Friday, August 28, 2015

Is there a peace candidate?

The invaluable Bob Parry demonstrates, once again, that our political culture has been so thoroughly neoconned that no candidate in either party can openly favor peace. Even Bernie Sanders, who voted against the Iraq misadventure, seems to have lost his way.
When Sanders has spoken about the Mideast, he has framed his comments in ways that make them acceptable to Official Washington but that ultimately make little sense. For instance, in an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, Sanders suggested that Saudi Arabia and other oil-rich sheikdoms replace the United States as the region’s policeman in the fight against Sunni terrorists in the Islamic State (also called ISIS).
Ridiculous. Saudi Arabia is one of the major backers of ISIS -- a fact of history seldom discussed out loud, but a fact nonetheless. The murderous behavior of the Saudis in Yemen demonstrates that King Salman has no interest in peace, justice, or international opinion.

Joe Biden once blurted out this unspeakable truth about Saudi Arabia. (Biden is one of this country's truly great blurters.)
“Our allies in the region were our largest problem in Syria … the Saudis, the emirates, etc., what were they doing? They were so determined to take down [President Bashar al-] Assad and essentially have a proxy Sunni-Shia war, what did they do? They poured hundreds of millions of dollars and tens of thousands of tons of military weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad, except the people who were being supplied were Al Nusra and Al Qaeda and the extremist elements of jihadis coming from other parts of the world.”
Whenever Biden emits one of his honesty farts, pundits mutter about the vice president's tendency to commit gaffes. Those "gaffes" are the main reason to welcome the idea of a Biden presidency. On the other hand, Hunter Biden's involvement in Ukrainian affairs is more than a little worrisome.

Parry does not mention the name of one candidate who might challenge the war consensus: Jim Webb.

Some aspects of Webb's foreign policy plan bother me -- especially point 4, which is is nothing more than a new way of sucking up to Israel. But his key point, the one that overshadows all others, comes at the end:
7. Congress must step up and restore its relationship with the executive branch.

Senator Webb identified a shift in war-making power from the Congress to the presidency. He drew on Libya and Iraq as examples of executive military maneuvers that bypassed legislative approval. In both cases, Webb felt that no vital national interest was at stake.
When the public applies pressure to Congress, Congress feels it. Right now and for the foreseeable future, the public does not want war.

In 2013, every "respectable" pundit was screaming for Obama to rain hellfire on Syria. Obama, boxed in and seeking a way out, hit upon a brilliant strategy: In a rare (and purely tactical) show of respect for the Constitution, he left the decision up to Congress. After the people of the United States made their feelings known, Congress had to shun Ares.

Although the administration made clear that the Great Syria Dodge was a one-time deal, Webb wants to transform 2013 into the new normal. He clarifies his foreign policy stance here:
However, there is an important caveat to how our country should fight international terrorism. The violation of this principle has caused us a lot of trouble in the recent past. I can do no better than to quote from an article I wrote on September 12th, 2001, the day after the 9 / 11 attacks. “DO NOT OCCUPY TERRITORY. The terrorist armies make no claim to be members of any nation-state. Similarly, it would be militarily and politically dangerous for our military to operate from permanent or semi-permanent bases, or to declare that we are defending specific pieces of terrain in the regions where the terrorist armies live and train. We already have terrain to defend – the United States and our outposts overseas – and we cannot afford to expand this territory in a manner that would simply give the enemy more targets.”

And finally, a warning spurred by the actions of this Administration in places such as Libya. There is no such thing as the right of any President to unilaterally decide to use force in combat operations based on such vague concepts as “humanitarian intervention.” If a treaty does not obligate us, if American forces are not under attack or under threat of imminent attack, if no Americans are at risk, the President should come to the congress before he or she sends troops into Harm’s Way.
Do these words mean that Webb deserves to be called "the peace candidate"? Many of you will say No.

My response: If Webb turns war into a congressional problem, peace will finally get a chance -- because Congress, for all of its many corruptions, must listen to the people. True, many Americans are easily fooled by propaganda. Many Americans are dumber than a rock that failed rock school. But even the more obtuse citizens of the United States understand that the Iraq misadventure cost trillions, and that our nation would now be far more prosperous if Dubya's disaster had never happened. Not all Americans love peace -- in fact, many Americans are bellicose boobs. But nobody wants to run up that kind of debt again.

Reagan adviser Martin Anderson used to say: "In politics, the question is always 'Compared to what?'" Compare Webb to Hillary Clinton, to Bernie Sanders, to Joe Biden. Compare Webb to anyone who participated in the Republican debate. Ask yourself: Which candidate is least likely to let the neocons dictate foreign policy?
"In politics, the question is always 'Compared to what?'"
-> In SCIENCE the question is always 'HOW related is it to WHAT?'
Different worlds, altogether
I wish Sanders foreign policy matched his domestic policy. I don't think we can ever expect Hillary to defy the neocons, since she seems to have become one of them. I don't know enough about Webb, but I doubt his chances. He doesn't seem very charismatic and I don't think many people even know who he is, let alone his policy stances. I just know I'll vote for whoever keeps someone like Trump (or any of the Republicans for that matter) out of office. I usually vote 3rd party, but things are getting so bad with the Republicans I don't think I could do so this time in good conscience.
I heard Webb in fox talking about the rights of working WHITE people. It seems the neocons is already dictating to him.
Good post Joe, spot on, but, even a guy like Webb will be crushed by the weight of the Empire's desires.
Full disclosure: I am a Bernie supporter, although I do find his campaign's relative inattention to foreign policy somewhat disconcerting.

That said, I actually think his stance on Saudi Arabia/ISIS is pretty sensible. Yes, the despicable Saudi regime played a major role in the creation ISIS and is committing innumerable horrors in its criminal war in Yemen- but how much of that is due to their confidence in the fact that the U.S. will take the lead in the ISIS fight while enabling their meddling in Yemen? The U.S. needs to remind the Saudis that they're the client state in this relationship, and we're sick of sending our young men and women to be killed and maimed to take out their regional rivals and clean up their messes (i.e. ISIS) while they use their own very expensive military to needlessly meddle in the internal politics of their neighbors.

Again, I would very much like to see Bernie beef up on FP and I won't be entirely comfortable with his position on this issue unless he elaborates and condemns the Saudi war in Yemen, but I don't find his current stance particularly objectionable.
Forgot to include this in my earlier comment, but you left out Lincoln Chafee, who opposed the Iraq War from the beginning, has called for the drone program to be scrapped, and has even suggested that we enter negotiations with ISIS. Although his nonexistent campaign infrastructure and nonentity status in the polls makes it unlikely he'll remain in the race past New Hampshire, I could certainly see myself supporting a Chafee candidacy if, by some miracle, he actually managed to make himself competitive. If not, he'd make a great SoS in a Sanders administration ;)
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