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Thursday, May 1, 2008

Democratic Candidates on American Foreign Policy - Inner Compass versus Outer Compass

Jack Lynch

In its 2008 Congressional Report Card, Citizens for Global Solutions gives Barack Obama an A+ grade and Hillary Clinton an A grade.

Obama scores highly for being interested in dealing with dictatorial regimes in Syria, Cuba and Latin America with a basis of respect and autonomy and dignity – Obama says he believes that a President talking to enemies is a first step towards progress.

Clinton on the other hand takes a more measured approach towards Presidential involvement, seeking lower level contacts and agreements prior to a public and propaganda coup for recalcitrant regimes – America's interests as the superpower in the room come first.

There is much evidence for the view that experience teaches the latter course, but much reason to believe that the course of openness and activism, after these long sad years of defensiveness and warmongering would yield not simply results, but an American presence and symbolism of core beliefs that are transformative.

Samantha Power left her professorship at the Practice of Global Leadership and Public Policy at Harvard to become senior foreign p[olicy advisor to Obama, says that "…the debate over whether you talk to our so-called enemies or to our rivals in the world. I mean, all the pundits would have said, "No, don't say that! You can't say that!" On Cuba also, everybody said, "No. Florida! You can't—you can't say you're going to open up the relationship and allow remittances and travel. You'll pay a price." And Obama, in the case of the Iraq war judgment, in the case of talking to dictators or talking to our foes—or however one wants to look at it—in the case of Cuba, in the case of saying he wants to live in a nuclear-free world, who says that? You're not allowed to say that in American politics. And he said, "I'm not saying we're going to disarm unilaterally tomorrow, but what I'm saying is how did it become inconceivable in American politics to even state that the world would be better if it didn't have nuclear weapons? It would simply be better. It would be a safer world."

Now, former President Jimmy Carter, withholding his endorsement until after the June primaries, calls for the end of the Democratic campaign, having recently gone against the administration and talked to Hamas. Both the substance and symbolism are squarely in place, and Carter is advocating the same basic position in world affairs. However, Obama distanced himself from Carter's visit to Damascus, while the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, another millstone around his neck embraced Carter's stand. Link

Perversely, the very electorate whose children fight in Iraq, from lower and working class homes, are showing a resistance to the senator who might bring a quick end to the war. Certainly in Pennsylvania, the result was clear and the fissures over an elite black nationalism and Afro-centric militancy loomed larger than the symbolic war opposition.

What of the inner compass of a man who lived and travelled throughout the world and gained a different worldview from his personal history? Is it grounded in American values, or infected by the egotism and suffrage and black segregationist and victimization theology? The answer is unclear and the results of this failure give hope where it least belongs – to McCain.

A progressive international compass, tempered by a dose of caution, would be best – but the outer compass, if it comes from within the circles of black leaders bent of claiming a hollow victory of personal social retribution, will surely fail us all.

I sit and worry, smoking a Dominican cigar, and hoping to soon see cubans available in the U.S. Today, if Arnold Schwarzenegger were running for President, even as a Republican, I would be leaning towards voting for him.

Instead, my protest option is Ralph Nader.

I look back fondly, probably blindly, towards Al Gore.

How can a diehard Democratic election year have become the time of looking for somebody else to save us from our two similar but unsatisfactory options? Only time, and a firmer, broader and more realistic position on foreign issues can heal these wounds and bring back my enthusiasm for the candidates we've stuck with now.

Jimmy Carter, often much maligned, still makes the greatest sense to me. While even he hasn't sold me on Obama, and I don't agree with him about ending the Democratic contest early – let it go to convention, there is much good in that too. I hope that he keeps talking sense for many more years to come and doing exactly what he does with his beliefs and faith.

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