Sunday, September 25, 2011


I have taken U.S. history classes all my life. In each of these the same message was conveyed. The United States, bristling under oppression by the British, demanded freedom, fought for it and was finally recognized as controlling its own land and destiny. Why then, does the United States have a problem with the Palestinian people asking for the same thing?

In 1948, Israel asked for a vote from the United Nations for partition. They wanted their own nation. They took land legally recognized as belonging to other nations and carved out their own. The United States led the lobbying to win this vote. Now, both Israel and the United States want to prevent the very same vote from occurring and prevent the creation of a Palestinian state.

President Obama told the U.N. General Assembly there is no shortcut to peace between Israel and the Palestinians. He told members a vote for a Palestinian nation would not bring peace or solve the dilemma the two peoples face. He is correct. Ultimately, there will have to be negotiations. The Palestinians will have to recognize Israel's right to exist and give up the right to return, and Israel is going to have to agree to negotiate from pre-1967 borders and, most importantly, stop the building of illegal settlements and surrender many settlements already constructed on Palestinian land. There are other questions too ranging from water rights to whether the boundaries of the new state will be contiguous and all will require give and take.

None of these disputes addresses the fundamental question of whether or not the Palestinians should be recognized as a separate nation. The answer is clearly yes. There is no question about their ancestral connection to the land. Historically they were left out in the cold when Israel was created. They were rejected by Jordan and Syria and became a displaced people. It is time to end that wrong.

President Obama says the United States will veto any attempt by the U.N. Security Council to grant membership to the Palestinians. Why? The simple answer is pure politics. Recently, the Democrats lost a House seat formerly occupied by Anthony Weiner. It had been in Democratic hands since the 20's. It contained a large number of Jewish voters who are angry with Obama for a perceived lack of support for Israel and his demand for a freeze in settlement construction and for using pre-1967 borders as a starting point for negotiations. With 2012 shaping up to be a very close election, Obama cannot afford to alienate Jewish votes in the key battleground state of Florida. Thus, the veto threat.

Israel's supporters cheered when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu publically upbraided Obama in front of a joint session of Congress. Netanyahu continues to support the building of more illegal settlements. He refuses to even agree to a starting point for negotiations. He supports continued construction in East Jerusalem knowing it makes the Palestinians more intransigent in their demands. He is on the wrong end of history and he is attempting to stop what will eventually occur.

Netanyahu could get away with stalling and posturing in the past, but that time is over. The change in governments in Tunisia and Egypt, particularly Egypt, could leave Israel totally isolated in the region. While the military government of Egypt says it will honor the peace treaty between them and Israel, there is no guarantee a new democratically elected government will agree. Turkey has withdrawn its ambassador from Israel and relations are chilly at best. Syria and Lebanon are unstable and Iran's influence is increasing not decreasing thanks to the U.S. war in Iraq. The plight of the Palestinians is the spark that could set off a whole round of repudiations of Israel and create a serious national security problem.

The United States has for years supported dictatorships willing to be friendly to Israel. The Iraq war was fought to get rid of Saddam Hussein because of his support for the Palestinians. Some Jewish interests in this country attacked President Obama for throwing Egypt's Mubarak under the bus. They had no concern for the freedom of the Egyptian people. With Mubarak in charge, Israel had a leader who was willing to maintain the peace between the two nations even as he crushed his own people. So much for freedom loving Americans.

It is possible the Palestinians could win a vote in the General Assembly to be upgraded to observer status. The U. S. could not stop such a vote. Observer status, among other things, would allow the Palestinians to control their own air space and give them access to the International Criminal Court in the Hague where they can press their case Israel has been committing war crimes. This might generate even more pressure on Israel or isolate it further and could also push them to restart negotiations. As of now, Netanyahu has shown no such willingness.

The Palestinians have a moral right to their own nation. The Israelis have a moral right to live in peace. As long as Israel and the United States continue the hypocrisy of promoting democracy and freedom for any people, other than the Palestinians, this conflict will be a flash point in the Arab world and a threat to U.S. national security.

The Palestinians will get no help from Obama. He is deathly afraid of alienating the Jewish vote and will not pressure Israel to open a new round of talks prior to the election of 2012. Republicans will try to attract Jewish and evangelical voters by unconditional support for Israel and condemnation of the Palestinians. Ironically, they once again will choose the wrong path as they have done for the last 11 years. It's a position that weakens American security but plays well politically. Now that is the definition of appeasement.


As governor of Texas, he wants to be president of the United States. He has no foreign policy experience. He believes in American exceptionalism meaning we can act unilaterally and damn the consequences. He runs against Washington and supporters say he will surround himself with the best and the brightest to fill in any gaps in his resume. He loves corporate America and doubts global warming and evolution. He got mediocre grades in college and Texas is at the bottom in everything from infant mortality to education funding. It is easy to think this is a trip in the wayback machine to the campaign of 2000, but the reality is Rick Perry is the mirror image of George Bush and once again an intellectual homunculus is asking the American people to let him lead this nation.

Perry gave a speech in New York that showed he learned nothing from the massive failure which was the Bush foreign policy. Even worse, Perry appears to be channeling the Project for a New American Century. The only thing missing form his speech was a reference to the axis of evil. He accused President Obama of advocating a policy of appeasement in the Middle East. (Interesting choice of words given he was surround by Jewish supporters.) Obama is appeasing the Arab street at the expense of Israel according to Perry. He, and regressives in general, see a chance to peal off Jewish voters from Obama by supporting Israel unconditionally even at the expense of American national security. (In 1992, Paul Wolfowitz wrote a paper arguing for an invasion of Iraq to take out Saddam Hussein and strengthen Israel's Likkud party. George H. W. Bush fired him over it. In 1998, the paper turned in to a document signed by the majority of Bush's national security team supporting an invasion of Iraq in order to use Iraq as a "strategic pivot" to put pressure on the entire Arab world and force concessions for Israel. The result was an American tragedy.)

Perry's speech could have been given by Bush or Cheney. He attacked Obama while surrounded by Jewish supporters. Obama had been too quick to pull support from Mubarak and Gaddafi and the regime in Tunisia. He had been too slow to support revolution in Syria and Iran. Perry came off as a toady to Israel and totally lacking in any sophistication or nuance in his view of Middle East policy or foreign policy in general. He is another Texas governor willing to waste American blood and treasure for dubious if not immoral reasons. The only question he has to be wondering about is whether or not he can conjure up another September 11th to use for cover.

It was frightening to think after 8 years of foreign policy disasters, the only lesson Perry absorbed was to march in lockstep with Likkud and offering intellectually vapid critiques of the Arab Spring and its implications for Israel's future. No one asked Perry how his policy would be different or what he would do as president to foment revolution in Iran. Perry showed no understanding of how U.S. overt interference could backfire and strengthen the Iranian rulers and allow them to label all opposition as tools of American foreign policy. Was Perry willing to go to war with Iran like Bush and Cheney threatened? What would he do to stop their nuclear proliferation different than what Obama is doing? If Assad steps down or is thrown out in Syria, who will replace him? If there is civil war how does that affect Lebanon and Israel and Iraq? Does Perry think there are military solutions to these problems and what does he do with a military that is broken, some say irreparably?

Obama has actually built coalitions in contrast to Bush's ersatz "coalition of the willing". He waited to go after Mubarak until other Arab countries were on board. In Libya, Obama refused to take the lead and insisted NATO and the Arab League shoulder the biggest roles. In Syria, Obama has let Turkey and Saudi Arabia attack Assad and call for an end to the violence and for political reform. He has been able to get Europe and China to support strong economic sanctions against both Syria and Iran. Bush could not get European support for any initiative. Perry wants to go back to a policy which was an unmitigated disaster for this country.

To quote Santayana has become a cliché, but even clichés contain an element of truth. The Bush policy in the Middle East will go down as one of the worst foreign policy mistakes in history. He allowed Netanyahu to run roughshod over the Palestinians and watched the peace process disintegrate. Even as Israel expanded illegal settlements, built a wall through Palestinian land and invaded Lebanon again, Bush had nothing to say and no roadmap to offer. By invading Iraq and Afghanistan, he played right into the hands of Osama Bin Laden and made recruitment of terrorists a snap. While we attacked Iraq and Afghanistan, Iran sat back and, without firing a shot, emerged as the new power in the region. Today they have undo influence in Iraq and Syria and Hezbollah controls much of Lebanon and Iran had been fomenting problems in Bahrain and other Gulf states.

Perry appears not to have learned any of these lessons. He is as tone deaf on foreign policy as he is on Social Security, global warming, evolution, homosexuality, separation of church and state and the economy. It is truly frightening to envision him as commander in chief. He is an intellectual baby pool...30 feet wide and an inch deep.

Supporters of Israel do themselves no favor hitching their wagons to Perry. America was severely hurt by the foreign policies of George Bush and so was Israel. As the Arab Spring takes hold, Israel is more isolated than ever. Perry wishes to compound the problem. He is not unique. Other than former Utah governor John Huntsman, none of the Republican candidates have articulated any coherent vision of the world or offered any specifics as to how they would operate differently than the President. Is it possible none of them has learned anything from the Bush debacle?

Is Rick Perry to stupid to be president? No. However, if you asked me if he has the wisdom to lead this nation, my answer would be quite different.

Saturday, September 24, 2011


In the history of this country, the rich have never willingly given up income or power. The creation of the middle class was done over the weeping and gnashing of bright, white teeth. In 1928, the top 1% of Americans controlled 24% of all wealth in America. With the onset of the Depression, Roosevelt's election, World War II and the rise of unions and worker friendly legislation, the top 1% controlled only 9% of the nations wealth in 1976. In 1980, war was declared with the election of Ronald Reagan, and today the richest 1% are almost back to their high water mark as they control 23.5% of the nation's wealth. Warren Buffet is quoted as saying, "...there is a class war going on in this country and my class is winning."

According to former labor secretary Robert Reich, from 1947-1979 all lower income classes did better than the richest 20%. Since 1980, this trend has been reversed. Middle and lower class Americans continued increase their productivity, but wages did not keep pace. They continued to spend and drive the economy only because more women entered the workforce and, when that added income couldn't fill the gap, they borrowed themselves into serious debt. The end result is since 1980, no class of Americans has done better than the top 20%. Do you think this is an accident or coincidence?

President Obama has proposed a plan to create jobs and reduce the nation's debt. It relies on large cuts to government programs and on tax increases for the wealthiest of taxpayers. America's rich currently enjoy tax rates that haven't been this low since the fifties. Taxes from the wealthy and corporations are generating the same amount of revenue to the treasury as they did in 1950. If the Bush tax cuts are allowed to expire, the top income bracket will see their tax rates return to the levels the paid under Bill Clinton. If the "Buffet" tax increase is implemented, the richest Americans will still be paying taxes 55% lower then they were in 1960. While Warren Buffet and his ilk pay about 16%-19% of their income in taxes, middle class Americans, due to fewer deductions...higher payroll taxes and increasing sales taxes, pay a real tax rate closer to 26%. Face it. They have won the war.

More and more wealth is concentrated in fewer and fewer hands. The people with the greatest economic power make the rules on how the economy works. With the Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court, the rich can give unlimited sums to political campaigns and continue to run a rigged game. Since the Depression of '08, they have been paying millions of dollars into Washington to beat back efforts or re-regulate Wall Street and reduce the risks they take. Just this week a report will be issued on how Washington will implement the so-called Volker rule, which was intended to prevent banks from making risky investments, the type which caused the global economic meltdown, with your deposits. The Wall Street Journal reports the rule has been watered down so much; banks will still be able to do anything they wish and take the very same kind of risks that caused so much harm. In the face of corruption, fraud, theft, profligacy and unprecedented greed, the attempts to rein in a financial industry out of control have failed and they will once again be free to start the roller coaster moving.

Before the ink was dry on Obama's proposals, the Speaker of the House, John Boehner, pronounced the President's ideas as class warfare intended to hurt those who create the jobs in this country. What's wrong with class warfare? It's been waged in earnest since 1980, what's wrong with fighting back?

What do regressives say when we point out to them we have been trying it their way since 1980? In 1981 and again in 2001, Presidents Bush and Reagan cut taxes on the richest Americans. (the job creators) What happened? For Reagan it was the depression of 1982. In the first four years of the Bush administration not a single net job was created. The eight years of Bush produced the worst job numbers in 30 years. President Clinton raised taxes on the rich in 1992 (without a single Republican vote). Over 9 million jobs were created in the next eight years and he turned over a budget surplus to President Bush. As my grandmother used to say, the proof of the pudding is in the tasting.

Raise taxes on the rich, get out of two immoral wars, force corporations to actually pay any taxes and reduce government spending and you have the recipe for recovery. Make it easier for Americans workers to organize. Make health care available to everyone (taking away a huge cudgel employers use to force workers to choose between higher wages or higher health care costs). Make college free and improve public education by attracting better teachers with better wages. Rebuild our infrastructure. Re-invent the electrical grid. Spend money on basic research and green research and take back the manufacturing of everything from wind turbines to high-speed rail. All of this and more could be done but won’t be as long as the rich and powerful control the political process.

When someone declares war on you, you can either surrender or fight back. Why won't working Americans fight back? How is it so much anger is directed at government spending but not at government policies that give more and more wealth to the rich? American workers continue to increase their productivity and get no benefit in return. Corporate profits are through the roof, yet the median American household income has dropped back to what it was in 1996. An entire decade of progress lost while, at the same time, the richest 1% have seen their income skyrocket. How is it the Koch brothers and Joe Coors and Richard Melon Scaife and so many other of the uber-rich can pour money into the tea party movement and regressive think tanks and there is no pushback from working Americans? The billionaire Koch brothers have created an organization, Alec, which is designed to write legislation for state legislatures across the country. It will enable regressive politicians to bust public employee unions, ransack pension funds, pass right to work laws all aimed at preventing Americans from organizing and acquiring any political power to check this march to economic inequality. Where are the groups and organizations that represent average working Americans?

We need class warfare in this country. We need to take back the government currently in the pocket of Wall Street, bankers and the ultra rich. Will you fight so your children can have a future where they can see their economic boats rise, provide for their families, compete in the global economy, have hope for a better life or will you roll over and play dead? The rich Brahmans of this nation do not have your best interests at heart. They want to increase their wealth at you and your family's expense. They oppose anything that will lessen the widening gap between them and you. (Unions, social security, Medicare, minimum wage, 8-hour day, 40-hour week, OSHA are just some of the ideas they tried to destroy in the last 75 years) If you don't believe me, look at the most recent crisis in Washington. Regressives don't want to fund FEMA, (Federal Emergency Management Agency), unless Democrats agree to cut the budget for a program designed to research energy efficient cars. They are willing to let FEMA's coffers run dry even as this nation experiences an unprecedented year of natural disasters.

Huzzah to President Obama for firing the first shot in an overdo reply to the war started in 1980. We have been at war for over 30 years. One thing history has taught us is if the gap between the rich and the rest of us continues to grow, there will come a day when those on the bottom have nothing to lose if they simply tear the whole system down. We became the great nation we are because we spread prosperity to all segments of society. We fall when only a few continue to benefit at everyone else's expense.

Friday, September 16, 2011


New York Times columnist Paul Krugman posted comments on his blog claiming the memory of the events of September 11, 2001 have been poisoned by those who exploited it to start two wars, and played on America's fears to advance a regressive agenda diluting or eliminating over 75 years of court decisions expanding civil liberties in this country. I had written a similar piece more than a week before the anniversary. In last week's Newsweek, Andrew Sullivan writes about his reaction to that day and ends up in the same place I did as well. He bemoans how he, the punditocracy, and Americans in general, let fear lead them to support calls for war and excoriates the corporate media for shirking its responsibility to act as a check on government excess and falsehoods. He says he is embarrassed he found himself "trusting" the government. Along with Sullivan and Krugman, the publication The Week had on its cover a fortress America with the question, "Did We Overreact?". Once again, sentiments echoing my piece. It warms the cockles of this incarcerated heart to see my mind and perspective have not gone to seed yet. It is also proof what should have been a defining moment of unity in this nation; instead became a political instrument used to irreparably damage America economically, politically and spiritually. (Yes, this is a bit of a self-serving pat on the back, but believe me there haven't been many opportunities for such self-aggrandizement over the last 3 years)

I'm sure Mr. Krugman will not take much solace knowing he and I agree, nor will my words help him weather the tsunami of criticism which inundated the blogosphere in the following days. According to, "liberal" bloggers did not rise enthusiastically to his defense and regressive bloggers had a field day criticizing him. I have no idea why progressive bloggers wouldn't have agreed with everything Krugman wrote but I understand perfectly the vitriol from regressives.

What is most interesting is the nature of the criticism. The attacks on Krugman by the likes of Michele Malkin and Faux and Friends attacked his appearance..."ugly little man with a beard."...Patriotism..."how can one hate his country as much as Krugman must?"...Work ethic..."he only wrote 181 words which is an insult to his readers"...and timing..."how does he post this on the 10th anniversary of the attacks?" What I could not find, and did not see, was one attempt to address the meat of Krugman's piece. The criticism was all ad hominem attacks with no substance. In fact, if you read the more prominent regressive voices, they seem to have ceded the field to Krugman when it comes to the central point of his argument.

Osama Bin Laden knew us better than we knew ourselves. Sullivan writes Bin Laden baited us, set a trap and we fell for it hook, line, and sinker. Bin Laden said one of his goals was to bankrupt America's economy and he also apparently knew our history. Whenever Americans are scared, the first thing they do is abandon the Bill of Rights and look towards a benevolent dictator who will both assure them and keep them safe. 10 years later, not even Bin Laden dared to imagine his plan would work out so well. America is weaker today than it was 10 years ago. Our economy is in shambles and our military is irreparably broken. We have squandered over $1.5 trillion on two unnecessary wars. (Ironically, exactly the number the congressional super committee must cut from the federal budget further damaging a fragile economic recovery) We are at each other's throats on almost every domestic front. We are paralyzed and appear incapable of producing resolutions to vital economic and political problems.

Maybe Bin Laden read the PNAC document Cheney et. al. signed in 1998. Maybe he was a genius and knew given the chance, Bush and Cheney would implement the provisions calling for an invasion of Iraq and projecting American power in the Middle East to protect the Likud party and Israel. His plan would have failed had Al Gore been president. Gore would have invaded Afghanistan, but not Iraq. Gore would have opposed most of the Patriot Act's worst provisions. Gore would have killed Bin Laden at Tora Bora cutting the head off of Al Qaida and the Taliban. (Mullah Omar escaped at that time as well) He would have finished the job in Afghanistan and not diverted resources to Iraq and we wouldn't still be there today. Gore would not have cut taxes for the rich to the tune of almost $2 trillion in lost revenue to the government. He would not have eviscerated environmental and other regulations and he would not have set up secret prisons to torture nor the continuing eyesore that is Guantanamo. For Bin Laden to succeed, he needed Bush, Cheney, Giuliani, Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, Fife and Tennant in power. They did exactly what he wanted. They "poisoned" the memory of September 11th by so politicizing and manipulating it. Today it is a symbol of a tragedy not caused by terrorism by rather by self-inflicted wounds.

If I have one criticism of Krugman, it would be for turning off the ability of readers to comment. Donald Rumsfeld was forced to tweet. (I love that image) He was cancelling his subscription to the Times. Yes, the comments would have been nasty ad hominem attacks on him and his patriotism, but he also would have read many agreeing with him. More importantly, the dialogue would have been good for us and he could have taken great joy in provoking his enemies and giving succor to his friends.

The butcher's bill rung up for September 11th is still growing. When will it end?

Thursday, September 8, 2011


On the morning of September 11, 2001, my wife woke me and turned on CNN. I watched the second plane hit the tower and I watched the twin towers collapse. I saw the damage done to the Pentagon. We kept our children home from school and I spent the next 12 hours glued to the television. That night at 10 pm, I opened my program with a guest and asked whether American foreign policy played any role motivating the terrorists. In the middle of a commercial break, my boss called me and told me I was committing career suicide. "This is a time for being warm and consoling and sympathetic. People are scared. It is not the time to be asking about blame or suggesting we brought this on ourselves." He would call back 2 or 3 more times, each call more apoplectic than the last. He didn't think listeners could handle the questions being asked. He felt they needed to be coddled and handled with kid gloves. He knew I would be accused of insensitivity at best and treason and hatred of country at worst. He was right about the aftermath. The accusations flew fast and furious. He was right about the jarring nature of the presentation that night. He was right when he observed people were sad and distressed and wanted comfort. He was wrong about my career or my read of my audience. My ratings skyrocketed. People wanted an adult discussion. They wanted to explore and understand and they listened night after night. I killed my career... of that there is no doubt...but it didn't happen on September 11, 2001. On that occasion, I showed the respect for my audience they deserved. I refused to pander and I was convinced we had ignored the consequences of the "Gore in the Gulf" and other policies in the Middle East and Muslim world. Unfortunately, my audience proved to be the exception to the rule.

Newsweek's cover has the word "resilient" plastered across it; referring to the American people and their reaction to the events of September 11th. Nothing could be farther from the truth. My listeners refused to be afraid and demanded answers. Americans in general were just the opposite. The last thing they wanted was answers. They were scared and what they wanted was someone to promise to protect them and get those responsible for attacking us. They wanted to strike back. They wanted the fear to stop and anyone who promised to meet those needs was embraced. The American people aren't resilient. They aren't rugged individualists. They aren't continuing the line of good pioneering stock that won the West. The American people are easily frightened and easily stampeded and they don not want, to this day, to be confronted with uncomfortable truths about the nature of the world and our role in it.

Do you remember what happened to Bill Maher when he observed you could call the attackers murderers and terrorists, but the one thing you couldn't call them was cowards? He noted someone willing to die for their cause may be crazy or misguided, but they aren't cowards. For this, he lost he show on ABC and was drummed off the air even after engaging in a humiliating tour of media outlets apologizing profusely for committing the unforgiveable act of telling the truth.

Within months of the attack, Congress passed the Patriot Act and the "resilient" American people cheered. Have you ever asked yourself how a body which can't get out of its own way, was able to draft and pass and send to the President a comprehensive anti-terrorist piece of legislation in such a short period of time? Most members hadn't even read it. When civil libertarians raised questions about the wisdom of giving the government the power to spy on its citizens, sneak into their homes, bug their phones and computers, seize their library records and eviscerate the 4th and 5th amendments, and do all of this in secret, they were greeted by shouts of " appeaser" and "traitor" and accused of being "soft" on terrorism by those same "resilient" Americans.

We now know the corporate media was scared to death of the "resilient" American population. Dan Rather and other journalists have admitted they were intimidated and wary of asking the White House and Congress attacking...aggressive questions for fear of losing viewers or readers angry at the way their protectors were being treated. President Bush was given a free pass when he implied Iraq was involved in the planning and execution of September 11th and faced no scrutiny, except by Joe Wilson, when he claimed Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. For years, he and Cheney et. al. would get away with lying and manipulating the facts to justify starting two wars, and the dismantling of most of our significant civil liberties.

In December of 2001, President Bush ordered the National Security Agency (NSA) to being to illegally monitor all phone and electronic media used by American citizens. He told them not to worry about warrants or the need for probable cause. Because a feckless Congress, led by Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid and with then Senator Obama's assent, agreed to give the telecom companies immunity from prosecution or lawsuits, we will never know the extent or the breadth of this illegal activity. The Congress was afraid to stand up to the "resilient" Americans and the people accepted all of this as if it were a pacifier to be suckled and embraced. These rugged individualist descendants of John Wayne and Paul Bunyan were willing to throw away the very protections the terrorists hated the most, because they were scared and were willing to give up any freedom to get a little security.

Give President Bush and Vice President Cheney their due. In 1998, they signed on to a document by the Project for a New American Century (PNAC) that concluded the American people needed a new Pearl Harbor to scare them into accepting war with Iraq and a dramatic dilution of their civil liberties. 3 years later, they used the irrational reaction of Americans to turn this nation into a shadow of its constitutional self.

Americans are still scared. They can still be stampeded into accepting legislation and foreign policy that is crippling this nation. They have accepted a Department of Homeland Security which is sucking up resources with little to show for it. President Obama will ask for over $80 billion to fund the national security/anti-terrorism programs of our government. You can still be assured of garnering headlines and votes by waving the bloody shirt of terrorism and watching Americans kneel in fear. If you doubt this, just watch Congressman Peter King (R. NY). He raised money and politically supported terrorists (IRA) when they represented his political and personal views, but now gets front-page treatment any time he uses the word terrorism even if it is to oppose a mosque and community center being proposed for New York City.

September 11th proved one absolute truth. No one can ever lose politically by overestimating how easily the American people can be manipulated through the use of various bogeymen and their collective fear. Newsweek is wrong. A resilient people would have stood up, dusted themselves off, gone back to work and refused to be used to advance a regressive agenda which leaves the nation worse off 10 years later. A resilient people would have fought to protect their basic rights. A resilient people would have been outraged to find out their government was torturing people in secret prisons. A resilient people would never have supported two unnecessary and immoral wars and the loss of so many soldiers and treasure just to feel a little more secure. This anniversary would be worth celebrating were we a stronger and more mature nation because of the attacks. Unfortunately, just the opposite is true.

Saturday, September 3, 2011


President Obama promised a different foreign policy than his predecessor. Obama said the U.S. would walk softer and seek to rebuild alliances and trust internationally. He rejected the unilateral, go it alone, cowboy policy of the Bush/Cheney crowd. He saw the damage this policy had caused and how it had hurt our prestige in the world. For all the criticism Obama takes on domestic policy, he has followed through on this campaign promise, and has achieved a significant number of successes.

The latest success is the overthrow of Gaddafi in Libya. While it is proper to raise questions about why get involved militarily in Libya and not in Bahrain or Yemen or Syria, it is also true Obama's strategy worked. He refused to have the U.S. take the lead. He demanded NATO play the central role in any action against Gaddafi. Not only did NATO take over command and control, but numerous Arab nations, especially Qatar and the U.A.E., also participated. The U.S. did not put any boots on the ground. England and France sent some special forces into Libya, but the United States refrained. The United States led other nations to recognize the transitional government and, along with Italy, France and England, agreed to unfreeze Libyan assets and make them available to the new government. Libya is in a position to restore order and revive its oil industry and begin to transition to a democratic state. It will not be easy, and nothing is guaranteed, since Libya is a tribal nation and there will be jealousies and disputes. Democracy is a messy business. There is also the possibility of Islamic forces trying to hijack the process. However, the Arab world watched as the U.S. encouraged its allies to force Gaddafi out. The standard radical Islamist line used by al Qaeda, the Taliban and others, accusing the West of abusing Muslims and supporting dictators who are friendly to the West, can no longer be used for propaganda. The Libyan people know what the U.S. role has been and they know without it they would not be free.

Obama's successes don't stop with Libya. His approach to Syria is also paying dividends. Despite criticism he waited too long to condemn Assad and call for his ouster, Obama waited until voices in the Arab world and until Muslim countries were also willing to condemn Assad. Syria's propaganda line has been that the unrest in the country has been caused by the U.S. and Israel. By waiting, Obama lined up numerous Arab nations, including Saudi Arabia and the Arab League, to call for the violence in Syria to stop. Turkey has led the call for reform and publically criticized Assad. Secretary of State Clinton has gotten European nations to agree to sanctions against Syria including refusing to buy Syrian oil. Even Iran, and its surrogate Hezbollah, are starting to hedge their bets in case Assad falls. If he does, Iran loses its chief provocateur in the region and Hezbollah would lose a sanctuary that would be a great victory for Obama and Israel. While Russia continues to oppose sanctions, Obama has gotten China to soften its opposition that has been crucial.

Obama's success cannot be chronicled without talking about the killing of Bin Laden and the decimation of al Qaeda through drone strikes in Pakistan. Just recently, al Qaeda’s number two, and its operational leader, was killed in Pakistan. Obama's policy toward al Qaeda has led many analysts to downgrade its ability to be an operational force against this country.

In a change in policy, the United States no longer automatically provides military aid and foreign aid to Pakistan. A new series of conditions have been put on the delivery of such aid. Obama refused to turn a blind eye to the treacherous double game Pakistan has been playing. They take our money while at the same time providing aid and comfort to Bin Laden and the Taliban. Pakistan is protecting the Haquani network and Pakistan's intelligence service has been cut out of the loop when it comes to American actions in Pakistan, due to the belief they are tipping off targets of value and hurting our campaign against both the terrorists and the Taliban. This is a complete about face from the Bush administration, which spent almost $8 billion in Pakistan with nothing to show for it.

Perhaps the biggest successes of Obama foreign policy involve Iran and North Korea. The United States has led a campaign to get the European Union, Russia and China to agree to tougher economic sanctions against Iran in an effort to stop their ongoing nuclear weapons program. Recently, Germany sanctioned a bank accused of laundering Iranian money. Technology sales are prohibited to Iran. Iran's economy is being damaged which is making its population restless and limiting the government's ability to mitigate the impact on everyday Iranian's lives. Bush and Cheney openly talked about going to war with Iran. Obama has cobbled together an alliance which stands the best chance of changing Iran's policy about nuclear proliferation. Since all experts agree a military strike would fail, Obama has led and come up with a viable alternative policy.

Recently, North Korean leader Kim Jung Il indicated publically a wish to restart the 6 party talks aimed at reducing or ending North Korea's nuclear weapons program. He had been adamantly opposed to such talks just a few months ago and thought he could pressure Obama into caving. Instead, the United States has stepped up sanctions, seized ships heading for North Korea that contained banned technology, engage in joint military exercises with South Korea and put pressure on China to bring North Korea back to the bargaining table. Obama let it be known, no new talks will occur until North Korea makes some concessions concerning its nuclear program. It seems to be working.

All is not sunlight and roses for Obama on foreign policy. His Afghanistan policy is a disaster with no possible victory in sight. We are disengaging with Iraq, but might stay if asked which would be a terrible decision. We don't know yet what will happen in Egypt, Tunisia, and other Arab spring nations.

It should also be noted regressive Republicans have opposed Obama on almost every foreign policy front. They criticized him for condemning former allies, like Mubarak in Egypt, too quickly and throwing them under the bus. They suggest we should prop up dictators even when their own people want them gone. Our national interests are more important than someone else's freedom for these freedom-loving Republicans. They tried to stop his foray into Libya and would have sat back and watched Gaddafi crush the rebellion. They had faint praise for killing Bin Laden and they accuse Obama of not acting fast enough in Syria. What is clear is in the current field of Republican pretenders to the throne, they all universally would continue the Bush policy of unilateral action, continued criticism of the United States and NATO, and a confrontational diplomatic mission, all of which was a disaster for 8 years and left the United States isolated and despised across the globe. In less than three years, Obama has been able to reverse much of the damage. Do we really want to go back to the diplomatic version of the Texas two-step?

Unfortunately, the election of 2012 will not be decided on issues of foreign policy. If it were, Obama would win in a landslide.