tomdispatch.com — Barack Obama is a smart guy. So why has he spent the last four years executing such a dumb foreign policy? True, his reliance on “smart power” -- a euphemism for giving the Pentagon a stake in all things global -- has been a smart move politically at home. It has largely prevented the Republicans from playing the national security card in this election year. But “smart power” has been a disaster for the world at large and, ultimately, for the United States itself.
tomdispatch.com — Afghanistan may turn out to be one of the great misbegotten “stimulus packages” of the modern era, a construction boom in the middle of nowhere with materials largely shipped in at enormous expense to no lasting purpose whatsoever. With the U.S. military officially drawing down its troops there, the Pentagon is now evidently reversing the process and embarking on a major deconstruction program. It’s tearing up tarmacs, shutting down outposts, and packing up some of its smaller facilities. Next year, the number of International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) coalition bases in the southwest of the country alone is scheduled to plummet from 214 to 70, according to the New York Times. But anyone who wanted to know just what the Pentagon built in Afghanistan and what it is now tearing down won’t have an easy time of it.
washingtonpost.com — In his speech tonight, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) decried Obama for cutting defense, saying, “We can’t afford another $500 billion in cuts to our defense budget — on top of the nearly $500 billion in cuts that the president is already making…And yet, the president is playing no leadership role in preventing this crippling blow to our military.” There’s just one problem: John McCain, and most other Republicans in the House and Senate, voted for the cuts in question. The Budget Control Act, passed as a condition for Republican support for raising the debt ceiling last summer, contains a 10 percent across-the-board cut in defense spending – the cut that McCain was referencing. It comes out to $30 billion in cuts next year and $510 billion in cuts over the next ten years. Republicans are now trying to reverse those cuts.
democracyarsenal.org — Since the GOP platform has been released, there has been lots of parsing of the various positions released, and with tonight’s speeches there should be a focus on the foreign policy and national security section. Walter Pincus of the Washington Post described the national security platform has high on criticism of President Obama but light on policy recommendations to address these challenges. Here are five national security issues for which the platform attempts to offer policy proposals, but falls flat.
salon.com — George W. Bush may be completely absent at the Republican National Convention, but at a theater just beyond the security perimeter, it was as if he was still in office today as Condoleezza Rice and former Bush chief of staff Joshua Bolten praised his legacy. The lineup of the forum, meant to “give you a sense of where Republicans stand on issues of foreign aid and national security,” as the president of the National Republican Institute said in his opening remarks, suggest just how little Republican foreign policy has changed since 2001, despite the intervention of two unpopular and disastrous wars that have tarnished the neoconservative ideals that defined the Bush era.
robertreich.org — There is nothing Republicans would rather the American people forget more than George W. Bush, who doesn’t even have a bit-part at the GOP convention opening in Tampa. But W’s ghost may be there, anyway. The National Weather Service says tropical storm Isaac is now heading for New Orleans, and Isaac is projected to become a Category 1 hurricane by the time it makes landfall late Monday or early Tuesday. The GOP was intent on not even bringing up Bush’s name at the GOP convention, because the former president might also remind Americans how little the Republicans care about average Americans, like those caught in Hurricane Katrina, and how much they care about top corporate and Wall Street executives, like those being entertained in Tampa. But Hurricane Isaac seems likely to remind Americans anyway.
tomdispatch.com — You undoubtedly know the phrase: the best laid plans of mice and men. It couldn’t be more apt when it comes to the American project in Afghanistan. Washington’s plans have indeed been carefully drawn up. By the end of 2014, U.S. “combat troops” are to be withdrawn, but left behind on the giant bases the Pentagon has built will be thousands of U.S. trainers and advisers, as well as special operations forces to go after al-Qaeda remnants (and other “militants”), and undoubtedly the air power to back them all up. Thanks to a 10-year Strategic Partnership Agreement, there they are to remain until 2020 or beyond. In other words, the American “withdrawal” regularly mentioned in the media doesn’t really mean “withdrawal.” On paper at least, for years to come the U.S. will partially occupy a country that has a history of loathing foreigners who won’t leave (and making them pay for it).
truthdig.com — Does Rep. Paul Ryan believe that voting for war constitutes foreign policy experience? If so, it is a kind of experience that reflects very poorly on him. Even he must realize that the underlying premise of the war, Saddam Hussein’s alleged possession of weapons of mass destruction, quickly proved to be nothing more than a Bush administration hoax, along with the secondary claim that Saddam’s regime had some connection with the 9/11 attacks. After casting his party-line vote for a ruinous war because he accepted a faked argument, Ryan never spoke up against its continuation. He ratified every troop escalation and every supplemental appropriation. Unlike the American people, who turned decisively against the war years ago, and have condemned it by large majorities as a waste of blood and treasure, he apparently still believes it was a swell idea.
grist.org — In 2011, after nearly nine years of war and occupation, U.S. troops finally left Iraq. In their place, Big Oil is now present in force and the country’s oil output, crippled for decades, is growing again. Iraq recently reclaimed the No. 2 position in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), overtaking oil-sanctioned Iran. Now, there’s talk of a new world petroleum glut. So is this finally mission accomplished? Well, not exactly. In fact, any oil company victory in Iraq is likely to prove as temporary as George W. Bush’s triumph in 2003. The main reason is yet another of those stories the mainstream media didn’t quite find room for: the role of Iraqi civil society. But before telling that story, let’s look at what’s happening to Iraqi oil today, and how we got from the “no blood for oil” global protests of 2003 to the present moment.