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.’”
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,
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 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.
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.
The paper then moves on to nuclear hypocrisy with statements such as this:
It only gets worse:
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."