WDEL Blog: Allan Loudell

Parallel foreign policy failures: George W. Bush & Barack Obama? If so, what's the alternative?

An article by NATIONAL JOURNAL's Ronald Brownstein raises an intriguing question:

If George W. Bush's rabidly interventionist, unilateralist approach to the world proved to be a failure, and Barack Obama's anti-interventionist, multilateral mindset has proven to be a failure, what's the alternative?

(Of course, the stark contrast between the two presidents crumbles when it comes to the drone war against suspected terrorist targets, which President Obama has pursued even more aggressively than his predecessor.)

But does any possibly viable Presidential contender from EITHER major political party have the creativity and acumen (or at least, the ability & freedom to choose some gifted foreign policy gurus) to come up with a fresh, foreign policy framework?

I rather doubt it. Whether for the same tired foreign policy hands from think-tanks of the Right or the Left; or the fact that Presidential elections are usually won or lost over domestic issues, I seriously doubt this 2014 midterm Congressional campaign or the forthcoming 2016 Presidential race will produce new brilliant insights.

Perhaps it just comes down to the new limits on American power in an increasingly multi-dimensional world. The United States remains the most consequential country in the world - for now - but economic and military overextension have cost this country dearly.

I talked to that veteran foreign policy journalist / analyst of 60+ years - Arnaud deBorchgrave - and he fervently believe the U.S. military interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq set the stage for many of today's conflicts, even the Ukrainian crisis.

Indeed, the massive U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad, Iraq - with a nearly $2 Billion pricetag - beautifully illustrates the folly of U.S. ambitions in the Middle-East. (Of course, U.S. contractors made plenty!) Since the Iraqi Sunni insurgency most recently threatened Baghdad, we've seen a stunning reduction in U.S. personnel. And the Iraqis think they will one day use that compound as their West Point. A last monument to neo-con stupidity.

Anyway, here's that provocative analysis in NATIONAL JOURNAL...


Posted at 8:45am on July 31, 2014 by Allan Loudell

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Comments on this post:

Thu, Jul 31, 2014 10:06am
Actually, there is a common thread in both failures, one bigger than either president involved.

The U.S. invasion of Iraq was a success. For 5 months. Only after Brenner announced we would be taking 80% of the oil revenues (instead of the standard 20%) did the first IEDs go off outside Baghdad, and then the surrounding country... Apparently, we were obviously imperialists and in their eyes, had to be overthrown. It proved we were there for oil. That one statement by Brenner cost 4,000 American lives.

Many Americans fail to remember the peace and optimism that reigned for five months after the fall of Saddam... We could have said - as we did after Europe in 1945 - we will help you rebuild, and the faster we can accomplish it, the faster we are getting out, and things would have gone on just peachy.

Obama, despite conservative attempts to paint him as having a velvet hand, has also been undercut by the American corporate juggernaut. Currently the failures are the hot spots Ukraine, Gaza/Hamas, and maybe Libya. The conservative corporate interests were what ignited the Maiden movement in Ukraine with the line, Push out the Russians. The conservative corporates interests are what are fueling Israel. I only need to say "Sean Hannity" to bring that to context...

Yet there were successes under both presidents that are underreported due to our corporate medias' preoccupation with war.

Iran is going well for the U.S. now. Africa went well for George W. Bush 8 years ago.

Despite China's previous threats, South China's seas are unchanged today; and China and Taiwan never did go to war under George W. Bush.(not many people know that story)

And very few give the Bush Administration its huge credit due for finally making Columbia stable.

Instead, the failures are pushed hard front and center. Point is no one can predict the future. Point is that when people hate each other, sometimes despite all one can do, they will choose to go to blows anyways...

Gaza has been in contention as long as I can remember. The Ukrainians prior to the war actually had a gigantic fist-fight in their parliament, involving almost all participants... So blaming the Obama administration for these two conflagrations, is a stretch... Sometimes the opposition gets lucky and completes a forward pass..

So the appearance from other nations - that the U.S. is not the savior it once purported to be, but is a user and abuser of other nations - actually may be the fuel feeding these fires across the globe. As we become conservative, and listen to the kooks like Pizza instead of Common Sense, I would certainly expect more who want change, seeing violence as the only alternative being left at their disposal...

Get rid of conservatives, and we will have peace.

Thu, Jul 31, 2014 10:06am
As the article mentioned... Reagan's policies worked better than Bush's nation-building and 0bama's leading from behind.

Reagan's "Peace through Strength" seemed to work pretty well...if Ukraine had kept its nukes, would Putin still have gone in?

Mike from Delaware
Thu, Jul 31, 2014 2:07pm
Kavips said:
"The U.S. invasion of Iraq was a success. For 5 months. Only after Brenner announced we would be taking 80% of the oil revenues (instead of the standard 20%) did the first IEDs go off outside Baghdad, and then the surrounding country... Apparently, we were obviously imperialists and in their eyes, had to be overthrown. It proved we were there for oil. That one statement by Brenner cost 4,000 American lives."

I don't remember this. I was always under the impression we [meaning the US] didn't get ANY of Iraq's oil, but you're saying we took 80%. I'm truly shocked that this happened. No wonder those folks hate the US so much.

Do you have any links for this?

Think about that for a moment. Papa Bush must have looked like a real good guy to the Arab world, we went in and saved Kuait's oil fields, took nothing, and left just as we had promised.

Bush Jr, [the dumber son] if he did what you said, we [the US] took 80% of their oil? Yea that sure explains a lot about their hatred towards us. But that's hard to believe. Why didn't our oil prices go down? Why didn't the 'evil liberal media' report this. I truly do not remember any of that. There's something to this story I'm not getting. Please offer clarification, thanks !

Mike from Delaware
Thu, Jul 31, 2014 2:10pm
Another question, if the US took 80% of Iraq's oil revenue, how then did we go into debt? We should be sitting on a big fat surplus. What did Bush Jr., and Congress do... put the money in their own pockets? I'm missing an important element to this story.

Allan Loudell
Thu, Jul 31, 2014 2:19pm
The short answer, Mike from Delaware...

The United States getting the Lion's share of the oil revenue from Iraq never happened as the neo-cons had advertised.

Foreign companies (Chinese, Russian, Dutch, Malaysian, Korean, etc.) drew rings around most of our companies, except Exxon.

Bluntly, state-owned, Chinese oil companies were less risk-averse.

Irony: We were pouring Billions of dollars for Iraq's reconstruction, while Iraqi oil revenues were soaring.

Mike from Delaware
Thu, Jul 31, 2014 2:21pm
Thanks Allan.

Mike from Delaware
Thu, Jul 31, 2014 2:52pm
That was what I remember; their oil revenues were great and yet we were paying to rebuild their nation. I kept thinking that Bush Jr. should have set it up so THEY paid, not us, to rebuild Iraq. Unlike Japan and Germany, Iraq could afford it.

Of course then Cheney's company Halliburton wouldn't have made all those billions of dollars via no-bid contracts.

Thu, Jul 31, 2014 4:42pm
Allan is correct. We never did get much of their oil... We were too busy fighting a war. Which is why we are in debt. In one case American corporate mercenaries (Blackwater) were sent to a refinery to stop oil production, because Americans were not getting royalties on it. The union of Engineers appealed to American Unions, who publicized it, and it was called off.

We did steal considerable amounts of Iraqi oil by going in the western desert and pumping out of Western Iraq, and transporting it over to Saudi pipelines and selling it out of Saudi ports. Not sure how that was divided up.

Thu, Jul 31, 2014 4:50pm
And it is funny how a new generation worships the myth of Reagan without any of the dirty details. Details like Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Beirut, Lebanon...

Reagan's only success was his rapport with Gorbachev. That was the exact opposite of intimidative posturing supposedly so Reaganesque. And perhaps one can include Grenada... A major invasion on the pretense of rescuing kids from a school. All of those foreign policy debacles were eventually cleaned up by Clinton across the next decade. In fact, one could say that Reagan made America's enemies stronger by having them standing up to the might of America's threats, with impunity.

It is funny how myths dominate American political conversations over facts....

Thu, Jul 31, 2014 5:06pm
Btw, saw a Monarch in Newark yesterday.

Thu, Jul 31, 2014 11:14pm
Reagan also worked with Tip O'Neal... we need a leader who can work WITH the other side and not consider his opposition the enemy and not use the IRS against his opponents. Reagan wasn't perfect, but he left a much better legacy than the many presidents before and after his terms in office.

Thu, Jul 31, 2014 11:55pm
...and how many drawn out wars with massive American deaths occured during Reagan?

Clinton cleaned up Reagan's "debacles"? Clinton ignored Rwanda (just as 0bama ignores the slaughter/elimination of Christians in the Middle-East); he didn't take out Osama bin Laden when he had the chance, and it was under his watch that Black Hawk Down happened in Somalia... OBL even said the retreat by Clinton after Black Hawk Down showed him that Americans would retreat if attacked.


President Bush the Elder sent U.S. forces into Somalia in December 1992 to aid the United Nations in relieving a massive famine. In May of 1993, four months into his term, President Clinton declared that mission accomplished and pulled out most of the U.S. forces. In a speech on the South Lawn to associate himself with the effort, he extolled the decision to intervene: "If all of you who served had not gone, it is absolutely certain that tens of thousands would have died by now." It was a "successful mission," he said, and "proved yet again that American leadership can help to mobilize international action ..."
But back in Somalia, with no U.S. deterrent, Somalia's warlords began fighting again. After a series of bloody attacks on U.N. peacekeepers, Mr. Clinton launched a new mission: In August 1993, he sent in a force of Rangers and Special Forces units to capture the brutal warlord Mohammad Farrah Aidid and restore order.

That force asked for heavy armor -- in the form of Abrams tanks and Bradley armored vehicles -- as well as the AC-130 gunship, but the Clinton Administration denied those requests. On October 3rd on a mission to pick up Aidid, two Black Hawks were unexpectedly shot down; in the ensuing urban gun battle, 18 American soldiers were killed and another 73 injured.

Many military experts believe that if the U.S. forces had had armor, fewer would have died.

Mr. Clinton's responsibility in Somalia doesn't stop there. Despite the mistakes that October day, Aidid had been struck a blow. The U.S. military, with 18 dead, wanted nothing more than to finish what it had started. Mr. Clinton instead aborted the mission. The U.S. released the criminals it had captured that same day at such great cost, and the U.N., lacking U.S. support, was powerless to keep order. Somalia remains a lawless, impoverished nation. Worse, the terrorists of al-Qaeda interpreted the U.S. retreat from Somalia as a sign of American weakness that may have convinced them we could be induced to retreat from the Middle East if they took their attacks to the U.S. homeland.


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