Tuesday, October 14, 2008

"Americans for Bosnia" Endorses Barack Obama for President

I had meant to post this earlier, but even though I might appear to be jumping on the bandwagon I still feel compelled to make a brief case for Americans interested in liberal interventionism and internationalism in general, and American involvement in Bosnia in particular, to support the Democratic nominee and his running mate.

It is true that, as far as the issues relevant to this blog, Obama is far from being the perfect candidate. I believe his opposition to the Iraq war, while principled, was based more on a narrow critique of the Bush Administration's admittedly clumsy preparations and rhetoric rather than a broader examination of the issue. And the senator has unfortunately given vocal support to the extremist Greek position on the ridiculous "issue" of Macedonia's name. His record does not suggest that he naturally leans towards the cause of liberal intervention. Indeed, earlier in his candidacy I was very much afraid that an Obama administration would be in many ways a return to the craven equivocation of Jimmy Carter. I was considering voting for John McCain, who has a much better record on Iraq and who was on the right side, ultimately, in Bosnia and Kosova.

I admit that I very much wanted to vote for Obama--I suspect he will be better equipped to handle the economic crisis we are in, and his political style seems to provide a viable way out of the dead-end, lowest-common-denominator politics of the past decade or more. His low-voltage, contemplative style could go a long way towards defusing the simple-minded talk-radio fueled hyper-politics which simply swamp any possibility of reasoned, thoughtful discourse in this country. But when it comes to Presidential politics, foreign policy is important to me, and earlier this year Obama did not stack up favorably against John McCain.

Then, the Illinois senator picked Joe Biden as his running mate, and suddenly I was looking at a ticket which included one of Bosnia's best friends in the Senate. Biden has been wrong about many things--I think he's just as wrong about Iraq as Obama is--but he's a smart guy who knows better than to argue with the facts on the ground. And his record on Bosnia and the Yugoslav wars speaks for itself. Now Obama had a running mate who knew which side deserves our support.

It wasn't enough that Obama picked a somewhat comforting VP; McCain pretty much sealed the deal when he picked possibly the worst running mate in modern political history. I cannot imagine what Sarah Palin's position on Bosnia would be, because I cannot imagine the woman has a serious, considered position on much of anything. Calling her a lightweight is an insult to lightweights. Calling her a joke is letting McCain off too easy, since he has given the proudly-ignorant/right-wing populist faction of the GOP a spot on his ticket. She is a sinister and malignant force in contemporary American politics, and she simply cannot be allowed into the White House.

By picking Joe Biden, Barack Obama signalled that he is serious about addressing his deficiencies and is serious about running the country. By picking Sarah Palin, John McCain signalled that he is serious about winning the election and little else.

Palin aside, I do feel that Obama has displayed the necessary flexibility, intelligence, and calmness needed to grapple with the issues the next President will face. Becoming Commander-in-Chief is a solemn responsibility and while I have no doubt that McCain respects and honors that duty, I sense that Obama does as well. Unlike Bill Clinton, I believe Obama has the inner confidence which will allow him to wield American military and diplomatic power responsibly and ably.

While President Obama may need the occasional nudge to keep him from deferring too much to the pacifist wing of the Democratic Party, I feel guardedly optimistic that he is the best hope for our country right now.

9 comments:

Sarah Franco said...

Very interesting reflection.

Not being an american citizen myself, I have tried, until now, not to pay too much attention to the campaign, because I prefer to observe at a distance.

I think that the enthusiasm that Obama generates in Europe is irrelevant, because it is a product, not of what Obama is or represents, but of anti-americanism.

Until a certain moment I was inclined to think Mc Cain would be better than both Obama and H. Clinton.

But the evolution of the campaign is showing that the kind of mentality that is associated to the american conservatives does need to be defeated, because it is suffocating.

Still, whoever he winner may be, I am very concerned that the need to focus on the economic crisis may force the next administration to reduce US influence in Europe, and as the case of Kosova has showed, Europe is pretty immature and divided.

Owen said...

I was distrustful of Obama to begin with, as he seemed a good talker but without too much substance, and one vacuous Tony Blair is more than enough for me.

But Hilary seemed to lose control of her campaign (and she didn't seem to notice that her husband had lost his marbles) while Obama stayed cool.

McCain seems to be going down the Hilary path of self-destruction. If a man who's lived through Spiro Agnew and Dan Quayle is happy to have Sarah Palin as his running mate, so much for all that much vaunted experience.

Obama doesn't really seem to know what he's doing as far as Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine are concerned but at least he seems to have a willingness to analyse and attempt to understand his mistakes, and perhaps that's the most important quality a politician could have. And he knows where the rest of the world lives.

Kirk Johnson said...

Owen, I think you articulated the case for Obama (in the context of this blog and the issues you, I, Sarah, and other readers are most concerned with) better than I did.

He has shown some troubling cluelessness on foreign policy, and his instincts sometimes make me nervous. But he seems to be a genuinely thoughtful, flexible politician who is willing to learn from experience and adjust to here-and-now realities. And don't forget, until her unfortunate 'monster' comment, Samantha Power was one of his foreign policy advisors. That carries weight with me.

I must confess that since I actually live in the US--in a "battleground" state, no less--it's hard to filter out all the campaign noise. Frankly, the Palin nomination--and the ugliness she has brought to the campaign--cannot be ignored. Her inclusion on the ticket plays no small part in my decision. Policy positions are one thing--and again, some of Obama's positions are not mine. But temperment, intelligence, character all do matter. Palin fails in those regards, and furthermore she is someone who implictly and explictly rejects the value of a cosmopolitan, internationalist background. Her brand of coarse, populist, lowest-common-demominator right-wing conservatism simply must be defeated, not only for my country but frankly for the good of the Republican party and American conservatism.

Owen said...

Kirk, what makes me doubt McCain's judgment more than anything else is that he went shopping for a Simpson and chose Homer instead of Marge. It matters to us as well as you.

Srebrenica Genocide Blog Editor said...

I am not an American citizen, but if I had a right to vote, then it would be a tough call... John McCain is conservative, and I am not conservative. I disagree with arguments that abortion should be abolished, because nobody has right to tell women what they should do with their bodies. However, McCain has proved himself as a great supporter of freedom and human rights. He criticized Bush administration for practices of torute in Guantanamo Bay and Iraq. He supported little guys in Georgia, he also pressed on Bill Clinton to intervene in Bosnia, and he is opposed to Russia's expansionist policies. He picked Sarah Palin as his running mate and that was a huge mistake. She is totally unqualified. Not to mention her $150,000 clothing shopping spree for herself and her family... that pushed me to lean completely to Obama.

Let's face it: America needs a black president. They deserve to have a black president. He will contribute positively toward issues such as fighting racism, intolerance, hate, and other issues. He is very liberal, actually, he is the most liberal senator in the U.S. That's exactly what America needs. Overhelming majority of American people are decent and humante individuals. And I am confident when they vote on November the 4th, they will vote for Obama based on his competence, and NOT based on his skin color.

The skin color is irrelevant. In physics, they say color doesn't even exist. It's just our perception. I will stop there... my lunch break is over.. got2 go back to my office. Cheers!

Shaina said...

I've been somewhat um, well, let's just say "obsessed" with following the election. Which is part of the reason why I haven't been blogging that much lately. That and my mind has been running on empty, but let's just blame it on the election.

Anyway, I think sarah brings up an excellent point especially with regards with US involvement in South East Europe foreign policy in particular, and potential intervention in general.
I think with the focus on the economy, the feeling of being overwhelmed in Afghanistan & Iraq, and the public's weariness as a result of Iraq; I don't see South East Europe as being a particular priority for the next administration; and I think that no matter who is President, there will be perhaps more hesitation for being involved in the particular interventions such as Bosnia /Kosova.

Kirk,
If you don't mind me asking, what particularly about Obama's record suggest that he would be an anti-interventionist?

Also, what particularly about John McCain's foreign policy views do you favor?

Obviously McCain has more experience than Obama vis-a-vis international politics, because he's been in the Senate much longer. But, I get more of a sense that his area of expertise is more the Armed Services aspect; as oppose to Biden, who is a foreign policy expert.

Thanks!!!

Shaina said...

I think the VP choice was the turning point of this campaign, or else it *should be* the turning point.
The New Yorker has two essays on how Palin (http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2008/10/27/081027fa_fact_mayer) and Biden (http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2008/10/20/081020fa_fact_lizza?yrail)were picked.

Cliff notes version of Mayer article: Palin's hot. Wow Palin's really popular with conservatives like Kristol. Palin's hot. She has an interesting backround, and she's a...wait for it...hot WOMAN!(okay, that's prob. a bit crass and overly simplistic on my part-but read the article-quite insightful)


All things being equal, the selection of the VP is really the only time the public is able to directly compare decision making process by the candidates. It's not a 3:00 AM phone call scenerio, but a chance to see how a potential President approaches a long term deliberative decision making process.

What strikes me the most about McCain picking Palin, is that it seems to reveal that McCain does not care about his political weaknesses. McCain himself admitted that the economy was his weak point. Can anyone honestly think that McCain is going to go ask Palin's advice on anything?

It was a reckless pick, a pick made with the aim of winning the election and not about actually governing.

McCain had months to make this decision, but from all sources it seems as if he hardly spent any time with Palin before picking her. He met her once at a Governor's confernce, had her fill out a questionaire, and presto-we have a VP.

The Palin pick illustrate a larger problem I have with the McCain campaign, an arrogrance about the difficultly of the Presidency and in McCain's abilities.

I was struck reading an article, that basically said that Obama was consulting with a huge brain trust of foreign policy experts (a lot it seemed of former Clinton people-for whatever that's worth).
What was the McCain's campaign response on the question of who McCain consults with regarding foreign policy?
McCain apparently doesn't *need* to be advised by anyone because (paraphrase) "Tiger Woods doesn't have a coach to teach him golf swings." Of course implying that McCain was somehow a policy wonk's version of Tiger Woods when it comes to foreign policy. Although IMHO, he has never struck me as a foreign policy guru at all, his area of expertise and his passion (understanbly) lies with Armed Services Committee and the military.
How is that not a reckless and arrogant approach?

Going along with the same theme, I also read that Obama has his transition already organized, including considering potential cabinet positions, etc. The McCain campaign-has not.
Now, you can argue that you shouldn't count your eggs before they hatch. But again, this seems to illustrate the difference between Obama & McCain's approach to decision making. Obama is deliberative, pragmatic, and very cautious (and of course, there is such a thing as being too deliberative, too pragmatic and too cautious); while McCain is more rash (and there are times when perhaps that style of decision making might be favored).
Running this country at this particular juncture, is going to be tremendously difficult. That McCain has not planned ahead, picked an utterly unqualified choice for VP and has an overconfidence in his ability, is greatly concerning to me.

Obama is not perfect. There is no politician that I agree with 100%. And Obama is no exception. And I have a feeling that he will make decisions that will disapoint his core "base" and perhaps pleasantly surprise his skeptics.
But, I do think that with the Biden choice, Obama made a choice that was a serious and pragmatic choice. A choice that shows that he is at least aware that he has weaknesses.

BTW: side note, The New Republic, who was one of the major voices for intervention in Bosnia, also endorsed Obama. They also wrote strong editorials in favor of Biden as a potential VP before he was picked.
side note two: I wouldn't be surprsed that even if Power is no longer "officially" part of the Obama campaign, that she is still in contact with the campaign, and still consulting with Obama with regards to Obama.
I doubt that it would happen, but I do hope that if Obama is elected, she will be able to pay a role in the administration. I mean the statue of limitations on "monstergate" has got to be running out-right?

Shaina said...

BTW: if Palin doesn't end up as VP, perhaps she could get her own show on Fox. An Ann Coulter meets Fargo type of show.
And she can take Joe the Plumber along with her!

Shaina said...

Hey for what its worth, according to Politico.com, democratic insiders & strategists making educated guesses are predicting that Samantha Power might have an official role in an Obama administration. Either as a potential Nat'l Sec. Advisor or Director of State Dep't think tank.

Of course, you know what they say, those in know don't talk. So, I wouldn't necessary see this as being a gaurentee that Power will have a role in an potential Obama administration; but that the fact that her name pops up twice tells me that she is at least strongly considered for a position.