David Warsh loves him some economists. I enjoyed his ode to new growth theory, Knowledge and the Wealth of Nations: A Story of Economic Discovery, more than I enjoy the theory itself. DW would profit by spending a week here.
The main line of criticism of Obama from advocates of waging war against the Syrian regime, including Hillary Clinton and John McCain, is the U.S. failure to arm the anti-Assad/pro-American rebels. There is no reason to believe that insofar as such rebels exist, the U.S. could find them. As many have pointed out, supplying Syrian rebels is tantamount to supplying ISIS.
Belief in such an opposition is of a piece with delusions of limitless American power. We will be greeted as liberators anywhere we choose to go. We can bust a place up and we will always find friends waiting for us, as in Iraq, Libya, etc. etc. etc. Old folks will remember “Vietnamization.” Why doesn’t Hillary?
All is not well on Planet Hillary. Her wretched interview with Jeffrey Goldberg will not only alienate some of the more alert liberals. It will, or it should, also anger President Obama’s most fervent supporters. She’s doing him like Bill did Sister Souljah, twenty years ago this past June 13.
The most important thing in the interview is that HRC reveals dissatisfaction with President Obama’s disinclination to wage war against the murderous Syrian dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad. This recalls her early support for the disastrous invasion of Iraq. It was not a mistake; it’s who she is. Moreover, this decision is not a dead letter. Syria’s tribulations could very well persist with Senator Clinton in the White House. In fact, it could get worse if ISIS continues to strengthen its grip in both Iraq and Syria.
The 2016 Democratic primary contest will beg for a peace candidate, and HRC has disqualified herself from that role. She might not even win the election if she’s runs on a neocon-lite foreign policy. Voters deluded into thinking Obama has failed to exercise America’s overwhelming, actually overrated power in the world may opt for stronger stuff.
The condescending attack on Obama rests on a pseudo-intellectual footing. Obama’s stance — memorialized in his determination “not to do stupid stuff” — she describes as shallow:
“Great nations need organizing principles, and ‘Don’t do stupid stuff’ is not an organizing principle.”
Remind you of the primary campaign in 2008, does it?
So what are HRC’s great and grand organizing principles? These have yet to be revealed. Perhaps there is a secret plan. Or perhaps she is all bluster and ill-considered action, just like George W. Bush.
The other sore point in the interview is the utterly bull-headed, unambiguous support, not for Israel, which could be expected of any Democratic politician, but for the Full Maximum Bibi. All of the Israeli government’s lies about the run-up and conduct of their grotesque “Operation Protective Edge” are endorsed. These lies have been well explicated elsewhere by liberal Zionists Peter Beinart and John Judis.
Here as well is an implicit disparagement of Secretary of State Kerry’s feeble efforts to get this U.S. ally to be a little more solicitous of U.S. peacemaking efforts regarding Gaza. It’s almost as if Israel is giving us the privilege of subsidizing its war machine to the tune of about four percent of Israel’s GDP.
And finally, to add insult to bone-headedness, criticism of Israeli policy is likened by HRC to anti-Semitism. We have to wonder, are the liberal Zionist Israelis who demonstrate for peace and are assaulted in the street by right-wing goons, are they anti-Semites too?
We now have the odd case of an unambiguous imperialist-Zionist project, namely Kurdistan, that is an appealing alternative to what threatens it, namely the crazy-fascist so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). I previously linked to John Judis on the oil connection. Here’s background on the Kurds that I don’t necessarily endorse in all its details. I’m no expert. I do know the Kurds have been screwed multiple times over the decades, including by the U.S. Their national aspirations are legitimate, as far as I’m concerned. If they get rich from oil, good for them. If they make Exxon rich, who the hell cares. Exxon is already rich. If Turkey doesn’t like it, fuck Turkey.
The U.S. government always exaggerates the savagery of its target-of-the-month. Noriega and his cocaine that turned out to be tortilla powder. Saddam’s invading army knocking over baby incubators in Kuwait, but not really (a great Alex Cockburn exposé). Poor Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, winning those damn elections. In the case of ISIS, however, I have heard nobody offer any defense of them. If you want to give it a shot, be my guest. It’s kind of like discerning the moderate Nazis. No ISIS doesn’t threaten the world like Hitler, but it promises to cause a good deal of trouble in its own right. Invading Iraq to extirpate them looks hopeless. Keeping them out of Kurdistan seems doable. Rescuing the Yazidis on the mountain, I hope so. Perhaps some political progress in Baghdad would help, but I wouldn’t hang my hat on that as any sort of short-term remedy.
Some on the left will look foolish putting forth diplomacy and political reform in Iraq as an alternative. It is ill-suited to the real-time situation on the ground. Total U.S. abstention is morally unsatisfactory, even though the motives for intervention are always impure. Then there was some stupid shit about ISIS being a ploy of Israeli intelligence (no I’m not linking to it). A good example of how conspiracism is bad politics, in this case gratuitous anti-Zionism and a dumb distraction.
No daylight here between our next president and Bibi the Butcher. Her moral obtuseness is awe-inspiring. And she wishes Obama had jumped into Syria. So we’re in for a mixture of aggression, incoherence (help the Syrian opposition without somehow helping ISIS), and demagogy (accusing Israeli critics of anti-semitism).