Our readers write: January Surprise?

In the days before the presidential elections, the US launched an air-strike on a village in Syria. Since then, the US has been bombing Pakistan every few days, with the media paying very little note. Our November Exit Poll was: “Will the Bush administration instrument a new global crisis in the time remaining to it?” We received the following responses:

From Joe Wetmore of Autumn Leaves Used Books in Ithaca, NY:

The Bush administration has been instrumental in establishing one long global crisis for almost 8 years now. It has had several flavors, but has clearly been continuous. Why would anyone think they would stop now?

The real question is, given that both major Presidential candidates have advocated for continuation of the Bush Doctrine: Is there any hope for the global crisis to ever end?

World War 4 Report replies: We take issue with both your assertions. Despite some worrisome signs (e.g. those air-strikes on Syria and Pakistan), there are also real signals that the administration is in retreat. They have been dealt humiliations by the financial debacle and election results. In Iraq, they’ve been forced to accept a Status of Forces Agreement which imposes a timetable (previously anathema) for all troops to leave, and essentially confines them to barracks except for operations authorized by the Iraqi government. Are they really going to have the wherewithal to invade Iran or otherwise instigate a global crisis in the seven weeks remaining to them? We sure hope not…

As for Obama, there are some worrisome signs there too, e.g. his bluster about unilateral military aggression against Pakistan, to which we assume you are referring. But his stated intention to withdraw from Iraq and willingness to sit down with Ahmadinejad and other “rogue state” leaders is assuredly not a “continuation of the Bush Doctrine.” We hope that the bellicose bluster is lip service to appease the right. We shall see…

From Margery Coffey in Rosalie, Nebraska:

No. He is too busy trying to figure out more bailouts for his buddies.

World War 4 Report replies: We are not sure the bailout is just a wealth-redistribution scam for Bush’s buddies. Marxist economist Andrew Kliman argues that the crisis is Worse Than They Want You to Think, and that the new state intervention is Trying to Save Capitalism from Itself. Check ’em out.

See our last posts on Barack Obama, October Surprise paranoia, and our last Exit Poll results.

  1. Obama and the Bush doctrine
    Let me clarify what “the Bush Doctrine” is. The Bush Doctrine is: we have the right to a preemptive strike against any other country that intent and ability to attack us. Virtually every country has the ability to attack us, and intent is totally subjective. The official doctrine, then, is that we have the right to attack anyone we want.

    The fact that Obama *Campaigned* that he intended on using military force in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and probably Iran without the prerequisite of these countries attacking us, or even one of our allies, is a clear continuation of the Bush Doctrine.

    1. Not.
      We acknowledged Obama’s bluster about attacking Pakistan, and we agree that it is dangerous. But it amounts to just two statements (that we are aware of). He campaigned as a dove, not a hawk. You can argue that what defines a dove in this age of hyper-intervention has moved alarmingly to the interventionist right. But he still played overwhelmingly to anti-war sentiment.

      You can oppose (as we do) Obama’s plan to move more troops to Afghanistan, but it does not fit this neocon conception of the Bush doctrine (unilateral preemptive attacks). For better or worse, the US has been in Afghanistan for seven years now, our troops are there at the invitation (however grudging) of the internationally recognized Afghan government, and the NATO force they partner with has full UN authorization.

      As for Iran, Obama’s only bellicose comments we are aware of were extremely veiled, and made (of course) in a speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. So consider the crowd he was playing to. Elsewhere, he said over and over that he would be willing to meet with Ahmadinejad. This is not the Bush doctrine.

      1. Don’t ignore the facts
        First off, Obama repeatedly said he would attack Pakistan to get Osama Bin Laden. In August 2007, Obama said, “The first step must be to get off the wrong battlefield in Iraq and take the fight to the terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan.”


        During the October 7 2008 presidential debate, he said, “And if we have Osama bin Laden in our sights and the Pakistani government is unable or unwilling to take them out, then I think that we have to act and we will take them out. We will kill bin Laden; we will crush Al Qaeda.”


        (by the way, targeting an individual for assignation is a war crime.)

        Obama at the Democratic presidential debate at St. Anselm College in Manchester, N.H., “What I said was if they [the Pakistani Government] could not or would not do so, and we had actionable intelligence, then I would strike”


        At the Nov. 15, 2007, Democratic debate, Obama said, “As president, I will do everything that is required to make sure that nuclear weapons don’t fall into the hands of extremists, especially going after Al Qaida in the hills between Afghanistan and Pakistan.”


        Obama has been consistent in his call for some kind of strike on Pakistan. Such a strike is a continuation of the Bush Doctrine.

        As for running as a “dove”, let the candidate speak for himself:

        “Now, six years ago, I stood up and opposed this war, at a time when it was politically risky to do so, because I said that not only did we not know how much it was going to cost, what our exit strategy might be, how it would affect our relationships around the world and whether our intelligence was sound but also because we hadn’t finished the job in Afghanistan. We hadn’t caught bin Laden. We hadn’t put Al Qaeda to rest. And as a consequence, I thought that it was going to be a distraction.

        Now, Senator McCain and President Bush had a very different judgment. And I wish I had been wrong, for the sake of the country, and they had been right. But that’s not the case.

        We’ve spent over $600 billion so far, soon to be a trillion. We have lost over 4,000 lives. We have seen 30,000 wounded. And most importantly from a strategic, national security perspective, Al Qaeda is resurgent, stronger now than at any time since 2001.

        We took our eye off the ball and not to mention that we are still spending $10 billion a month, when they have a $79 billion surplus, at a time when we are in great distress here at home and we just talked about the fact that our budget is way overstretched, and we are borrowing money from overseas to try to finance just some of the basic functions of our government.

        So I think the lesson to be drawn is that we should never hesitate to use military force, and I will not as president in order to keep the American people safe. But we have to use our military wisely, and we did not use our military wisely in Iraq. ”


        Let me emphasize the words “never hesitate to use military force”. Hardly the words of a “dove”.

        I don’t know why you are making excuses for Obama’s words on Iran. He said them in a public forum. Yes he chose a forum where this criminal position would be well received. If you were speaking before AIPAC, would you advocate the same thing?

        1. We aren’t ignoring anything
          We acknowledged that Obama twice invoked the possibility of unilateral military action on Pakistan’s territory. You cited both of those instances. The other two quotes you cite are bellicose, but don’t explicitly invoke unilateral military action. Sure, twice technically constitutes “repeatedly.” It does not constitute “consistent.”

          The quote you present from the presidential debate is a bit of an irony. The first four paragraphs are an argument against the Iraq war. But you zero in on the “never hesitate to use military force” line in the last paragraph, which was the text’s one sop to the right and was immediately followed by a “but”…

          If we didn’t think Obama’s words on Iran were dangerous, we wouldn’t have called him out for them on this blog. There is a difference between “making excuses” and understanding context. If I were speaking before AIPAC, would I advocate the same thing? No. But I’m not running for president, and I couldn’t imagine circumstances in which I’d be invited to speak before AIPAC, so it is hardly a relevant question.

          Is Obama a pacifist? Could a pacifist possibly get elected president? The answer to both those questions is obviously no. But did Obama position himself as a dove relative to Bush and McCain? Does he reject the Bush doctrine? The answer to both those questions is obviously yes.

          1. still ignoring the facts
            “But did Obama position himself as a dove relative to Bush and McCain?”

            There is a big difference between “less militaristic than McCain” and a “dove”. Your logic is no different than saying, “the lesser of two evils is a saint.” Obama may be less militaristic than McCain, but he is not dove.

            “Does he reject the Bush doctrine?”

            You say he does, show me where. I’ve shown you where he has made statements that are constant with the Bush Doctrine. Unless you can show him both denouncing the Bush Doctrine and explaining how his positions are different from it, it is hard to understand why you can hang on to your position.

            1. How do those cherries taste?
              We’re not ignoring facts, but you are cherry-picking yours.

              We never said anything other than that Obama positioned himself as a dove compared to Bush and McCain. We acknowledged that what constitutes a “dove” is pretty far out of wack in this hyper-interventionist age. We certainly never implied Obama is a “saint.” If you want moral purity, fine for you, but it makes you utterly irrelevant. You think we should only vote for unelectable “saints” like Kucinich and McKinney and leave the White House in the hands of the neocons forever? There’ll be a whole lot more dead Iraqis and Pakistanis that way. So if that’s your position, you should acknowledge that it has more to do with your feelings of sanctimony than solidarity with the victims of US aggression.

              You have pointed out two Obama statements (both of which we had already acknowledged) which were consistent with the Bush doctrine. You conveniently ignore everything else he has said. Obama has stated both repeatedly and consistently that he is willing to talk with Ahmadinejad and any other “rogue state” leader—and took plenty of shit for it from the McCain camp. He has stated repeatedly and consistently (including in his press conference yesterday announcing his new national security team) that he seeks to rebuild alliances, work with the United Nations, and generally seek multilateralism. He has stated repeatedly and consistently (including at the press conference) that he will seek to use “diplomatic, economic and political” as well as military means to defeat terrorism. He has embraced the findings of a recent RAND study that the phrase “war on terrorism” itself should be dropped, and none of his campaign material has ever invoked it.

              You are confusing an absolute pacifist position with rejection of the Bush doctrine. Two very different things.

              1. Apples or Oranges
                I defined the Bush Doctrine in my earlier message. It does not say that the US will not talk with its adversaries, it say we will invade them if our leaders feel threatened by them. Bush also tends not to talk with anyone as well, but that is just another one of his policies. His recent departure from this pattern of avoiding diplomatic discussions has not been seen as a repeal of the Bush Doctrine.

                So all your “evidence” of Obama’s willingness to talk to adversaries is irrelevant. The relevant facts are that Obama is advocating a policy of attacking any country that could be a threat. This is the heart of the Bush Doctrine.

                I am not saying we can only support a saint. I am saying that it is dishonest to portray Obama as a dove. I doubt he’d even accept that label.

                The biggest problem with calling Obama a dove, it it gives you, and your readers, the expectation that he will act like one. This is a poor assumption given that has told us over and over again that he is ready willing, and able to use military force.

                I’m simply taking him at his word that he will do the kinds of things he has said he will, not the kinds of things I hope he will.

                1. How about sour grapes?
                  That’s what we smell. Sour grapes that the Bush doctrine has been repealed not by the pipedream of the Green Party or some such non-entity miraculously gaining the White House, but by the political establishment itself, alarmed at the dramatic decline of US leadership over the past eight years, tilting back to the center.

                  The Bush doctrine does indeed dictate that either “you’re with us or with the terrorists” and there can be no negotiation with “state sponsors of terrorism”—Iran topping the list. The limited diplomatic contacts that have been established with Iran do indeed represent a retreat from the Bush doctrine. The architects of the Bush doctrine wanted to bomb Iran.

                  You don’t get to redefine the doctrine to win the argument. Unilateralism is also a pillar of the doctrine, which Obama has clearly repudiated. Your argument hinges on two occasions in which Obama invoked the possibility of unilateral action against Pakistani territory (which we roundly criticized at the time). We say the countervailing evidence suggests these comments constituted a sop to the neocons—not an embrace of their agenda.

                  It is not dishonest to state the obvious: that Obama positioned himself as a dove relative to Bush and McCain. How can you dismiss this when he made pulling out of Iraq, and his record of opposing the invasion, a centerpiece of his campaign? (It’s also true that his new national security team clearly represents a tilt back to the hawks, although nothing indicates a return to the Bush doctrine, which would be political suicide.)

                  So you’re taking Obama at his word that he will do what he said he will? Then you must assume that all the troops will be home from Iraq in 16 months. We wish we were so optimistic.