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Posted at 9:22 AM ET, 01/26/2011

Think other nations will notice Obama isn't into foreign policy?

By Jennifer Rubin

Granted, we have big domestic problems. But the president has sole responsibility as commander in chief and tremendous authority in foreign affairs. His audience last night was not only in the United States, but in Moscow, Tehran, Damascus, Bogotá, Ramallah and elsewhere.

That is why those who do care about and focus on America's role in the world were so dismayed by the lackadasical attitude, verging on indifference, that Obama displayed in his State of the Union address toward these core responsibilities.

Yes, he nodded his hat to Iraq and praised our marvelous troops in Afghanistan. But on both, the emphasis was on getting out. "America's commitment has been kept; the Iraq War is coming to an end," he proclaimed. On Afghanistan, the upshot was: "This year, we will work with nearly 50 countries to begin a transition to an Afghan lead. And this July, we will begin to bring our troops home."

The list of what he didn't mention is much, much longer than what he did: Egypt, Lebanon, the United Nations, the stalled peace talks, Hugo Chavez, the Green Movement, Syria, China (except as an economic competitor), Cuba, human rights outside of Tunisia, Russian occupation of Georgia, the trial of Sept. 11 terrorists or passage of the Panama or Colombia free trade agreements.

Jackson Diehl observed: "So will there be any significant American foreign policy initiative in 2011? To judge from the State of the Union, there will be one: a trip by Obama to South America. For better or worse, Brazil, Chile and El Salvador are the new subjects of American foreign policy. Maybe they can offer advice about teacher training, or high-speed rail." Ouch.

Likewise, the chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, was concerned about what was missing from Obama's speech. She praised the president on Iraq and Afghanistan in a statement, but voiced a variety of concerns:

I am concerned that even as the Iranian regime draws ever closer to nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them, the President's speech does not demonstrate the sense of urgency needed to stop this growing threat.

The President also did not mention the threat posed by Iran and Syria's sponsorship of terrorism and efforts to undermine its neighbors, on the very day that the Iran-Syria-Hezbollah axis took a severe step to undermine Lebanon's sovereignty.

Support for freedom and people yearning to be free must always be at the center of U.S. foreign policy, and I am glad that the President expressed our nation's support for the people of Tunisia and South Sudan. Yet, the Administration has pursued a 'reset' of relations with Russia, which has dismissed the crisis of Russia's worsening human rights record. It has made concessions to the regime in Havana while the Cuban people remain enslaved. And just last week, China's leader was honored with a State dinner even as the regime in Beijing continues to imprison those who dare to demand their basic human rights, including the most recent Nobel Peace Prize winner.

Turning to the President's reference to strong support for our ally South Korea, he is right that the free trade agreement with South Korea will create jobs, and I look forward to working with him to ensure that it passes Congress as soon as possible. But that is not the only ally that merits a job-creating free trade agreement. The pending agreements with Colombia and Panama will also bring jobs and other economic benefits to the U.S., including to my Congressional district in South Florida. Every day that passes without these agreements in place is another lost opportunity for the U.S. economy.

We must be doing everything we can at this moment to create jobs, and that means the President must work to break through the special interest log-jams that are preventing the Colombia and Panama free trade agreements from going into effect."

By ignoring so much, Obama conveyed to friends and foes alike that his attention is focused inward. Unfortunately, when the U.S. is absent, bad things happen in the world, as despots take advantage of the opportunity to repress their own citizens and menace their neighbors.

Obama had time and interest to talk about smoked salmon, but not about the Green Movement? That sort of sums up this president's priorities.

By Jennifer Rubin  | January 26, 2011; 9:22 AM ET
Categories:  foreign policy  
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Next: Final thoughts on SOTU and Rep. Paul Ryan

Comments

Yup, it sucks that Obama is concentrating on us Americans and not on the neoconservative agenda.

Posted by: mfray | January 26, 2011 9:31 AM | Report abuse

It is called isolationism. President Obama is perhaps the first President since Carter to view American diplomatic and military power as imperialistic and thus disadvantage and a real drawback to the development of a wise, brotherly, and progressive international community(LOL). Certainly Jimmy Carter's bungled handling of the Iran hostage crisis outshines for utter incompetence any diplomatic or military contretemps that Obama has managed to commit thus far. Maybe that is why Obama is now giving free expression to his own isolationistic tendencies. It could also be, and this is a stretch because it assumes at least some self awareness, Obama does realize how badly he has mangled American foreign policy especially in the Persian Gulf with Iran, in the Middle East with the Palestinians and the Israelis, and on the Korean peninsula and knows that any further meddling on his part will almost certainly worsen these situations.
That is at least my conclusion, the less the Obama administration involves itself in foreign affairs the better for America and the world.

Posted by: Beniyyar | January 26, 2011 9:43 AM | Report abuse

Spencer Bachus gets it. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen doesn't.

Bachus on CNBC this morning made the point that we defeated Russia econonmically, not militarily. He also could have made the point that totalitarian regimes are seldom defeated by isolation, but only by engagement, see Gorbachev.

There is nothing either of the Castro brothers could do to stop change in Cuba if we started trading and opening up economic opportunites. However in Cuba, the old Sviet Union, North Korea, etc isolation favors the exisitng regime.

Ros-Lehtinen's dual agenda is not hard to fathom. She represents the interests of the Cuban refugee crowd, still waiting to return on a C-140 and recapture their old properties, and the majority of Cuba for themselves.

In doing so she subordinates the interest of the nation as a whole to that of her small constituency.

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | January 26, 2011 10:10 AM | Report abuse

beniyyar:

Hard to distinguish who had the worst foreign policy regime of our lifetimes, Carter, Bush, or Johnson.

Carter's failure in Iran was colossal, you and I agree, but doesn't he get balancing credit for Camp David?

Johnson had no interest in foreign policy, as Jennifer accuses Obama, and so allowed the relatively small cold war in Vietnam to become smoking hot and dominate the whole national agenda. Arguably it ruined his whole presidency, and colors his not inconsiderable accomplishments on the domestic front.

Bush was handed the greatest ideological victory since the closing of Berlin, by Bin Laden, and after a good start in Afghanistan, blew it all to hell. Hard to argue where there was a foreign policy accomplishment anywhere for Bush, but of course the dramatic failures stand out, the assistance to Iran, the Iraqi war, ignoring Lebanon and Hezbollah, the promotion of elections among Palestinians swiftly followed by the repudiation of the results, the courting of Russia while democracy died, the acquiesence to Chavez takeover, etc

On balance, Carter's failure in Iran had the longest lasting, most significant individual effect.

Johnson's failure with Vietnam was the most destructive to this nation itself

Bush's foreign policy on the whole was the worst across the board.

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | January 26, 2011 10:24 AM | Report abuse

We defeated the Soviet Union with 1) An adequate military establishment with which they could not keep up; 2) the implementation of a robust free market, supply side domestic economic agenda (albeit within the very sever limits imposed by a liberal Democratic Congress and big government Republicans - what was achieved was that much more impressive because of this and it is awesome to think what we could achieve if we actually followed through half way on this program; and 3) consistent and forceful, rhetorical and practical advocacy for and advance of American values throughout the world. (The bits of arms control in the end - whatever their merit was the case of a gracious winner letting the looser down gently).

None of these things are on Obama's agenda.

Posted by: cavalier4 | January 26, 2011 10:24 AM | Report abuse

So let me be sure I'm getting you right Mr Marshall.

What matters to you isn't the general improvement in the human condition at all. What matters to you is, well, unknowable based on the above comment.

So Obama is correct to be silent about Russia's human rights abuses because of the way in which the cold war was won? How, exactly, are the two concepts related?

Oh, wait, I see the relationship now; engagement is the liberal code word for "trying". Please note that for much of the world the concept of "trying" is dramatically different from the concept of "succeeding". The world won't give Obama an A for effort. We pay on results.

Don't you find it even a little bit ironic that the 2010 Nobel peace laureate feted the warden imprisoning the 2011 Nobel peace laureate, while an anti America melody is playing in the background? Apparently not.

Let me hazzard a guess here: All that really matters to you is that somehow Bush was wrong about everything and therefore bears responsibility for all that in your view is wrong with the world.

Did I get that right?

Posted by: skipsailing28 | January 26, 2011 10:25 AM | Report abuse

Heckling from the cheap seats. The arm chair warriors are anxious to spill someone else's blood.

Obama apparently is smart enough to realize that the U.S. ability to control the world isn't what it use to be and that his hands are tied in areas where action does need to be taken by special interest groups.

The Cuban-American House committee chairwoman is still whining about Cuban enslavement when, in fact, she knows that Castro would be reelected with 90% of the vote in a completely fair election. Chavez is only a danger to companies that might do business/exploit resources in Venezuela. The rest of South America and Latin America can take care of themselves very well without our meddling.

What more could Obama do in Asia? Invade North Korea? Invade China? Only the Neocon fanatics like Kristol, Rubin, Gaffney, etc., think those are good ideas.

Our Mideast foreign policy is decided in Tel Aviv/Jerusalem and transmitted to the State Department by AIPAC. Every president since Eisenhower has quickly discovered that he has no real power to effect events there. We see the results of third party driven policies in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Iran.

When we recapture the ability to pursue a realistic foreign policy from the imperialist Neocons, the WaPo editorial page, and jack-legged Republicans and start being only concerned with our real security rather than imperial ambitions, then we will regain our democratic influence in the rest of the world and a future president will be able to celebrate our foreign policy accomplishments in his or her State of the Union address. Until that happens, it's best to not be publicly hypocritical.

Posted by: Lazarus40 | January 26, 2011 10:34 AM | Report abuse

"So let me be sure I'm getting you right Mr Marshall.
What matters to you isn't the general improvement in the human condition at all. What matters to you is, well, unknowable based on the above comment.

So Obama is correct to be silent about Russia's human rights abuses because of the way in which the cold war was won? How, exactly, are the two concepts related?"

So what matters to YOU more are Russians? Wow, that's some serious bleeding heart liberal concern I must say. Ms. Rubin's loving that.

Funny. When Americans are concerned about Americans, they're isolationists. But when an American mother of father is concerned for their spouse or children, they're "putting family first".

So Skip and Jennifer's order:

1) Their own family
2) The human condition of Russians, Koreans, Iranians, Ukrainians, Israelis, Green/Velvet/Orange revolutions, etc.
3) Americans

How liberal indeed. Wilson, Roosevelt and Truman would be proud.

Posted by: mfray | January 26, 2011 10:48 AM | Report abuse

skip:

You are correct. I'm a realist and so never project about the general improvement in human condition. I'm very happy that it has happened, but I connect it most to what happens here domestically, not overseas.

The success of the Roman Empire lay on a two tiered foundation, the strength of their military, AND the seduction of the Roman lifestyle that made barbarians want to become Roman. We overrate the former in our country today, and discount the latter. Al-Queda isn't as afraid of the US military, as much as it is of a US lifestyle.

Regarding Russia, exactly what influence do we have on their government when we keep asking for their help on things? For the last 10 years, going back into Clinton too, we keep asking them to help out policy wise with Iran, North Korea, Iraq, etc. Doubtful we can have any major influence on their government by continuation of that.

Enjoyed the discussion!

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | January 26, 2011 10:49 AM | Report abuse

skip:

One last thought, I have no more interest in who won the peace prize this year, than when Obama won it. Shall we include the OTHER recent winners whose virtues I doubt you would extoll?

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) , Mohamed ElBaradei

Jimmy Carter

Yasser Arafat

Mikhail Gorbachev.

I think we can both sit out the Nobel thing, don't you?

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | January 26, 2011 10:57 AM | Report abuse

Yes, Israel and its cheer leaders like Jennifer Rubin have noticed. Americans on the other hand have other things to worry about, like the economy that the neocons destroyed by waging wars.

Posted by: wpost16 | January 26, 2011 11:28 AM | Report abuse

As clumsy and inadequate the President has been in proposing and implementing domestic policy, his foreign policy is even more chaotic and ineffectual. One cannot imagine any commander in chief/foreign minister around the world who can discern a method to Obama's "madness". Frightening to behold for allies and a huge window of opportunity for our adversaries.

Posted by: TheStatistQuo | January 26, 2011 11:59 AM | Report abuse

you missed the point with this:
==========
One last thought, I have no more interest in who won the peace prize this year, than when Obama won it. Shall we include the OTHER recent winners whose virtues I doubt you would extoll?

=========

the point isn't who won. The point is that Obama feted the leader of a nation that routinely imprisons its people. I know you despise Mr Bush, but he refused to do that in his turn.

What part of that escapes your attention?

Posted by: skipsailing28 | January 26, 2011 12:03 PM | Report abuse

This is just plain wrong:
===================
Johnson had no interest in foreign policy, as Jennifer accuses Obama, and so allowed the relatively small cold war in Vietnam to become smoking hot and dominate the whole national agenda. Arguably it ruined his whole presidency, and colors his not inconsiderable accomplishments on the domestic front.

===========================

I own a copy of LBJ's memoir "Vantage point". Were I to count the number of pages dedicated to domestic issues VS Viet Nam I have no doubt that the domestic issues count would be far larger.

so I will, therefore, grant that he was more focused on domestic issues.

but what is problematic in the above is the use of the word "allowed". This word choice is from the same commenter who demands to know what "influence" we have on Russia. The same question needs to be asked concerning LBJ and the Viet Nam war. How, exactly, did Mr Johnson "allow" this to dominate the national agenda? Did he have mysterious control over SDS or Mr Obama's favorite, the Weatherman underground? Was he responsible for the soviet funded antics of International/ANSWER?

the forces of soviet influence were strong in America back in those heady days. Many of the communists then are unrepentant even today. Don't believe me? Here's a quote from a very famous one: "Guilty as sin and free as a bird, what a country!"

the intention was obvious, by stirring domestic violence against the war, the soviets hoped to win it. And their strategy worked.

the use of the word "allow" assumes a level of control over the situation that no president, not even LBJ, has ever had.

Posted by: skipsailing28 | January 26, 2011 12:14 PM | Report abuse

Our weakening international role will directly harm our economic interests. A rising China will throw its weight around as surely as a rising Germany and Japan did last century. Obama allows them to play a jingoistic, anti-American song at a state dinner in the White House. Symbolism matters greatly. We don't want to live in a Chinese century.

Lebanon has fallen to the Iranian terrorist proxy Hezbollah; Turkey is being gradually converted by its Islamicist government into an enemy of the West; the successor to Mubarak in Egypt could well be the Muslim Brotherhood that sired al Qaeda; elites in nuclear Pakistan applaud the murder of a governor who criticized their blasphemy law; nuclear North Korea attacks South Korea with impunity; Iran, though slowed by Stuxnet, continues on its path to become a nuclear power and regional hegemon. Does anyone get any sense that the administration is focused on these threats?

Posted by: eoniii | January 26, 2011 12:24 PM | Report abuse

"The success of the Roman Empire lay on a two tiered foundation, the strength of their military, AND the seduction of the Roman lifestyle that made barbarians want to become Roman. We overrate the former in our country today, and discount the latter. Al-Queda isn't as afraid of the US military, as much as it is of a US lifestyle."

Hey there John. As you can imagine, I will disagree with you here. The strength of the American military plays a huge role for us, even if it can't be tangibly judged (like with a war). An imposing military will prevent bad intentioned thugs from committing bad acts. If you wanted to mug someone, but you saw that they were carrying a baseball bat, you would probably decide that mugging them is a bad idea, and not do it.

And this doesn't even take into account what our force projection (especially the navy) does in regards to keeping shipping lanes free and open and the like. That gives our economy a big assist.

It's easy for us to sit in front of our computers in comfort and pontificate about these things. However, for those unfortunate souls who live under non-democratic regimes, life isn't so sanguine. If I was one of those people, I sure would want someone powerful out there speaking out on behalf of my desire for freedom. Even better if that powerful entity did something tangible about it.

More over, we Americans would be better off if every country were a liberal democracy. The more democracies there are, the bigger the benefit to us. We wouldn't have to spend financial, political and human capital worrying about what China, Russia, Iran, China, North Korea did if they were all liberal deomocracies (with market economies). That's why I support both wars we're in. I think that in the long run they will pay huge dividends for us (not to mention that 50 million people are no longer living under Saddam/Taliban). One may argue that we should go the isolationist route and leave them be, but that is simply unrealistic.

As for al-Qaeda, they ARE afraid of our military. They're so afraid that they primarily fight with terrorist attacks and other such underhanded methods. You don't see the Islamists amassing an army to fight the marines in a massive WWII type battle. More over, al-Qaeda in Iraq were repeatedly found to be taking drugs. It's because they needed the drugs to work up the nerve to go out and confront our soldiers. They are *also* afraid of our lifestyle. However, would we be able to maintain our lifestyle without the military standing behind us and weilding that massive club when we need it? I tend to doubt it.

Posted by: RitchieEmmons | January 26, 2011 12:34 PM | Report abuse

skip wrote:

"The point is that Obama feted the leader of a nation that routinely imprisons its people. I know you despise Mr Bush, but he refused to do that in his turn."

Except that he rode Putin around his ranch in his pickup truck. You're right though that Russia doesn't imprison it's opposition. It just kills them.

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | January 26, 2011 12:46 PM | Report abuse

skip:

Pondering your thoughts on my use of allowed. I'm not sure that I meant what you imply by using it, but I'll agree that it wasn't a terribly expressive choice.

Would you prefer that his actions in Vietnam gave it a prominence in political ife that was unmerited to it's actual importance?

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | January 26, 2011 12:51 PM | Report abuse

eonii wrote:

"Lebanon has fallen to the Iranian terrorist proxy Hezbollah; Turkey is being gradually converted by its Islamicist government into an enemy of the West; the successor to Mubarak in Egypt could well be the Muslim Brotherhood that sired al Qaeda; elites in nuclear Pakistan applaud the murder of a governor who criticized their blasphemy law; nuclear North Korea attacks South Korea with impunity; Iran, though slowed by Stuxnet, continues on its path to become a nuclear power and regional hegemon. Does anyone get any sense that the administration is focused on these threats?

According to Jennifer, most of the above excepting N Korea, would be the necessary and acceptable risks of her international drive toward deomcracy. If you want to constantly push Democracy, you don't get to decide who gets elected, as we found out in Gaza in 2006.

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | January 26, 2011 12:54 PM | Report abuse

"..we Americans would be better off if every country were a liberal democracy."

Really? So when Egypt elects the Muslim Brotherhood we'd be safer?

Viet Nam isn't a liberal democracy, but we buy all sorts of stuff from them. You feel threatened by Viet Nam?

In my opinion, our safety doesn't depend on whether a country is a democracy or not. And by "doing something about it", we created millions of Iraqi refugees, killed a whole bunch of others, and made the place worse. And let's see - that only cost us about a TRILLION dollars. But of course it's easy to say you'd be alright with that because you're not living in a war zone.

I guess neoconservatism isn't concerned with the conservation of wealth.

And as far as an imposing military preventing bad acts from happening, 19 guys flew planes into buildings and killed 3,000 Americans. Seems like the imposing military wasn't much of a deterrent.

Turkey is an enemy of the west? Mmm, no, it's protecting it's interests in it's OWN backyard. Where we happen to be at this time. Last I checked, they haven't invaded Mexico or Canada. Amazing what a flotilla can do, isn't it?

Posted by: mfray | January 26, 2011 1:03 PM | Report abuse

"According to Jennifer, most of the above excepting N Korea, would be the necessary and acceptable risks of her international drive toward deomcracy. If you want to constantly push Democracy, you don't get to decide who gets elected, as we found out in Gaza in 2006."

Bingo. But she doesn't care because if the countries make the "wrong decision", she would shill for sanctions and possible military action.

Posted by: mfray | January 26, 2011 1:07 PM | Report abuse

first, this:
===================
The Cuban-American House committee chairwoman is still whining about Cuban enslavement when, in fact, she knows that Castro would be reelected with 90% of the vote in a completely fair election. Chavez is only a danger to companies that might do business/exploit resources in Venezuela. The rest of South America and Latin America can take care of themselves very well without our meddling.

======================

Where is the proof of the contention concerning Castro's "re election"? Gone are the days when folks could just throw around assertions with no factual support. Support the contention factually or withdraw it. It is that simple

And only someone infatuated by totalitarian regimes could make that statement concerning Chavez. His behavior gives the lie to the deeply stupid contention that he is no threat. Whatever misguided individual offered this load of wrongness is, I am heartily glad they are not in a position of influence over American foreign policy.

Posted by: skipsailing28 | January 26, 2011 1:07 PM | Report abuse

Ritchie:

Wholeheartedly agree with the first half of your post, and 100% the other way around in the second half. Not too bad for you and me, eh?

If I implied in anyway that a strong military was unimportant, then I wrote badly, for that's not my opinion.

Russia was a democracy and was unable to hold it. Iran WAS also a democracy, as is Turkey and Lebanon, within the limits of the word in the Middle East. That's why I tie democracy so closely to Western Civilization because the concept of "loyal opposition" so essential in it's success is virtually unknown outside Western Civ.

Not sure why you wrote the liberal democracy. Is that somehow different than any other democracy?

When I talk about fear, I wasn't using the individual al-Queda member, who of course is afraid of going up against our soldiers. I mean that the more force we use, the greater the killing, the farther away it drives the country in question from embracing our cultural standards and lifestyles. The "seduction" if you will cannot begin while the everyday citizen faces a Hobson's Choice of death.

As to the Muslim's not fielding an army, well of course they are using tradional guerilla tactics that pre-date the time of Alexander, when faced with an extraordinarily superior foe.

Hey look at all us. We're almost 20 comments in, and nobody has called another poster a pinhead yet. Discourse is a beautiful thing!

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | January 26, 2011 1:11 PM | Report abuse

johnmarshall, I support democracy and human rights against oppressive governments. That support has always been a core value of the United States, though we had to temper that support at times during the Cold War -- Truman's "he's an SOB, but he's our SOB" approach.

Similarly, we shouldn't welcome elections which would usher in an Islamacist tyranny. Our support of elections must be tactical at times: support for free votes in Iran where pro-western, pro-democracy forces would win; caution in places like Egypt where there's a risk the Muslim Brotherhood would win.

We should never confuse "one election/one time" with democracy and freedom. Democracy requires pluralistic institutions and what our Founders called a "virtuous citizenry", or at least a reasonable facsimile. Creating the rule of law and a spirit of compromise can take generations.

In the winner-take-all, tribal, intolerant culture of the Middle East, we should temper our expectations. Iraqi democracy so far is probably a best-case example, and it's a mess by normal standards.

Posted by: eoniii | January 26, 2011 1:19 PM | Report abuse

then this:
============
Except that he rode Putin around his ranch in his pickup truck. You're right though that Russia doesn't imprison it's opposition. It just kills them.
=============

I guess I don't see the relationship. Did Bush get Putin wrong? Even he thinks so. He made that statement directly on Hugh Hewitt's show. It is quite an admission.

but he didn't get China wrong. The fact remains, Obama KNOWS that the Chinese government is holding a Nobel laureate as a political prisoner and serenaded them all the same. That's just plain wrong in the view of many.


At least Mr Bush has the fact that there was not as much experience with Russian behavior post USSR then as there is now. I would expect that Obama would understand Putin better, given the lessons learned during the Bush years.

Posted by: skipsailing28 | January 26, 2011 1:20 PM | Report abuse

Here's another really bizarre statement:
================
"..we Americans would be better off if every country were a liberal democracy."

Really? So when Egypt elects the Muslim Brotherhood we'd be safer?

=====================

Only someone willfully blind would conflate "liberal democracy" with the Muslim Brotherhood.

Were the Muslim Brotherhood to win an election ( distinct possibility) it would be the operation of what Bill Buckley called "One man, one vote, one time". There would be nothing Liberal or Democratic about it.

mfray, you seem to forget that Hitler won ONE election. That ain't a liberal democracy.

and your foolish example of viet nam is meaningless in this context. The point is that were viet nam a liberal democracy there would be one less potential trouble spot for the rest of us.

Simply put, liberal democracies generally don't start wars, but they do win them when threatened. Japan ring a bell pal?

It seems that mfray just has a need to be disagreeable. That's something I can relate to.

Posted by: skipsailing28 | January 26, 2011 1:46 PM | Report abuse

"..we Americans would be better off if every country were a liberal democracy."

Really? So when Egypt elects the Muslim Brotherhood we'd be safer?"

mfray, you are mistaking a mere election with a democracy.

"Viet Nam isn't a liberal democracy, but we buy all sorts of stuff from them. You feel threatened by Viet Nam?"

Whether we buy stuff from a country isn't the end all, be all of the worth or benefit of that country. I do not feel threatened by Vietnam per se, but I'd be much happier if it was a liberal democracy. For us and for them.

"And as far as an imposing military preventing bad acts from happening, 19 guys flew planes into buildings and killed 3,000 Americans. Seems like the imposing military wasn't much of a deterrent."

No, it wasn't. But at the same time it doesn't mean that we'd be just as well off with a weak and limited military. More over, a strong military enabled us to hit back with a lot of angry behind it. A formidable military didn't stop Pearl Harbor either. Would we therefore have been justified in having, let's say, no military at the time, since what we *did* have didn't stop that attack?

And how many would be attacks have been prevented because the would be attackers feared a devastating response from us? One can't say for sure of course, but I'd bet it's a lot.

"In my opinion, our safety doesn't depend on whether a country is a democracy or not. And by "doing something about it", we created millions of Iraqi refugees, killed a whole bunch of others, and made the place worse. And let's see - that only cost us about a TRILLION dollars. But of course it's easy to say you'd be alright with that because you're not living in a war zone."

Whatever refugees there were from the Iraq War, they're mostly back home now. And I think your "millions" is an exaggeration. As for how the US "killed a whole bunch of others," I'll assume that you're ok with our killing of terrorists. As for the civilians that "we killed," I should point out that the number of civilains killed in that war were far less than what Saddam averaged. I'll say that again in case you just breezed over that sentence. Saddam killed on average more innocent people per year than were killed per year of the war. Our going into Iraq actually saved lives. That's one of the tragically under reported facts about that war.

Yes, the war was expensive. All wars are. However, if it starts a wave of democracy across the Middle East. The cost will be very cheap compared to the benefit.

As for our safety not being reliant on other countries being a democracy, I'll ask this. Do you fear Britain or France or Australia or India? Me neither. How about Iran, China or Russia? I'm a little less comfortable with them. Would you feel just as safe if every other country, including Canada and Mexico, were Iranian style theocracies?

Posted by: RitchieEmmons | January 26, 2011 2:10 PM | Report abuse

skip:

I really don't rank the quality of human rights in China as important as you do. That may make me a bad person. However the Chinese have little history of human rights, and I see the prospect for change as being negligible from outside pressure, regardless of the negotiator. I have compared it in other posts to trying to negotiate with your credit card company and I think that analogy holds true.

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | January 26, 2011 2:11 PM | Report abuse

eonii:

You are preaching to the choir. I have never supported the democracy everywhere concept. Your argument is with Jennifer, not me.

"I support democracy and human rights against oppressive governments. That support has always been a core value of the United States"

We're all having such a civilized discussion today. Maybe we shouldn't go there. Things will get out of hand and lose focus fast.

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | January 26, 2011 2:16 PM | Report abuse

"Not sure why you wrote the liberal democracy. Is that somehow different than any other democracy?"

John, I suppose the best way to describe it is that what we have in the West is a liberal democracy. What Iraq has is a democracy, but with somewhat less "liberal" in it.

"When I talk about fear, I wasn't using the individual al-Queda member, who of course is afraid of going up against our soldiers. I mean that the more force we use, the greater the killing, the farther away it drives the country in question from embracing our cultural standards and lifestyles. The "seduction" if you will cannot begin while the everyday citizen faces a Hobson's Choice of death."

I think you're generalizing a bit and leaving out some stuff here. In the Middle East, power is respected more than just about anything else. Aurocrats there might not like us, but they respected us when we came into Iraq and disposed of Saddam's army. As for the every day citizen, if the (Hobson's) choice is getting bombed by an American J-Dam or killed by the religious police in the Taliban, then yes, we will not endear ourselves to that citizen. If the "more force" we use is against the Taliban though, then the citizen will be more inclined to accept us. The decent people of Afghanistan are fearful of *less* of us rather than *more* of us. They know the Taliban will terrorize them. Intentionally and always.

Posted by: RitchieEmmons | January 26, 2011 2:29 PM | Report abuse

Ritchie:

Good points.

I get the liberal deomcracy thing now.

With regard to the military, we often miss a crucial apsect. We're leaving, and they're not. We may argue about what date is best, but no matter what, we are leaving.

Our nation-building tactics have not survived our departure anywhere since South Korea, (and of course we're still there!)

I don't know how we can have military bases in every country that has a fragile government in order to insure that it remains pro-Western. I personally don't think that democracy, even the Middle Eastern kind, can survive our departure from Iraq and Afghanistan, perhaps your view is different.

Now some, you know who, want democracy in Iran. From what we know of it, there can't be any democracy in Iran without yet another military intervention and occupation by the US. They have already made and lost several home-grown democracies in Iran before this. The same holds true in Lebanon.

So where does that leave us? You must remeber I am a cynic. I would be satisfied with a Middle East where Israel was the dominant military power and Iranian hegemony was checked by Iraqi opposition. The last Bush administration destroyed that balance in a way his father wisely did not.

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | January 26, 2011 2:45 PM | Report abuse

eonii:

You are preaching to the choir. I have never supported the democracy everywhere concept. Your argument is with Jennifer, not me.

"I support democracy and human rights against oppressive governments. That support has always been a core value of the United States"

We're all having such a civilized discussion today. Maybe we shouldn't go there. Things will get out of hand and lose focus fast.

Posted by: johnmarshall5446
-------------------------
"We hold these truths to be self-evident", etc. That's about as "core" as values can get. Did it take a Civil War to extend the rights of the Declaration of Independence to our own people? Of course, but the principle of ordered liberty and natural rights created an irreconcilable tension with slavery, as Lincoln noted.

Have we always promoted these values internationally? Of course not, but the idea of America has always been identical with these values and their correlate, economic opportunity. We are a creedal nation, based on the ideas of human dignity and liberty, rather than a nation based simply on geography, ethnicity, culture or language, like, say, France.

This belief in human worth, liberty and dignity is the root of American exceptionalism, which even Obama felt it was politically expedient to pay lip service to last night -- though to do so deeply offends his left wing internationalism.

Posted by: eoniii | January 26, 2011 3:12 PM | Report abuse

I don't see the problem with America having permanent garrisons in regions that are strategically important and historically troublesome. Hence Germany, Japan and S. Korea.

It would excellent for us to permanently garrison Iraq as well and I'm disappointed that this, apparently, will not be the case.

Those regions that America garrisons flourish. Remember Sigmon Rhee was a less than savory character when we first stationed troops there and look where S. Korea is now.

Ah well.

And Mr Marshall, YOU may have been happy with the "balance" you describe but very few, left or right, would agree. An Iraq under the dictatorship of Saddam was far more trouble that it was worth to anyone.

and you must provide support for your contention that democracy cannot be obtained in Iran without American military intervention. This is your opinion, which you hope to sell via the use of the word "we". No, we don't know what you state we do. If you have reasons to believe your contention to be true, by all means share them.

Posted by: skipsailing28 | January 26, 2011 3:17 PM | Report abuse

John, See Skip's comment at 3:17 as a response to most of your 2:45 post. Skip has done the heavy lifting for me!

"I don't know how we can have military bases in every country that has a fragile government in order to insure that it remains pro-Western. I personally don't think that democracy, even the Middle Eastern kind, can survive our departure from Iraq and Afghanistan, perhaps your view is different."

I'll respond to this part though. I DO think that democracy can survive in the ME without our military. However, I think the longer we are there, the better chance it has. The sooner we leave, the better the chance of failure. I don't want us to leave Iraq and I'd prefer a Germany/Japan/SK type presence for 100 years (channeling John McCain).

In essence, I think almost all humans have the desire for liberty. And who wouldn't want to be able to vote for their leaders, who govern with the consent of the goverened? In the way of all that is hard core religion (Islam in particular), powerful and ruthless dictators and the like. If permitted, the masses would choose for democracy. Even in the Middle East. Unfortunately, it often takes a military intervention for the masses to become free from the grip of those dictators.

Posted by: RitchieEmmons | January 26, 2011 3:45 PM | Report abuse

Obama talked at length about foreign policy.

You know who didn't mention it at all? Ryan and Bachmann.

I think you might have the two parties confused.

Posted by: ottoman88 | January 26, 2011 3:56 PM | Report abuse

I'm more of a fan of restraint in the sense that we shouldn't send our military to wherever we think there's a problem, especially one that isn't our business. What business do we have in Russia? Let them deal with their problems. You don't see France and England coming to America to aid in the drug war. America can't be the "world savior" when it has it's own problems to deal with.

Posted by: karolina12mr | January 26, 2011 4:04 PM | Report abuse

It is very, very telling that Ms. Rubin uses her column to whine about how Obama said nothing about foreign policy -- despite the fact he mentioned the wars, the terror threat, Sudan, and Tunisia, and even explored America's place in the world (read: places other than America, commonly called "foreign")and how his agenda ties into a competitive global marketplace.

Yet Ms. Rubin wrote exactly ZERO words about Ryan and Bachman's responses ... which didn't mention anything resembling foreign policy. AT ALL.

In fact, given that the GOP loves to act as if foreign policy and national security are their "strengths" (reality not withstanding), it was quite telling the GOP folks failed to mention anything about either of these areas.

So either Ms. Rubin:

a.) Didn't bother to watch the SOTU or the GOP responses;

b.) Didn't bother to pay attention to the SOTU or GOP responses; or

c.) Is lying about the SOTU, while ignoring the GOP responses, in the hopes no one will notice.

Of course, those aren't mutually exclusive options ...

Posted by: Tke919 | January 26, 2011 4:08 PM | Report abuse

Knee-jerk criticism of Obama simply for the sake of it. Utter nonsense.

Obama has paid far more attention to foreign affairs than Bush ever did with his 'my way or the highway' bullying mentality.

Washington Post continues to demonstrate its lack of understanding of the concept of balance when publishing verbose stupidity like this.

Posted by: joeyalphabet62 | January 26, 2011 4:17 PM | Report abuse

ottoman88 and Tke919, You can probably safely assume that Ryan didn't address foreign policy because he's not the Commander in Chief and Obama is. It's important for the CIC to address foreign policy. People generally aren't going to care what Ryan has to say about it. Especially people overseas. And Bachmann didn't because she also isn't the CIC, as well as the fact that she was issuing a response for the Tea Party. The TP hasn't delved into foreign policy issues.

Posted by: RitchieEmmons | January 26, 2011 4:20 PM | Report abuse

ottoman88 and Tke919, You can probably safely assume that Ryan didn't address foreign policy because he's not the Commander in Chief and Obama is. It's important for the CIC to address foreign policy. People generally aren't going to care what Ryan has to say about it. Especially people overseas. And Bachmann didn't because she also isn't the CIC, as well as the fact that she was issuing a response for the Tea Party. The TP hasn't delved into foreign policy issues.

Posted by: RitchieEmmons | January 26, 2011 4:21 PM | Report abuse

wonder why my comments are banned

Posted by: K2K2 | January 26, 2011 5:00 PM | Report abuse

Since the conduct of foreign relations is one of the few responsibilities of the Executive, according to the Constitution, I see no reason why the SOTU should be about foreign policy.

It is premature for Obama to make sense out of what is happening in Egypt and Lebanon this week. I assume he is overwhelmed by both.

I am glad he is going to Brazil, Chile, and El Salvador. America has greatly ignored these natural allies for too long.
In fact, I think the next State dinner should be for Brazil, with an announcement that the USA is FINALLY dropping the unfair import tariff on Brazilian sugar ethanol.

I was confused by the near absence of applause from Congress on South Sudan, one of the few success stories, so far.

third try

Posted by: K2K2 | January 26, 2011 5:03 PM | Report abuse

aha. very intriguing what I had to edit out of my comment to get it to post.

Posted by: K2K2 | January 26, 2011 5:05 PM | Report abuse

Jennifer seems to think she is in competition to win a prize over who can slag President Obama most often on the thinnest of reasons.

Jenn baby...you're on track to win this thing!

Posted by: kindness1 | January 26, 2011 5:10 PM | Report abuse

skip:

I don't need to prove anything about Iran. They had a democracy and recently lost it, again. Why else do we hear constantly about the green movement in this space?

As for the balance of Iraq, George H W Bush would agree with me, and he was much wiser on foreign relations than his son. You can date the ascendency of Iran to the planning of the Iraqi invasion.

If we disagree, that's fine with both of us I'm sure, but there are few if any "experts" who would disagree with the concept that the Iraqi war was a tremendous boost for Iran.

BTW, It's been a terrific day on this blog, even if your opinion of me and my views is no different than at the beginning. Thanks for you participation.

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | January 26, 2011 5:29 PM | Report abuse

Maybe you were watching the wrong channel, Rubin. Obama not only talked about the wars, the terror threat, Sudan, and Tunisia, but also he devoted considerable time to exploring America's place in the world and how his agenda ties into a competitive global marketplace.

By contrast, your two Republican allies, Ryan and Bachman, blew off the subject of foreign policy entirely, a detail your criticism managed to somehow overlook. Why so outraged at Obama for not mentioning something he really did mention, while letting the two republican responders off the hook?

Posted by: jiji1 | January 26, 2011 5:31 PM | Report abuse

Ritchie:

Your posts have been very interesting today.

We disagree on the fundamental aspect of indefinite military bases, so we can back off on that point and simply respect a fundamental opposition.

I will say this and you will think I'm a bad person perhaps. The difference in Germany and Japan is that we killed and wounded enough military age men in those countries to give us time for our programs to take enough. We didn't kill anywhere near enough men in Iraq or Afghanistan to have that breathing room. That's a harsh view of the world, which does not comport with the usual public niceties, so forgive me.

Now the last part of your post is the most interesting. I argue that we often fail at foreign policy because we think everyone else in the world holds the same values and believes the same things as we do. For instance we hold individual liberty as perhaps the number one value in our nation. That's not true around the world even though we believe otherwise.

You think (correct me if I'm wrong) given the choice people would put democracy, individual rights and nationhood over Islam and tribal affiliation in the Middle East and Afghanistan. I would disagree. I would argue that they are Western concepts not native to their cultures and held only by the Westernized elits of those nations.

Your thoughts?

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | January 26, 2011 5:44 PM | Report abuse

K2K2:

Been there done that!

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | January 26, 2011 5:46 PM | Report abuse

Oh dear,

The poor neocons are in a funk because Obama hasn't promised them any new wars this year. Didnt anyone tell Obama that there is no such thing as foreign policy without a war?

What an outrage!

What would Ros-Lehtinen have wanted Obama to say about Egypt, the United Nations, the stalled peace talks which were exposed this week a a farce? What does she want to see done about Lebanon, What business is Hugo Chavez or ours? Didn't we just send an ambassador to Syria?

BTW Jennifer, when did Russia start occupying Georgia?

I'd say Obama is wise to ignore the delusional ramblings of Ros-Lehtinen, who's comments are a perfect example of the derangement that permeates Washington.

It's a shame that , Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, didn't bother reading he news this week before making such a fool of herself about Iran. Israel's military intelligence chief said on Tuesday that not only is the Iranian regime NOT drawing closer to nuclear weapons, they're not even trying

How is the fact that a ruling coalition is forming a government an undermining of Lebanon's sovereignty? Someone might want to explain to this ignoramus that Hezbollah is a Lebanese political party.

“Yet, the Administration has pursued a 'reset' of relations with Russia, which has dismissed the crisis of Russia's worsening human rights record.”

Apart from the farcical hypocrisy of this statement, Ros-Lehtinen might want to give and example of how worsening relations with any state has improved human rights.

Perhaps one day, when we are not imprisoning people and torturing them, without charging them, or allowing them free trials, we'll be able to give advice tot eh Chinese about human rights.

Perhaps one day, when we have closed the biggest prison camp on Cuban soil, will we be able to lecture Havana about enslavement.

Posted by: Shingo1 | January 26, 2011 5:59 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: skipsailing28 | January 26, 2011 12:03 PM

"The point is that Obama feted the leader of a nation that routinely imprisons its people."

Apparently the irony over the fact that the US has the world largest prison population is lost on Skip.

Posted by: Shingo1 | January 26, 2011 6:12 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: TheStatistQuo | January 26, 2011 11:59 AM

"One cannot imagine any commander in chief/foreign minister around the world who can discern a method to Obama's "madness"."

I'm sure that has been the case for some time and many administrations TheStatistQuo. After all, what better way to describe US foreign policy?

Posted by: Shingo1 | January 26, 2011 6:14 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: kindness1 | January 26, 2011 5:10 PM

"Jennifer seems to think she is in competition to win a prize over who can slag President Obama most often on the thinnest of reasons."

No, it's just that this blog has become a GOP instrument to launch election campaigns for GOP candidates. With Obama's approval ratings going back,the time calls for desperate measures.

Jenn baby...you're on track to win this thing!

Posted by: Shingo1 | January 26, 2011 6:19 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: eoniii | January 26, 2011 12:24 PM
Neocons only have time for democracy when it produces the outcome they want.

“Lebanon has fallen to the Iranian terrorist proxy Hezbollah”

Correction. Lebanon's government, fell, as many observers had been predicting for over a year. A strong ruling coalition has resumed power and done so perfectly legally and peacefully.

“Turkey is being gradually converted by its Islamicist government into an enemy of the West”

No, Turkey has moved from a military state to a democratic one, and adopted a foreign policy that recognizes it is in Turkey's interests to establish good relations with it's neighbours.

“the successor to Mubarak in Egypt could well be the Muslim Brotherhood that sired al Qaeda”

1.The Muslim Brotherhood would have won power decades ago had there been democratic elections.
2.Muslim Brotherhood has nothing to do with Al Qaeda. It';s our allies, the Aaudi's who sired Al Qaeda.

“Iran, though slowed by Stuxnet, continues on its path to become a nuclear power and regional hegemon.”

1.Israeli military intelligence says that Iran is not even working on a nuke so Stuxnet had no effect.
2.It was the necon policy of attacking and occupying Iraq that turned the balance of power in the region over to Iran.

“Does anyone get any sense that the administration is focused on these threats?”

If this administration had any sense, they might have figured out that the way to deal with threats it to stop creating them.

Posted by: Shingo1 | January 26, 2011 6:28 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: Beniyyar | January 26, 2011 9:43 AM

"That is at least my conclusion, the less the Obama administration involves itself in foreign affairs the better for America and the world."

That goes for all administrations. The British learned the lesson of empire, yet we're still not getting it.

Posted by: Shingo1 | January 26, 2011 6:37 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: cavalier4 | January 26, 2011 10:24 AM
“We defeated the Soviet Union with 1) An adequate military establishment with which they could not keep up; 2) the implementation of a robust free market, supply side domestic economic agenda”

False on both counts. The Soviet Union was collapsing while Regan and Rumsfeld were trying to scare the crap out of the American public about mythical Soviet military expansion. There was no strategy in place – which is why even the CIA were caught by surprise.

Secondly, the US stopped having a robust free market, supply side domestic economic agenda in the 50's. In fact, it could well be argued that it was Reagan's insane spending that set the US on the path of economic decline.

“3) consistent and forceful, rhetorical and practical advocacy for and advance of American values throughout the world.”

Anyone who has ever spent time overseas would find this claim comical if it weren't so tragic. If he world has gained any image of what American values look like, then the man standing on the crate with a sheet over his head at Abu Graib would surely be the poster child of it.

Posted by: Shingo1 | January 26, 2011 6:43 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: skipsailing28 | January 26, 2011 10:25 AM
“So Obama is correct to be silent about Russia's human rights abuses because of the way in which the cold war was won? How, exactly, are the two concepts related?”

No, Obama is not correct to be silent about Russia's human rights abuses, he's simply wise to do so, unless his aim to inspire the world to laugh and roll it's collective eyeballs at American hypocrisy.

Posted by: Shingo1 | January 26, 2011 6:45 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: eoniii | January 26, 2011 12:24 PM
“Our weakening international role will directly harm our economic interests.”

That's demonstrably false, seeing as no economic interests have been served by our military presence.

“A rising China will throw its weight around as surely as a rising Germany and Japan did last century.”

We had our turn and we blew it when we had the chance, because we fell into the same trap of becoming drunk with our power. There's not much we can do now except complain about it.

“Obama allows them to play a jingoistic, anti-American song at a state dinner in the White House.”

What was anti-American about it? That it wasn't pro American?

Posted by: Shingo1 | January 26, 2011 6:50 PM | Report abuse

Shingo wrote:

"BTW Jennifer, when did Russia start occupying Georgia?"

Russian troops currently occupy two provinces of Georgia, Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | January 26, 2011 7:00 PM | Report abuse

shingo wrote:

"2.Muslim Brotherhood has nothing to do with Al Qaeda. It';s our allies, the Aaudi's who sired Al Qaeda."

This is entirely too simplistic. These organizations certainly have independent foundations and leadership but similar goals. We certainly can't rule out the possibility of present or future cooperation.

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | January 26, 2011 7:08 PM | Report abuse

Young, dumb and Republican. It's no way to go through life, Ms. Rubin.

Posted by: gregroa | January 26, 2011 7:12 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | January 26, 2011 7:00 PM

"Russian troops currently occupy two provinces of Georgia, Ossetia and Abkhazia."

Correction. Russian are in South Ossetia. North Ossetia is already part of Russia.

Neither South Ossetia or Abkhazia are provinces of Georgia.

Posted by: Shingo1 | January 26, 2011 7:55 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | January 26, 2011 7:08 PM

"This is entirely too simplistic. These organizations certainly have independent foundations and leadership but similar goals."

The only goals that the Muslims Brotherhood and Al Qaeda have in common are to remove the dictator in Egypt.

By your analogy, the US and Al Qaeda also have similar goals seeing as they both wanted to drive out the Soviets from Afghanistan.

"We certainly can't rule out the possibility of present or future cooperation."

On the contrary, I am pretty sure we can. Most members of the Muslim Brotherhood are educated and oppose violence. They have witnessed the folly of what co operation with Al Qaeda looks like in Iraq, where the insurgency turned on Al Qaeda without any US encouragement.

Posted by: Shingo1 | January 26, 2011 8:01 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | January 26, 2011 7:08 PM

"This is entirely too simplistic. These organizations certainly have independent foundations and leadership but similar goals."

The only goals that the Muslims Brotherhood and Al Qaeda have in common are to remove the Egypt's dictator.

By your analogy, the US and Al Qaeda also have similar goals seeing as they both wanted to drive out the Soviets from Afghanistan.

"We certainly can't rule out the possibility of present or future cooperation."

On the contrary, I am pretty sure we can. Most members of the Muslim Brotherhood are educated and oppose violence. They have witnessed the folly of what co operation with Al Qaeda looks like in Iraq, where the insurgency turned on Al Qaeda without any US encouragement.

Posted by: Shingo1 | January 26, 2011 8:09 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: RitchieEmmons | January 26, 2011 12:34 PM

“An imposing military will prevent bad intentioned thugs from committing bad acts.”

Really? It did not prevent 911, it did not prevent the conflict in Georgia, it did not prevent the Iraq/Iraq war, nor the regional flare ups in Sudan, Somalia, the Congo or Lebanon.

The muggings are going, it's just that the cops are only protecting the VIP's.

As for our bloated navy, it ceased to be any kind of threat the minute the anti ship missile was invented.

“If I was one of those people, I sure would want someone powerful out there speaking out on behalf of my desire for freedom.”

Who is that going to be when the guys carrying the baseball bat are protecting those stifling freedom?

“More over, we Americans would be better off if every country were a liberal democracy.”

Clearly, those in power in Washington and London didn't hold this view when they overthrew Mossadegh in 1953 and replaces him with a dictator. The problem with democracies is that they can't be controlled, as we saw in Iran in 1953. By their very nature, liberal democracies put the interests of their constituents before foreign ones, and that has not been tolerated since WWII. We have seen countless examples of this throughout Latin America as well as the Middle East.

We're not spending money on our military to enforce law and order, but to ensure that no other power emerges to challenge our own global hegemony.

Al-Qaeda are not afraid of our military. They employ terrorism because those are the only options available to them. As Bin Laden said, our reaction to 911 was more than he could have dreamed of. He knew he couldn't defeat the US military in a conventional war, so he opted for the death by a thousand cuts. That's how he and his mujahadeen fighters drove out the Soviets from Afghanistan. His goal is to bleed our country of it's resources.

To a large extent, Bin Laden has succeeded. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have led to the deaths of far more Americans than 911. As Joseph Stiglitz explained in late 2007, the hundreds of thousands of Americans who have returned with permanent injuries and disabilities, along with replacing military hardware, will replace upwards of 3 trillion.

Of course you don't see the Islamists fighting WWII type battle. WWII type battles are history. Our military is still stuck is wanting to fight WWII battles, which is why they have failed so come to terms with 4th generation warfare.
“al-Qaeda in Iraq were repeatedly found to be taking drugs”

So are our troops in Afghanistan. In Vietnam, many returned with heroin addictions.

Al Qaeda could care less about our lifestyle. Bin Laden made no mention of it in his 1996 Fatwa.

Posted by: Shingo1 | January 26, 2011 8:12 PM | Report abuse

Shingo:

I am sorry, both provinces are claimed by Georgia. Why else would the need the presence of Russian troops? You diminsh your stature when you don't admit reality.

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | January 26, 2011 8:25 PM | Report abuse

"You think (correct me if I'm wrong) given the choice people would put democracy, individual rights and nationhood over Islam and tribal affiliation in the Middle East and Afghanistan. I would disagree. I would argue that they are Western concepts not native to their cultures and held only by the Westernized elites of those nations.

Your thoughts?"

John, Essentially, yes. I would argue that people will choose to have individual liberty rather than not to have it (not necessarily nationhood though). Although that doesn't necessarily mean they can't live the tribal life that they may enjoy. If they want to vote to live a tribal life, then they would have that choice. What they don't want is to have some thug dictator tell them that they can't have such a life. Or be forced to strictly adhere to a 7th century interpretation of a religion or be killed for not doing so.

As for democracy and individual rights being Western concepts, that is true. However, keep in mind that NO country has ever began as a democracy. Also, for example, Japan and South Korea might be considered Western now, but they weren't before we gave democracy to them (if you will).

"I will say this and you will think I'm a bad person perhaps. The difference in Germany and Japan is that we killed and wounded enough military age men in those countries to give us time for our programs to take enough. We didn't kill anywhere near enough men in Iraq or Afghanistan to have that breathing room. That's a harsh view of the world, which does not comport with the usual public niceties, so forgive me."

I don't think you're a bad person! You have an interesting point here - that we didn't kill enough to be able to impose democracy. My answer would be though that we weren't imposing democracy upon a people that did not want it. Unless I'm mistaken, I believe that the populations of those countries were supportive of having democracy. Also, we didn't have to kill a ton of Poles or other East Europeans for them to enthusiastically embrace democracy.

Thanks for the willingness to engage in debate today. Sorry to be so delayed in this response.

Posted by: RitchieEmmons | January 26, 2011 8:34 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | January 26, 2011 8:25 PM

"I am sorry, both provinces are claimed by Georgia. Why else would the need the presence of Russian troops? You diminsh your stature when you don't admit reality."

Sorry Marshall, but how does the fact that Russian troops are in south Ossetia prove the territory is part of Georgia?

Georgia can claim that the Antarctic is part of Georgia, but that hardly reflects reality. No more than a handful of states recognize it as such.

South Osseitia is no more part fo Georgia than Taiwan is part of China.

Posted by: Shingo1 | January 26, 2011 9:50 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: eoniii | January 26, 2011 12:24 PM
“Our weakening international role will directly harm our economic interests.”

That's demonstrably false, seeing as no economic interests have been served by our military presence.

“A rising China will throw its weight around as surely as a rising Germany and Japan did last century.”

We had our turn and we blew it when we had the chance, because we fell into the same trap of becoming drunk with our power. There's not much we can do now except complain about it.

“Obama allows them to play a jingoistic, anti-American song at a state dinner in the White House.”

What was anti-American about it? That it wasn't pro American?

Posted by: Shingo1
-------------------
Shingo, I let a lot of your rebuttals to my posts go unanswered because your values and perspective are so different from mine. You actually relish the rise of China and Islamic terrorists like Hezbollah. You have no concern about a possible Muslim Brotherhood takeover of Egypt. You have no concern in general about U.S. interests around the world being defeated because you believe we have no economic or other interests around the world worth protecting militarily. Or maybe you're just not on our side.

(BTW, al-Zawahiri, the co-founder of AQ, is an Egyptian with a Muslim Brotherhood background. Anyone who thinks the Muslim Brotherhood and AQ aren't brother organizations is mistaken.)

Your moral equivalence between the US as the dominant superpower and the heinous superpowers we defeated, Germany and Japan, and the rising superpower we will confront soon, China, is appalling. Each of these three nations that have considered us as their main adversary have butchered tens of millions of people, including their own citizens, for the purpose of extending their totalitarian rule. The US has won two world wars and a Cold War without claiming lands or building an empire, a first in world history. We have spread democracy and liberty. Our free trade has helped lift billions out of poverty. Anyone who conflates our history with theirs is either dishonest or badly confused.

As for the song Lang Lang played at the state dinner for China, it is a well-known Maoist propaganda piece that celebrates the killing of GIs by Chinese soldiers in the Korean War. Our GIs are likened to wolves. The selection of this song, which was approved in advance by the Chinese, was a crude insult to their hosts. It's as if the Vietnamese gave a state dinner for Obama and he chose the Vietnam War song, "Ballad of a Green Beret" (yeah, that would happen). The song and the normally stony-faced Hu's delighted reaction are an internet sensation in China and a source of intense jingoistic pride. The Chinese don't even pretend to be our friends. They think we're weak and dissolute, and they may be right judging from our leadership. Perceived weakness is always provocative to tyrants.

Posted by: eoniii | January 27, 2011 12:22 AM | Report abuse

Hey Ritchie,

Here's food for thought.

Report: 35% of warrior-unit soldiers face addiction
http://www.usatoday.com/news/military/2011-01-25-wounded-care_N.htm

Posted by: Shingo1 | January 27, 2011 12:43 AM | Report abuse

Eoniii,

The rise of China and Hezbollah are realities we need to face. I don't respond to such news by sticking my head in the sand. Nor do I share your proclivity to view the world as one populated by enemies.

I've spent time in Egypt and got to know a number of people while I was there. I learned quite a bit about the Muslim Brotherhood and the kind of people who belong to the achievement. They are doctors, lawyers, scholars and businessmen. I appreciate that you, in your fearful ignorance, have not had the benefit of this experience, but no, I don't share your concerns.

U.S. interests is another word for using guns to get our way. I don't regard propping up dictators and overthrowing governments, much less attacking and invading other states, to be in America's interests. Economic interests are not served by military intervention. In fact, militarism is the antithesis of free market capitalism. We should spend more time trading and less time threatening states. There's a saying that armies cross borders where trade does not. The former head of CENTCOM, Admiral Fallon had similar views.

We could easily be doing business with Iran if we had a leader in Washington who had the guts to follow Nixon's footsteps and fly to Tehran and talk to them. There are 80 million people in that country who would love that to happen, but our political elite are too beholden to the military and their paymaster at AIPAC.

So what if al-Zawahiri began as a member of the Muslim Brotherhood? Adam Gadahn started out as an American Jew. Are you going to tell me that Al Qaeda and Judaism share the same agenda? Anyone who conflates the Muslim Brotherhood with AQ is simply ignorant.

We won't be confronting China. What are we gong to do? Borrow more money from them to go to war with them? You need to wake up son. The days of the US laying down the law and throwing it's weight around like a rock and roll wrestler on steroids and meth are long gone. We've bogged down in Afghanistan, fighting a rag tag militia for longer than WWII. We have 100,000 troops there to combat less than 100 Al Qaeda and we're losing. We were bogged down in Iraq, and got a lucky break with the civil war ending and Patreaus figuring out that it was easier to put the Sunni insurgents on a payroll than have them shoot at us.
Do you honestly think we can lay a finger on China?
How many people do you think we've butchered in the last century? The US didn't win WWII. Have you even read a book on the topic? If any one can claim to have won the war, it was the Russians, and they have 20 million dead soldiers to prove it.

The Cold War was a side show, put on for the benefits of people like you who get drunk on jingoism. America has over 1000 military bases dotted around the world. It's the biggest Empire the world has even known, and right now, it's collapsing like empires inevitably do.

Posted by: Shingo1 | January 27, 2011 1:24 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: eoniii | January 27, 2011 12:22 AM

"The Chinese don't even pretend to be our friends. They think we're weak and dissolute, and they may be right judging from our leadership. Perceived weakness is always provocative to tyrants."

That might have something to do with the fact we've never pretended to be theirs. What we have shown then are decades of contempt we have shown towards them, as well a our insufferable arrogance.

Today, the world knows the US is a basket case. Some loved America, some resented America, some hated America and most envied America. Today, they just feel sorry for America.

Posted by: Shingo1 | January 27, 2011 1:47 AM | Report abuse

Jesus. Which freaking SOTU were you watching Jen ?

Posted by: polaris11 | January 27, 2011 11:40 AM | Report abuse

Shingo, your world view is so different from mine, delusional IMO, that there's hardly any ground for dialogue. You do express your point of view well. You may even be right about the decline of American power around the world, though IMO the root cause is fecklessness and fiscal irresponsibility rather than the over-extension of "empire". But you are wrong in that you fail to see the disastrous consequences of an America that no one fears. A China that dominates Asia and an Iran that dominates the Middle East would usher in a new Dark Age -- the 1930s and 1940s redux.

Posted by: eoniii | January 27, 2011 12:51 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: eoniii | January 27, 2011 12:51 PM
“A China that dominates Asia and an Iran that dominates the Middle East would usher in a new Dark Age -- the 1930s and 1940s redux.”

I appreciate your respectful repose eoniii, but I, and many others, have become a little bored with being told who to be afraid of by our governments. We heard this same rhetoric with regards to Vietnam (that the Communists would take over South East Asia), then we heard it with regards to the ever expanding Soviet threat, then we were told that Bin Laden had sophisticated, high tech underground bases dotted throughout Afghanistan and that he had a Cliphate ready to be unleashed, then we were told that Saddam was preparing to turn our cities into mushroom clouds.

As for Iran, they haven't invaded or occupied any other state in 270 years. Don't take my word for it, just take a step back and think about it.

Posted by: Shingo1 | January 27, 2011 5:47 PM | Report abuse

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