Friday, April 01, 2011

Tom Hayden explains in three paragraphs why our presidents are so badly advised in foreign policy

In this article by Tom Hayden 4 generations of endless war are explained to this generation succinctly.–KAS

The realities are quite the opposite. In a democracy, war requires the consent of the governed, expressed at the very least with the consent of the Congress and subject to the authorization of the federal judiciary. As Garry Wills points out in Bomb Power, the public and Congress have shriveled before the power of the unitary executive state. It is telling that Obama spent far more time seeking the approval of the United Nations and the Arab League than the U.S. Congress, and has no plans to seek an authorizing vote unless Congress itself insists – an unlikely prospect for now.

The national security establishment is disconnected from the everyday concerns of the American people. As Andrew Bacevich writes in The Long War, “to the extent that members of the national security apparatus have taken public opinion into consideration, they have viewed it as something to manipulate…” And as David Rothkopf writes in his aptly-titled history of the National Security Council, Running the World, all thirteen Democratic and Republican national security advisers since the 1970s – from Brent Scowcroft to Stephen Hadley – are a “natural aristocracy” who either worked for Henry Kissinger or one of Kissinger’s top associates.

The foreign policy caste worries about the intrusion of democracy on their domain (Harvard’s late Samuel Huntington used to complain about “an excess of democracy” after the Sixties, when curbs on foreign policy were briefly legislated). In their privileged world, they assume an unlimited budget for their unlimited foreign policy portfolio. According to Woodward’s account, Obama himself had to fight his own bureaucracy to uncover the true costs of Afghanistan, and the price was a shock to the president. Obama is ill-advised on foreign policy if his national security elite, including idealists like Power, assume that Americans will have to accept a declining standard of living to put a stop to dictators abroad. Human rights abroad cannot come at the price of democracy at home, but that is the course of liberal empire.



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