Uh-oh. Looks like things are getting somewhat Ides-of-Marchy within the Obama administration. I think the coterie of Hillary Clinton supporters and enthusiasts have something to do with it. From today’s LA Times: “Those who want him to act more forcefully include not only Republicans but also liberal internationalists and some members of his staff [emphasis added].” I should say I’m pretty much on board with President Obama’s hesitations about using military force, which I would gloss as “Don’t use stupid actions to follow up on stupid policies.”
The US foreign policy establishment has come up with a series of stupid policies that it would like to get bailed out of with some showy military action. Case in point: the anti-Russian enthusiasts (Victoria, I’m lookin’ at you) in the State Department overreached with the Kyev coup, now Obama won’t back them up by threatening to employ the U.S. military to buck up the government and deter Russia.
2. Cry me a river
3. Thank God
Pretty much the same thing with Syria.
The United States contributed significantly to the catastrophe by listening to the regime-changers and backing the insurgents instead of considering some kind of accommodation with Assad. The death toll is at 150K and counting. Thank God Obama decided not to blow up the Middle East by bombing Syria and/or sending in troops in an attempt to rescue the faltering and increasingly radical and unpopular insurgency.
As for the pivot to Asia, Obama’s stance is pretty problematic. The pivot (by which I mean the US leading the China-containment effort, instead of simply participating in it) is premised on the idea that US military power is the trump card and the pivot rests on the foundation of a credible US deterrent i.e. a deterrent that the US will promptly deploy regardless of the geopolitical and economic consequences of f*cking with the PRC, a rather important regional power in a rather important region.
I’ve argued elsewhere that China containment is the wrong policy for Asia, and the US could do better for itself by playing the honest broker in a bilaterally-tilted engagement strategy instead of taking up the role of backup to Japan and the Philippines in an anti-PRC united front and basing US credibility on the idea that we’ll start World War III over a cluster of worthless islands. Unfortunately for President Obama he jumped into the pivot bed that Hillary Clinton and the neoliberal interventionists prepared for him, and he needs to declare that he will wield US military power precipitously, unfairly, and irrationally (like Nixon with his madman doctrine) if he wants to maintain his credibility as Pivoteer-in-Chief.
Sadly, I think the recent spate of articles questioning President Obama’s warmongering cred are simply another sign that he’s a lame duck. The reference to dissent within the administration concerning his restraint on military matters is simply another sign that the vaunted Obama message discipline is crumbling, and everybody’s waitin’ on Hillary.
Hillary, I think, will come into office eager to bomb something in order to re-establish US military cred and get on the (literally) right side of the liberal interventionalists and even the neo-cons. In other words, instead of questioning and modifying or even abandoning crappy policies (after all, the pivot is her baby), she will escalate, shifting the debate to the military sphere in which US military power is pre-eminent for the sake of holding the political initiative inside the Beltway and claiming the geopolitical initiative overseas.
Wonder who the symbolic (presumably helpless and easily demonized) victim will be? What country will be Hillary Clinton’s Granada?