“Hog Butcher for the World, Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat…Stormy, husky, brawling, City of the Big Shoulders.” I’ve always really liked this metropolis of 2.8 million. It’s the most American of America’s city.Now, it’s also Obamaland.
Native son Senator Barack Obama will shortly become the world’s most important man.Walking down Michigan Ave, you can feel the fizz of excitement, pride and elation.
However, not all Democrats share Chicago’s euphoria. Obama’s recent cabinet appointments have the party’s liberal wing feeling betrayed, and fretting that the new president may not bring the real change to US policies he had promised. The most important: ending the Bush era’sswaggering imperial mindset — I call it Mussolini Modern — that led the US into two foreign wars, unnecessary confrontations with Russia, Iran and North Korea, and the fake ‘war on terror.’
The next secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, is a brilliant, talented politician, but she has little foreign policy experience. Her forte is domestic affairs. The foreign policy positions she made known during the primary campaign are disturbingly close to those of the neoconservatives, who wrecked the Bush administration and gravely damaged America’sinterests abroad.
Clinton’s ardent support for the Iraq war, her threats to destroy Iran with nuclear weapons, and strong support for Israel’s right wing parties opposing peace with Palestinians were totally out of line with Obama’s previously stated positions.
The best candidate for Secretary of State was GovernorBill Richardson.A highly skilled diplomat with broad international experience, Richardson was just the man to begin rebuilding America’s trashed reputation around the globe.Unfortunately, he was shunted off to Commerce.
Obama’s decision to keep on Defense Secretary Robert Gates seems to send the message that the Pentagon will continueexercising a major role in foreign policy.Gates, a former CIA director, has championed efforts to expand the US war in Afghanistan and is seen as backing aggressive actions against Pakistan.
Obamahas promised to deploy 20,000 new US troops into the stalemated Afghan war at a time when next-door Pakistan is a smoking volcano. Both Obama and Gates have made clear they would not hesitate to attack Pakistan if Al Qaeda targets there could be located.
Now, Obama is hinting the total US troop pullout from Iraq he promised may not happen, or be much reduced. Iraq’s oil is a powerful lure.
The US accounts for 50 per cent of world military spending. A new defence chief dedicated to cutting the Pentagon’s monstrously bloated budget would have been welcome. Instead, we may get a continuation of Bush’s policies.
Obama’s new national security chief, retired Marine General James Jones, is a good choice: tough, worldly, and educated — the opposite of the many dummies and yes-men who ran Bush’s military and diplomatic policies. But Jones is very close to the mighty military-industrial-petroleum complex.
Susan Rice, appointed UN ambassador, is a very smart lady with a strong grasp of world affairs.She would have been better used in a White House advisory position rather than making speeches.
We would like to see the US stop using the UN as a tool of American foreign policy and allow it to become a genuine world institution.
Obama’s yet to be announced choice for CIA chief will be crucial. CIA should be purged of all officials tainted by torture, assassinations and other illegal acts.Obama’s first steps should be to shut down America’s national disgrace, the Guantanamo prison camp.
Barack Obama inherits the worst domestic and foreign policy mess of any US president in memory.He must wrestle with mammoth financial and economic problems while trying to repair the wreckage of America’s foreign policy.
Hopefully, Obama, who insists he will take all key decisions himself, will make good on promises to move America’s policy from the hard right back to the centre. His conservative-oriented cabinet may be designed to shield him from charges by America’s hard right that he is ‘soft on terrorism’ and ‘betraying the nation.’
But there are also growing fears the new, youthful president from Chicago may already be a prisoner of Washington’s powers that be.
Eric S Margolis is a veteran American journalist and contributing foreign editor of The Toronto Sun
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