July 15, 2008


Contra Expectations: Obama isn't Jimmy Carter--he's Ronald Reagan (Eli Lake, July 30, 2008, New Republic)

Before unpacking the Obama view of the war on terrorism, let's dismiss the comparisons to Jimmy Carter. A bit of a refresher course in the horrors of the late 1970s: Jimmy Carter pledged to enshrine human rights as a central value in U.S. foreign policy. That was an admirable goal, but Carter didn't just inject human rights into U.S. foreign policy; he allowed it to rule policy, no matter the implications for the fight against communism. During the Carter era, the United States cooled its relations with vital client states like the Shah's government in Iran and the Somoza regime in Nicaragua, even as they fought for their lives. The locus classicus of this critique was, of course, Jeane Kirkpatrick's Commentary essay, "Dictatorships and Double Standards," where she excoriated the Carter administration for its studied neutrality as pro-American autocrats fell to Marxist-Leninist revolutionaries. She concluded that Carter's foreign policy was incapable of distinguishing between real democratic activists and would-be totalitarians who cloaked their ambitions in the rhetoric of democratic self-determination. "Liberal idealism need not be identical with masochism, and need not be incompatible with the defense of freedom and the national interest," she wrote.

Does her critique apply to Barack Obama, too? That's what John McCain has, in essence, alleged. But to understand why this charge won't stick--and to understand the intellectual DNA of the Obama approach to counterterrorism--you need to review the careers of Richard Clarke and Rand Beers.

....that voters who carefully review the careers of these two men may have more nuanced views of the minutiae of Senator Obama's potential foreign policy. All of those voters combined will fit comfortably in a Starbucks bathroom.
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Posted by Orrin Judd at July 15, 2008 10:58 AM

Whenever anyone "unpacks" some idea or concept or word or whatever my eyes roll back in my head and I fall prey to narcolepsy.

It's always just academic speak for who you gonna believe me or your lyin' eyes?

Posted by: Benny at July 15, 2008 12:44 PM
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