Friday, July 25, 2008


"Neoconservatism with a human face"

As I hinted yesterday, juggled responsibilities at the day job have made timely updating a crap-shoot this week.

Obama's Berlin play was the big news yesterday and most people have already weighed in on it. I will say, in passing, that as good as the pictures were of Obama speaking before an adoring crowd of 200K Germans, they do run a risk back home that the candidate seems a bit too eager for international worship -- even before he's been elected president. Given his rather exotic background, that may spark a domestic backlash. But, once Obama is back home (big Meet The Press appearance this weekend), he can, if he's smart, pivot the discussion back to economic and other non-international topics.

That said, I thought Dave Weigel's take yesterday
deserves wider attention
I count at least four extensions of American foreign policy here: increased foreign aid, increased funding for PEPFAR, sanctions, and maybe a little bit of ol' fashioned humanitarian intervention. (That's what he's occasionally suggested for Darfur, at least.) It's proof, if any more was needed, that Obama is not wary of foreign engagements. He's a progressive realist who thinks America hasn't done enough to police the world and to stave off future threats by doing whatever NGOs say we should be doing.

Most of our foreign policy debate has focused on Iraq, in part because that's where John McCain wants it to focus, in part because that's where our forces are at the moment. I definitely
agree with Andrew Bacevich that an Obama victory discredits the Iraq project, while a McCain victory validates it. But McCain and Obama want the same thing, for Americans to be proud of their country again vis-a-vis its engagement in foreign conflicts. Put another way: I don't think an Obama victory discredits neoconservatism. He's offering neoconservatism with a human face.

In other words, those who might believe that an Obama election suggests an end to American military intervention abroad are deluding themselves.

Indeed, under a Democratic president, it is more likely that the US would commit troops for humanitarian reasons, rather than strategoc. geopolitical ones. After all, with chaos overtaking Bosnia, it was then-UN Ambassador Madeline Albright, under Bill Clinton, who
said famously to Joint Chiefs Chairman Colin Powell, "What's the point in having this superb military you are always talking about if we can't use it?" Clinton, however, decided not to send troops into Rwanda. Would a President Obama resist a similar siren call for Darfur?

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