Friday, November 14, 2008


Yglesias posts this morning that there is a faction of military leadership that likes the idea of withdrawing from Iraq because they prefer to gear up for a more conventional Russia or China scenario.

Matt has a wise take on this. Rather than focus on the military right now...
...we need to think about what our major priorities are on the international agenda — I would say stabilizing the world economy, combating climate change, curbing nuclear proliferation, eliminating al-Qaeda, and promoting peace and development in the poor world — and then think realistically about the military’s ability to contribute to advancing our agenda on those items relative to other modalities of national power.

During the Bush administration, the Pentagon civilian leadership has been nearly a complete mess (Rumsfeld, Feith, Wolfowitz -- all the spawn of Cheney). And for more than seven years, we have devoted so much time and energy to military matters that so far have yielded dubiously positive results (Taliban and al Qaeda resurgent in Afghanistan, Iraq's government still incapable of political stability and with no way to manage their own security needs, and Iran ever closer to having nuclear weapons), that it would be a blessing for President Obama to shift his priorities.

I see a massive diplomatic undertaking starting shortly after inauguration, with his Secretary of State (Hillary Clinton?) and her best underlings spanning the globe -- from Russia to China, from France and Germany and Britain to the Baltics and Belgrade and Baghdad, from Australia and Argentina to India and Indonesia -- to take the president's message to our allies and strategic partners that we are on a new mission to repair the damage of the last eight years (torture, rendition, treaty withdrawal, saber-rattling, Islamophobia) or at least to promise a new commitment towards talking first rather than shooting first. (Whew, long sentence!)

Re-brand the United States. Re-brand the presidency. Re-brand Americans. It is noteworthy to want to promote democracy around the world, but before that you have to promote peace. We have seen how force-feeding democracy worked so far in Iraq, and how it has failed to spread outside of Kabul to the warlord-run countryside of Afghanistan. Even in the seeming bright spots (Ukraine, and to some degree Pakistan) there is much to fret over. And I will not engage in debate with anyone over the disgusting bloodying of our own Constitution, but that's truly what we have exported.

Whenever the president-elect, or your Senators or Congressmen, makes moves in this direction, send a small contribution and a note of support to that politician. When they do something in the other direction, hold them accountable and empower them to consider differently. After all, they work for us.

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