Is he “trapped” by the interventionist consensus?
(AntiWar.com) -- by Justin Raimondo --
The biggest obstacle to the success of the antiwar movement right now is the Obama cult – the fealty of his followers and well-wishers who want to give him the benefit of every doubt, and yet wonder why our foreign policy of perpetual war continues, virtually unchanged. After all, he seemed like he represented “change,” and he said he represented “change,” sincerity oozing from every pore, and yet …
And yet a year and some months into his presidency, the US has escalated its “war on terrorism,” extending its reach and pouring yet more resources into what is surely a bottomless pit. George W. Bush, after all, ordered only one “surge”: as commander-in-chief, Obama has so far ordered two. So why are his ostensibly “antiwar” supporters cutting him so much slack?
The answer varies with each individual, but a lot of the reasons have been helpfully summarized by Stephen Walt in a recent blog, in which he gives every excuse in the book and then some to explain why Obama seems so much like a Bush rerun in the foreign policy realm.
As long as Obama’s been in office, Obama’s progressive supporters “and even some sensible conservatives” have been “surprised and dismayed” that his military and diplomatic posture seems nearly identical to that of his predecessor in the White House. Was he merely a good actor, or are there hidden factors chaining him to the “missteps of the Bush White House? Has he cracked, or is he “trapped”?
Walt believes the latter: “I don’t really blame Obama,” he writes. The President “can’t simply wage a magic wand,” after all, reverse course and “get the rest of the government to fall into line.”
Let’s stop right there and ask: why, exactly, not? It’s true there are various factions within the administration with goals that might conflict with his own, but why can’t he do what George W. Bush did and simply ignore their advice?
After all, how many times in the run up to the invasion of Iraq were we confronted with reports of dissident CIA analysts, who challenged the administration’s evaluation of the intelligence; how many diplomats, generals and military experts disputed the wisdom of trying to export democracy to a region that had never known it? How many people marched against the war all over the world in a vast and vocal expression of impassioned protest? Yet President Bush – having more power than any Roman emperor ever dreamed of – ignored their good advice, and launched the invasion anyway.
Why can’t this President be as single-minded in his alleged virtue as his predecessor was in the service of evil?...
Yet the President is very much a liberal interventionist, as his policies over these many months has made all too clear. He is also very much a creature of Washington, where the bipartisan consensus Walt decries is made and enforced. He’s a kinder, gentler neocon, who is widening the “war on terrorism” even as his administration renames it – and never was anything else. Surely his continuation of the Afghan occupation and the extension of the war into Pakistan should come as no surprise: he said he’d do as much during the election campaign and he meant it.
I talk about the “Obama cult” because it is indeed a cult in the classic sense, i.e. a group of fervent believers who project their own image of the Leader onto what is, after all, a pretty ordinary kind of guy – in this case, a pretty ordinary variety of semi-hawkish liberal interventionist. Whenever the Leader does something inconsistent with their idealization, they say “Oh, he doesn’t really mean it,” or “He doesn’t really believe that.” In advanced cases of cult-induced blindness, one constructs a more complex apologia, i.e. positing“structural” obstacles to the implementation of the Leader’s will. Obama is Gulliver tied down by the Lilliputians within his own party and administration.
I don’t buy it. One consequence of the triumph of interventionism over the traditional foreign policy of the Founders has been the bloating of presidential power until Americans have come to talk about “the imperial presidency” as if it were no big deal. Well, then, what’s to stop the occupant of the White House from using that imperial power to start downsizing the imperium? The present occupant clearly has no intention of doing so, but there’s nothing to prevent a future President from pursuing that goal...MORE...LINK