The Limits of Change: What to Expect from Obama on Foreign Policy

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Writes antiwar.com's Justin Raimondo:

"So who's up for major appointments? A number of names have been floated, some of them Republicans, for key positions like secretary of defense and secretary of state, notably the idea of keeping Robert Gates, the current defense chief, and bringing in Richard Lugar for secretary of state. Both possibilities underscore the essential continuity of our misguided and increasingly dangerous foreign policy of global intervention.

The most troubling possibility here is Dennis Ross, a career foreign policy bureaucrat who was instrumental in shaping America's Israel-centric policy in the Middle East under George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. He is a longtime associate of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), the scholarly adjunct of AIPAC, Israel's powerful lobbying organization in the U.S., which he co-founded.

The beginning of Ross' career as a civil servant is a good indicator of what we might expect from him, and from the Obama administration when it comes to setting Middle Eastern policy. When Ronald Reagan was elected in 1980, he brought in Paul Wolfowitz to run the policy planning at the State Department, and Wolfie brought in his neocon buddies: I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Francis Fukuyama, Zalmay Khalilzad, James Roche, Stephen Sestanovich, Alan Keyes (yes, that Alan Keyes!), and Ross. In short, Ross has always been a reliable member in good standing of the neocon foreign policy cabal, the very same group that lied us into war with Iraq – and is now intent on doing the same with Iran. Although the neocons who came to Washington were mostly ex-Democrats, Ross stayed with his old party, although partisan allegiances seem not to mean much to him. He has served under three secretaries of state: James Baker, Warren Christopher, and Madeleine Albright.

You wondered why, during the debates, Obama was so belligerent on the Georgian question. Obama and McCain both hew to the War Party's Orwellian view, which grotesquely inverts the truth, decrying "Russian aggression" when it was the Georgians who started that war. One would normally expect this of McCain, whose chief foreign policy adviser was, until very recently, a paid lobbyist for the Georgians, but Obama, too, refuses to acknowledge Tbilisi's aggression against a "breakaway province." Ossetia has been de facto independent for more than a decade, and the supposedly smart Obama is no doubt aware of this – never mind the hundreds killed in the siege of Tskhinvali, the Ossetian capital city mercilessly assaulted by Georgian troops.

Obama has long stressed he would immediately begin escalating the Afghan campaign, and perhaps open up a new front in Pakistan. Certainly the Bush administration has laid the groundwork for this eastward shift of U.S. military resources – and so the stage is set.

When Rachel Maddow asked Obama the other day why our intervention in Afghanistan wouldn't end up like the Iraq war, or more so, he emphatically rejected the comparison, yet he never addressed her underlying concern. She just smiled, rather wanly, and went on to the next question.

Whether or not Ross gets the national security post, the fact remains that the War Party, far from being banished from Washington, will have an inside track in the new administration. What's different about Obama, however, is that the other side also has a seat at the table – or, at the very least, isn't completely locked out of the deliberations. I was astonished to learn that none other than Gen. Anthony Zinni, retired Marine commander and trenchant critic of the neocon influence on the making of American foreign policy, is up for the job. A 2003 Washington Post profile of Zinni reports:

"The more he listened to [Deputy Defense Secretary Paul] Wolfowitz and other administration officials talk about Iraq, the more Zinni became convinced that interventionist 'neoconservative' ideologues were plunging the nation into a war in a part of the world they didn't understand. 'The more I saw, the more I thought that this was the product of the neocons who didn't understand the region and were going to create havoc there. These were dilettantes from Washington think tanks who never had an idea that worked on the ground.' …

"The goal of transforming the Middle East by imposing democracy by force reminds him of the 'domino theory' in the 1960s that the United States had to win in Vietnam to prevent the rest of Southeast Asia from falling into communist hands. And that brings him back to Wolfowitz and his neoconservative allies as the root of the problem. 'I don't know where the neocons came from – that wasn't the platform they ran on,' he says. 'Somehow, the neocons captured the president. They captured the vice president.'"

I wouldn't bet the farm on Zinni getting it, but the fact that he's in the running at all is astonishing. If that's the amount of change you want in American foreign policy, then you'll be happy with the Obama administration – even as they escalate the conflict in Afghanistan, spread it to Pakistan, and prepare for war with Iran."

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