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Validating foreign policy folly

Issue 324
Front Page

Enough Support In Both Houses Of Parliament For Bill Banning Ahmedou Abdallah From Entering Somaliland

Norwegian Firm TGS Spent $10 Million On Geophysical Surveys In Somaliland Says Minerals Ministry Official

KULMIYE’s II Conference Succeeds

Fuad A. Adde Sacked For Accusing Riyale Of Mismanaging Donations For Sool

Somaliland Local Government Re-organisation through Presidential Decrees in an Election Year

Norway To Withdraw From International Contact Group On Somalia

Ethiopian factor surfaces in Puntland oil dispute

Two Somaliland-Born Prisoners In Guantanamo Search For New Home

Politics of one belly

Divide Widens Between Insurgent Groups In Somalia

There can be another Zimbabwe without Bob

No Ethiopian soldiers in Puntland, says leader

Regional Affairs

Somaliland’s Opposition Leader Warns Against Any Delay Of Presidential Elections

Vice-President Ahmed Yusuf and delegation visit Las Anod

France Working to Save Yacht Crew

Special Report

International News

US Marks 40th Anniversary of King Assassination

Pedestrian forced at gunpoint to join bogus-cheque scam, court hears

Blaze death: Dead man became father just two weeks ago

Validating foreign policy folly


My 47-day ordeal at the hands of Somali pirates, by British captain held for ransom

Somaliland: Past, Present And Future


Search for Khouri smoking gun is on

Socotra is precious, humanity-central Island, says study

A Generation Of Career Women

Founder member Henry Allingham on the RAF at 90

Somalia Called 'World's Most Neglected Crisis'

Food for thought


A Message to KULMIYE 2nd Convention: Hargeysa Somaliland

She Is A Surviving Veteran

Somaliland American Council Criticizes Report By UN Official

Welcome in Lascanood, Mr Vice President

Speech By Jenny Sonesson Secretary-General Liberal Women Of Sweden At The Opening Of The KULMIYE Party’s Conference

Somalia: The Need for a Popular Culture

Steve Chapman

April 6, 2008

It's an election year in wartime, and right now, we seem to be having a real debate about American foreign policy. All three of the remaining contenders have been talking about Iraq for months, all have been touting their credentials to be commander in chief and all have given major speeches mapping out their views.

But don't be misled. Instead of a real debate, we're having a make-believe one. The make-believe is the suggestion that there are clear, profound differences among the candidates. In reality, they represent a choice that, on a color palette, would range not from red to blue but from cream to taupe.

It's true they have staked out distinctive positions on the Iraq war. John McCain was for it at the beginning and always will be. Barack Obama was against it from the start and hasn't budged. Hillary Clinton voted to authorize it but now wants to get out. They also have bickered over issues such as whether to negotiate with dictators and whether to go into Pakistan after Osama bin Laden.

Those disagreements are not trivial. It's safe to say a Democratic president would handle Iraq differently than a Republican one. But it's worth remembering what helped to get us into Iraq: a bipartisan consensus on foreign policy that favors U.S. military intervention abroad whenever we may be able to accomplish something that looks appealing. That was our national approach under the last three presidents, and it's a safe bet it will be our approach under the next one.

During the early 1990s, McCain was wary of the use of American military power, but he supported sending American peacekeeping forces to Bosnia in 1995. When a civil war erupted in Kosovo in 1999, he became a fervent voice for using American bombers and even ground troops against Yugoslavia—this when House Republicans were voting against giving President Bill Clinton authority to go to war.

Soon after, McCain was urging a "rogue state rollback" policy. "We must be prepared," he said, to apply "military force when the continued existence of such rogue states threatens America's interests and values." Hmm. Whatever happened to that idea?

McCain's positions bear an eerie resemblance to those of Hillary Clinton, who vigorously favored her husband's decision to act in the Balkans. "I urged him to bomb," she said later. "You cannot let this go on at the end of a century that has seen the major holocaust of our time."

Her impulse to improve the world at the point of a gun was also on display in the run-up to the Iraq invasion. Besides supporting the war resolution, Clinton often sounded like a crusading neoconservative, envisioning that Iraq would be a "model for other Middle Eastern countries" that would "shake the foundations of autocracy."

If Barack Obama is averse to fighting wars to spread democracy or to advance other noble purposes, he hasn't let on. He claims the United States has a "moral obligation" to act against "genocide" in Darfur, and he supports sending NATO forces to stop the bloodshed. One of his chief foreign policy advisers—until she resigned over calling Clinton a "monster"—was Samantha Power, a self-described "humanitarian hawk" who excoriated Bill Clinton for ruling out U.S. military action in Rwanda in 1994.

In a recent speech, Obama rejected the idea of cutting back our expansive role in the world. "We can choose the path of disengagement," he scoffed, "and cede our leadership."

Attitudes like that got us involved in the Balkans, where we had no national interest at stake; in Somalia, where we found ourselves fighting a war we didn't anticipate; and in Haiti, where our good intentions accomplished very little. Iraq, where conservatives turned idealistic liberal ideas to their own ends, was the ruinous culmination of that approach.

If there has been a flaw in U.S. foreign policy in recent years, it has not been an excess of disengagement, but the opposite: an irrepressible urge to use force for purposes that do not enhance our security but expose us to needless risk. The result has been that we find ourselves with more enemies, weakened influence, higher costs, greater strains on our military and less safety.

After the Iraq debacle, you would think our leaders would be willing to undertake a fundamental examination of the long-established and broad-based folly that made it possible. Not a chance.

Steve Chapman is a member of the Tribune's editorial board. E-mail:


Source: Chicago Tribune

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