Who Will Obama Bomb First?


Lenin’s Tomb: Will Mia Farrow Bomb Sudan?

New Statesman: Persistent Empire – A review of Richard Seymour’s (2008) book, The Liberal Defense of Murder. Seymour writes the Lenin’s Tomb blog, which I linked to in the second post above. There was an excellent interview with Seymour on the 11/27/08 episode of Behind the News. Seymour traces the phenomena of "pro-war liberals" (in the U.S. sense of "liberals") and even "pro-war socialists" back to Enlightenment days.

On a related note, anybody wants to place bets on the first country that Obama will bomb, after he gets into office? Yes, yes, yes, he’s substantially more social-democratic (in the extremely skewed U.S. sense) than Bush/McCain on domestic policy, but Democratic foreign policy has always been just as vicious and imperialist as Republican foreign policy.* And by "who will Obama bomb" I do not mean that every single person in Obama’s administration will be wholeheartedly in favor of putative bombings/invasions– just as there was in the Bush administration, there will be internal divisions within the Obama administration. But I don’t think anyone would deny that there are elites within the U.S. military and political establishment who a) support Obama, b) serve under Obama and c) are happy to continue using U.S. military force whenever and whereever they can, international law be damned.

In order of guesstimated probability (not counting Iraq and Afghanistan, the bombings/invasion of both of which are equally as illegal as the as the bombings/invasions of the other countries I list here), I would guess that the Obama administration is likely to intervene in 1. Sudan, 2. Waziristan/NWFP in Pakistan, 3. Zimbabwe (thanks to John Andrews for pointing out that I missed this in my initial list), 4. Iran (possibly "tactical strikes", possible more), and 5. (lower probability) some Russian proxy (i.e. a more extreme version of U.S. support for Georgia this summer).

The important question is whether the liberal and progressive coalitions that favored (or tolerated) Obama will line up in lockstep behind him, to support interventions, if these interventions are gussied up in a more sophisticated, humanitarian-sounding package than the Bushies could manage. I think this is still an open question. Certainly some U.S. liberals have already shown their willingness to bend their principles far past the breaking point to support Obama (i.e. the apologia by Katrina van den Heuvel, editor of The Nation, for Obama’s rightward tack starting in June.). And, liberals/progressives in the U.S. are still divided to this day on Clinton’s/NATO’s bombing of Yugoslavia during the Kosovo war, and on whether the U.S. should have intervened at all/more/differently during the wars in Yugoslavia in the 1990s. However, progressives have been getting rather ticked at Obama for his mostly-recycled-Clintonite cabinet choices, and were hopping mad at him for the FISA thing.

I’m sorry to be so pessimistic, but realistically, I think the best case scenario would be that the U.S. left reacts like it did to Clinton’s interventions– with (very) small-scale demonstrations and continued education about the history of U.S. imperialism under both Democrats and Republicans, in order to build a large-scale movement against it in the U.S.. The worst case scenario is that Obama finds a way to sell humanitarian intervention to progressives and even more so to liberals, and is able to return to/expand the Clintonite status quo of worldwide free market fundamentalism and periodic attacks on left-leaning "radical nationalist" states.

I am not a pacifist, and am not absolutely opposed to U.S. military intervention, if certain extremely rigorous criteria could be met. But I think that Walden Bello’s article (2006) article, The Case Against Humanitarian Intervention should be reviewed by Obama supporters who are tempted to support invasions/bombings dressed up as progressive ventures.

"Popular among certain elite circles in the US and Europe in the 1990′s, humanitarian intervention has earned a bad name, especially in the South. Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq underline the bitter lessons of humanitarian intervention. To repeat:

1. Humanitarian intervention seldom remains the dominant rationale for long, with geopolitics quickly becoming the driving force of a military operation.

2. Humanitarian intervention ends up doing what its proponents say they are out to prevent: instigating increased human rights violations and violations of human rights and related international accords.

3. Humanitarian intervention sets a very dangerous precedent for future violations of the principle of national sovereignty. Kosovo opened up the road to Afghanistan, and both led to the tragedy of Iraq."

* Off the top of my head, at very least we have the following invasions/interventions/support-for-nastiness occurring under Democratic administrations since 1960: 1. U.S. Invasion of South Vietnam (1961-1975) starting under Kennedy, continued under Johnson 2. Massive bombings of Laos [also here] starting under Johnson (1964-1973) 3. (Unsuccessful) Invasion of Cuba under Kennedy (1961), 4. Increased training and arming of militaries in Central and South America (1961-62), contributing to decades of dictatorships and death squads (i.e. the 1964 military coup in Brazil), 5. Invasion of Dominican Republic under Johnson in 1965-66, 6. Bombing of Sudan under Clinton (1998), 7. Bombing of Iraq (1998) and starving of Iraq via ruinous economic sanctions (1991-2003), continuing under Clinton, 8. Bombing of Yugoslavia during Kosovo war under Clinton (1999). 9. Resupplying the Indonesian military in 1978 when they began to run out of arms during their genocide in East Timor, under the sainted President Carter, and of course 10. Whole-hearted military and diplomatic support of Israel despite its repression in the West Bank, Gaza (and South Lebanon after the 1982 invasion) under both Carter and Clinton.

Each of the interventions have supporters who claim them as "just wars", and certainly some of the targets of the interventions were guilty of severe crimes against humanity (Saddam Hussein, for one). I won’t fight those battles here, There is not space enough in this post to discuss the morals (or lack thereof) of each of the interventions above, although Noam Chomsky’s (1993) Year 501: The Conquest Continues is a good place to start reading about them. However, I think it’s clear that Democratic administrations are no less ready to intervene overseas than Republican administrations.

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