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Will Obama's Militarism Obscure and Overshadow his Diplomacy?

By       Message Ron Fullwood     Permalink
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"The inheritance of our young century demands a new era of American leadership . . . We must recognize that America's strength comes not just from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from our enduring values." -Pres. Obama


Barack Obama made this remark at his first visit to the State Dept. announcing his new diplomatic team which included Hillary Clinton, George Mitchell, and Richard Holbrooke and announcing his signing of three executive orders intending to reverse the Bush administration policies regarding torture, the Guantanamo prison, and the 'terrorist' suspects' detention policy overall.

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There can be no doubt that these bold actions were undertaken in an ambitious review determined to put an end to policies which served in the Bush term to undermine any U.S. moral high ground which would lend credibility to his claims that he was 'spreading democracy' behind his dual government overthrows and military occupations. Indeed, there have been expressions of approval to the announcements from the Middle East which are encouraging signs that a new approach from the U.S. which respect laws and the primacy of life and liberty would be welcomed and greeted with the indispensable commodity of cooperation.

In the interim in which these policies' fate and direction are to be decided by the new administration, however, there will be certain effects and consequences of the 'enduring' military missions in Iraq and Afghanistan which have lost almost all of Bush's political veneer of protecting our national security or avenging the 9-11 attacks and have devolved into dubious nation-building schemes which suppose that regimes installed behind invading, marauding military forces will provide 'stabilizing' democracies as a bulwark against terrorist attacks.

In his remarks introducing his new, special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, Pres. Obama outlined his intentions in Afghanistan with a decidedly balanced prescription of diplomacy, financial assistance, and military force.

"The Afghan government has been unable to deliver basic services," Obama said. "Al Qaeda and the Taliban strike from bases embedded in rugged tribal terrain along the Pakistani border. And while we have yet to see another attack on our soil since 9/11, Al Qaida terrorists remain at large and remain plotting."

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"We will seek stronger partnerships with the governments of the region, sustain cooperation with our NATO allies, deeper engagement with the Afghan and Pakistani people, and a comprehensive strategy to combat terror and extremism," he told the State Dept. personnel gathered to welcome him.

To be certain, the new president's remarks are reassuring to the diplomatic institution - which had served for eight years as a mere advance PR branch of the Bush/Cheney Pentagon - that their efforts would be vital and instrumental to a president who intends to put their diplomacy at the forefront of his foreign policy. Both Sec. of State Clinton and the newly designated Holbrooke, in the days following, have made engaging phone calls around the region and have announced that Holbrooke and other diplomats would be traveling to Pakistan and other areas in the near future to flesh out the new relationships promised.

The danger for the Obama administration, in their efforts to lead with their diplomacy, is the prospect of their military engagements overshadowing whatever deals and aid they might manage to broker. In both Iraq and Afghanistan, the entire structure of our presence there is based on the military occupation and its protection of the regimes installed behind the sacrifices of our military forces. It is that very military presence which has aggravated and alienated any of the citizens of these countries who find themselves outside of the circle of the protection and influence of whatever ground our soldiers manage to seize and hold.

Yet, in his remarks this Sunday, Vice-Pres. Biden made it clear that the planned 'surge' of 20,000, or so, troops into Afghanistan are intended to do little more than hold and expand whatever ground they can wrest from the resisting population. Admitting to Bob Schieffer on CBS's 'Face the Nation' that the plan to increase the force there would cause an 'uptick' in the numbers of dead U.S. soldiers, Biden explained why.

The Obama administration has "inherited a real mess," Biden said. "We're about to go in and try to essentially reclaim territory that's been effectively lost," he said.

Essentially, the Obama administration has accepted the basic premises of Bush's occupations and are preparing to manage them to some notion of success. New brigades of soldiers are to be deployed around the unpopular Afghan President in Kabul and to reinforce the frontline arrayed against the resistance at the Pakistan border which has been counter-productively inflated with every new U.S. expression of 'shock and awe'.

As in the region's response to the U.S. military's latest, deadly armed drone attacks across Pakistan's sovereign border - which even Afghan's president protested for its indiscriminate killings of innocent men, women, and children - the continuing flailing of our military forces against the resistance to them in Afghanistan will always threaten to obscure any intended benefits from diplomacy.

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The assumption of the mission of these forces, backed by the rhetoric of the new administration, is the same reflexive posturing against the specter of al-Qaeda that the Bush WH used to justify their own consolidation of power in Afghanistan and Iraq behind their military expansionism, or nation-building.

In both countries, it's become clear that there are myriads of elements of resistance having no relationship with al-Qaeda which are striving for nothing more than their own self-determination in their own country, outside of American interests. It's no coincidence that our military presence and aggression has served to draw many of those elements further away from whatever we intend for their country and caused them to defensively align with whatever resistance forces they can advantage themselves of.

Even as the Obama administration moves to tear down the symbols and mechanisms of the previous WH and Pentagon, the remnants of the occupations and our nation's aggressive military posture endure.

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Ron Fullwood, is an activist from Columbia, Md. and the author of the book 'Power of Mischief' : Military Industry Executives are Making Bush Policy and the Country is Paying the Price

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