Thursday, February 28, 2008

More Obama stuff














Daniel Larison, one of the most productive paleo-conservative writers around has been devoting a lot attention to Obama on his blog. And he drew my attention to John Hagee's endorsement of John McCain. "When he is not glorying in the bombardment of countries with large Christian (and non-Protestant) populations, [Hagee] pushes quite venomous anti-Catholicism," Larison points out, and he provides a link to Glenn Greenwald's Some hateful, radical ministers -- white evangelicals -- are acceptable who raises an interesting question:
Why is Louis Farrakhan deemed by our political establishment to be so radioactive as to not be fit for good company -- black candidates are required to repudiate his support even when they haven't sought it and denounce his views even when they've never advocated anything close to those views -- but John Hagee is a perfectly acceptable figure whom mainstream GOP politicians are free to court without any consequences or media objections?

Larison seems to agree with Greenwald on this point:
Whatever his apocalyptic visions (which the secular supporters of Israel regard as nonsense), Hagee is on board with hard-line policies towards Palestinians and Israel’s neighbours that count as respectable and “responsible” views, while Obama is being linked, either through his pastor or otherwise, with figures who obviously do not endorse those policies, so in this truly odd view a Hagee endorsement is a feather in McCain’s cap and Obama’s associations are troubling and in need of clarification.

But then he provides an ironic touch to this discussion:
While it is, of course, true that Hagee’s vision of Armageddon is not what anyone could reasonably call “pro-Israel,” the working definition of what it means to be “pro-Israel” in America is already fairly unreasonable. Obama recently received praise in some quarters and scorn in others for distinguishing between pro-Likud and pro-Israel positions, but when it was the current Israeli Kadima government that embarked on one of the most counterproductive campaigns and suffered one of the most ignominious military failures of Israeli history (which Obama dutifully supported in the Senate) this does not really reflect all that well on his policy views. What I haven’t seen anyone mention is that Obama endorsed the same campaign in Lebanon in terms that would have been quite satisfactory to John Hagee. By the conventional definition of these things, this means that Obama is clearly not “anti-Israel.” However, if the sort of overreaching military responses that Hagee endorses and McCain, Lieberman and Obama all support are not really in Israel’s best interest it may not be all that desirable that Obama can demonstrate his “pro-Israel” bona fides. What the double standard of treatment means, however, is that Obama is going to have to overemphasise his willingness to endorse dangerous and reckless policies towards Iran and other Near Eastern states to overcome the completely false perception that he is somehow insufficiently “pro-Israel.”

And apropo Obama and Israel: Check-out Tony Karon's Obama and the "Jewish vote." Karon who approaches the subject from a liberal/non-Zionist/Jewish perspective argues that Obama is, well, good for the Jews:
The problem with Obama, for the Zionist establishment — and some Israeli politicians have made this clear — is that he may be too even-handed in dealing with Israel and the Palestinians. He may not muster quite the same degree of racist contempt for the Palestinians that can be safely expected from a Hillary Clinton (they’re not entirely sure of John McCain, either, fearful that he might send Republican “realists” of the Scowcroft-Baker variety to the Middle East rather than Irgun fighters like Elliot Abrahams, Bush’s Mideast point-man). As the Sydney Morning Herald reports, “Visiting the region in 2005 as senator for New York, Senator Clinton shunned the Palestinians completely, meeting only Israeli leaders and hearing and expressing only Israeli positions. She particularly galled Palestinians by enthusiastically backing the 700-kilometre complex of walls and fences that Israel is building inside the West Bank.”

When Obama gently but firmly suggested to Ohio Jewish voters that there was a difference between being a friend to Israel and embracing the toxic Likud view of how to approach its neighbors, some Zionist commentators went apoplectic — Haaretz’s manic U.S.-based nationalist watchdog Shmuel Rosner howled that Obama was interfering in Israeli internal affairs! But then Rosner represents the Zionist alte-kakker perspective to a tee, with grading of American political candidates solely on the basis of their level of hostility to Israel’s foes and willingess to give it carte blanche to destroy the Palestinians and itself. Why Haaretz publishes this crank, I have no idea, but it should be embarrassed to run this sort of tribalist drivel which most American Jews find acutely embarrassing.

The reality is that Obama may be just the sort of friend Israel needs; the sort of friend that restrains you from driving home drunk.

So...here is where I find myself. I share some of the reservations that Larson has about Obama (read his posts on that), and I certainly feel very uncomfortable with the "messianic" elements in his campaign. But...if Obama is running against McCain in a campaign dominated by Iraq, Israel/Palestine and the Middle East, it seems to me that Obama represents views that are closer to mine on these issues. It doesn't mean that I buy into his entire foreign policy agenda. This is what I'm saying about that in a soon-to-be-published analysis:
Obama’s views seem to correspond to the a sub-genre of the Wilsonian perspective -- a Wilsonian diplomat (as opposed to the a Bush W-style Wilsonian warrior aka “neo-conservative”). Not unlike former President Jimmy Carter, Obama wants to use American diplomatic and economic power to expand cooperation among members of the international community through the influence of interdependency and the force of globalization, although he would use military power to prevent genocide, for example -- but not as a way of promoting those “crude” strategic and economic interests. [I'm a realist Jeffersonian and don't subscribe to these idealistic foreign policy perspective. But]In the context of the Middle East, this approach will probably predispose Obama to embrace and to implement the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, which in addition to bringing Syria and Iran and well as other regional and international players into the negotiations on the future of Iraq, could lead to a new emphasis on resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict.
That explains why I find myself in agreement with many of the points that Karon makes while sympathizing with Larison’s reservations. That doesn't mean that I'll vote for Obama. I hope that Ron Paul decides to run on a third party ticket (miracles do happen...). But I think that anyone who wants to bring an end to the costly American misadventure in the Middle East is hoping that Obama will win and that McCain loses.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Only if you are a one-issue voter.

If you a multi-issue, anti-war, conservative or libertarian voter, you should vote for Obama if he is MUCH better on foreign policy, but perhaps vote for McCain (based on domestic issues) if he is only SLIGHTLY better.

Anonymous said...
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Global Paradigms said...

I'm not sure whether McCain is even "slightly better" on any issue, domestic or international. The Iraq War is not "one issue," but the central issue in this campaign.