Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Obama? A Neocon?

It is well known that President Obama is a member of the Democratic Party and ran as a liberal; however, the country saw Obama’s true colors once he was elected to office. As president, some would argue that Obama showed himself to be a centrist and at times lean to the right, however, it seems that President Obama is actually a neoconservative (neocon).

Jonathan Clarke, a (now former) senior fellow at the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs, noted the six main characteristics of neoconservatism: (1) a tendency to see the world in binary good/evil terms, (2) low tolerance for diplomacy, (3) readiness to use military force, (4) emphasis on US unilateral action, (5) disdain for multilateral organizations, and (6) focus on the Middle East.[1] Barring the first characteristic, Obama’s policies have shown him to be a neocon.

Back in late 2009, the American ambassador to the UN stated that the Obama administration would engage in “direct diplomacy” with Iran over the issue of its nuclear program. This did in fact occur that year, yet when the Iranian elections came about in 2010 (and the protests that came with it), Obama dropped his “tentative policy of diplomatic engagement” and decided to go with “the hard-nosed confrontation that has been standard fare between the two countries for the past 30 years.”[2] This does not make sense. Without a doubt, the Iranian government was wrong in their crackdown, yet that has nothing to do with the nuclear issue at all.

Later that year, Obama successfully petitioned the UN to apply new sanctions to Iran. [3] This dramatic change from dialogue to sanctions in less than one year proves, without a doubt, Obama’s low tolerance for diplomacy. But it goes deeper than that, it also shows that Obama never truly believed in diplomacy. One does not talk for months about the virtues of diplomacy and then backpedal on his values with such speed if he truly meant it in the first place.

On the issue of military force, Obama has recently proven that he is more than willing to bomb a country in support of people he doesn’t know. During the lead-up to the ‘intervention’ in Libya, never once did President Obama try to negotiate with Gaddafi (or more importantly find out who the rebels were) rather he went straight to cajoling the UN to pass a resolution that would allow for a no fly zone. Furthermore, the reason for his intervention in Libya fits within neoconservative thought. In a Washington Times editorial it states:

Mr. Obama’s motive - trying to dislodge an authoritarian regime in the name of the Libyan people - are solidly within the neoconservative framework. Aside from programs to develop weapons of mass destruction - and Mr. Gadhafi’s were substantial - the fundamental belief in universal human liberty is at the root of the classic neocon foreign policy approach. [4]

This “fundamental belief in universal human liberty” has led the US to engage in wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and now Libya. This use of military force extends to Pakistan, where Obama increased the number of drone strikes, sent in CIA agents, and Special Forces and Yemen as well where Special Forces have been deployed and drone strikes have taken place.

On the issue of characteristics 4 (emphasis on US unilateral action) and 5 (disdain for multilateral organizations), the situation becomes more interesting. Obama does not want to portray a ‘go it alone’ attitude because he realizes that it would create a bad public image for the US, thus he goes to the UN and gets a resolution. In addition he also got the token consent of the Arab League (which has recently protested the strikes) before embarking on the bombing of Gaddafi. Obama has no contempt for multilateral organizations as long as they help back the US in its efforts.

Finally in terms of Obama’s focus on the Middle East, one may argue that he has had to be concerned since the beginning of the Arab Spring due to the uprisings and revolutions that are currently taking place. While this is true, Obama has been focusing on the Middle East for quite a while. In his speeches delivered in Cairo and West Point in 2009 to his concern over the Iranian elections. To his talks in 2010 with the Taliban and Afghan government on a peace deal and his token Israel-Palestine talks in late September 2010. While Obama has proven that he is quite focused on the Middle East, his neocon approach to solving problems clearly isn’t working.

The necon legacy continues.


1 comment:

Pleasant said...

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