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Lukewarm reception of Obama's security strategy

by FarEasterner Sat May 29th, 2010 at 03:20:38 PM EST

On Thursday Obama's administration quietly and almost unnoticed released new national security strategy which reflects American perception of the world as it is and outlines priorities in American foreign policy.

As Foreign Policy noted this is not a strategy but rather a long speech printed on 52 pages. It took 1.5 year to prepare and by quick reading it has not changed much from previous version of 2003 though it does not include some points like Bush doctrine of pre-emptive strikes.


Nevertheless this is document which will be used for assessments of the administration's performance in the future. Let's see how high Obama's team set the planks. Not very high.

Bush 2.0?

After one and a half year in office the administration's priorities in foreign policy were made crystal clear and such lengthy documents arouse from interested wonks only yawns.

Foreign Policy: Obama's National Security Strategy: real change or just `Bush Lite?'

The roll-out of President Obama's National Security Strategy tries to frame the strategy as a repudiation of his predecessor's. But the reality is that the new strategy is best characterized as "Bush Lite", a slightly watered down but basically plausible remake of President Bush's National Security Strategy.

You can read analysis further which may be summed up as "people at the helm can change but interests of the country rarely". Why? As Guardian writes :

Since the end of the cold war, there has been a disturbing uniformity of opinion among liberal internationalist Democrats and Republicans alike on the nature of the threats facing the US (transnational and bad), the value of alliances (valuable and good) and the need for American "leadership" (essential).

It's regrettable that Obama's administration did not use opportunities to change their Middle Eastern and AfPak policies more radically. For example as I pointed out in my previous diary Obama's administration had lost first precious year in Afghanistan insisting on delay of elections then taking time to embark on massive military surge which is looking more and more like a swan song.

In the meantime the administration went on with semantic exercise renaming most odious Bush's policies like "war on terror" (which became "overseas contingency operations"), and pretending to repudiate others like "pre-emptive strikes". This linguistic time pass was reflected in dismal press coverage which the same author of Foreign Policy calls deserving "failing grade that borders on malpractice".

Collective writing

Why this document received such coverage? Maybe because it was fruit of collective writing, Guardian in the same article explains:

The national security strategy documents are .. written by committee, thereby reflecting the most watered down consensus that the bureaucracy can bear.

This is reflected in curious writing style of the strategy, especially concerning particular countries. For example take "Russian part":

Russia: We seek to build a stable, substantive, multidimensional relationship with Russia, based on mutual interests. The United States has an interest in a strong, peaceful, and prosperous Russia that respects international norms. As the two nations possessing the majority of the world's nuclear weapons, we are working together to advance nonproliferation, both by reducing our nuclear arsenals and by cooperating to ensure that other countries meet their international commitments to reducing the spread of nuclear weapons around the world. We will seek greater partnership with Russia in confronting violent extremism, especially in Afghanistan. We also will seek new trade and investment arrangements for increasing the prosperity of our peoples. We support efforts within Russia to promote the rule of law, accountable government, and universal values. While actively seeking Russia's cooperation to act as a responsible partner in Europe and Asia, we will support the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Russia's neighbors.

Verb "seek" was used several times and paragraph about Russia ends with promise of support of territorial integrity of Russia's neighbors (read Georgia and Ukraine). It seems obvious that the text has passed many people, each one adding a sentence or two or even word in order to change the meaning of phrase from positive to negative and vice-versa.

Instead of conclusion

Despite its numerous flaws I remain cautiously optimistic and would not give to the strategy "B-" grade as Foreign Policy did. It's not yet on junk level, it consists of some commendable aspirations especially regarding broader engagements with emerging powers and tackling third world long standing issues of security, poverty and development. So far there was modest progress only on nuclear disarmament front (START agreement with Russia, 2012 conference on nuclear free Middle East etc.), the administration needs to concentrate efforts and come up with new bolder initiatives in other areas outlined in the strategy.

by FarEasterner on Sat May 29th, 2010 at 04:23:56 PM EST
Yes, we got our dose of it too!

"Beware of the man who does not talk, and the dog that does not bark." Cheyenne
by maracatu on Sat May 29th, 2010 at 04:29:48 PM EST
Is Obama engaged in overall foreign policy assessment at all, or only on specific issues on an ad hoc basis when an initiative or a speech is required - e.g. Guantanamo, Torture, Nuclear disarmament, Afghanistan, Climate Change, Nobel prize?

I get the general impression that he has left foreign policy to Hillary who hasn't made much of a fist of it having had very little impact in Europe or the Middle East.

Presumably Hillary's Presidential ambitions are dead at this stage?

Frank's Home Page and Diary Index

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun May 30th, 2010 at 03:59:01 PM EST
oh no, he is very much engaged. only at this stage his priorities of course lie at home, this is emphasised in the document "Strong at home" that critics noted that the doctrine admits fiscal constrains.

My idea behind the diary was how little Washington changed under Obama. Considering his main message was of "change" I am not surprised this idea was not likable for Democrats and sympathisers. But serious discussion is needed why changes in American foreign policy were so mycroscopic.  

As for Clinton's ambitions there was some speculations that she's eyeing Biden's job:

CNN's Anderson Cooper 360Vice President Hillary Clinton?

Obama's been President and he's 99.9% likely to be the Democratic candidate in 2012.

Joe Biden hasn't distinguished himself - he hasn't hurt himself much, but he also hasn't been a standout either. As much respect and affection as I have for Joe, he doesn't add anything to a 2012 ticket ...

1) he doesn't add anything in an election where every advantage is needed, 2) he's got family health issues that are probably sapping his attention and energy, and 3) he's not going to be able to carry the torch in 2016.

What about Hillary?

First, who (after Obama) has more star power in the Democratic party than Hillary? Not Nancy Pelosi. Not Harry Reid. Hillary.

What if Sarah Palin is nominated on the GOP side? She'd automatically grab a lot of the women's vote.
Here we have some very compelling reasons for Hillary on the ticket. 1) she has star power, 2) she can bring excitement and loyalty back to the party, 3) she adds the women's vote element, 4) she has wide foreign policy experience, and 5) she could otherwise be a possible competitor.

Of course everyone and first of all Hillary would deny report has any basis, it's premature but seem to me plausible. I did not have chance see her speaking before she came to India when she gave some lengthy interviews to press electronic and printed. She seemed to me so unexciting person, so it was probably fair she lost primaries, however she may become good teammate under the others' leadership. She has some very good ideas, especially seem committed to eradication of poverty and women emancipation, I hope she gets chance to implement whatever she can, especially considering current fiscal and bureaucratic constrains.

by FarEasterner on Sun May 30th, 2010 at 04:21:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The suggestion that Hillary could be on Obama's ticket in 2012 is laughable.  If Obama didn't want her on it in 2008 when he needed all the support he could get, he's hardly going to put her on the ticket in 2012 when he will be running as an incumbent and won't face criticism for inexperience.

True, Biden doesn't seem an option for 2016, but VP's rarely make it to be President anyway, and I suspect any successful 2016 Dem candidate will have to distance himself from DC and the establishment no matter how well Obama does.

The idea that Hillary would take votes from Palin is also close to derisory.  They may both be women but that's about it as far as the overlap in their base goes.

If Obama does change his running mate for 2012 he will probably go for someone who touches  parts of the Democratic and independent base he himself can't reach - a southern blue dog Governor with a military background and a reputation for fiscal restraint or some such would be my guess.

Progressives will go ape shit but will vote for Obama anyway because the alternative would be Palin or some evangelical conservative business type...

Frank's Home Page and Diary Index

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun May 30th, 2010 at 04:49:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
whatever.. considering the gulf fiasco where his chances for reelection may if not drown then seriously dip. as I said before clinton does not seem to be very exciting personality as this article claims her to be so I would not be surprised at any outcome.

most likely everything will depend on day to day business and so far in my understanding clinton was doing pretty well at state department. she was not caught in any scandals, was not too much embarrassed as Biden in Israel, she tried to forge quite a few relationships-partnerships on international scene which will be useful for American diplomacy, so she scores good grades. this even iranians should admit, they have formidable foe in clinton.

by FarEasterner on Sun May 30th, 2010 at 05:04:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Totally off topic, but I thought you might be interested in this:

"Russia said last week that it was ready to assist in dialogue between China and the Dalai Lama"

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Wed Jun 2nd, 2010 at 02:52:09 PM EST
yea, I read this in the morning. In fact it's just last one of articles here in Asia speculating about the issue - it is extremely rare that Russia, staunch China's ally, officially comments on the Dalai Lama and twice in two weeks in parliament. Lavrov was pressed by lawmakers from national republics to clarify Russian position on Dalai's visa. There were reports that some Buddhist groups plan to sue Lavrov over refusal of visa, arguing that such refusal is infringement of their human rights to meet Dalai Lama.

Though Russian foreign ministry is within its rights to refuse visa to anyone without explanation I think Moscow feels awkwardly on the issue and it was reflected in Lavrov comments. His comments were ambigous enough and that caused intense speculation in Asian press on what he meant to say and how should be interpreted his offer to facilitate talks between Dharamsala and Beijing. Lavrov today 3 June should be in Beijing so we possibly learn a bit more about Russian intentions.  

by FarEasterner on Wed Jun 2nd, 2010 at 03:50:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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