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The entire opinion pages of the New York Times for tomorrow form a circular firing squad on Obama's foreign policy, or alleged lack thereof. Obama's foreign policy, as all acknowledge, is significantly better than Bush's. On the other hand, the world is breaking up into a multipolar world instead of the Pax Americana that we inherited with the collapse of Communism.

The editorial board states that while Obama's foreign policy can be frustratingly cautions, he is doing a better job than his detractors allow.They give a detailed rundown on the successes and failures of his foreign policy. In the meantime, colleges can be too great of an unequalizer for Ross Douthat, instead of being an equalizer that creates opportunity for all. One of the reasons we beat the USSR to the moon was because we poured in record investment in education, which trained our kids in math and science and which got us to the moon.

Frank Bruni says that there has been a change in the eternal optimism that this country once had. Five years of perpetual warfare -- a policy that Cassandras like the UK's Robin Cook and George Galloway and a younger Barack Obama warned against -- can do that. But Obama's solution was to invest six more years into perpetual warfare in Afghanistan. And as Maureen Dowd says in her column, 42 and 45 are overpowering 44; after all, Obama was being too much of a singles hitter. Never mind that Bill Clinton settled for a single on Iraq and his containment policy was working, since Iraq's military was half as strong as it was before the First Gulf War, as Cook noted in his speech denouncing the leadup to Iraq.

Tom Friedman, who was burned by supporting Iraq, is the most charitable to Obama.

But where our allies are either too few or too divided — Libya, Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq — it requires a much deeper and longer U.S. involvement on the ground to midwife a new order than most Americans will tolerate. And to pretend that we can intervene on the cheap or just from the air is nonsense (look at Libya) and to pretend that Obama’s wariness is just because he’s a sissy community organizer is also nonsense.

Most presidents make their name in foreign policy by taking on strong enemies; but most of what threatens global stability today are crumbling states. Exactly how many can we rescue at one time? I’d love to help Ukrainian reformers build a functioning democracy, but the reason that is so daunting a task is because their own politicians wasted two decades looting their own country, so the leverage required to foster change — $30 billion in bailout funds — is now massive.

The old Cold War strategy of containment is no longer applicable; the Soviet Union is no more. There is a power vacuum in our foreign policy, seeing that the Neocon doctrine of preemptive warfare, occupations, and regime change turned out to cost too many resources to sustain. On top of that, Bush tried to have it both ways by passing a massive tax cut even as he was pursuing his policy of perpetual warfare.

I submit that we need a new foreign policy based on internationalism, international cooperation, and warfare as a last resort. For all the hysteria over Putin, Russia is not a clear and present danger to this country. First of all, we should set clear boundaries -- the red line that we drew over NATO allies is totally appropriate. Secondly of all, we should work for some sort of a compromise over Ukraine -- something that will not please everyone, but will offer all sides a way out if they want it. Thirdly of all, we should focus on what unites us, rather than what divides us.

We need to compromise on Ukraine. The Geneva agreement that was signed on April 17th was merely meant to be a patchwork until something more firm could take place. This is a solution that should be, as both the US and Russia agree, up to the Ukrainian people. Here is one possible solution as an example -- All sides cease violence and Ukraine holds their Presidential elections as scheduled on May 25th. Ukraine investigates and prosecutes those responsible on both sides for the mob violence that took place in Odessa. The new President is given six months to facilitate national dialogue with the East and South of the country, create national unity, and initiate bilateral talks with Russia. At the end of six months, elections held in Donetsk and Lugansk provinces with the three following questions -- Independence, Union with Russia, or continuing with Ukraine. Ukraine creates a decentralized system in which each province selects its own leaders rather than the present policy of the government picking the leaders.

There is strong grassroots support for the pro-Russian movement facilitated by Russian special forces and foreign militants. However, these people are not in the majority, according to the polls that I have seen. Therefore, the Ukrainian government and the West have nothing to fear from such a referendum. But even if the outcome is not something they would like to have, it is obligatory for Ukraine to have such a referendum to settle the question once and for all. For Ukraine to refuse to hold elections in Donetsk and Lugansk is similar to what we did in Vietnam, when we refused to hold elections that were certain to put Ho Chi Minh in power. That was a catastrophic decision that set in motion events that led to the Vietnam War. It is not democratic when there is only one acceptable outcome of an election.

Once we have created a peaceful future for all the Ukrainian people, we have a chance to develop an ethic that is based on international cooperation, rather than trying to use the UN as a tool to assert US hegemony. The Security Council is meant to be there when there is a clear and present danger to world peace and security. The only way it will work is if the US, Russia, and China sit down, put their differences aside, and cooperate to address serious problems around the world. We won World War II because we were able to put our differences with Stalin aside in the name of cooperation and defeating Hitler and his allies. We have too many mutual interests, such as terrorism, climate change, and stopping the proliferation of nuclear weapons to continue the Cold War mentality and spying that has deteriorated our relations with other countries. Boko Haram would be a good place to start.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Thanks for this informative overview ET. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Eternal Hope, PatriciaVa, buffie

    "Seriously, Folks, WTH?" - ("What the Heck? "h/t Joan McCarter, Seriously, Florida. WTF?)

    by HoundDog on Sat May 03, 2014 at 06:30:17 PM PDT

  •  The American people, however, (11+ / 0-)

    in poll after poll, dont want keep pouring their limbs and their money into 'internationalism.' Becuase the return on investment is rather shitty. We should welcome this development as the silver lining of our foreign adventures in this new century.

    I worry little about how events in obscure corners of the world affect some small, regional interest of some very wealthy multinational corporations. Weve got too many of our own problems to keep getting involved in shit that has nothing to do with us.

    The time of 'bear any burden' was for a nation that was internally strong, unified,  and prosperous. Until such a new time comes about, im all for 'bear no burden.'

    So much as President Obama keeps us out of costly conflicts and ridiculous quagmires, he has done his job well.

    •  Incremental defense expenditures should be... (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Jay C, AlexDrew, brooklynbadboy, buffie

      ..focused on Southeast Asia.

      The military pact that President Obama agreed to with the Philippines this week is but the start.

      Contain China, not Russia.

      If Germany doesn't perceive Russia as a threat, neither should we.

      Learn about Centrist Economics, learn about Robert Rubin's Hamilton Project. www.hamiltonproject.org

      by PatriciaVa on Sat May 03, 2014 at 06:39:26 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  If there is to be a major conflict with a foreign (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        marsanges, PatriciaVa

        power, it is likely to be China or possibly North Korea. Our security interests there are extensive, considering at some point we will have to redefine our trade relationship with China to their detriment. So it is wise for us to decrease our focus on land wars in Europe, covert wars in the Middle East, our mindless obsession with Israel's security issues, and put the focus where it belongs..East Asia.

        Id be all for shifting Defense resources away from the Special Forces, Air Force and the Army, to the Marine Corps and Navy. No more carriers, more subs and missle destroyers. More Naval rapid deployment capability. And a shitload more drones.We could do all that at much less cost than what we spend now on fighting the last century's wars.

        •  It depends on what you mean. (0+ / 0-)

          I don't mean the sort of internationalism where you try and dictate to the other side like we are right now. Or the kind where you create a nuclear arms race to see who blinks first.

          "The cost of liberty is less than the price of repression." - W.E.B. Du Bois Be informed. Fight the Police State.

          by Eternal Hope on Sat May 03, 2014 at 07:11:26 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Well, what I mean is the general counterweight (0+ / 0-)

            to nationalism. Because what we have seen from our experiment in internationalism is that it causes internal divides among what are still nation-states. This is why so many world leaders outside of the Wester n Collective Security Area have such a hard time keeping internal order. The institutions of internationalism...the UN, the WTO, the World Bank,the IMF...have all been awful. What we see that actually works is something like NATO, collective security that buttresses the nation-state concept, not dispenses with it arbitrarily. NATO brought peace and cooperation throughout Europe. All the other international institutions have cause a sharp rise in internal disorder or authoritarianism in mucn of the nations outside of it.

            I dont doubt that we will evolve from the nation-state concept at some point, but we certainly aren't there yet in most of the world, just emerging from colonial rule. Most of the worlds nation-states are fairly new. Very few more than 200 years old. We should make collective security our guide star and save internationalism for a future time.

            •  Collective security is important. (0+ / 0-)

              The UN could be a powerful collective security tool (as evidenced by the First Gulf War) when nations are able to put their differences aside to stop a common threat. The WTO, World Bank, and IMF have been hijacked by a right-wing agenda that has nothing to do with raising the standards of working people. The crisis in Ukraine made NATO relevant again after people were starting to question it after Iraq and Afghanistan.

              "The cost of liberty is less than the price of repression." - W.E.B. Du Bois Be informed. Fight the Police State.

              by Eternal Hope on Sat May 03, 2014 at 07:33:16 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Kuwait is actually a case in point. (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Eternal Hope

                The whole place is barely governable if youve been keeping up with events sice the wars. A medeival, corrupt monarchy buttressed by American military power. While at the same time funding some of worst terrorist elements in the world, keeping the entire middle east unstable. That country could be a case study in fucking up with internationalism.

              •  NATO was never irrellevant. (0+ / 0-)

                Know why? Because no memeber has ever attacked each other, and no non-member has ever attacked a member. It works just as it should.

                What is irrellevant is the useless UN Security Council. Becauseit has no unified military commandto enforce anything it says, even when  it is able to agree. Which is why none of the major powers give a shit when they want to act outside of it. The General Assembly is even more powerless and useless.

                NATO works. Other nations should emulate that, not the UN.

                •  Greece and Turkey have (6+ / 0-)

                  Engaged in military conflict, and almost gone to war many times,

                  Incidents
                  On 18 June 1992, a Greek Mirage F1CG crashed near the island of Saint Eustratius in the Northern Aegean, during a low-altitude dogfight with two Turkish F-16's. Greek pilot Nikolaos Sialmas was killed in the crash.
                  On 8 October 1996, a pair of Greek Mirage 2000's intercepted a pair of Turkish F-16's over the Aegean. One of the Turkish F-16's was shot down by a Greek Mirage 2000 piloted by Thanos Grivas.[20] Turkish pilot Nail Erdoğan was killed whereas back seater pilot Osman Cicekli bailed out and was rescued by a Greek helicopter.
                  On 23 May 2006, a Greek F-16 and a Turkish F-16 collided approximately 35 nautical miles south off the island of Rhodes, near the island of Karpathos during a Turkish reconnaissance flight.[21][22] Greek pilot Kostas Iliakis was killed, and the Turkish pilot Halil İbrahim Özdemir bailed out and was rescued by a cargo ship.
                  They both joined in 1952.

                  Since 1950, it has been proposed 43 times that the UNSC establish a permanent standing Military Force, (through both the UNSC, and the UN General Council), and each time, it is vetoed by the same three permenent members of the UNSC, France, Britain and the United States.

                  •  I stand corrected! Well done. nt (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    buffie
                    •  NATO is on of those, (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      Lepanto

                      Self perpetuating bureaucracies, when the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact collapsed, rather than dissolving, they created new reasons to exist.

                      It get's harder and harder for them every year as military costs skyrocket and budgets are cut back as economies retract.

                      NATO is pretty much the reason why the EU does not have an integrated or collective military force,

                      And is one of the reasons why the UN will never have a permenent military force.

                      The "winners" of WWII basically stacked the deck, and now that the world is changing, with new economic powers rising and the old Empires collapsing, they are more and more, becoming an impediment to peacefully change.

                      Every prior shift in economic dominance resulted in a World War, because of old alliances constructed when the power paridigm was different.

                      •  NATO predates the Warsaw Pact. (0+ / 0-)

                        Incorrect to say it was founded as a response to the Warsaw Pact. It was the other way round. The EU has no such components because EU couldnt agree on such a military treaty on its best day. Furthermore, NATO would likely be much cheaper due to its financing accorded by relative GDP. Why reinvent the wheel? NATO works.

                        NATO's military budget for 2013 was 1.4 Billion Euro. Its a pittance relative to aggregate GDP of its members. NATO isnt busting any western nations budget, including ours. Tax cuts are.

                        However, youre right about power shifts and war. Which is why I would say if there is a war, it will be with China and its allies. I think that would be the test when we will say if NATO can hold up. But as of today, the international order is relatively stable since World War 2. The white, western nations make the international rules and most nations more or less abide by them. NATO members still spends 70% of the worlds military budget. That wont change completely until the rest of the world has enough consumers to sustain their economies. But as of today, they perform much of the same function they performed prior to the war, supplying goods to western markets. That will keep things more or less quiet for thr foreseeable future.

                        •  Never said it was founded (0+ / 0-)

                          As a response to the Warsaw Pact,

                          I said that with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact, it lost it's reason  d'ettere,

                          But like all large and powerfull bureaucracies, found other reasons to exist.

                          For a recent example, Lybia. NATO Nations got a no-fly zone over Lybia through  the UNSC, which was seamlessly morphed into an Air Support of the Lybian Rebels, with no UNSC support. The mission was transformed, with hardly anybody noticing .

      •  But does China need "containment"? (8+ / 0-)

        I don't see China amassing troops and being about to invade any of its neighbors, let alone, say, California.

        Why do we always have to portray economic and commercial competition in terms of military rivalry? Why need we see another country's economic prosperity as a military threat?

        If we want to "contain" China we should do something about our obsolete infrastructure and try to revive our collapsing manufacturing, not build more carriers and have them cruise around the south east Asian seas at enormous, wasteful expense.

        We're shocked by a naked nipple, but not by naked aggression.

        by Lepanto on Sat May 03, 2014 at 07:13:23 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Internationalism (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    PatriciaVa
    The only way it will work is if the US, Russia, and China sit down, put their differences aside, and cooperate to address serious problems around the world. We won World War II because we were able to put our differences with Stalin aside in the name of cooperation and defeating Hitler and his allies. We have too many mutual interests, such as terrorism, climate change, and stopping the proliferation of nuclear weapons to continue the Cold War mentality and spying that has deteriorated our relations with other countries.
    I'd posit that we're already doing this.  The U.S. works with China and Russia in a multitude of international organizations, from G20 to APEC, East Asia Summit, WTO, UN, and many others to work on global and regional issues in a peaceable way.

    However, countries have differences and they can't just put them aside. Sometimes interests will conflict and those differences will just have to get worked out, sometimes directly.  That doesn't mean we can't, or aren't, still working together.  We disagree with Russia on Ukraine and Syria, but we still meet with them regularly in these other organizations and make progress.

    Cynicism is what passes for insight among the mediocre.

    by Sky Net on Sat May 03, 2014 at 06:39:07 PM PDT

    •  We have to. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      chuckvw, buffie

      We don't have a choice. We've agreed in principle on a diplomatic solution; the next thing to do is to put differences aside and find some sort of compromise that we can live with. That is what worked for Northern Ireland, for instance.

      "The cost of liberty is less than the price of repression." - W.E.B. Du Bois Be informed. Fight the Police State.

      by Eternal Hope on Sat May 03, 2014 at 07:12:58 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Differences (0+ / 0-)

        Which differences do you propose we put aside?

        Cynicism is what passes for insight among the mediocre.

        by Sky Net on Sat May 03, 2014 at 07:23:06 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  For instance: (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          chuckvw, buffie

          We, as a country, believe in pluralistic values. Russia has a nationalist in power, influenced by a Eurasianist (Dugin) who is hostile to our values as a nation. If you look at the rhetoric on both sides, both the US and Russia have said to let the Ukrainian people decide when it suits their purposes. So we should let the Ukrainian people decide who should be their next President and then let the people in Luhansk and Donetsk (the two places where the most trouble is) decide whether they want to be part of Ukraine, part of Russia, or form their own country.

          "The cost of liberty is less than the price of repression." - W.E.B. Du Bois Be informed. Fight the Police State.

          by Eternal Hope on Sat May 03, 2014 at 07:28:42 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  We don't need to compromise on Ukraine (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FG, Justanothernyer

    It's not for us or Russia to decide anything for Ukraine.  If Ukraine wants to do what you're suggesting, then we should support them, and if Ukraine doesn't want to do what you're suggesting, we should support them. Russia is attempting to make Ukraine a geopolitical battle between the US and Russia, when in fact it's a regional battle between Ukraine and Russia.  

    "I'm a progressive man and I like progressive people" Peter Tosh

    by Texas Lefty on Sat May 03, 2014 at 06:54:47 PM PDT

    •  And we're playing into their hands. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      chuckvw

      The kind of shrill rhetoric that we too frequently use is not appropriate for a diplomatic situation. If Russia is lying on Crimea, for instance, then let it speak for itself.

      "The cost of liberty is less than the price of repression." - W.E.B. Du Bois Be informed. Fight the Police State.

      by Eternal Hope on Sat May 03, 2014 at 07:14:43 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  and on what basis do you claim this: (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      chuckvw, cybrestrike
      Russia is attempting to make Ukraine a geopolitical battle between the US and Russia
      ?

      Cold war mentality? Your read it in NYT? Heard in on Fox?

      We're shocked by a naked nipple, but not by naked aggression.

      by Lepanto on Sat May 03, 2014 at 07:19:12 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Russian state run and controlled media (0+ / 0-)

        It's been like that for years, way before this crisis.  Why do you think Putin is so popular in Russia right now? Because the media is portraying him as sticking it to the west and the US. The Russian population is far more stuck in Cold War thinking than those in the US or the rest of Europe.  

        "I'm a progressive man and I like progressive people" Peter Tosh

        by Texas Lefty on Sat May 03, 2014 at 07:29:10 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  The New York Times Firing Squad is interesting. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Eternal Hope, Lepanto, cybrestrike

    When the Official Propaganda Organ of the State hosts a circular firing squad, that means that the MIC has finally realized that things are not going to plan,

    And that there are several different competing plans, that nobody yet agrees on.

  •  You propose (0+ / 0-)

    " One of the reasons we beat the USSR to the moon was because we poured in record investment in education, which trained our kids in math and science and which got us to the moon."

    Well, no.  The investment was post-Sputnik, and the children who got this were barely in grad school during the moon landing.

    Restore the Fourth! Save America!

    by phillies on Sat May 03, 2014 at 08:03:18 PM PDT

  •  I'm not Ukrainian and looking at this (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FG, fran1

    from a distance. But I am not sure holding elections in the midst of what is at least a broad-scale insurrection and at worst a burgeoning civil war is a good idea.

    And I don't think it is "obligatory" for Ukraine to have a referendum on whether parts of it will split off or not, when some of those parts are occupied by armed anti-government forces.

    It very seldom works out well when people with guns who are not the government are running parts of a country.

    However, this is not like Vietnam. In Vietnam the U.S. backed an unpopular, ineffective, corrupt and undemocratic government, with military force. But there is not going to be a Western military intervention in Ukraine.

  •  As Odessa proved (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Eternal Hope

    Pravy Sevtor has not disarmed,

    But, it understand how with the Party of Regions and the Cminist Party under actual physical attack, now is the time to hold elections.

    The funny thing, is I suspect that the ReThuglucans are watching this very closely. If the Ukraine vote is deemed in any way legitimate, then the ReThugs will just get the Bundites to kill  a bunch of Democrats, just before the next election.

    After all, If it's good enough for the Ukraine, it's good enough for the US. Another Brooks Brothers Riot , with less suits and more AR Black Rifles.

  •  American foreign policy is driven by (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Eternal Hope

    the military industrial complex, which needs the constant specter of war to keep the money flowing and by various corporate special interests that are involved in this or that country.
       Absent the Cold War, the US has no foreign policy that benefits the US as a whole.

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