Posts Tagged ‘foreign policy’

Had a few minutes this afternoon to flip on CNN, just in time for Joe Wilson’s (R SC) question to Hillary Clinton. He wanted to know why Susan Rice went on the Sunday shows instead of Hillary. Hillary very politely responded that there was a crisis going on and she had a job to do which was more important than making media appearances you self serving jackass. Wilson then spent the remainder of his time reading a letter to the editor that appeared in a Charleston paper from “a former state department employee” who is a self proclaimed expert in these things, and he had several questions which Wilson passed along. The first was where were the Marines? He obviously wasn’t actually an expert in these types of things or he would’ve known the answer, as Hillary replied that of course there were no Marines there because that isn’t the role they play. All this goes by way of saying that South Carolina, y’all need to stop voting for Wilson. In what he considers to be a hearing on an issue with vital national security implications, he farmed out his question to a letter to the editor in the local paper. At least he didn’t pluck it from the comments section under the online version, I guess.

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Foreign Policy Notes

Jose Rodriguez, CIA’s Chef de Torture, points out that torture isn’t really torture because the detainee can make the torture stop by talking. Drum protests:

if you think the CIA torture program was OK, presumably that means you wouldn’t be outraged if the same techniques were used on U.S. soldiers in order to extracinformation from them. Right? It can’t possibly be the case that it’s OK for us to do this stuff, but not for anyone else, can it?

Of course it can, because exceptionalism. Its all part of the America, FUCK YEAH! school of foreign policy. See Cheney et al. 

Also in foreign policy today: Hagel. I don’t know much about him, don’t know if he’d be a good SecDef, although the fact that he used his brain in regards to Iraq is promising. I presume Obama nominated him for a good reason and I also presume that GOP opposition to him has nothing to do with him because they would be saying the same shit regardless of who the nominee was because its what they do. So the nomination fights just seem like they should not merit anyone’s attention, theater critics excepted. 

But since this is apparently going to be the thing we’re doing for the next little while, can we please get it straight right off the bat that “I disagree with the actions of the Israeli government” does not equal “I hate Jews!”


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In the morning, I will be voting for Barack Obama.

I won’t go over all the specific policies and reasons why, if you read this blog you already know them.

But there are two things I’d like to bring up. This won’t be a particularly well written piece because its late and I’m tired, but I want to toss it out there before the polls open.

First, the issue of foreign policy and civil liberties. This is where I think the strongest case against Obama can be made, and so I’d like to take a brief second to refute it somewhat. Obama’s record in this area has been dismal, but I do not think this is a reason to vote against him. Mitt Romney would be far, far worse.

Obama’s policy towards Iran has been about as measured and calm as can be expected. Were Mitt Romney president right now, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that we would be in a full scale war with Iran.

While he has not held anyone accountable for the US torture regime, Barack Obama has ended it. Mitt Romney would not only re-instate it, but expand it! When asked if he considered water boarding torture, he indicated that he did not, and that he would seek to increase the list of techniques used by interrogators. Barack Obama attempted to close Guantanamo Bay and hold actual trials for detainees, but was stymied by congress. Mitt Romney wants to double Guantanamo. You may not like Obama’s record on these issues, but Mitt Romney would be so much worse. If you truly think there is no difference between them on these issues, you’re fooling yourself.

Secondly, and more importantly, I will be voting for Barack Obama because we absolutely must take a stand against the GOP of the past four years. If they win, it will be an affirmation of their tactics. It will show that the public is accepting of putting party before country. It will vindicate the strategy of rank, baseless obstructionism. The GOP has not been even remotely interested in actual governing, except where they see an opportunity to score partisan points. From day one, their primary goal has been to make Barack Obama a one term president. If Mitt Romney wins, they will have been proven right. We will be telling them that their irresponsible, reprehensible strategy was correct, effective, and acceptable.

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The latest twist in the Benghazi attack non-scandal is that the administration knew there was terrorist involvement. This shouldn’t be a shocking revelation because, as Mittens hilarioisly learned, they said exactly that at the time.

Kevin Drum notes:

This is crazy. Where does this stuff keep coming from? Based on the evidence we know today, the worst you can say about the White House is that they didn’t do a very good job of coordinating the messages being delivered to the public by all the various agencies.

I agree! I would further note that if the administration had actually done a good job of coordinating the various agency messaging, we would all now be listening to righteous outrage that the President was too busy dealing with messaging, and by extension campaigning, to deal with the crisis. We even got a preview of that line of attack from Romney himself.

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My immediate reaction? I don’t know. I’d say a draw. The winner tonight was everyone that watched baseball instead. The loser? America. We get more of the same from both of these folks. I’d say on balance that Obama did slightly better at pointing out Romney’s flip flopping than Romney did at selling it, but not by much. Their opinions on these issues are very similar. Or, at least, the Mitt Romney that showed up tonight’s positions are similar.

A tie, with a very slight tilt towards the President.

On substance, we actually did though get some important policy notes. First off, Mitt Romney absolutely wants to increase military spending by one trillion dollars. That’s not new. What is new is increasing foreign aid, and making Pakistani aid conditional on, something. We also got a specific budget cut number: 5% to domestic discretionary. And finally, not cutting food stamps.

For Obama, the most important part I think was that we will stand with Israel if they are attacked. A much more cautious, measured statement than Romney.

One final point. Iran with a nuke is so far from our biggest threat. The very idea of it is nearly laughable. Would it be a bad thing? Probably. Biggest threat? Please.

10:32 BREAKING: Mitt Romney won’t cut SNAP. And so deficit reduction gets farther and farther away. His policies are so increasingly absurd.

10:32 Romney: same stuff as usual

10:31 Obama: After a decade of war, we need to do some nation building at home.

10:29 Romney: the federal government didn’t hire our teachers. They really did. For better or worse, the federal government really did hire your teachers.

10:28 Romney just mentioned the same unemployed girl from Philly that he mentioned in the last debate.

10:28 Food stamps and unemployment!

10:26 Romney really did call for liquidating the auto industry. By calling for bankruptcy, that was the only choice. Private capital didn’t want to touch it, that’s why the government had to move in.

10 23: Imports from China: $37.3 billion. Exports to China: $8.6 billion. Balance: $28.7 billion.

10:20 An enormous trade imbalance with China? Is it so?

10:19 I don’t know about anyone else, but China bashing is getting really old.

10:17 Romney: Biggest future threat is a nuclear armed Iran.

10:15 Obama: Biggest future threat will continue to be terrorism.

10:14 On to China.

10:11 Drones. Romney 100% agrees. Ugh. This debate is depressing.

10:09 Yes, he just said Obama bin Laden

10:08 Obama: A history lesson and then jobs for Vets. This debate mostly seems like a draw right now.

10:06 Romney: Aid to Pakistan ought to be conditional on some benchmarks. That’s a pretty important policy point.

10:05 Romney: Hell yes, because this war is going awesomely!

10:04 Will we hold the 2014 deadline for withdrawing from Afghanistan? Also an excellent question.

10:03 Romney really needs to stop arguing about the rules.

10:01 So far I think Obama’s doing a decent job pointing out Romney’s flip flopping on this stuff, but for the most part I think everyone is just going to come away confused.

9:59 BREAKING NEWS: Mitt Romney can stop Israel from bombing Iran by the sheer force of his own awesomeness.

9:58 He should go to Pakistan. People could show him where missiles landed in their kids’ rooms there too. Of course those missiles have American flags on them.

9:56 Israel has a sad because Obama didn’t stop by!

9:56 Mitt Romney has noted the passage of time. Glad he noticed.

9:55 Glad he’s defending against the apology tour schtick. It really is amazingly dumb.

9:54 Now the real Mitt is coming back. His foreign policy is “be tougher”.

9:51 Iran saw weakness in this administration? This administration has attacked Iran more than any other that we know of. Not saying that’s a good thing, but its true.

9:48 A seven point plan! We get two more points! Drink.

9:47 There is so very little difference between these two.

9:46 An absolutely crucial question. And note Obama’s answer. “I will stand with Israel if they are attacked”. I really, really, really hope he means that last bit.

9:43 It actually makes sense that our military is “smaller” than it was in WW2. Mostly because we can now do with a drone what it used to take a couple tank battalions and a month long carpet bombing campaign.

9:41 “Our budget isn’t driven by politics” Oh how I wish that were true.

9:38 Cut 5% of the discretionary budget excluding military. Not even close to a balanced budget. Not. Even. Close

9:37 Well, fuck it, education policy now! Mitt’s Kids ™ are smart! And Bipartisan! And, yet again, a promise to 25% of highschoolers of free tuition. How will you pay for it?

9:36 Seriously someone needs to check on the moderator.

9:35 Baseball is on, right?

9:34 Well, Greece is in fact a foreign country, so, I guess that counts?

9:34 Did someone kill the moderator?

9:33 Twelve Million New Jobs! Have you heard about my five point plan?

9:31 Why bother having a foreign policy debate? We’re on Detroit, energy, taxes, and the budget deficit, now.

9:29 “We don’t know what the world is going to throw at us down the road” Well, I agree. Luckily, we have the biggest military in the history of the world, and can single-handedly vaporize any country on Earth with relatively little effort, so I’d say we’re good on that.

9:27 In the same sentence Mitt Romney deplores the debt and promotes increasing military spending by $1 Trillion.

9:26 If I am correct here, Mitt Romney wants increased foreign aid, while Barack Obama says we shouldn’t spend money abroad while there is nation building to do here. Seriously: Which one is the democrat?

9:25 On young people in Egypt: “Their aspirations are the same as young people here”. Regardless of your views on foreign policy, this is a point that cannot be made enough.

9:22 “Would you go farther?” Excellent question. Romney is against military intervention, but pro-arms dealers. Which is what Obama thinks too.

9:20 Twenty minutes, hardly any disagreement thus far. That’s actually pretty depressing.

9:16 Romney’s strategy: use Syria to get to Iran, without arming Syria, via a council, while arming Syria, and…   fuck what was he talking about?

9:15 Wait I’m confused. Which one’s the democrat?

9:14 The Status of Forces agreement was from the Bush administration wasn’t it?

9:11 The 1980’s called, they want their foreign policy back.

9:09 Aaaaand Mitt just stated his support for increased foreign aid. Righteous Tea Party Anger? Anyone? Buhler?

9:08 Right Now Mitt Romney just threw Two Minutes Ago Mitt Romney under the bus.

9:07 It took less than 2 minutes for Mitt to entirely change his tune on Foreign Policy. “We can’t kill our way out of this mess” was a great line, but Romney’s solution to Iran is to start a war!

9:06 “We can’t kill our way out of this mess”. I agree! I wish Mitt Romney agreed.

9:04 Maybe none of the subjects tonight are going to be funny. Just saying.

9:02 Oh God is he really opening this with a nuke scare? This is going to be unbearable.

9:01 Brian Williams just said that “neither campaign expected to see themselves in a dead heat two weeks before the election.” I absolutely guarantee you that they expected exactly that.

8:55 Last one. Local NBC leading with a story about Vintage Wine Bar on 13th St in Philly. Its good, and you’ll need wine for this. Well played, NBC. You know the drill, hit refresh a lot.

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Just a couple quick, unrelated-ish thoughts this afternoon.

First, ever since the first debate, national polls have shown a large surge for Romney and have typically come in at a tie or a slight Romney lead. Many have attributed this to Obama’s performance in the debate and I’m sure there’s some truth to that, but if I recall the debate was also the point at which pollsters began applying their “likely voter” screens. Obama has continued his lead among registered voters. So the headline numbers suddenly looked worse for Obama after the debate, but that includes the application of the likely voter screen. I don’t think the debate hurt nearly as much as people think in terms of actual support. Rather, it served to fire up Romney’s base and depress Obama’s, and that’s showing up in the likely voter numbers. This is a very close race. It was always going to be a very close race. The divergence between the likely and registered voter numbers makes me think that it’s all going to come down to get out the vote operations. 

Second, tonight’s debate. Public opinion is firmly on the President’s side. He ought to press the advantage. People want less defense spending and they want less wars. Romney wants to increase defense spending and go to war with Iran. Moderate Mitt will probably show up again tonight, and he may even try to turn away from those positions. Obama can’t let him. Also, I’ll try once again to live-blog it. Drink any time someone says “exceptionalism”, “Libya”, “terrorism”, “manipulator” or “leadership”. Actually just drink, because those are likely to be the only words used.  

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Kevin Drum highlights this little snippets of conversation that occurred between Obama and Gen. Petraeus back in 2009:

Inside the Oval Office, Obama asked Petraeus, “David, tell me now. I want you to be honest with me. You can do this in 18 months?” “Sir, I’m confident we can train and hand over to the ANA [Afghan National Army] in that time frame,” Petraeus replied. “Good. No problem,” the president said. “If you can’t do the things you say you can in 18 months, then no one is going to suggest we stay, right?” “Yes, sir, in agreement,” Petraeus said.

So there you go. I don’t really have anything to add, just wanted to point it out. It’s been much longer than 18 months, and we continue to face attacks from members of the ANA. We’ve already killed bin Laden, which was our excuse for going in in the first place. Not that the Afghanistan war had much of anything to do with that, but its always been used as a reason to stay. Can anyone articulate a good reason for us to continue fighting this war? Anyone? Bueller?

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