Will Obama stop the war?
With the final primaries in
One of the most important reason for his success is the belief among millions of supporters that he alone among the major candidates is committed to stopping the war on
With the final primaries in
Anthony Arnove is the author of Iraq: The Logic of Withdrawal, an essential book for all antiwar activists, and coauthor with Howard Zinn of Voices of a People's History of the United States. He answered SocialistWorker.org's questions about Obama's stands on war, imperialism and
BARACK OBAMA presents himself as a candidate who will end the
PEOPLE WHO believe Barack Obama will end the occupation of
Obama has also left open the possibility that if he reduces the overall troop levels in Iraq--something that from a military standpoint is very likely, given how overstretched the United States is now--he would increase the number of mercenaries in Iraq.
Writing in the Nation magazine, journalist Jeremy Scahill reported, "A senior foreign policy adviser to leading Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama has told the Nation that if elected Obama will not 'rule out' using private security companies like Blackwater Worldwide in Iraq."
Obama says that he will "have all of our combat brigades out of
In addition to the mercenaries and private contractors, that would leave tens of thousands of troops involved in so-called counterinsurgency operations. That's the same rationale the Bush administration uses for keeping troops in
But there's no way the Iraqi police or security forces will ever have any legitimacy as long as they are seen as collaborating with an unwanted foreign occupation. That's why "Iraqization" of the conflict is leading in the same direction that "Vietnamization" led during the
Other troops will remain for "force protection." That's a complete oxymoron. If the
This is also the reasoning given for why we need so many mercenaries in
Other troops are likely to be involved in air operations over
The Washington Post reported May 23 that "pilots have dramatically increased their use of helicopter-fired missiles against enemy fighters, often in densely populated areas. Since late March, the military has fired more than 200 Hellfire missiles in the capital, compared with just six missiles fired in the previous three months."
Obama also talks about the need to "refocus our attention on the broader Middle East" and "finishing the fight in Afghanistan." So we are likely to see some troops now in
That is, we are likely to see an adjustment in the tactics of the war, perhaps even the strategy, but not an end to the war. Not an end to the politics of seeking to dominate and control the Middle East and Western and
WHAT DO you say to people who want the war to end, but think that Obama's plan is acceptable?
I THINK that many people who hold this belief think that Obama, once elected, will move to the left--that he's not talking about a complete withdrawal because he can't do that and get elected (even though public opinion polls point in the other direction).
I think many of Obama's supporters would be surprised to learn that he's not for a complete withdrawal, and that he hasn't ruled out using more mercenaries in
Either way, I think there's a degree of wishful thinking here. It's understandable. After eight years of Bush and eight years of
But in the absence of a large, independent antiwar movement putting pressure on Obama and the Democrats, I think we're likely to see the opposite: that Obama will govern to the right of the positions of his supporters.
That to me is the key question: Will there be that pressure on Obama if he's elected? Or will people in the antiwar movement succumb to the pressure to "give him time" and not to "rock the boat."
The experience after the 2006 mid-term elections is not encouraging. Democrats took over the House and Senate, yet continued to fund and prolong the occupation of
OBAMA ARGUES that
THE IDEA that
Of course, there was also an element of seeking revenge--no matter that the people being killed by
All of this has nothing to do with fighting terrorism, making the world safer or protecting people in the
DO YOU think Obama differs on the aims of
I THINK he differs on the tactics and strategies, not the aims or principles. After eight years of inept and counterproductive foreign policy decision-making, which has led even top generals and Republican advisers to defect from the Bush camp, we're bound to see a readjustment in
Aggressive unilateralism is likely to be replaced with a slightly more collaborative approach to foreign policy decisions, with the understanding that, at the end of the day,
But the goal remains the same for Obama: preserve and extend what's called "American leadership" in the world. What that means is preserve and extend American empire. And in turn, that means using military force and the blunt instruments of economic control in
Sure, we may see more so-called soft power. A little better packaging and advertising of our policies. Less needless alienation of "allies." But not a reversal of decades of bipartisan support for the
As two British conservatives, Timothy Lynch and Robert Singh, wrote in the Wall Street Journal, "Regardless of who wins in November, the current foreign policy will live on in the next White House. None of the main candidates has disavowed the war on terror. Each has called Mr. Bush tactically deficient. But the debate over the war on terror is over how, where and when. The candidates have all argued that they would do a better job of fighting it."
OBAMA ADVISERS like Samantha Powers are associated with talk about "humanitarian intervention" by the
IT WAS interesting when Powers was kicked to the curb (or "thrown under the bus," as it's been called) for having a few fairly uncontroversial harsh words for Hillary Clinton.
Over the same period, Powers was at pains to explain that Obama would not pull out of
But that wasn't an issue. The issue was whether or not Powers had trashed
Still, the influence of Powers and a group of like-minded advisers to Obama does seem to signal that we are likely to see more rhetoric about humanitarian intervention, especially in the Darfur region of
On the one hand, this may feel a bit like a return to Bill Clinton-era policies. But we should keep two things in mind: the first is that Bill Clinton's rhetoric about humanitarian intervention helped lay the basis for the overwhelmingly bipartisan support for invading
So our challenge is to make the case that the issue is not the "mismanagement" of the
The issue is that U.S. foreign policy is driven by interests, especially corporate interests, that are destroying the planet, that are destroying the lives of people around the globe and at home.
Take the issue of troop levels. Obama's Web site says, "Obama will increase the size of ground forces, adding 65,000 soldiers to the Army and 27,000 Marines." What do we imagine the purpose of those troops will be? To provide housing for homeless people? To teach children who are illiterate? To wipe out malaria and easy preventable diseases that kill millions of children ever year?
No, those troops will be charged with protecting
THE DEMOCRATS are generally considered less likely to get the
VIETNAM WAS started by Democrats and ended by a Republican. The First and Second World War began under Democrats.
John F. Kennedy, who is idealized today, was a Democrat who presided over the massive expansion of
The policy we now see being vigorously pursued in
"The last great liberal hope to win the White House--Bill Clinton--committed more troops to more parts of the globe than any president since World War II," Lynch and Singh wrote in the Journal. "Since the end of the Cold War, America has undertaken at least nine military interventions overseas, under three presidents of both parties in two distinct historical eras (pre- and post-9/11). This history suggests that the next great liberal hope--Mr. Obama or Mrs. Clinton--would probably continue the trend.
So the key question is not whether or not we have a Democrat in office. It's whether we have any opposition, any struggle in the streets, any movements for change that work outside the narrow channels of electoral politics.
It is a question not of waiting for elected officials to give us reforms, but of fighting for them, against all the forces in our society that want to preserve the power and privilege of the few against the needs and interests of the many. Our job today is to build the opposition, whoever is in power in 2009, and to build an independent antiwar movement that can fight for its own demands--including, crucially, immediate and unconditional withdrawal from