(Moderator-I'm trying to comply with the statute. Let me know if I err and I will make whatever corrections are needed) ====================================================== THE FOREIGN POLICY GAP SEPARATING OBAMA FROM ROMNEY ASIA TIMES October 12, 2012 w.w.w.atimes.com Peter Van Buren "*** When it comes to foreign - that is, military - policy, the gap between Barack and Mitt is slim to the point of non-existent on many issues, however much they may badger each other on the subject. ***without a smidgen of new thinking (guaranteed not to put in an appearance at any of the debates to come), we doom ourselves to more of the same. *** here are five critical questions that should be explored (even if all of us know that they won't be) in the foreign policy-inclusive presidential debates scheduled for October 16 and 22 - with a sixth, bonus question, thrown in for good measure. 1. Is there an end game for the global war on terror? The current president, elected on the promise of change, altered very little when it came to George W Bush's Global War on Terror (other than dropping the name). That jewel-in-the-crown of Bush-era offshore imprisonment, Guantanamo, still houses over 160 prisoners held without trial or hope or a plan for what to do with them. While the US pulled its troops out of Iraq - mostly because our Iraqi "allies" flexed their muscles a bit and threw us out - the war in Afghanistan stumbles on. Drone strikes and other forms of conflict continue in the same places Bush tormented: Yemen, Somalia, and Pakistan (and it's clear that northern Mali is heading our way). A huge national security state has been codified in a host of new or expanded intelligence agencies under the Homeland Security umbrella, and Washington seems able to come up with nothing more than a whack-a-mole strategy for ridding itself of the scourge of terror, an endless succession of killings of "al-Qaeda Number 3" guys. Counter-terrorism tsar John Brennan, Obama's drone-meister, has put it this way: "We're not going to rest until al-Qaeda the organization is destroyed and is eliminated from areas in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Africa, and other areas." ***: What's the end game for all this? Even in the worst days of the Cold War, when it seemed impossible to imagine, there was still a goal: the "end" of the Soviet Union. Are we really consigned to the Global War on Terror, under whatever name or no name at all, as an infinite state of existence?*** 2. Do today's foreign policy challenges mean that it's time to retire the constitution? A domestic policy crossover question here. Prior to September 11, 2001, it was generally assumed that our amazing Constitution could be adapted to whatever challenges or problems arose. *** *** Starting on September 12, 2001, however, challenges, threats, and risks abroad have been used to justify abandoning core beliefs enshrined in the Bill of Rights. That bill, we are told, can't accommodate terror threats to the Homeland. Absent the third rail of the Second Amendment and gun ownership (politicians touch it and die), nearly every other key amendment has since been trodden upon. The First Amendment was sacrificed to silence whistleblowers and journalists. The Fourth and Fifth Amendments were ignored to spy on Americans at home and kill them with drones abroad. (September 30 was the first anniversary of the Obama administration's first acknowledged murder without due process of an American - and later his teenaged son - abroad. The US has similarly killed two other Americans abroad via drone, albeit "by accident". ) So, candidates, the question is: Have we walked away from the US Constitution? If so, shouldn't we publish some sort of notice or bulletin? 3. What do we want from the Middle East? Is it all about oil? Israel? Old-fashioned hegemony and containment? *** Are we worried about a nuclear Iran, or just worried about a new nuclear club member in general? Will we continue the 19th century game of supporting thug dictators who support our policies in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Libya (until overwhelmed by events on the ground), and opposing the same actions by other thugs who disagree with us like Iraq's Saddam Hussein and Syria's Bashar al-Assad? *** Candidates, can you define America's predominant interest in the Middle East and sketch out a series of at least semi-sensical actions in support of it? 4. What is your plan to right-size our military and what about downsizing the global mission? The decade - and counting - of grinding war in Iraq and Afghanistan has worn the American military down to its lowest point since Vietnam. Though drugs and poor discipline are not tearing out its heart as they did in the 1970s, suicide among soldiers now takes that first chair position. The toll on families of endless deployments is hard to measure but easy to see. The expanding role of the military abroad (reconstruction, peacekeeping, disaster relief, garrisoning a long necklace of bases from Rota, Spain, to Kadena, Okinawa) seems to require a vast standing army. At the same time, the dramatic increase in the development and use of a new praetorian guard, Joint Special Operations Command, coupled with a militarized CIA and its drones, have given the president previously unheard of personal killing power. Indeed, Obama has underscored his unchecked solo role as the "decider" on exactly who gets obliterated by drone assassins. So, candidates, here's a two-parter: Given that a huge Occupy Everywhere army is killing more of its own via suicide than any enemy, what will you do to right-size the military and downsize its global mission? Secondly, did this country's founders really intend for the president to have unchecked personal war-making powers? 5. Since no one outside our borders buys American exceptionalism any more, what's next? What is America's point these days?*** ***Now, who we are and what we are abroad seems so much grimmer, so much less appealing (as global opinion polls regularly indicate). In light of the Iraq invasion and occupation, and the failure to embrace the Arab Spring, America the Exceptional, has, it seems, run its course. America the Hegemonic, a tough if unattractive moniker, also seems a goner, given the slo-mo defeat in Afghanistan and the never-ending stalemate that is the Global War on Terror. Resource imperialist? America's failure to either back away from the Greater Middle East and simply pay the price for oil, or successfully grab the oil, adds up to a "policy" that only encourages ever more instability in the region. *** So candidates, here are a few questions: Who exactly are we in the world and who do you want us to be? *** Without resorting to the usual "shining city on a hill" metaphors, can you tell us your vision for America in the world? *** 6. Bonus Question ***: How do you realistically plan to pay for it? For every school and road built in Iraq and Afghanistan on the taxpayer dollar, why didn't you build two here in the United States? When you insist that we can't pay for crucial needs at home, explain to us why these can be funded abroad. If your response is we had to spend that money to "defend America", tell us why building jobs in this country doesn't do more to defend it than anything done abroad. Now that might spark a real debate, one that's long, long overdue. Peter Van Buren, a 24-year veteran Foreign Service Officer at the State Department, spent a year in Iraq***" ====================================================================== And so, it seems to some, and I am one of them, that in America the establishment sow devours her pigs and gives her milk to the EU and to Israel and to Big Oil and to petropotentates. And now, since both candidates are pushing us into the meatgrinder of endless war, the questions I ask myself are * should I as much as vote for either candidate when neither candidate bears any of the marks of a patriot and when neither exhibits any of the attributes of a candidate who is dedicated to the needs of our environment and our people and other earthlife? *And, if I do vote for either of the two major presidential candidates, which candidate's name should I mark on the ballot in order show that I regard the other candidate to be the greater evil of the two?