Interventionism, Obama-Style

Interventionism, Obama-Style

By Ray Robison

Can you imagine the international outcry if a President of the United States went to the United Nations and demanded that a UN military force invade a hostile, sovereign country? Sure you can; we already lived through that over Iraq. Now imagine that President Bush had made the demand that our allies like Canada and Australia should invade, but not offer a single US infantry soldier beside them. Wouldn’t that be a bit embarrassing?

Then get ready for the foreign policy of an Obama Administration.
Of late, Obama has sung a decidedly noninterventionist tune. But it wasn’t always so. The senator sounded quite hawkish just a few years ago in 2005,when he urged military intervention in the Darfur conflict. Senator Obama coauthored an op-ed piece for the Washington Post  in which he lauded the Bush Administration for trying to end that conflict, a fight that has little to do with US national security. He urged an escalation, a surge if you will, of American diplomatic and military support to end the humanitarian crises created by ethnic-religious conflict. He wrote, “It has become clear that a U.N. – or NATO-led force is required” to end escalating violence in Sudan.

However he did not say US forces should be in direct combat roles. So what exactly did he mean?

The Senator continued to push for stronger outside military involvement in the Sudan civil war in late 2006. He told the Chicago Sun-Times “my overarching sense is the great urgency to get a United Nations protective force on the ground.”
Again, this sounds like an interventionist policy.
Can that be right I wondered? Surely no reasonable American leader would demand an escalation in military commitment by our friends without a willingness to lead with our own forces.
But that is exactly what Senator Obama was pushing. PBS’s  Gwen Ifill asked the Senator to clarify his position on what the US should commit to in Sudan:
I’ll turn this question to Sen. Obama, if NATO gets involved, does that increase the chances that there will be US troops involved on the ground?
Senator Obama’s response is just shocking:
Well, I don’t think that the issue right now is US troops. The issue is US leadership.
In the interim, having NATO forces there that could be supplied by some of the middle powers, Canada, Australia, others that have experience in peacekeeping would be absolutely crucial.
Evidently, what Senator Obama wanted was for the US to demonstrate leadership by pressuring our allies to conduct a mission to which he wasn’t prepared to commit our own forces. It might be understandable if he were talking about just the African or regional forces already involved. But no, he specifically said we should demand that our NATO allies risk their soldier’s lives while we were going to sit it out.
Later, when asked a direct question about his opposition to staying in Iraq despite the threat of increasing the humanitarian crises if we left Iraq, he stated:
“Well, look, if that’s the criteria by which we are making decisions on the deployment of U.S. forces, then by that argument you would have 300,000 troops in the Congo right now – where millions have been slaughtered as a consequence of ethnic strife – which we haven’t done,” Obama said in an interview with The Associated Press.
“We would be deploying unilaterally and occupying the Sudan, which we haven’t done. Those of us who care about Darfur don’t think it would be a good idea,” he said.
So Obama can be said to have a noninterventionist policy — unless he can make someone else do the dirty work. Is that what passes for Democratic leadership now-a-days? JFK would be rolling in his grave.
Thereby Obama stakes out an appearance of hawkishness as long as it is to help the weak and innocent, yet a certain amount of dovishness (for the liberal base) in that he doesn’t want to intervene unilaterally — conveniently forgetting that the US has had forces in Iraq under UN mandate for many years now. Sprinkle in some multicultural balderdash and viola! — our enemies will kowtow and our friends will love us for it.
And this is the man that is going to “restore” our standing in the world? Any guesses as to what Canadians or Australians might say to an American president who made such a demand?
The truth is that any American president who wants to lead this world into a better state by spreading democracy, economic prosperity, rule of law and American largess must consider the use of force from time to time. A courageous Commander and Chief must be willing to accept the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune that comes with leading troops into battle. Claiming the moral high ground by making a grandiose show of your willingness to fight for the poor, yet pawning the dirty work of actually fighting off to friends is simply craven. Would you want a friend who pawns the dirty work on to you while he claims the credit?

Ray Robison is co-author of Both in One Trench.

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