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Obama's Role Models: Bush I, Reagan & Kennedy - This is Change?

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Many people support Senator Barack Obama for president because they see in him the hope for change from the direction that the U.S. has taken over the last seven plus years. His campaign refers to this as “change you can believe in.” But looking at what Obama has actually said while on the campaign trail should dash any real “hope” of real “change.” For instance how would he change U.S. foreign policy?

Return to the Foreign Policy of Bush I, Reagan & Kennedy

On March 28, 2008 at a town hall event in Pennsylvania, Mr. Change said he would return the country to the more traditional foreign policy efforts of past presidents, such as George H.W. Bush, John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan.  According to Obama, "The truth is that my foreign policy is actually a return to the traditional bipartisan realistic policy of George Bush's father, of John F. Kennedy, of, in some ways, Ronald Reagan..."

Obama went out of his way to praise the first Bush for his handling of the first Persian Gulf War.  He said he admired the way Bush and his foreign policy team put together a large coalition before they started the war.  Obama represents those in the ruling class that prefer that their imperialist acts be supported by a coalition of other nations. But is multi-lateral imperialism any better than the unilateral brand?

Killing can be made cheaper

He also likes the idea of making war on the cheap. He emphasized that the first Gulf War only cost the U.S. $20 billion, as many of the U.S. allies helped finance the war.  Of course Obama made no reference to the cost of the war in Iraqi lives or the over one million Iraqis killed as a result of the sanctions against Iraq that were instituted after the first Gulf War.  (He further failed to mention the 1989 Bush invasion of Panama, which cost the lives of as many as 4000 Panamanian civilians.)

The Foreign Policy of Reagan & Kennedy

And don’t forget that Obama also wants to follow in the footsteps of that great foreign policy President, Ronald Reagan. Is that the same Reagan who supported terrorist wars by the right-wing governments of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, and who supported terrorists fighting the government of Nicaragua? Didn’t Reagan support Saddam in the Iran-Iraq war and then sell weapons to the Iranians at the same time in one of the biggest slaughters of the 1980s? Maybe Obama is a big fan of this Iran Contra "diplomacy." Or maybe he admired the Reagan regime’s invasion of the tiny island nation of Grenada (the U.S. won that one).

Of course there is always Obama’s mention of Kennedy’s "successful" foreign policy.  Let’s see – the Bay of Pigs’ invasion of Cuba, the escalation of the Vietnam War, bringing the world to the brink of nuclear annihilation, and all those wonderful precedents.

Obama is against the Iraq War?

Of course we know Obama is against the war in Iraq.  He said so.  But why did he then support the pro-Iraq war Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman in his primary election battle against anti-war Ned Lamont in 2006?  Why did he also support and campaign for other pro-war candidates who faced anti-war challengers in their primary races?

Why after his election to the Senate did Obama support and vote for unconditional funding for the Iraq War in both 2005 and 2006.  Why did he vote to confirm Bush’s National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice to become Secretary of State? Did he admire how she helped launch the Iraq war?  Why did he vote against an amendment by Senator Russ Feingold which called for an Iraq withdrawal timetable?

Why in a speech in November 2006, did Obama call for "a pragmatic solution to the real war we're facing in Iraq," while also making repeated references to the need to defeat the Iraqi resistance against the U.S. invasion? Why has he refused to pledge to withdraw U.S. troops by the end of his first term if he is elected president?  Why has he admitted that U.S. troops may need to remain in Iraq for an "extended period of time," and that "the U.S. may have no choice but to slog it out in Iraq." Why has he called for U.S. forces to maintain a "reduced but active presence," to "protect logistical supply points" and "American enclaves like the Green Zone" as well as "act as rapid reaction forces to respond to emergencies and go after terrorists?" How many tens of thousands of troops will remain indefinitely in Iraq with these large loopholes?

War on Pakistan?

If a President Obama is to be an agent of change why did he in August 2007 threaten to attack Pakistan?  Obama boasted, "Let me make this clear. There are terrorists holed up in those mountains who murdered 3,000 Americans. They are plotting to strike again. It was a terrible mistake to fail to act when we had a chance to take out an al-Qaida leadership meeting in 2005. If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won't act, we will." Is this any different from the Bush policy of regularly launching missile strikes toward Pakistan?

Increasing the size of the U.S. war machine and escalating the war in Afghanistan

Why does candidate Obama want to increase the size of the U.S. military?  "I strongly support the expansion of our ground forces by adding 65,000 soldiers to the Army and 27,000 Marines," he says. Maybe he wants to send them to Afghanistan. Obama has promised to send at least two additional combat brigades to Afghanistan.

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Kenneth J. Theisen is veteran activist of movements opposing U.S. imperialism, its wars and domination of countries throughout the world. He wrote his first op-ed piece against the Vietnam war when he was only 12 and has been writing on various (more...)
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