Sunday, March 09, 2008

OK David, if you're so smart...

David Seaton's News Links
Quite a few people who read my posts have written to me saying, "David, it is all very well to criticize, but do you have any constructive suggestions to make? What do you suggest we do besides sitting around making cynical remarks like you do?" In fact some have used even harsher language than that. (sniff)

I gladly accept the challenge. This is a very fair question and deserves to be answered in some detail. Like the man said, "What is to be done?"

First I think it is important to look into the problems that the political class are being called upon to solve. What are the problems, and can they be solved by politicians? If so, which politicians are best suited to solve which problems?

As complex as the United States is, and as entwined and tangled as its problems are, I think they can be broken down roughly into two groups: domestic policy and foreign policy.

On the domestic front, the major issues, in my opinion, are establishing universal health care and protection of the working poor during what looks like turning into a severe recession or worse. The economic situation has many experts totally puzzled, that in itself bodes ill. Next on the list of priorities is repairing America's aging infrastructure. If we consider public education of quality part of infrastructure, then this is quite a shopping list. If we add guaranteeing the pensions of the soon to be retiring boomers to it, it is obvious that economies will have to be made in other areas... The military budget springs to mind.

This takes us closer to foreign policy.

Probably no one has a clearer grasp of where America's foreign policy and its domestic needs overlap than Chalmers Johnson. Here is how he defines the problem:
"We are spending insane amounts of money on "defense" projects that bear no relationship to the national security of the United States. Simultaneously, we are keeping the income tax burdens on the richest segments of the American population at strikingly low levels.(...) in our devotion to militarism (despite our limited resources), we are failing to invest in our social infrastructure and other requirements for the long-term health of our country. These are what economists call "opportunity costs," things not done because we spent our money on something else. Our public education system has deteriorated alarmingly. We have failed to provide health care to all our citizens and neglected our responsibilities as the world's number one polluter. Most important, we have lost our competitiveness as a manufacturer for civilian needs -- an infinitely more efficient use of scarce resources than arms manufacturing."
At this point the most glaring waste of resources is the miscarried war in Iraq. Professor Andrew Bacevich of Boston University author of "The New American Militarism", is one of the clearest thinking political analysts working in the United States. He described the situation in an article in the Los Angeles Times:
"The truth is that next to nothing can be done to salvage Iraq. It no longer lies within the capacity of the United States to determine the outcome of events there. Iraqis will decide their own fate. We are spectators, witnesses, bystanders caught in a conflagration that we ourselves, in an act of monumental folly, touched off."
So obviously the war in Iraq has to be ended and America's military budget has to be cut back and resources reassigned in order to attend to the needs of the American people themselves.

Up till now the only detailed and credible blue print for getting out of Iraq with some shred of dignity is James Baker's, "Iraq Study Group" report, called "dead on arrival" by such neocon luminaries as Robert Kagan and William Kristol. Daniel Pipes at the extreme right of ultra-zionist, neo-connerie, denounced the Baker report in the following terms:
"Of course, small minds assert that problems in Iraq are "inextricably linked" to the Arab-Israeli conflict – thereby repeating the precise mistake that lead co-chairman James A. Baker, III, made in 1991. He then led the effort to abandon the Persian Gulf and turn to the Palestinians, leaving Saddam Hussein in power for another dozen years and contributing directly to the present mess. In the new report, Mr. Baker and his colleagues call for a Palestinian state and even demand that a final settlement address the Palestinian "right of return" – code for dismantling the Jewish state. They peremptorily declare that "the Israelis should return the Golan Heights," in return for a U.S. security guarantee."
The right wing Israeli newspaper, The Jerusalem Post, described the report in these terms,
"How embarrassing. Senior figures from both major American parties have, in broad daylight, betrayed such staggering naivete that their report might not have passed muster with a reasonably discerning high school teacher, let alone offered a serious basis for US foreign policy."
And in the left leaning Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Shmuel Rosner wrote of how Governor Bill Richardson lost Jewish support by mentioning the "B word".
"Israel, he said, should be a bi-partisan issue he said charitably. And with this sense of bi-partisanship in mind pulled out of his hat the first name he could think of: Former Secretary of State James Baker. Baker was a member of an administration "widely viewed as the most hostile ever to Israel." Saying you might appoint him as your envoy (John McCain also did it in the past) is like telling people a "more balanced policy" is needed. It seems just fine to the untrained eye, but is actually a code-word which has only one meaning: I'm prepared to pressure Israel."
James Baker must be doing something right. Pressuring Israel is truly the belling of the cat. There is no solution in the Middle East short of Word War III that doesn't pass through settling the Palestinian conflict. The only one, except Jimmy Carter, that has ever really tried to bell the cat is James Baker.

Baker is supporting McCain:
"I am proud today to endorse John McCain for President of the United States. Senator McCain is a great American leader, a true hero, a thoughtful and a dedicated Republican, and a person whom I greatly admire."
And McCain is supporting Baker:
"Secretary Baker has a distinguished record of service to our country and our party. I look forward to his counsel and am honored to have his support."
The Forward, America's foremost Jewish newspaper commented at length on the endorsement:
Along the way to winning the presidential nomination of the Republican Party this week, Senator John McCain picked up the endorsement of James Baker, a former secretary of state with a long history of rocky ties with the American Jewish establishment. In the weeks since the February 28 endorsement, little protest has been heard from pro-Israel circles, and Jewish activists say Baker’s support is unlikely to become a campaign issue. Democratic frontrunner Barack Obama, meanwhile, has been heavily scrutinized for accepting the support of Zbigniew Brzezinski and Robert Malley, like Baker former administration officials who have riled the American Jewish community with their views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Jewish Republicans are quick to point out that the communal shrug toward Baker’s endorsement could turn antagonistic should the Arizona senator name the former secretary of state as an adviser, a role Brzezinski plays in the Obama campaign. At least one Jewish Democratic activist, however, is already crying foul, claiming that the American Jewish community is giving McCain an undeserved free pass. “There is a very, very disturbing double standard,” said Matt Dorf, a Jewish Democratic consultant who also works on Jewish communal issues with the Democratic National Committee. “I cannot think of any other figure in the Republican Party who raises more concerns than Jim ‘F**k the Jews’ Baker.”
There has been something moving on the right for some time now, among "realists" like James Baker, Brent Scowcroft, or Meersheimer and Walt; among libertarians like Ron Paul and the Cato Institute; or paleoconservitives like Pat Buchanan. All of them are pushing for a reevaluation of America's policy of foreign intervention. On the Democratic side, can anyone seriously imagine Hillary Clinton, Senator from New York, pressuring Israel. Frankly I can imagine McCain going up against anybody except his mom.

As to Barack Obama, the aforementioned neocon, Robert Kagan is enthusiastic about "Obama the Interventionist".
America must "lead the world in battling immediate evils and promoting the ultimate good." With those words, Barack Obama put an end to the idea that the alleged overexuberant idealism and America-centric hubris of the past six years is about to give way to a new realism, a more limited and modest view of American interests, capabilities and responsibilities.(...)To Obama, everything and everyone everywhere is of strategic concern to the United States. "We cannot hope to shape a world where opportunity outweighs danger unless we ensure that every child, everywhere, is taught to build and not to destroy." The "security of the American people is inextricably linked to the security of all people." Realists, call your doctors. Okay, you say, but at least Obama is proposing all this Peace Corps-like activity as a substitute for military power. Surely he intends to cut or at least cap a defense budget soaring over $500 billion a year. Surely he understands there is no military answer to terrorism. Actually, Obama wants to increase defense spending. He wants to add 65,000 troops to the Army and recruit 27,000 more Marines. Why? To fight terrorism. He wants the American military to "stay on the offense, from Djibouti to Kandahar," and he believes that "the ability to put boots on the ground will be critical in eliminating the shadowy terrorist networks we now face." He wants to ensure that we continue to have "the strongest, best-equipped military in the world." Obama never once says that military force should be used only as a last resort. Rather, he insists that "no president should ever hesitate to use force -- unilaterally if necessary," not only "to protect ourselves . . . when we are attacked," but also to protect "our vital interests" when they are "imminently threatened." That's known as preemptive military action. It won't reassure those around the world who worry about letting an American president decide what a "vital interest" is and when it is "imminently threatened." Nor will they be comforted to hear that "when we use force in situations other than self-defense, we should make every effort to garner the clear support and participation of others." Make every effort? Conspicuously absent from Obama's discussion of the use of force are four words: United Nations Security Council.
Do you see anything here that would liberate enough funds to attend properly to America's domestic agenda? I don't.

America cannot continue to intervene all over the world for a simple reason, Americans as we saw in the video featured in the previous post, know next to nothing of the world and care less. The people in the video are not morons, they are able to earn a living and, to coin a phrase, "put food on their families". They just don't care. What this means is that America's foreign policy can never be democratic.
This means that it will be always prey to those who are focused on a single issue, like the Israel or Cuban lobbies. In my opinion that means that it should be minimalist in the line of Ron Paul. But Ron Paul is against universal health care and so is McCain, no?

What is the answer to all of this? How can we square this circle? How should Americans vote in November?

First lets run through the possibilities, as I see them:

Will the Democrats ever achieve universal health care. Maybe, probably not.

Will the Republicans ever vote for universal health care. Never.

Will the Democrats ever pressure Israel enough to pacify the Middle East? Never.

Will the Republicans ever
pressure Israel enough to pacify the Middle East? Maybe, probably not.

Not very promising is it?

Taking all of this into account, I recommend that Americans vote massively for Democratic candidates in local, congressional and senate races. The Democrats should have majorities in both houses to comfortably override any presidential veto. This might bring about universal health care and keep the Republican from sending more taliban to the Supreme Court. And for president... vote for John McCain. I don't think either Hillary or Obama are ready for prime time and I think both of them would continue with "liberal interventionist" adventures, which make any improvement in domestic policy impossible.

Is this really a solution? No, not really. DS


Anonymous said...

What is it with that nutty Ron Paul. There are sane, non-narcissist and experienced people like Dennis Kucinich who would rather deserve a mention.

RC said...

You look very buff in that bronze outfit, Dave.
And I learned a few things in the latest post, thanks, but I would probably not follow the McCain part of the advice. I think you quoted Vidal last week and I feel the same as he does about the US parties. I can't vote in that November election anyway, just the primary
{I live in PR } so my efforts to decide now mean little. But as each day goes by, the Charlie Foxtrot cascade of calamities you have described gets closer to real time and I see little hope for general felicity in the US no matter who gets elected. On the other hand, for a political junkie, it just does not get any better than this and I have no complaints.
Presently I am vastly entertained and amused and on occasion perhaps even fatigued by the distractions. The campaign festivities are so long and so convoluted that they satiate to the point of decay.
I may die of the electoral syndrome.

Anonymous said...

But McCain has already said more wars.. He is hardly one to change anything.. Just who was James Baker going to endorse?

David Seaton's Newslinks said...

To clear up a couple of things. I love Dennis Kucinich. But I find it interesting that a Republican like Paul wants a minimalist foreign policy.
And second: McCain has said "more wars", but so has Obama. I think the Democrats are more interested in Liberal Interventionism than the Republicans.

johnny phenothiazine said...

Frankly I can imagine McCain going up against anybody except his mom.

His mom and Dick Cheney, you mean. As we all saw this week, the man who can't raise his arms above his head has signed on to the Cheney admin's veto of the torture bill. You can't deny that it's disgusting to see a man who once had the balls to fly daily head on into the North Vietnam SAM belt reduced to bending the knee before a smirking halfwit who deserted in the face of a piss test and a freak who dodged service altogether, but there it is.

thepoetryman said...

I'd say you bridged the gap quite well. Your constructive suggestions and even your critique along the way were succinct and well thought out.

You probably have not silented your critics, but (sniff)...

moondancer said...

Yesterday Israel passed an affirmation of their desire to continue on the path to peace. In the same session they passed a law allowing a new settlement in a Palestinian area of the West Bank.
With that stiff resolve, they should be fighting terrorism for the next few centuries.

Batocchio said...

Do you see anything here that would liberate enough funds to attend properly to America's domestic agenda? I don't.

You make several great points in your post, but really miss the ball on this one. You don't see anything in neocon Kagan's paragraph? That's because Kagan doesn't cover it, and neither do you. Staying in Iraq costs us 2 to 3 billion per week. I agree with you that some of Obama's positions are cause for concern, but not spending any more on the Three Trillion Dollar War (a conservative estimate) certainly would help the U.S. economy and domestic agendas, wouldn't it? Did this really just slip your mind?