If Obama’s Foreign Policy Was More Like Reagan’s…

Following the Russian confrontation in Crimea, the neocon politicians and right wing media have compared President Obama’s foreign policy to that of their idol’s – Ronald Reagan. Since I don’t remember those days as fondly as they do, and I remember conversations during a trip to Europe in which Europeans stated that they feared the US far more than the USSR, I thought it would be interesting to actually compare Reagan’s foreign policy with that of Obama’s.

Here’s what I found:

If Obama was more like Reagan, he would have immediately cut and run from Afghanistan as Reagan did from Beirut following the deaths of 241 Marines in a terrorist attack. He would illegally sell weapons to our enemies as Reagan did to Iran in exchange for the money needed to support death squads in El Salvador and Nicaragua. He would embrace torturers and killers resulting in the deaths of more than 100,000 innocent peasants. And he would encourage his National Security Advisors to break the law resulting in 14 convictions and at least one other indictment.

Obama would escalate military spending on wasteful and unnecessary weapons programs tripling the national debt. He would bluster and threaten other military powers demanding an end to confrontation then reject their concessions as Reagan rejected Gorbachev’s initiative for total nuclear disarmament.

In defiance of international treaties, Obama would provide chemical and biological weapons to a brutal dictator for use against his neighbors and his own people as Reagan did for Saddam Hussein. He would break international treaties and norms in support of other repressive regimes. He would publically joke about using nuclear weapons. He would order the invasion of a tiny island nation despite the protests of Canada, the United Kingdom and the United Nations General Assembly.

Obama would channel military aid and propaganda materials to fundamentalist Muslims that would later be used by terrorists against the United States. He would support terrorists known for skinning captives alive and throwing acid in the faces of women who failed to wear burkas.

Yes, those were the “good old days.” Let’s have more of that.

Men (And Women) Of War.

Now that the political upheaval in Ukraine is reaching a critical juncture, the usual warmongers are blustering and calling for military threats. At the same time, they’re blaming President Obama for “weak foreign policy.” Exactly which foreign policy do they consider weak? The policy that ferreted out and killed Osama bin Laden? The policy of targeting al-Qaeda leaders with drone strikes? The policy of providing air support for Libyan rebels? The policy of mandatory inspections and destruction of chemical weapons in Syria?

Or is it the policy of allowing the people of other nations to select their own government and leaders? Is it the peace negotiations with the new moderate President of Iran who requested a dialogue to end the severe economic sanctions in exchange for Iran ending its ambition for nuclear weapons? Or is it the resumption of US-led peace talks between Israel and Palestine? All of these are positive steps that stand as a welcome contrast to the Bush administration’s “you’re with us or against us” black and white approach to foreign policy.

The world is not merely black and white. It’s nuanced and complex. For example, Russia still has thousands of nuclear warheads with the capability of extinguishing all life on this planet. The US, Great Britain, France, China, India, Israel, Pakistan, and North Korea all have nuclear weapons. And all but North Korea have long-range delivery systems for their warheads. As a result, military threats and war are seldom the best solutions.

Without using nuclear warheads, which could escalate into the complete destruction of our planet, our options are limited. We have seen what happens when we involve our military in nation-building projects such as Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq. We have seen what happened when we used our CIA to overthrow leaders in Chile, Iraq, Iran, Vietnam, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and too many Caribbean and Pan American countries to count. We have seen what happens when we serve as the world’s largest arms and munitions dealer.

All of these tactics have created anti-American sentiment, anti-American terrorists and legions of heavily-armed militias who are determined to fight us and each other. Yet this reality seems lost on the neocons who still cling to Cold War beliefs and the ideals of the Project for the New American Century…a plan to expand the American empire by using our status as a superpower by bullying and threatening other nations to obtain an endless supply of cheap raw materials and underpaid labor.

It was neocons from both parties who led us to arm the Shah of Iran to help him oppress his people in exchange for selling us cheap oil. It was Teapublican neocons like Donald Rumsfled who armed Saddam Hussein to fight Iran. It was the neocon Richard Perle who convinced Ronald Reagan to rebuff Mikhail Gorbochev’s attempts to rid the world of nuclear weapons. It was the neocons who led us to arm and educate the radical Islamists of western Pakistan to fight the Soviets. It was neocons like George H.W. Bush, Oliver North, Elliott Abrams, Caspar Weinberger and Richard “The Dick” Cheney who arranged to sell arms to Iran in exchange for the illegal funding of death squads in El Salvador and Nicaragua. It was the neocons who supported the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan in hopes that the Taliban would allow US oil companies to build a pipeline across Afghanistan so that they could gain access to Caspian oil and gas. It was neocons like Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, Scooter Libby and Condoleeza Rice who used the attacks of 9/11 to lead us into Iraq in order to ensure access to Iraqi oil.

More recently, neocon-lite Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham called for direct military involvement in Libya and Syria despite the fact that many of the militias involved in the war to overthrow Assad in Syria are allied with al-Qaeda. McCain, Graham and other warmongers from both political parties have called for increased sanctions on Iran – even as serious negotiations are underway – a move that would be likely to result in war with Iran. And now, the neocons are calling for confrontation and intervention in Ukraine. They are claiming that the problems in Ukraine are the result of the Obama administration’s “weak” foreign policy.


What do they want the administration to do? Invade Ukraine despite the fact that Ukraine has long been allied with Russia? Such an intervention rightly would be seen by Russia as an act of war. Since the end of the USSR, we have already broken our promises by moving NATO to the very doorstep of Russia, a move that is seen as a very real threat. We have already deployed our missile defense system in Europe, an act that is also seen as a threat to Russia by making a US first strike seem like a real possibility.

Any threat to use military force in Ukraine would, in effect, create a reverse version of the Cuban missile crisis. And there’s no guarantee that Putin is as realistic as Nikita Kruschev and as determined to avoid nuclear war.

The Project for the New American Century ended in 2006 in the aftermath of the group’s disastrous plan to invade and remake Iraq. Unfortunately, its members and proponents, including Richard “The Dick” Cheney, William Kristol, Robert Kagan, William Bennett, Jeb Bush, Steve Forbes, Dan Quayle and many others continue to sell the same bad ideas. Their ideas need to be relegated to the toxic waste dump of history where they belong. While we’re at it, we should bury the racist notion of American “Exceptionalism” along with the top-down economic policy known as Reaganomics, aka Trickle Down theory, Horse and Sparrow economics, and Voodoo economics. It’s time to leave the military and economic thinking of the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries behind us.

It is a new century with new possibilities. It requires new thinking and new strategies.

The Man Who Saved Nukes.

In 1986, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev asked for a meeting with President Ronald Reagan. When they met in October of that year, Gorbachev surprised Reagan by offering what may have been the greatest gift in history. He proposed a realistic path that would lead to total nuclear disarmament. It would have resulted in the mutual destruction of all nuclear warheads over a period of 10 years and the elimination of all such weapons worldwide. It called for ongoing inspections to make certain that such weapons would never exist again. And it would have forever removed the very real threat of the annihilation of our species.

The offer was no trick. No attempt to gain military advantage over the United States. It was a sincere attempt to end the madness of the Cold War.

There was only one condition – that the US would agree to limit the testing of Reagan’s pet project, the Strategic Defense Initiative otherwise known as the “Star Wars” defense system. The US would be allowed to continue to develop SDI, but testing would be limited to laboratories and it could not be deployed. This was not an onerous condition since the project was still in the early days of development. It likely would never have been ready for deployment within the 10 year period. And after nuclear disarmament, it would no longer have been needed anyway.

Of course, Reagan refused.

Reagan’s neocon advisers, especially Richard Perle, convinced Reagan that Gorbachev was asking too much. They felt that restricting SDI to laboratory testing would not be accepted by the conservatives back home. They demanded atmospheric testing. As a result, we missed the best chance to rid the world of nuclear weapons in a lifetime – maybe forever. So the next time you hear someone like George W. Bush trying to create fear by pointing to the threat of nuclear weapons, remember who is truly responsible for the continuing threat.

Reagan is the man who was credited with ending the Cold War, but the real credit belongs to Gorbachev. It’s thanks to Reagan that we still live under the threat of nuclear weapons and the very real chance that they might fall into the hands of someone crazy enough to use them.

Source: The Untold History of the United States

We Could All Learn From “The Jerk.”

The Jerk, starring Steve Martin, has long been one of my favorite movies. Not only is it filled with great comedy, it is filled with wisdom and life lessons. One such lesson is represented by the scene in which Martin’s character, Navin, first sees his name listed in the phone book. “I am somebody!” he exclaims.

That should be meaningful to all of us since it represents the human need for acknowledgement and respect. In fact, I believe respect is one of the most basic of human needs right after air, food and water. None of us want to think that we will journey through life without leaving a mark or even being noticed. Indeed, many human conflicts could be avoided by simply showing respect for others.

Street gangs are formed as a result of seeking a sense of belonging. Usually, they band together when the individual members feel disrespected by others in their community. And they are willing to fight and die when they are disrespected by other gangs.

Likewise, consumers experience frustration and anger when corporations and other institutions treat them as mere sources of money instead of actually working to fulfill their needs. Workers feel unappreciated and disrespected when they are paid too little money, or when extra effort goes unnoticed. Civil rights issues, such as gay marriage, are as much about respect and fairness as they are about freedom and personal liberty.

The need for respect even leads nations into war when they feel that others are trying to take advantage of them. For example, the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States began as the result of President Truman’s bellicose and belligerent statements that showed contempt for our World War II ally. Truman thought that, since we were the only nation to hold the secret of nuclear weapons, he could use that power to disregard prior agreements and exact new concessions from the Soviets.

In other words, Truman ignored the Soviets’ need for respect.

This is a lesson that should be considered as we enter negotiations with Iran and as we press for new trade concessions from China. It’s what both Democrats and Republicans need to consider if they are to accomplish anything that will benefit our citizens during the next session of Congress. It’s what we all need to keep in mind as we interact with each other. Not just during the holiday season, but year ‘round.

As Aretha Franklin sang, “R-E-S-P-E-C-T…I got to have a little respect.” It’s what everyone needs and deserves.