Frummaging Through Foreign Policy
David Frum is Dickensian: the best and worst of Republican thinkers. Assuming there are any left. His work on a domestic reform based conservatism is I think excellent. His foreign policy views, eh, not as much.
The latter is sadly on display in this post in The Week today. All the old neocon gibberish and character smears are out in full force, partying like it was 2004 all over again.
The president initiated this commitment [Afghanistan] for campaign purposes in his candidate days, to allow him to balance hawkish themes in Afghanistan against his dovishness on Iraq. The commitment was not connected in any organic way to the rest of his foreign policy, the grand theme of which is conciliation through moral and practical concession.
To put it rather graphically, why is the neocon vision always prone to sexual euphemism? Why is the entirety of foreign policy whether we are “giving it” to everybody else or else “taking it”?
To respond logically to this illogic, Obama said that he was out to get al-Qaeda. Given that they have now migrated to Pakistan, it’s unclear whether a nation-building exercise in Afghanistan achieves that goal. That proposition is dicey, and I’ve heard very intelligent people argue both ways on that one. But it’s certainly possible to imagine Obama starting a draw down (rather than a ramp up as his generals are asking for) in Afghanistan while still targeting al-Qaeda leadership (i.e. with drones in Pakistan).
And the hits keep coming, Persian style:
Averting its eyes from the rigging of the presidential election and the suppression of dissent, the Obama administration will begin mid-level talks with Iran on Oct. 1.
Does anybody in their right mind think somehow the Obama administration doesn’t think the election was rigged? What are they supposed to do? Reagan (Son of the Light himself, May Glory be forever his in the invocation of his name) you might recall talked with the Soviet Union–who you know actually had a world-destroying, life annihilating arsenal of nuclear weapons and didn’t much elections even to rig. And I think it would be fair to check the box on suppression of dissent by the USSR.
On Latin America:
They [Team Obama] now show amazingly little interest in the even more serious crisis of law and order in Mexico. Under Obama, the U.S. could face a threat not experienced since the very earliest days of the republic: violent instability on the nation’s border, unless this self-certain president bends enough to learn some lessons from his predecessor. But can he? Obama’s reaction to the power struggle in Honduras, admittedly a non-strategic country, reveals a depressing, knee-jerk partiality to the Latin American left-wing, even at its most anti-constitutional and authoritarian.
Now the point about Mexico is actually well taken. Except what is Frum’s solution? He doesn’t say specifically, only that he learn the lesson his predecessor meaning what exactly? That we invade Mexico and occupy it? Or does Frum think the US should try the same approach it supported in Colombia (which he elsewhere in this piece refers to as one of the great quiet successes of George W. Bush’s term in office)? i.e. Should we support a pretty hard core counter-narcotics effort that would likely lead to a more professionalization and cartelization of the drug trade?
And on Honduras–maybe countries shouldn’t simply be labeled as whether they are “non-strategic” or “strategic” since you know actual human beings live their lives there. Maybe Obama was just not a fan of a military junta takeover–given the US’ history of involvement with said realities in that part of the world. I think it’s dumb that whatever happens around the world is supposed to have a US response to it, but even so, I’m not clear that Obama did the right thing. Still, I hardly imagine it’s because of some “knee jerk partiality to the Latin American left-wing”. Yeah, that must be it. Riiiighhhht.
And on Israel/Palestine:
The U.S. is applying pressure to Israel, because Israel is susceptible to U.S. pressure, in hopes of gaining concessions from the Palestinians, who are not.
That last sentence is correct, the US should not hope for Palestinian concessions, but not for the principal reason I imagine Frum thinks it is. The problem with sending Secretaries of State and/or ambassadorial envoys is that it assumes there is such a thing as the Palestinian state. Of course there isn’t. It’s often argued there are two Palestinian states (Hamas in Gaza and Fatah in West Bank), but even that isn’t right since neither of them is a state.
Continued efforts to form a peace treaty based on statehood–as Israel has with Egypt and Jordan–will I believe not work given the different circumstances of this case. The answer however is not the neocon support Israel to the hilt version Frum would advise.
Maybe I’m being a too harsh. It’s not all bad. I agree with Frum’s criticism of nascent trade protectionism. But it’s hard to have a constructive conversation when the wells are so poisoned by such character attacks.