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Category: Foreign Policy (page 1 of 7)

Getting Osama: What We Should Have Done In The First Place … But Republicans Wouldn’t Do

Osama Bin Laden’s demise came after President Barack Obama restored counter-terrorism operations to America’s top national security priority, reversing President George Bush’s decision — before and after the 9/11 attacks — to de-prioritize the effort to destroy Al Qaeda.
Bush may have coined the phrase “global war on terror,” but that was simply political cover for a strategic decision to prioritize “regime change,” overthrowing leaders of “rogue states” with unilateral military actions, over the multilateral pursuit of stateless terror organizations.
Bush’s decision was a costly one: in lives, in money and in moral authority.
Let’s review the record.
In his second term, President Bill Clinton furiously tried to take out Bin Laden, but was not taken seriously by Republicans. A failed missile attack was scorned as an attempt to shift attention away from the Monica Lewinsky scandal. And congressional Republicans helped <a href="block a series of Clinton-backed counter-terrorism measures.
In 2001, the Bush administration retained Clinton’s top counter-terrorism aide, Richard Clarke, then proceeded to ignore him. Clarke later recounted that while “Bill Clinton was obsessed with getting bin Laden,” the Bush team “thought I was a little crazy, a little obsessed with this little terrorist bin Laden. Why wasn’t I focused on Iraqi-sponsored terrorism?”
In the months before 9/11, the Bush administration and their conservative allies were pushing Congress to spend billions more on national missile defense. Democrats repeatedly countered that our primary national security threats came from nuclear and biological weapons smuggled in suitcases by terrorists, not missiles from dictators.
The Bush administration response, argued right up until the 9/11 attacks, was that we already spend enough on counter-terrorism. On September 9, 2001, then-Defense Sec. Donald Rumsfeld rebutted calls to increase counter-terrorism funds instead of missile defense by saying, “the United States spends so much money…on terrorists. We spend a $11 billion trying to deal with terrorism and force protection.”
After 9/11, the Bush administration did not seriously recalibrate its national security strategy. Instead of organizing a broad multilateral response to extinguish Al Qaeda, President Bush only chased Al Qaeda out of Afghanistan. Osama Bin Laden was able to escape at Tora Bora because Bush outsourced to job to unreliable Afghan warlords.
No matter. The Bush administration soon returned to its Iraq obsession and held back from aggressively pursuing Bin Laden.
The Pakistan government, then led by military dictatorship, refused to allow American military forces cross the border. The Bush administration acquiesced.
In 2005, an operation to capture Al Qaeda’s second-in-command is aborted in deference to Pakistan leaders. In 2006, President Bush literally blesses a “peace deal” between the Pakistan government and tribal militants that support Al Qaeda, and further argues that hunting Al Qaeda is “not a top priority use of American resources.” In 2007, top Bush adviser Karl Rove defended the policy by saying:

The United States has concerns about taking unilateral action in a sovereign nation without their approval, and uh, so this has always been the difficulty we have with, uh — unless, of course it’s Saddam Hussein.

Meanwhile, thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars were lost on the invasion and occupation of Iraq, which was sold to the public as a battlefront in the “global war on terror” but had nothing to do with terrorism at all.
And according to official Army historians, the Bush administration failed to plan for its Afghan military effort, and then starved it by diverting military resources to Iraq.
The failed conservative national security strategy has left President Obama with an enormous mess to clean up. Good people can argue whether he is extricating America out of Afghanistan fast enough, but I think the record is clear that he knows how draining an overly extended stay would be in dollars and lives.
More importantly, President Obama made a strategic decision to prioritize the dismantling of Al Qaeda’s leadership, and to act even if Pakistan wouldn’t.
His pledge to do so in the presidential campaign was mocked by conservatives at the time. But the successful Bin Laden operation shows that an effective counter-terrorism strategy need not alienate allies, require jingoistic rhetoric, costs hundreds of billions of dollars or end the lives of thousands of innocents. The globe’s most wanted terrorist organization leader was felled by diligent intelligence gathering, thoughtful military planning and small strike force.
Similarly, Egypt’s dictator was ousted, and the cause of democracy was advanced, by non-violent protests alongside strategic, skilled diplomacy. Neither a full-blown unilateral military invasion or a costly military occupation was required.
For America to be fiscally sound and economically prosperous over the long haul, we can no longer allow rhetorical bombast to mask dangerous foreign policy adventures that worsen our national security and waste taxpayer funds.
We have experienced two contrasting foreign policy visions. One was a bust. The other has had clear successes in only two years time.
Let’s stick with what’s working.

The Five Ways President Obama Ushered In Egyptian Democracy

President Barack does not deserve the primary credit for the Egyptian revolution, that goes to the Egyptian people. But President Obama made five critical strategic choices that maximized the possibility of success, which also show how dramatically his administration has changed American foreign policy.
1. No Support For Crackdown.
President Obama did not communicate to Mubarak that a brutal crackdown would be tolerated, such as when the first Bush administration told the Chinese government that how it handled the Tiananmen Square uprising was ultimately an “internal affair,” or when the second Bush administration defended Pakistan’s dictator as someone who “hasn’t crossed the line” after he declared emergency rule and jailed thousands of political opponents.
Mubarak clearly knew he did not have the same latitude to break the protests that past American-backed dictators possessed, and an overwhelming use of force was never tried.
2. Did Not Allow Uprising To Be Seen As Co-Opted By America.
Obama stuck to support of democracy and free assembly, without crudely picking sides in the confrontation. While the President took a lot of heat for not embracing the protests quickly enough or explicitly enough, his restraint ensured that the world accepted the protests as the authentic voice of the Egyptian people.
Muburak allies tried to paint the revolutionaries as under foreign influence. Obama did not give them enough to work with.
3. Did Not Presume America Has More Influence Than It Does Or Should.
The President never made the mistake of delivering ultimatums it could not enforce, which not only would have violated the principle of respecting the sovereignty of the Egyptian people, but also would have diminished American stature if those ultimatums were rebuffed.
4. Did Not Drop Any Bombs On Egypt.
Neoconservatives often argued that the best way to spark a democratic uprising in a country run by an authoritarian regime is to bomb that nation. I suppose they could claim that Iraq eventually got there, but only after hundreds of thousands dead, years of sectarian violence, then eventually rediscovering diplomacy (and talking to a broad range of people and parties).
The Egyptian way is shaping up to be far superior, as more Egyptians will be alive to enjoy their democracy.
5. Signaled America Would Engage All Opposition Parties.
This move was the President at his most politically courageous and most politically powerful.
While conservatives attacked Obama for not trying to disbar the Muslim Brotherhood from participating in any future government, the President repeatedly assured Egypt that America would engage with all parties.
In the President’s first statement on the protests, he said: “we are committed to working with the Egyptian government and the Egyptian people — all quarters — to achieve it.”
In his second statement, outlining principles for democratic transition, he said, “the process must include a broad spectrum of Egyptian voices and opposition parties.”
As I once wrote in my book, in the chapter explaining how we can promote “credible democracy”:

When America deals with another country, instead of only talking to the people in power or to a single opposition party, we should deal with groups representing all peoples and parties representing all ideologies in that country. That way it will be evident that America is not trying to dictate who is in power in other countries for its own ends, but that we are willing to work with whomever sovereign peoples choose to represent them, now or in the future.

Such an approach is ripe for cheap conservative attacks, because to apply it in the Muslim world means engaging with Islamic political parties with which we disagree on much. But engagement is far better than isolation, which gives terrorist organizations the opportunity to claim they offer the only path towards political relevance and empowerment.
As the President’s intelligence director said yesterday: “With respect to what’s going on in Egypt, I think this is truly a tectonic event. There [is] potentially a great opportunity here to come up with a counternarrative to Al Qaeda and its franchises and what it is espousing.”
The President’s team sees the rise of credible democracy in the world’s largest Arab nation as critical to extinguishing the threat of terrorism by radical Islamists, and properly prioritized that goal ahead succumbing to the myopia of pursuing narrow self-interests in the short-term. That is a major change in America foreign policy and a clear break from the previous President.
Obama has rejected the neoconservative foreign policy belief in imposing phony democracy at the point of the gun, and instead embraced the liberal foreign policy belief of promoting credible democracy through strategic diplomacy.
And the world is better off for it.

Obama, Russia and Nuclear Weapons

If you had your eyes glued to the TV and you were taking notes, you probably still missed it. The mainstream media seemed not to want to cover any substantive discussions about President Obama, Russia and loose nuclear weapons. I must admit, I did not even think about loose nuclear weapons. Currently, I’m reading Ron Suskind’s book, The Way of the World, which discusses an incident in 2006, in which Georgian officials capture a two-bit criminal who is smuggling uranium!
Smuggling uranium? One of the things that the Bush administration talked about (all the time) was weapons of mass destruction. We had to keep weapons of mass destruction out of the hands of Al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations. In 2002, “I don’t have any doubt that al Qaeda was pursuing nuclear, biological and chemical warfare capabilities. It’s not our judgment at the moment that they were that far along, but I have no doubt that they were seeking to do so.” This is what U.S. Undersecretary of State John Bolton told CNN. What did the Bush administration do to secure loose nuclear weapons, especially in the former Soviet republic? I know, search your databanks. I couldn’t think of anything either.

In January 2008, Sam Nunn, Henry Kissinger, George Schultz and William Perry wrote an Op-Ed in the WSJ which stated, “In October 2007, we convened veterans of the past six administrations, along with a number of other experts on nuclear issues, for a conference at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. There was general agreement about the importance of the vision of a world free of nuclear weapons as a guide to our thinking about nuclear policies, and about the importance of a series of steps that will pull us back from the nuclear precipice. The U.S. and Russia, which possess close to 95% of the world’s nuclear warheads, have a special responsibility, obligation and experience to demonstrate leadership, but other nations must join.” This is especially nice since Kissinger et al., were the ones that promoted the arms race three or four decades ago. But, the reasoning behind their recommendation is now becoming very clear. We can’t control every kilo of nuclear material. There is a bipartisan agreement in Congress to get rid of nuclear weapons.

Now for some more bone chilling realism. Where in Georgia did this uranium come from? South Ossetia. If that doesn’t sound familiar, it should. This was the region wanting to break away from Georgia during the 2008 presidential campaign. Remember John McCain declaring, “We are all Georgians now.”
South Ossetia is no bigger than Long Island. Yet in 2003, Georgian border guards caught another smuggler with 200 grams of weapons grade uranium. Now this is what bothers me. These are the two-bit criminals. We know that Russia has huge crime syndicates that are run by Al Capone types. If these nobodies can get their hands on weapons grade uranium then you know the big bosses sure can get their hands on whatever they want. Al Qaeda just needs to name the price and dirty bombs are going to be set off in a city near you. By the way, are the Georgia border guards better or worse than our American border guards? Because we know we only catch a fraction of the drugs that come into this country. Does Georgia just catch a fraction of the uranium is leaving their country?
In my opinion, President Obama set down and spoke with the Russian President Medvedev about these, loose nukes. This had to have been their number one priority. We cannot be serious about trying to stop the next terrorist attack without securing nuclear weapons. Forget the photo ops, the smiles and handshakes. If we can not secure nuclear weapons, none of that matters.

Hillary, It is Time to be Great!

Eight years ago, when many in the US thought that it really didn’t matter who was president and that the country could run on automatic pilot, George Bush was elected president. At the time, he was thought to have had the greatest foreign-policy team of all time. Colin Powell. Dick Cheney. Condoleezza Rice. Incredible credentials. Yet, over the last eight years, to describe President Bush’s foreign-policy as being a disaster is simply being kind. He’s made little or no progress in the Middle East. As a matter of fact, some may suggest that is actually taken the peace process backwards 5-10 years.
On January 20, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have to hit the ground running. The lack of American leadership is palpable in the world. Israel has pounded the Gaza Strip for the last four days. Israel did this in retaliation to multiple rocket attacks into southern Israel from the Gaza Strip. This is a typical scenario. Israel takes a pounding then it disproportionately retaliates. The retaliation causes an international outcry. Sometime thereafter Israel stops the offensive and we go back to square one. Soon to be Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has to break the cycle. {font-size:11px; font-family:Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; color: #999; margin-top: 5px; background: transparent; text-align: center; width: 425px;} .msnbcLinks a {text-decoration:none !important; border-bottom: 1px dotted #999 !important; font-weight:normal !important; height: 13px;} .msnbcLinks a:link, .msnbcLinks a:visited {color: #5799db !important;} .msnbcLinks a:hover, .msnbcLinks a:active {color:#CC0000 !important;}

Personally, I think it is important that we support Israel. On the other hand, the Palestinians are living in abhorrent conditions. Their living standard must be raised. If you have something to live for, then you are less likely to want to turn yourself into a human bomb. Hillary Clinton must find a balance that has escaped George H. W. Bush, Jimmy Carter and her husband, Bill Clinton. She must find a way to get all the parties involved to begin to discuss the problem and to find a solution. This would include Syria, Jordan, Egypt and Lebanon. (Some of these Arab countries have treated the Palestinians like unwanted stepchildren.)

From political standpoint, this is a huge time bomb. If Barack Obama spends a lot of political capital early in his presidency on trying to fix the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and can’t find a solution then that will hurt some of his domestic agenda. On the other hand, we have seen what eight years of neglect will do. On the surface, this seems to be a lose-lose proposition. But, being an optimist, I think that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton will need to balance this with the many all the crises around the world. We do need to defeat Al Qaeda. We do need to do better in Afghanistan and make it a functioning nation. We need to help Pakistan, not only in its relationship to India, but also in its relationship to Afghanistan. We need to get out of Iraq. We need to develop a presence in Africa. We need to support and bolster Africa’s attempt to try to control some of its violence with in its own continent (the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Darfur for come to mind). As a nation, we must not ignore the problems of South America and Central America. The growing challenges of Asia which include the vulnerability of some Asian countries to Al Qaeda may be as daunting as any challenge that I’ve yet mentioned. I have to make a special mention of North Korea since it was an original member of the axis of evil.

If history tells us anything, it shows us 2 paths which have not led to a settlement of this long conflict. The first path, was taken by President Clinton which was to wait to the end of his presidency than the throw his whole weight behind the peace process. He was a lame duck and because of that could not get an agreement. Then there is the President Bush way — ignore the problem and hope it will go away. This didn’t work either. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton must choose a different path. It is time for Hillary Clinton to be great.

Samantha Power should be considered for post

In a particularly pointless article, the Washington Post notes that Samantha Power “is listed on Obama’s transition website as part of the team reviewing national security agencies.” Really? Samantha Power is an especially gifted woman. As a journalist and war correspondent she covered wars in the former Yugoslavia and has reported from Sudan, East Timor, Rwanda and Zimbabwe. She is the Anna Lindh Professor of Practice of Global Leadership and Public Policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. I had the pleasure of listening to Professor Power speak at Netroots Nation this summer. She thoughtfully discussed how we needed to get out of Iraq while we try to ameliorate any human rights issues. In spite of pushback from the audience, she held her ground and clearly stated her opposition, policy which we should have. We need to get out of Iraq as expeditiously as possible while protecting the citizen population. This is a no-brainer.
In the age of forgiving Joe Lieberman for his multiple sins and inviting Hillary Clinton, former blood thirsty rival, to run the State Department, it seems only fitting that Professor Samantha Power is in the mix. Back in March she described Senator Clinton as a “monster” and “the amount of deceit that she has put forward is really unattractive.” When you compare this to what Joe Lieberman said about President-elect Barack Obama, what she said is meaningless. Besides that, she was 100% accurate.
Barack Obama appears to be seeking the best and the brightest. This means that in any discussion about the State Department and foreign policy should include a possible post for Samantha Power. She is one of the best of brightest progressives Americans. Winning a Pulitzer Prize for her book entitled A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide doesn’t hurt.

News round up

Monday evening news Roundup

  • For the second straight day, let’s start overseas. North Korea is miffed that the United States has not lived up to their obligations in the nuclear nonproliferation Treaty, according to North Korea. It appears that they are beginning to start up their nuclear reactor, again.
  • Record jump in oil prices today as if we don’t have enough to worry about.
  • Wall Street seems to be having a difficult time figuring out what Congress is doing, just as I am. The Dow lost 372 points today.
  • An Iraqi top official testified in front of the Senate today. The former chief inspector of Iraq’s Commission on Public Integrity told US senators that approximately $9 billion of American reconstruction money had been lost, stolen or misused. $9 billion. That’s one third of a Bear Stearns bail out.
  • The New York Times had a large article on Senator John McCain’s campaign manager, Rick Davis. McCain with Freddie and Fannie lobby group Rick Davis received approximately $30,000 per month for five years as a president of an advocacy group for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Senator McCain has been hammering Barack Obama on his ties with these loan agencies. The McCain campaign cried foul. They began whining that the New York Times is partial to Barack Obama. Then again, they’ve been whining on a variety of subjects recently. They just aren’t being treated fairly. The New York Times responded with an official statement.
  • Details of the $700 billion loan bailout are slowly emerging. Questions about McCain and his economic decisions are bubbling to the surface. Did he almost bankrupt Arizona with his electric cars? BTW, as long as, we are talking about this bailout, we know that President Bush loves corporate insiders. Well, where did Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson come from? Goldman Sachs. He was the former chairman who received $38 million as chairman in 2005. Sweet package. He has surrounded himself with Goldman Sachs ex-employees. Who stands to gain from this corporate bailout? Not Goldman Sachs. Never.
  • The final game of the regular season has been played in Yankee Stadium. I’m not a New York Yankees fan. On the other hand, I do appreciate the history and the significance of Yankee Stadium. The House that Ruth built will be torn down. If it wasn’t so big, it should be made into a museum. The new Yankee Stadium was built across the street and will be ready for the New York Yankee home opener in April of 2009.
  • Congratulations to Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart!!!

It Was 3 A.M., And We Were Asleep

The Politico rightly called the outbreak of war between Russia and Georgia a real “3 A.M.” moment for Obama and McCain. In the case of McCain, it proved him to be reckless and rash, simplistic and belligerent — “much worse” than Bush, declared Talking Points Memo.
This is no surprise to me. His deep neocon sensibilities are why three years ago I called McCain “the most dangerous man in America.”
But it was also a “3 A.M.” moment for the broader liberal movement. And I am sad to say that we failed.
Despite the shattered credibility of the neocon community, in this crisis neocons have still proved able to pounce in a foreign policy crisis, frame a situation in the crudest of terms, shape media coverage and misinform the public: Georgia, the pro-Western (our team!) defender of freedom and “territorial integrity,” Russia, the “dictatorial and aggressive and fanatical” imperialist power (not our team!).
Pick your side, crush the other, dismiss complexities and consequences — an approach that has worked so well these past eight years.
While we on the left (including myself) were collectively slow to react, slow to offer deep context and message framing that would get ahead of neocon media rush.
And now we are once again in the humiliating position of reacting to gibberish, forced to make defensive arguments why more saber-rattling bluster and demonization of adversaries is unhelpful to freedom and stability.
Oh, there are voices out there doing good work. Here’s just a sampling:
Moderate realist (not technically “left”) Steve Clemons at the Washington Note:

When Kosovo declared independence [in February] and the US and other European states recognized it — thus sidestepping Russia’s veto in the United Nations Security Council — many of us believed that the price for Russian cooperation in other major global problems just went much higher and that the chance of a clash over Georgia’s breakaway border provinces increased dramatically.
By pushing Kosovo the way the US did and aggravating nationalist sensitivities, Russia could in reaction be rationally expected to further integrate and cultivate South Ossetia and Abkhazia under de facto Russian control and pull these provinces that border Russia away from the state of Georgia.
At the time, there was word from senior level sources that Russia had asked the US to stretch an independence process for Kosovo over a longer stretch of time — and tie to it some process of independence for the two autonomous Georgia provinces. In exchange, Russia would not veto the creation of a new state of Kosovo at the Security Council. The U.S. rejected Russia’s secret entreaties and instead rushed recognition of Kosovo and said damn the consequences.
Now thousands are dead. The fact is that a combination of American recklessness, serious miscalculation and over-reach by Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, as well as Russia’s forceful reassertion of its regional national interests and status as an oil and gas rich, tough international player means America and Europe have yet again helped generate a crisis that tests US global credibility.

Matthew Yglesias:

This highlights, I think, some of the limits of the kind of bluff-and-bluster approach to foreign policy that seems popular among conservatives these days. Or, rather, it highlights the fact that popular as bluster-based policymaking is on the American right it can have some extremely high costs and that, tragically, a large proportion of those costs can wind up being borne by the people who were nominally supposed to be the beneficiaries.

Lawyers, Guns and Money:

…I am less sympathetic to the Georgian case because I think that escalating the war (and providing an excuse for Russian counter-escalation) was a damn stupid thing for Saakashvili to do, and a remarkably damn stupid thing for him to do absent an extremely compelling cause. Small, weak states living next to abrasive, unpredictable great powers need to be extremely careful about what they do; in most cases, their foreign policy should, first and foremost, be about avoiding war with the great power. This is what Saakashvili failed to do. The war didn’t need to escalate; it was a Georgian decision to move from the village skirmishes that were happening on Tuesday to the siege of Tsikhinvali on Thursday.
I understand that there can be a bit of “blaming the victim” to this analysis. Russia has consistently pursued imperial aims in its Near Abroad (so does every great power, including the US) and has treated Georgia badly, with a succession of threats, boycotts, and efforts to promote the secessionist forces which are causing the trouble today. Georgia had every right to seek NATO membership in order to limit Russian efforts (although NATO had every right to turn Georgia down). Russia has been a bad actor, but it was nevertheless a terrible and unnecessary mistake to pick a fight with Russia over South Ossetia, not least because the balance of perfidy on South Ossetia is uncertain. This is why I’m unsympathetic to Saakashvili and to his claims that Georgia is fighting for freedom against tyranny. For example, I think that the Taiwanese would be considerably more justified in a declaration of independence from the PRC [China], but such a declaration would still be reckless, and would leave me less sympathetic to Taiwanese calls for aid.
The United States also bears some responsibility. US rhetorical and material support for Georgia may have given the Georgians unrealistic expectations about likely US behavior in a Russia-Georgia confrontation. Specifically, anything other than “we will not support you in any way or under any circumstances” might have led to the Georgians having the wrong idea.

The Agonist:

Vital versus just ‘interests’? I think this really should be the main question the establishment elite guardians of our foreign policy discourse should be asking themselves: do we have any vital interests at stake in Georgia and should Georgia be a part of NATO?
You all know my answer. No, to both.
Now, I am not saying the BTC [Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline] isn’t important to our interests. Like it or not, folks, we need oil. But I just don’t see BTC rising to the level of vital strategic interests for us. And I don’t see any vital interests effected by Russian support of the annexation or independence of South Ossetia or Abkhazia, just as I saw no vital interests at stake in Kosovo, or our intervention in the Balkans writ large. This is not, I repeat, not to say there aren’t any interests involved, just none that are vital, worth going to war over. The Russians realized this in Kosovo and we should have the common sense to realize the same thing in Georgia. It’s not our neighborhood so just leave it be.

I would also recommend following Newshoggers, American Footprints and Foreign Policy Watch among others.
And MSNBC’s Countdown (the liberal oasis of cable TV) tonight offered great insights from former Bush National Security Council official Flynt Leverett and Air America host Rachel Maddow. (See video below)
So we had more relatively quick insight on the periphery of the discourse than usual. And we have a growing stable of voices that we can turn to in times of crisis.
But our liberal community was slow to turn to and elevate those voices.
And while many of those voices were knowledgeable and offered better understanding of the underlying issues, they were not as suited to succinctly framing those issues for broader media consumption — the way the John Boltons of the world have excelled at doing.
In turn, neocon frames dominated the early coverage. Which is not just a political loss for us, it’s a substantive loss for an informed electorate, thoughtful foreign policy and well-functioning democracy.
No matter what happens in November — especially if Obama wins in November — we are going to have to get better at this, for the sake of national security and global stability.

The LiberalOasis Radio Show: Blood and Oil Edition

Today at 10 AM ET, The LiberalOasis Radio Show was broadcast on WHMP-AM in Western MA. My special guesst for the full show was Michael Klare and Scott Morris, discussing their new documentary from the Media Education Foundation, “Blood and Oil”.
Klare is the author of the book “Blood and Oil” and the new “Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet.. He is also the defense correspondent for The Nation. Morris produced the film for the Media Education Foundation.
The audio podcast for the show is here: (iTunes / XML feed / MP3). NOTE: All technical problems with iTunes downloads should be fixed, please let me know if you still have problems.
The DVD of “Blood and Oil” can be purchased from MEF. And you can check out the trailer below.


I suspect the McCain campaign really believes Sen. Barack Obama is an inexperienced empty suit who is only good in front of a teleprompter. It’s the only explanation for their foolish strategy.
As said here before, making “experience” your main theme is a proven loser in presidential campaigns. Voters ultimately care more about where a candidate will take the country than the length of the candidate’s resume.
But the McCain campaign made an extra error: believing the conservative hype that Obama is hollow.
The McCain campaign tried to mock Obama for not knowing anything about foreign policy by offering to have McCain lead him around Iraq.

Obama essentially called the bluff:
arranging a high-stakes multi-country trip, where he can hold court on foreign policy, display his knowledge and provide assurance to undecided voters that he can command the world stage.
It’s much harder to make the charge stick that a candidate is in over his head when you just saw him navigate the currents.
Now the trip isn’t over yet, and the visits to Israel and Palestine will be the trickiest visits of all. A high-profile mistake by Obama (and even the best politicians can make a mistake in those treacherous political waters) would justify the McCain approach.

But the McCain campaign effectively ceded control
of the argument to Obama. They didn’t respect his skills and believed he would fumble.
Not smart.

Such is the risk of underestimating your opponent.
You presume he can’t handle a challenge, you sit back believing he will fail, and he ends up showing you up.
If they were paying closer attention during the primary season, objectively assessed their rival, they wouldn’t have levied such an attack.

Debate Gets Elevated

On MSNBC a few minutes ago, Obama foreign policy adviser Susan Rice just called McCain to task for not recognizing that Ahmadinejad isn’t actually the leader of Iran — a key point that LiberalOasis has long said should be central to reframing the Iran debate.
For too long, we have presumed that we must dumb down the debate in order to win. It will be a seismic shift in our politics if we can win by elevating the debate, introducing “new” information and better informing the electorate.
UPDATE: Huffington Post just put up the video of McCain wrongly characterizing Ahmadinejad’s role in Iran during a press conference exchange yesterday with Time’s Joe Klein:

KLEIN: Also checked, also checked with the Obama campaign and he never, he’s never sai — mentioned Ahmadinejad directly by name. He did say he would negotiate with the leaders, but as you know – Ayatollah,
MCCAIN: (Laughing) Ahmadinejad is, was the leader.
KLEIN: But if –
MCCAIN: Maybe I’m mistaken.
KLEIN: Maybe you are…


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