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Obama: Peace and Prosperity At No Cost to You

In the WSJ yesterday WRM had a piece on the mismatch between President Obama’s grand vision for transforming the world and his desire to reduce global U.S. presence. Obama’s laundry list of foreign policy priorities includes, as WRM points out, reducing and eventually abolishing nuclear weapons, addressing climate change, promoting human rights, settling the Arab-Israeli conflict, and many others. But there’s a catch:

While Mr. Obama embraces a powerful and compelling global vision, he also seeks reduced American commitments and engagements overseas. He wants substantial cuts in military spending and wants to reduce America’s profile in Europe and the Middle East […]

Unfortunately, it’s hard to transform and democratize the world while saving money and reducing overseas commitments. A world based more on the rule of law and less on the law of the jungle requires an engaged, forward-looking, and, alas, expensive foreign policy. If, for example, you want to put the world on the road to abolishing nuclear weapons, you have to make sure that nonnuclear states like Ukraine don’t have to worry about land-grabs from nuke-wielding neighbors like Russia

The piece goes on to flesh out this thesis in more detail, noting that Obama is channeling U.S. voter preferences in his attempt to have it both ways. He has a choice. He must either reduce the scope of his ambitious vision, or he must go before the voters and ask them to sacrifice more to make the world they want to see real. Read the whole thing.

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  • S.C. Schwarz

    The key thing to understand about Obama is that policy doesn’t matter: It’s all about campaigning which is all he is really good at. So, if the American people want to hear grand rhetoric about how we are going to make the world a better place, he gives them grand rhetoric. At the same time, if the American people don’t want more messy foreign entanglements and want to spend less on the military so we can increase entitlements, he gives them that too. Are those things contradictory? Sure, but so what? The media, except for a few cranky right-wingers like WRM, aren’t going to call him out on it. History may, we can hope, judge him differently, but history is far away.

    • Andrew Allison

      According to a Texas A&M survey, he’s already the worst President in the history of the nation (

      • Fat_Man

        I think he has a way to go to beat Buchanan. There doesn’t seem to be a civil war looming.

        • Jim__L

          Arguably, Buchanan inherited the slave/free tension.

      • Boritz

        Rick Perry’s alma mater. Coincidence?
        [/conspiracy theory]

    • Gary Hemminger

      Totally correct analysis S.C., but I don’t think Dr. Mead is cranky and I don’t think he is a right-winger. There are many of those out there, but Dr. Mead is not one of them. He is a realist and I am thankful for people like him telling the truth. He keeps asking that Obama change and he keeps hoping he will change. Unfortunately Obama isn’t going to change. He can’t at this point. But at least the professor has some hope left in him that he will. I don’t. After 6 years I have given up and mainly not on Obama, but on the media that allows him to continue his ways without calling him on it. The NY Times in particular. I have never seen a reputable newspaper fall so far so fast and do everything they can to protect those in power who share their ideology rather than to serve the public. It is not just sad, but outrageous.

      • S.C. Schwarz

        I quite agree with you about WRM. I was only being sarcastic, a weakness of mine.

        • Jim__L

          Yeah, WRM is about as centrist as you’ll find in this country.

    • rheddles

      History is not so far away as you think. The son had to register for the draft last month. I hope he can finish college before he’s called up.

  • Andrew Allison

    Peace, prosperity, healthcare and mobile phones! Pardon my disgust.

  • Gary Hemminger

    I really like Prof. Mead’s writing. I wish people like him were our political leaders and they understand the grayness of the world we live in (unlike our current politicians whom the world is black and white). But in this case the professor is off base. Obama is not going to ask us to choose. He will continue to rhetorically make the case that we can have it both ways. He will end his time in office continuing to make this case to us. When he leaves office the next President will either try to do the same thing or be forced to deal with reality. But even after leaving office, Obama will use his rhetoric to claim we can have it all. We can lessen income equality and have growth. We can have great foreign policy without engaging. We can have great green jobs without sacrificing anything. We can have a green economy with low cost energy. We can have a nuclear free world without a shot fired and no aggression from anyone. Obama and his kind live in a fantasy world, and except for the far right and a few middle of the road folks like Prof Mead, no one is calling him out for his fantasy. He will continue to live this fantasy until he is dead. It will be other Presidents and leaders after him that have to pick up the pieces of his fantasy land and put it back on the field of reality. I appreciate with Dr. Mead is doing, telling us the truth; but the truth with Obama is that he is not a leader. He is a community activist and a leader in name and position only.

  • Anthony

    “More than five years into his presidency, Barack Obama still wrestles with the foreign policy contradiction that has dogged his administration from the beginning: the president has extremely ambitious goals but is unusually parsimonious when it comes to engagement.” I think for President Obama the world/country gets no sense of mission in foreign policy and consequently he and his administration come across as devoid of focus/ideas. On the other hand, his idealistic rhetoric when contrasted to his exercised realism remains a combination that is not new to U.S. foreign policy as practiced by Presidents. Obama may not have a coherent foreign policy (and yes foreign policy is hard) but he remains our top salesman of the system going forward WRM (the world is a tough place).

  • Fat_Man

    Obama’s reaction to difficulties is to blame somebody else. The Republicans are handy for that purpose. I wonder how he will pin Putin’s behavior on them. No matter what excuse he comes up with, the legacy media will give him a free pass on it.

  • Bruce

    Our Marxist POTUS does not do much right when it comes to defending liberty. He actually is the worst depriver of liberty we have had as POTUS. However, when he implies that Europe needs to do more in their own defense, he is right. We should have started closing down military bases in Europe and Asia long ago. However, it’s like everything else with government, it can never shrink. There are fiefdoms to be built and build them our military establishment does, along with the politicians and bureaucrats.

    • Jim__L

      Agreed, up to a point. Obama has been shrinking the military establishment in this country for years.

      It actually started under Bush, as he cut the development of new technologies and systems to pay for the Iraq war. A lot of engineers lost their jobs, although the economy was so good the country really didn’t notice.

      This is why Putin (and many Russians) figure America is so weak — they saw what happened to Russian hawks when Afghanistan went so wrong. Then they saw what happened to the Soviet Union after the Russian hawks were sidelined by Afghanistan’s failure.

      They figure the same thing is happening to America. Some went as far as to prophesy the US’s “collapse”; I wouldn’t say we’re to that point, but if they think that America has little appetite and less strategic ability to oppose Putin’s moves, I’m pretty sure they have a point.

      • Bruce

        Shrinking the military establishment is probably not a bad thing if done prudently. The military establishment has a history of doing things to justify its existence and grow itself – meaning encouraging the political leadership to start wars. However, my main point was the European bases. We could give Europe 5 years’ notice that we will be pulling out incrementally during that time. Europe has used the money it should have used for defense to build a welfare state which has contributed to Europe’s rot.

  • diderot à la campagne

    I disagree with WRM. Structural changes are important and they must be done no matter if there are still countries operating as we were at the colonial and industrial days. Opening a dialogue with Iran was a very good idea, a courageous ideas, a way to get away from infantile shadow projections, and we don´t – as the neocons, as these would have a monopoly of speech on US foreign policy -, need to get hysterical about that. Obama thinks globally, in terms of network dynamics, it is complete different world. Any parallel with Chamberlain´s days is an hegemonic discourse not so difficult to understand from where it comes from.

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