Reviewing Obama’s New National Security Strategy: Hypocrisy, Imperialism, and Eye Candy


President Obama has finally delivered his first National Security Strategy paper. In many ways it is much better, in form at least, than anything the previous administration released. At least it talks about reducing the deficit, climate change, food security, women’s right, sustainable development, civil liberties, transparency and so on – though with no mention of anything of substance like reducing the military budget or correcting the inequalities and misallocation of the market system or signing a robust and binding international cap and trade treaty. It is a noticeable improvement just to see the words we “will not seek to impose these values through force.” But it also perpetuates myths about American exceptionalism and jingoism. By preserving and strengthening the existing systems and orders (the American Empire in a global capitalist system) that are often at the center of the problems we face then addressing the above concerns seems contradictory and impossible. It compliments quite well what Noam Chomsky told Anthony DiMaggio in a recent interview, “Obama has cultivated a style of presenting himself as engaging and friendly, and as a blank slate, on which his audience can write their hopes and wishes, believing, if they choose, that he is ‘on our side.’”

And it’s really difficult to stomach the claim that the White House supports "nonviolent democratic movements," a claim that for a variety of reasons deeply rooted in the real world isn’t worth taking too much time to debunk. For many people, the coup in Honduras is still fresh in their minds, and I doubt many protesters in Pittsburgh or Toronto find the statement comforting, or third world nations like Bolivia and Venezuela who saw and condemned the anti-democratic activities Obama carried out in Copenhagen last December. This White House is hardly a representative of democracy and nonviolence.

The paper starts off by claiming, with no supporting evidence, that “the success of free nations, open markets, and social progress in recent decades has accelerated globalization on an unprecedented scale.” And that “this has opened the door of opportunity around the globe, extended democracy to hundreds of millions of people, and made peace possible among major powers.” The rhetoric praising global capitalism then turns to praising American use of military force by saying, “For nearly a decade, our Nation has been at war with a far-reaching network of violence and hatred” and goes on to say that our far-reaching network aimed at Afghanistan “is right and just.”

You know the speech: We face hard times, but we have resolve and this great nation will see it through. And notice how Obama capitalizes “Nation.” It’s all just typical boiler plate rhetoric that Obama has used throughout his political career. And an eight-year old could tell who has a more “far-reaching network of violence.” Towards the end of the paper Obama says,

 
Americans are by nature a confident and optimistic people. We would not have achieved our position of leadership in the world without the extraordinary strength of our founding documents and the capability and courage of generations of Americans who gave life to those values—through their service, through their sacrifices, through their aspirations, and through their pursuit of a more perfect union.
 
By our "nature" we are good and that is why we are the leader of the so-called Free World. Let’s give ourselves a round of applause and take note that we are a "Nation" not divided by classes.

And of course in the face of the growing reality that the American Empire is losing power he closes his executive summary by writing that, “America is ready to lead once more.” We erred during the last administration when they were more candid and said things like “Old Europe” and “New Europe” but now we will call you “partners” despite the fact that we will continue treating you like lieutenants.

What is really disturbing is in how Obama can see “The World as It Is.”

 
The global economy has grown; commerce has stitched the fate of nations together [but] inequality and economic instability have intensified; damage to our environment, food insecurity, and dangers to public health are increasingly shared.
 
The global economy may have grown and commerce may have "stitched the fate of nations together" but anybody with their head screwed on straight can see that this plays a major role in the intensifying of "inequality and economic instability." The commercial stitching is why when US banks took enormous risks it pulled everyone down with it. It is why what is happening in Greece and Spain affects the rest of Europe and beyond.

The solution is not to “open foreign markets to our products and services” as the paper claims. But then again, the paper is about our interests, not others. And of course, by “our” I mean the ruling class that runs this country under the banner of the Free World and democracy and human rights and blah blah blah.

The NSS acknowledges that we have “an unmatched military” and “the world’s largest economy” which “will continue to underwrite global security.” It calls for “renewing American leadership so that we can more effectively advance our interests in the 21st century.” And naturally this aides in "…ensuring the U.S. military continues to have the necessary capabilities across all domains – land, air, sea, space and cyber.” The issue of militarizing space has long been a contentious issue and it appears Obama intends to maintain the status quo. That is, the US versus the world.

 
The United States must reserve the right to act unilaterally if necessary to defend our nation and our interests, yet we will also seek to adhere to standards that govern the use of force.
 
Shock and awe. Sike! President Obama really should have put “seek” in italics.

Couple that comment about how we will “seek to adhere to standards that govern the use of force” with the statement that “The rule of law—and our capacity to enforce it—advances our national security and strengthens our leadership” and what you see is we will follow the rules when we can but won’t if it interferes with our “interests.” And don’t think for a second that we will tolerate this from other nations (unless they are allies and it doesn’t interfere with our interests) because we will have the “capacity to enforce it” which “advances” and “strengthens” our agenda.

The Empire remains and it shows in statements where it’s stated that “America’s commitment to pursue our interests through an international system in which all nations have certain rights and responsibilities. This will allow America to leverage our engagement abroad on behalf of a world…” Got that? We pursue our agenda through an international system where others have “certain (codeword for limited) rights and responsibilities” that enable us to use "leverage" to engage abroad (see aggression) on behalf of the world.

The paper also talks about our “efforts to shape an international system that can meet the challenges of our time.” What this means is, so long as we claim that “America’s commitment to democracy, human rights, and the rule of law are essential sources of our strength and influence in the world” then international systems need to be shaped in a way that don’t interfere with us.

 
International institutions must more effectively represent the world of the 21st century.
 
International law says that attacking Iraq and Afghanistan was illegal. Hmm. Well we need to shape them so they don’t. Good ole American innovation and ingenuity.

The paper then moves on to nuclear hypocrisy with statements such as this:

 
We are strengthening the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) as the foundation of nonproliferation, while working through the NPT to hold nations like Iran and North Korea accountable for their failure to meet international obligations.
 
President Obama says the NPT is “sound” and much like Gandhi’s response to a question on what he though of Western Democracy, my response to Obama’s rhetoric about having the signatories held accountable to ensure they meet their obligations is a “good idea.” Maybe he should start with us? And that’s the problem. He says so long as there are nuclear weapons we should “enhance” ours “to defeat asymmetric threats, preserve access to the global commons, and strengthen partners.” Are you getting this? He claims to be for a nuclear weapons free world yet he uses their existence to justify enhancing them in order to bully the world so we and our friends can pillage. We are 5% of the world yet we account for nearly 50% of global military expenditures. We have nearly a thousand foreign bases. The asymmetry exists and I doubt Obama is clueless to where we stand especially since he has already noted we are an “unmatched military" that continues to "underwrite global security.”
 
The madness doesn’t stop there:
 
"We are reducing the role of nuclear weapons in our national security approach, extending a negative security assurance not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against those nonnuclear nations that are in compliance with the NPT""We are reducing the role of nuclear weapons in our national security approach, extending a negative security assurance not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against those nonnuclear nations that are in compliance with the NPT"We are reducing the role of nuclear weapons in our national security approach, extending a negative security assurance not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against those nonnuclear nations that are in compliance with the NPT.
 
Outside of the fact we acknowledge we illegally make such threats, what a nice little caveat at the end. We wont (illegally) theaten to use nukes against nonnuclear states so long as we think they are in compliance with the NPT – a treaty we are not in comliance in. This is an obvious threat of nuclear war against Iran. And sure enough, in April Obama hosted an international conference on the threat of nuclear terrorism and used it as a forum to threaten nuclear terrorism against Iran.
 
And while President Obama says the NPT is “sound” it is worth noting that before the paper was published his own administration blocked attempts to pressure Israel to sign the treaty."We are reducing the role of nuclear weapons in our national security approach, extending a negative security assurance not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against those nonnuclear nations that are in compliance with the NPT"
 
So now move to this little gem (dripping with paternalism) with the title "Promote a Responsible Iran":
 
For decades, the Islamic Republic of Iran has endangered the security of the region and the United States and failed to live up to its international responsibilities. In addition to its illicit nuclear program, it continues to support terrorism, undermine peace between Israelis and Palestinians, and deny its people their universal rights.
 
When the ideological default is "we good, them bad" then naturally they are irresponsible and threatening. Not us. Even if we reduced our military spending by a factor of ten we would still outspend Iran by more than a factor of ten. And we are expected to believe they are the treat to us?
 
It only gets worse:
 
The United States will pursue the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and work to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. This is not about singling out nations—it is about the responsibilities of all nations and the success of the nonproliferation regime. Both nations face a clear choice.
 
No, this is absolutely about "singling out nations." Where is Israel in this? How about India or Pakistan? What about our "responsibilities"? What "clear choice" is being imposed on us? What about the Pacific Nuclear Weapons Free Zone (NWFZ) or the call for a Mideast NWFZ? One of the things Chomsky has been bringing up for awhile is that in our rush to war with Iraq the US and UK cited a UNSC resolution to try and justify the illegal war. Noam’s point is that the resolution calls for the creation of a NWFZ in the region and if the US and UK recognize the resolution then clearly we support the creation of such a zone. But we don’t. We just try to cherry pick from what we think will give an illusion of a valid argument – to hell with the real world.

And what kind of NSS wouldn’t weigh in on the Arab-Israel conflict? Since former President Bush already had a “vision” about a Palestinian state it seems Obama felt compelled to take it further in saying the US seeks a “viable, independent Palestine with contiguous territory that ends the occupation that began in 1967 and realizes the potential of the Palestinian people.”

Cute, but then he calls his own bluff by saying, “Any Arab-Israeli peace will only be lasting if harmful regional interference ends and constructive regional support deepens.” The administration has made it very clear that they are not impartial in the conflict (I have creepy speeches at AIPAC events by Hillary Clinton in mind) and that they side with Israel so it’s quite obvious that the “harmful regional interference” is not referring to either US or Israeli policies – the real obstacle to a “constructive regional” resolution. Rather, the clear culprit is Iran (the "Promote a Responsible Iran" immediately follows the above quote). How many times has the US vetoed UN Security Council resolutions or how many peace offers have the US and Israel opposed or objected to over the last 43 years? Dozens. President Obama has done nothing to curb Israeli terror in the region, settlement expansion, etc. In fact, in recent commentary by Norman Finklestein he stated that Obama has offered some nice rhetoric (see Chomsky’s “blank slate”) but we need action. We need substance.

It would take a review longer than the actual paper to go through each and every bit of hypocrisy and absurdity so I will stop here. The theme of the paper is pretty clear: President Bush did a lot to expose the ugliness of American imperialism and the new NSS seems desperate to change the perception but not the substance. Preserve the existing order, praise ourselves, promise change and improvement and cooperation with others but once you sludge through the empty rhetoric and promises it’s the same old shit: "renew American leadership in the world."

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