. Those moderate rebels, in turn, sold their weapons to IS and headed for the door. Most of the ordnance now being used came from, surprise, the "liberated" stockpiles of Libya.

    We did not create these uprisings but our attempts to capitalize on them for one or another poorly defined strategic purpose has poured gasoline on the fire. There was never the slightest chance that Assad was going to be overthrown, he has a strong base of internal support, not to mention Iran and Russia who are far more deeply involved in the region. Telling Sunni Arabs and Kurds the fairy tale of his ouster did nothing but line them up for the butcher.

    Sometimes we have good intentions, sometimes bad, either one ends the same way: hundreds of thousands dead, millions of refugees, and another failed state on the board.

    @Dell: You have no idea my sources or influences. Do not speak of me.

  • Mojrim, even ignoring all the ways you're wrong about Syria (Assad doesn't have popular support, he has at various points lost control of nearly every part of Syria, and even now the Rebels in Idlib outnumber the SAA), you just presented two scenarios where fascist dictators crush revolutions against them with the help of Russia and Iran as good.

    You are on the same side as kleptocrats like Trump, Putin and Erdogan, who also think that Arabs, as well as their own people, should shut up and do as their told while they loot the economies of their own countries.

    Do you think Arabs are barbarians who must live under the boots of dictators until the end of time? Because that's where your thinking leads. And don't think Trump and his enablers aren't watching which justifications work when rebellions are brutally crushed overseas.

  • Well, nothing, because the American left is apparently just as unable to see beyond domestic political narratives or, like, understand the rest of the world as the right is. So we're probably going to keep having a cycle where the US starts a dumb war for no reason (like Iraq) and then refuses to take even the most basic steps to stop an easily preventable atrocity (like Rwanda, etc.).

  • @Callum: The D2P empire cannot fail, it can only be failed! Just like vietnam, where we could have won if domestic cowards hadn't sold us out, right?

    Here's the thing you simply refuse to accept: None of this is easy to do and failure is practically guaranteed. We had one limited success with the corpse of Yugoslavia and folks like you keep pointing to it as a model. You remind me of the COIN-droids, forever pointing to the Malayan Emergency (what a lovely euphemism) as proof that it can be done if we just believe harder.

    You can't gift wrap democracy and hand it someone, it has to be taken from the king by force. Iran is on the way there after a 70 year holdup at our hands; my greatest fear is that we'll try to "help" and screw it all up yet again. Afghanistan was headed there until Zbigniew Brzezinski conned the USSR into invading and can't advance until we leave. Iraq was well on the way until we and the al Saud talked Hussein into playing "let's you and him fight" with Iran. Costa Rica managed very quickly and with minimal bloodshed because no one tried to help. If we'd tried to prevent the French settling scores after WWII the place would still be on fire.

    None of these processes are pretty, but they are required elements of state evolution. Strongman rule, lacking any legitimizing theory, always burns itself out; it's just a matter of how long. Intervention sets the clock back to start and kills a few hundred thousand in the process.

    Major Kong and I disagree on a number of things but we've both been in the enforcement arm of this project and understand from the inside what a shitshow it really is. You have not and thus entertain fanciful imaginings of what the war machine can do. It exists to kill people and break things; any other task you set it to will inevitably fail.

  • Proposed Democratic foreign policy agenda:
    STOP DIGGING. No MORE foreign bases, for example the proposed expansion of the (hated by the Japanese) US base in Okinawa. End US support for the Saudi/ GCC war on Yemen, and use diplomatic means to stop that war. End the drone wars. Don't abandon the INF Treaty in Europe, in fact, use that as a basis for serious nuclear arms reduction talks with Russia (and hell, China too while we're at it.) Abandon President Obama's call for a trillion (!!) dollar (over thirty years) nuclear weapons renovation program. Reduce tensions with Russia by rolling back NATO expansion up to their borders. Stop arming the goddamn world. Quit building impossibly expensive systems for wars we're never going to fight– I think it should be fairly obvious by now that it's impossible to "win" a conventional war against a nuclear-armed opponent. End the Empire before it ends us.

    I could go on, but I think y'all get the idea.

  • mojrim: Cruise Missile Liberals think that THEIR bombing campaigns and their CIA-funded "rebels" are somehow different than right wing bombing campaigns and conservative anti-communist efforts. Countries are still destroyed. Populations displaced. And people like Callum thing that "strategic plans" (I bet in today's briefings there are POWERPOINTS will be different.

    My main complaint with this thread, however, is there is this quaint notion that "We"
    need to do this and "Our foreign policy" needs to be more rational. As if.

    Not the case. "War is a Racket". It is ALL ABOUT THE MONEY. The Owners make money off war. Look at the horrible human rights disaster in Yemen right now. Trump is not even pretending that it is anything other than ALL ABOUT THE MONEY.

    That and the reality to be an American leader ("private sector MIC or formal government) means almost 100% that one is a power-mad sociopath that thinks he needs to control the world.

  • "That and the reality to be an American leader ("private sector MIC or formal government) means almost 100% that one is a power-mad sociopath that thinks he needs to control the world."

    Not to defend ANY PotUS since we started having them, they're all powerhungry grifterz at some level.

    I just don't see that aemoral lust for power as being anything like equivalent, where dems and RepuKKKz are concerned.

  • Mojrim (and like all the rest of you) keep talking in domestic political narratives. You're all Americans (I'm not), you probably don't talk to many people who aren't from the US, and you certainly don't try very hard to think about how they might perceive US activity.

    Have you ever tried, for example, asking any Syrians what they think about US activity in Syria, versus, say Russian or Iranian actions?

    Or have you asked anyone from Eastern Europe what they think about NATO and the (relatively paltry) US-led exercises that happen there every now and then?

    There is a lot of (reasonable) suspicion and anger towards the US in a great many parts of the world, but the biggest feeling is frustration. The US has so much money and power, and that brings with it the ability to do things that most other countries could only dream of, and the US uses it so poorly.

    But have you noticed that a lot of countries that happen to be right next to Russia and China are as eager to be friends with the US as countries in Latin America are to be friends with Russia (or were with the USSR)? Or like, how other countries will dramatically alter their discourse and policy (again, for better or for worse) to try to win favour with the US? Or how countries in Europe or SE Asia often actively court US military presence so they can reduce their own defense spending (and the influence of their own military-industrial complexes on domestic politics?) even if those bases are not always popular?

    The world will continue with or without the US, but you are much more integrated into it than you think, and weird Trumpian isolation politics will neither change that fact or make the world any better.

    The United States isn't special and there is no moral imperative for it to be the most powerful country on the planet, but it is right now, and pretending otherwise is a dramatically worse idea than trying to use that power more responsibly. China won't be better, or Russia, or India, or Brazil, or the EU whoever steps into the gap the US would create if it tried to withdraw from the world. They might not be worse either, but the transition would be brutal.

    You have problems. Your domestic politics are terrible and your human rights record is not that much better than those of some dictatorships, but you don't get a break from international politics to withdraw and "figure it out". Nobody does.

  • @Callum: See, the thing is I've spent a substantial portion of my adult life overseas and what I'm talking is the lessons I've gleaned from it. States always want a powerful ally, unless they are the most powerful. Ordinary Afghans, for example, want nothing to do with us, it's their leaders that need us to stay in power. Fuck them.

    Similarly, opinions among ordinary Iraqis, Libyans, and Syrians vary wildly. You're in Europe, I'm guessing, talking largely to refugees, so you're getting a particular angle. What we (should have) learned after the Ahmed Chalabi debacle is to never listen to exiles – they all have an axe to grind and are looking for someone to power the wheel.

  • @ Callum AND Mojrim:

    I, too, get tunnel vision, time to time.

    The U.S. has been the 800# gorilla for a lotta years.

    The difference between Trumpligulamygdala and previous PotUS, re: foreign policy is that they at least had some understanding of how it's structured in order to keep the flow of goods to us and away from others AND they at least pretended to listen to the counsel of career diplomats and bureacrats.

    Trumpligulamygdala is, in that regard, a singular PotUS. He doesn't know how shit works and he doesn't care, as long as his tiny penis and monstrously swollen ego are stroked.

  • "Propping up and encouraging the Kurds induced them to seek greater kurdistan, which Turkey will kill literally any number to prevent."

    The Kurds were (until last week, anyway) our best allies in the region in terms of a boots-on-the-ground fighting force. And while Turkey may WANT to kill literally any number of them, they were prevented from doing so, as long as there was an understanding that this would be met unfavorably by the US.

    And now, with one rash tweet, Donald Trump has signed tens of thousands of death warrants.

    I don't claim to have a soup-to-nuts strategy for middle east peace — I was just a fucking buck sergeant — but I'm pretty sure "let Turkey massacre the Kurds" isn't part of one.

  • @demmocommie: I agree that he's a walking dumpster fire, it's just that I'm concerned with ends rather than means. If he gets where I want by stepping on a rake, rolling down a flight of stairs, and flipping into a trash can, he's still where I want him to be.

    @huey: I've worked with Kurds and love them dearly, but there was never a chance this wasn't going to end in tears. We're not going to war (with Russia or Turkey) for them, no matter who is president, something Bush I, Bush II, and Obama all made clear by their actions. What's are game plan, occupy Syria for the next 50 years and enforce a no-fly zone against Russia?

    The problem begins with our vague, misguided, and incoherent regional strategy. Ally with Israel and the Al Saud to oppose Iran to protect Israel and the Al Saud? Ally with the Kurds against IS and Syria, who is also fighting IS, to protect the Kurds? Ally with Shia-dominated Iraq to prevent Shia Iran from re-supplying Syria in its fight against IS? What part of any of this makes the slightest fucking bit of sense? Help the Al Saud murder 56,000 Yemenis because the Houthis helped us fight AQ?

    Without a coherent strategy you don't forge alliances, you have one night stands and climb out the window while they're asleep.

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  • @ mojrim:

    We're both horrified by the Tweetosaurus' actions and prolly both want approximately the same sort of world to live in–something like the good ol' days of the 70's–the 370's AD before the shit hit the fan in the roman empire! No, just kidding about that.

    One can only speculate on what combination of narcissism, abusive parenting, coddling by evildoing fucks and malign intent created the gyre of thermonuclear misanthropy that spawns shitweaselfuckwadlyin'sacks-o-shit like Trumpligulamygdala and Putain.

  • Mojrim,

    The idea that the intervention led to slavery in Libya is a very common meme in left-wing circles, but it isn't actually true. Slavery occurred under Gaddaffi since at least 2009, when HRW interviewed migrants who had been sold into slavery in Libya. Qaddaffi also participated in the Sudanese slave trade since at least the '90s, and his troops sometimes brought back slaves from other African countries where they were operating.

    The slave trade does still happen, though IIRC it is confined to territories outside the control of the GNA.

    It's relatively easy to miss information like that because Qaddafi's Libya was a police state that suppressed information about just how bad things were, while the new Libya is much easier to report on, and thus its faults are much more visible.

  • @callum
    Okay, fair enough on that. I'd argue, however, that with some kind of functioning state we could pressure them to end it. Qaddafi wanted acceptance in the global order and would have traded for it as he did his nuclear program. Because of our intervention there is no one to work with. So what's the answer, another round of military interventions to correct the previous intervention?

  • Well, the US could have taken responsibility after the fall of Qaddafi by providing reconstruction funds and supporting a UN peacekeeping force while the transitional government sorted itself out.

    Of course that was 2013, so abandoning Libya post-Qaddafi coincided pretty neatly with a US default to regime preservation as a strategy in the Middle East; this was the year the US did nothing after Assad crossed Obama's Red Line, and accepted the Tahrir Square massacre and reimposition of military rule in Egypt in the same week.

    But even now, the GNA in Tripoli does not allow slavery in territories it controls (though its forces are guilty of plenty of other things). Slavery happens predominantly in the territory of Qaddafi's son Saif Al-Islam.

    I don't see how the world would have pressured Qaddafi into doing anything about slavery because nobody seems to have noticed until after he was killed. And they noticed precisely because Qaddafi's ouster made it possible for international journalists to roam freely in Libya without being followed around by the secret police.

    The slave markets could easily be stopped by the international community even now. There are locals who could be empowered to do it quite cheaply. It's just that nobody wants to.

  • @ Callum & Mojrim:

    Libya and other countries with long term authoritarian regimes need DECADES to actually recover from that level of government sanctioned abuse (witness the increasingly nationalistic former SSR's) and people like Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot and other authoritarians inserted themselves into the political landscape with callous/malign intent, as soon as they got the chance.

    Libya, under Quadaffi, was a terrible place to live for a LOT of libyans.

  • @callum: Which program would have been exactly as successful as all our other such programs. Aside from the corpse of Yugoslavia it's never worked.

    @demmocommie: Indeed it does and that's my point. Every time we try to help, or "help," we set the process back at least a couple decades.

  • @ mojrim:


    If only shithole countries were peopled with blue-eyed, blond KKKristStainz, it'd be LOTS easier to help, instead of just killing the ones who aren't already trying to kill the people we hate!

  • Exactly @demmocommie . If only they had the sense to be white we probably wouldn't even need to "help" in the first place. They'd call a town meeting, Mainer style, and settle the matter without bloodshed. Since they are so silly as to be brown we must obviously "help" them to reach our best and highest form of government so that they can sign contracts with Halliburton. It worked so well for Iraq, Iran, Libya, Vietnam, Somalia, etc…

  • 1) Gabbard can not be trusted ina ny situation where doing something for the country and/or constituents conflicts with her personal ambition or family business of fundamentalism (Hindu)
    2) May I suggest that Jimmy Carters foriegn policy might be a basis from which to erect a new more progressive foriegn policy.
    3) Who ever moves into the WH will have massive rebuilding chore. With Paris environmental accord, UNESCO, the Hague and all the other international frameworks this doofuss has tried to destroy.
    4) A good first step would be surrendering war criminals such as the twit and satanic asst. ( see Bales comment on winning Golden Globe) to the Hague for trail and imprisonment.

  • @ mojrim:

    …Plymouth Rock, Jameston, Roanoke, St. Augustine, HIspaniola"

    @ K:

    Likely not workable for all sorts of reasons.

    Still, a set of ideas worth considering.

Comments are closed.