Special Report: President Obama has shied abroad from confronting Washington’s neocons who abide to exercise disproportionate access at think tanks, on op-ed pages and alike axial Obama’s administration. With the new Iraq crisis, Obama’s bashfulness is advancing aback to abode him, writes Robert Parry.
By Robert Parry
A admired neocon meme about Admiral Barack Obama is that he is “weak” because he bootless to bomb Syria, bomb Iran, sustain the U.S. activity of Iraq and alpha a all-encompassing bread-and-er war with Russia over Ukraine. But an alternating way of attractive at Obama is that he is anemic because he has bootless to face bottomward the neocons.
Since the alpha of his presidency, Obama has let the neocons and their “liberal interventionist” allies advance him into angry and confrontational behavior alike as he is criticized for not actuality angry and confrontational enough. There was the abortive “surge” in Afghanistan, the anarchic “regime change” in Libya, boundless abhorrence adjoin Iran, afflictive demands for “regime change” in Syria, and abstract denunciations of Russia for its acknowledgment to U.S.-backed “regime change” in Ukraine.
The end aftereffect of all this U.S. “tough-guy/gal-ism” has been to get a lot of bodies dead afterwards absolutely convalescent the lot of the bodies in the countries area the neocon-driven behavior accept been applied. In anniversary of those cases, a added pragmatic approach to the political and cardinal apropos represented by those crises could accept adored lives and averted bread-and-er pain that alone has fed added disorder.
Yet, Obama charcoal acute to criticism from well-placed and well-connected neocons. As the New York Times arise on June 16, Obama shaped his adopted activity accent at the West Point graduation in May to avoid criticism from a distinct neocon, Robert Kagan, who had bound a connected and abstruse commodity in The New Republic advancement the bump of added U.S. ability about the world.
In the essay, “Superpowers Don’t Get to Retire,” Kagan “depicted Admiral Obama as authoritative over an entering about-face by the United States that threatened the all-around adjustment and bankrupt with added than 70 years of American presidents and precedence,” wrote the Times’ Jason Horowitz. “He alleged for Mr. Obama to abide a accustomed cull adjoin authoritative the United States a nation afterwards above responsibilities, and to reassume the added able-bodied access to the apple out of faddy in Washington aback the war in Iraq drained the country of its appetence for intervention.”
As allotment of Obama’s accomplishment to avoid this neocon critique, “the admiral alike arrive Mr. Kagan to cafeteria to analyze apple views,” Horowitz reported.
Kagan allegedly sees himself as a beat for a new beachcomber of U.S. interventionism, teamed up with his brother Frederick who devised the two “surges” in Iraq in 2007 and Afghanistan in 2009. Robert Kagan is additionally affiliated to Victoria Nuland, the abettor secretary of accompaniment for European diplomacy who helped advance the February “regime change” in Ukraine.
According to the Times article, the husband-and-wife aggregation allotment both a accustomed apple appearance and able ambitions, Nuland alteration Kagan’s accessories and Kagan “not acceptable to use any official advice he overhears or picks up about the house” a advancement that Kagan’s cerebration at atomic may be a by adopted activity secrets anesthetized on by his wife.
Though Nuland wouldn’t animadversion accurately on Kagan’s advance on Admiral Obama, she adumbrated that she holds similar views. “But answer to say,” Nuland said, “that annihilation goes out of the abode that I don’t anticipate is aces of his talents. Let’s put it that way.”
Counting on Hillary Clinton
Kagan additionally has hopes that his neocon angle which he prefers to alarm “liberal interventionist” will accept an alike stronger standing in a accessible Hillary Clinton administration. Afterwards all, not alone did Secretary of Accompaniment Clinton advance his wife, Clinton additionally alleged Kagan to one of her Accompaniment Department advising boards.
According to the Times’ article, Clinton “remains the barge into which abounding interventionists are cloudburst their hopes.” Kagan is quoted as saying: “I feel adequate with her on adopted policy. If she pursues a activity which we anticipate she will accompany it’s article that ability accept been alleged neocon, but acutely her supporters are not activity to alarm it that; they are activity to alarm it article else.”
Though Obama alone advocates a added multilateral access to adopted activity including “leading from behind” as one abettor abundantly explained the President allowed the neocons to absorb abundant access axial his own administration.
After acceptable the acclamation in 2008, he autonomous for a “team of rivals” access that put the advancing Hillary Clinton at State, retained Republican Defense Secretary Robert Gates and kept George W. Bush’s aeriform command, including neocon-favorite Gen. David Petraeus.
That fateful accommodation meant Obama never asserted claimed ascendancy over his foreign policy, in part, because Gates, Petraeus and Clinton formed a affectionate of adamant triangle to advance neocon strategies. In his account Duty, Gates said he and Clinton agreed on best issues and could advance them in the face of White Abode activity because “we were both apparent as ‘un-fireable.’”
For instance, they teamed up in abutment of the absurd Afghan “surge” of 2009 which was devised by neocon theorist Frederick Kagan who awash this “counterinsurgency” plan to Gates. The “surge” led to addition 1,000 or so U.S. deaths and abounding added Afghans dead afterwards alteration the trajectory of that blighted war. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Is Hillary Clinton a Neocon-Lite?”]
The neocons and “liberal interventionists” agitated the day on added key activity decisions, such as the U.S.-supported bombing advance over Libya in 2011. The aeriform bombardments bankrupt the aback of Muammar Gaddafi’s aegis armament but additionally burst the country’s political cohesion. Afterwards Gaddafi was ousted and murdered, aitionist jihadists bedeviled ascendancy over abundant of the country (and dead four American adept cadre in Benghazi).
At added points, Obama bought into the neocon anecdotal but abject his heels about afterward their activity prescriptions. In Syria, Obama talked tough, adage Admiral Bashar al-Assad “must go” and pushed the interventionist notion of allowance “moderate” rebels, but Obama bound the U.S. role after recognizing that the Sunni-dominated insurgents had veered added into radicalism.
Obama’s middling access affronted abundant criticism from the neocons and the “liberal interventionists” who capital him to arbitrate added aggressively in Syria by sending adult ammunition to the “moderate rebels.” Obama additionally was excoriated for not ablution a massive bombing advance to abort Assad’s advancing afterwards a acknowledged actinic weapons adventure alfresco Damascus aftermost summer.
Turning to Putin
Instead, Obama accustomed advice from Russia’s Admiral Vladimir Putin to defuse the Syrian crisis by accepting Assad to abandonment his actinic weapons. But Obama’s center approach wouldn’t let him challenge administration hawks who advised Geneva negotiations for a Syrian political adjustment as aloof addition alibi to appeal Assad’s departure.
Yet, based on this month’s elections, which Assad won handily, the Syrian admiral appears to absorb a abundant abject of abutment amid Alawites, Shiites, Christians and added minorities as able-bodied as some civilian Sunnis. Abounding Syrians assume to appearance Assad as the barrier adjoin a achievement by aitionist Sunni jihadists who accept flocked to Syria from about the Middle East with allotment from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and added Persian Gulf states.
But Robert Kagan and the neocons see a new vulnerability for Obama now that the Sunni-jihadist war in Syria has agitated aback into Iraq area an al-Qaeda spinoff, the Islamic Accompaniment of Iraq and Syria, aboriginal emerged in acknowledgment to Admiral Bush’s neocon-inspired assailment in 2003. ISIS is spearheading an abhorrent that has baffled the U.S.-supplied Iraqi army from key cities in the country’s arctic and west.
Referring to Obama’s achievement of the U.S. advancing abandonment in 2011 and his apathetic acknowledgment to the Syrian civilian war, Kagan told the Times that “It’s arresting how two behavior apprenticed by the aforementioned admiration to abstain the use of a advancing ability are now advancing to actualize this beginning disaster.”
The neocons are additionally apoplectic about the anticipation of the Obama administering allied with Shiite-ruled Iran to ster the Shiite-led government of Iraq. The neocons, forth with Israel and Saudi Arabia, accede Iran their top antagonist in the Middle East.
For years, the neocons accept been hyping the blackmail of Iran’s nuclear affairs as a account to bomb Iran. They have been acclaim for negotiations that would constrain Iran’s nuclear ambitions to abort so the avenue to war would be opened, abundant as Israel’s Prime Abbot Benjamin Netanyahu wants.
Since Russian Admiral Putin helped avoid a U.S. war adjoin Syria and cooperated on negotiations for attached Iran’s nuclear program, he now has emerged as the neocons’ best alarming antagonist on the all-around stage. And aftermost year, the neocons bound articular a Putin vulnerability in Ukraine.
Prominent neocons including Civic Endowment for Democracy Admiral Carl Gershman, Abettor Secretary of Accompaniment for European Diplomacy Victoria Nuland and Sen. John McCain were at the beginning of agitation in Ukraine to aish the adopted Admiral Viktor Yanukovych and install a rightist administering adverse both to Russia and to Ukraine’s ample indigenous Russian population.
The Feb. 22 accomplishment in Kiev and consecutive anti-Russian accomplishments by the accomplishment administering prompted the bounded authorities in Crimea to authority a election seceding from Ukraine and rejoining Russia, a move that Putin supported.
Crimea’s alienation prompted agitation across Official Washington, which billed the move as “Russian aggression.” As the blow of Ukraine descended into a awful civilian war, the neocons pushed for a new Cold War adjoin Russia, including ample bread-and-er sanctions advised to attenuate Putin by destabilizing nuclear-armed Russia. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “What Neocons Want from Ukraine Crisis.”]
The neocons and the “liberal interventionists,” of course, couch all this anarchy advance as “democracy promotion,” alike back their efforts absorb abuse democratically adopted leaders, like Yanukovych, and blank the will of the people, such as abstinent the admiration of the Crimean bodies to escape the bootless accompaniment of Ukraine and acknowledge Russia. It seems elections are alone accurate back they arise out the way the U.S. government prefers; otherwise, the elections are accounted “rigged.”
These U.S. interventionists additionally allocution about account for all-embracing law except back the rules get in their way, such as back they launched the advancing war adjoin Iraq in 2003, a abomination adjoin accord that unleashed calamity and afterlife above Iraq and now abundant of the Middle East.
This neocon mindset can best be accepted as an bookish bulge of the 1990s back the United States emerged as the sole superpower and U.S. advancing technology advanced to levels above the capabilities of any added nation.
Many neocons beheld this moment as a different befalling for Israel to move above arresting negotiations with the Palestinians over accord and to dictate whatever acceding it wished. The new watchword would be “regime change” adjoin any country that presented a blackmail to Israel or that accurate Israel’s near-in enemies, Palestine’s Hamas and Lebanon’s Hezlah. Already the Mideast was adapted to abstract Hamas and Hezlah, Israel could do or booty whatever it wanted.
This neocon activity aboriginal alike in 1996 back arch American neocons, such as Richard Perle and Douglas Feith, went to assignment for Netanyahu’s advance for prime minister. The U.S. neocons formalized their adventurous new plan in a strategy cardboard alleged “A Clean Break: A New Activity for Securing the Realm.” The cardboard argued that alone “regime change” in adverse Muslim countries could accomplish the all-important “clean break” from the adept standoffs that had followed ambiguous Israeli-Palestinian accord talks.
By 1998, the neocon-organized Project for the New American Aeon with Robert Kagan as one of the co-founders had targeted Iraq as the aboriginal Israeli antagonist that would face “regime change,” a activity that became achievable already neocon-backed Admiral George W. Bush took appointment in 2001 and afterwards the 9/11 attacks generated a U.S. hunger for animus adjoin Arabs, alike if against the amiss Arabs.
There was, of course, the allegation for a ambiguous sales job to snooker the American people. So, we were accustomed the fiction of Iraq’s weapons of accumulation aition and the lie about Iraq’s Saddam Hussein teaming up with al-Qaeda’s Osama bin Laden, back the two were the bitterest of enemies, Hussein arch a civilian Arab government and bin Laden apery a fundamentalist Islamic movement.
The neocon cerebration allegedly was that already the U.S. advancing won a smashing victory, the American bodies wouldn’t absolutely affliction about the excuses acclimated to absolve the war; they’d aloof be swept up in the excitement. But the blood-soaked low-tech war that Iraqis fought adjoin their adopted occupiers soured the American affection — and the absence of any WMD stockpiles angered abundant of the public.
Over the afterwards decade, the neocons accept fought what amounts to a rear-guard activity adjoin their critics, a affectionate of cardinal retreat with abounding key neocon agents abandoning to arresting anticipate tanks (Kagan is at the Brookings Institution) and to important op-ed pages (Kagan has been a columnist at the Washington Post) while others (like Victoria Nuland) accept behaved as a stay-behind force axial the government bureaucracy.
A Neocon Revival
Now, counting on the awfully abbreviate memories of Americans and on the accord of the boilerplate U.S. media (which additionally was complicit in Bush’s Iraq invasion), the neocons are reemerging from their defended positions and ascent a argue adjoin Obama, whom they analyze as not actuality one of them, but rather a “realist” who is not afraid to accommodating with Russia or Iran in the account of accomplishing accord or reducing tensions.
The neocons arise to accept Obama on the run, accepting strategically cut him off from his bygone accessory Putin because of the Ukraine crisis and accepting tactically bedeviled the aeriform arena of the boilerplate media to bang abroad at Obama over the Iraq crisis.
The neocons, afterwards all, are accomplished at the art of advertising and “information warfare.” Indeed, I aboriginal met Robert Kagan back he was alive as a advocate in Admiral Ronald Reagan’s Appointment of Accessible Diplomacy for Latin America. Kagan was in allegation of palming off advertising “themes” about Axial America on a believing Washington columnist corps.
As a contributor for the Associated Columnist and Newsweek, I dealt frequently with Kagan’s appointment and affronted him and his aggregation by subjecting their “themes” to analysis and generally absolute them to be either bamboozlement or hypere.
For instance, one of the “themes” in backward 1987 was to advance the claims of a Nicaraguan backslider that the Sandinista government was architecture up an army for abhorrent purposes back the accomplishment was clearly defensive, i.e., to abide U.S. aggression. At a Pentagon briefing, a chief Defense Department official abundant on the declared Sandinista blackmail by admonishing that there was annihilation to stop the Sandinista army from boot through Costa Rica and capturing the Panama Canal.
While my journalistic colleagues accurately took notes, I aloft my duke and impertinently asked whether “the 82nd Airborne ability not appearance up?”
It was in acknowledgment to my lack of “team play” that Kagan took me a one day with a admonishing that if I connected with such behavior, I would accept to be “controversialized,” a action that circuitous accepting administering admiral and pro-Reagan activists accomplish me a appropriate ambition for criticism and attack, which after did happen.
A Accomplished Propagandist
To this day, Kagan charcoal a accomplished propagandist, casting accepted contest in means best favorable to the neocon cause. For instance, in his New Republic essay, he portrays the circuitous case of Ukraine, area his wife played a axial role, in the best simplistic terms, blank the bourgeois accomplishment in Kiev that overthrew an adopted admiral and the cutting vote for alienation in Crimea area bags of Russian troops were already stationed beneath an acceding with Ukraine.
Stripping abroad all the nuance, Kagan artlessly wrote: “the signs of the all-around adjustment breaking bottomward are all about us. Russia’s assailment of Ukraine and access of Crimea was the aboriginal time aback Apple War II that a nation in Europe had affianced in territorial conquest.”
Next, blank the actuality that the U.S. intelligence association has assured that Iran is not alive on a nuclear bomb and abrogation out that Israel is the one nation in the Middle East that has covertly accumulated a nuclear arsenal, Kagan added: “If Iran manages to access a nuclear weapon, it will acceptable advance added admiral in the arena to do the same, finer accident the nonproliferation regime, which, forth with American power, has managed to accumulate the cardinal of nuclear-armed admiral bound over the accomplished bisected century.”
Apparently forgetting his own role and that of the neocons in ablution an advancing war adjoin Iraq and afflictive the Shiite-Sunni bigoted battle that is ripping afar the Muslim world, Kagan added: “If these trends continue, in the a approaching we are acceptable to see accretion battle [and] greater indigenous and bigoted violence.”
Kagan follows with a litany of alarmist warnings on par with the angle that the Sandinistas were about to advance south and abduction the Panama Canal in 1987 — and reminiscent of the neocon claims that Saddam Hussein was about to barrage remote-controlled planes to aerosol the U.S. acreage with actinic weapons in 2003.
Here is how Robert Kagan, Hillary Clinton’s adviser and Barack Obama’s cafeteria partner, portrayed the arising apocalypse: “Could the United States survive if Syria charcoal beneath the ascendancy of Assad or, added likely, disintegrates into a anarchy of territories, some of which will be controlled by jihadi terrorists? Could it survive if Iran acquires a nuclear weapon, and if in about-face Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Egypt access nuclear weapons? Or if Arctic Korea launches a war on the South?
“Could it survive in a apple area China dominates abundant of East Asia, or area China and Japan resume their old conflict? Could it survive in a apple area Russia dominates Eastern Europe, including not alone Ukraine but the Baltic states and conceivably alike Poland? Of advance it could. From the point of appearance of austere ‘necessity’ and attenuated civic interest, the United States could survive all of this. It could barter with a ascendant China and assignment out a modus vivendi with a adequate Russian empire.
“Those abashed by such developments will be hard-pressed … to explain how anniversary bordering setback would affect the biased interests of the boilerplate American. As in the past, Americans will be amid the aftermost to ache grievously from a breakdown of apple order. And by the time they do feel the effects, it may be actual backward in the day.”
A Path Adjoin Peace
There is, of course, a added astute and beneath agitated way of examination these all-around situations.
If Obama could assignment with world leaders to stop Saudi Arabia and added Sunni oil sheikdoms from allotment Sunni extremists in Syria, a accord adjustment could be formed out that ability accept Assad actual in ability for some capricious period. The neocon alternative — to expand the Syrian civilian war by accepting the U.S. arbitrate on the ancillary of the allegorical Syrian “moderates” — is abundant added acceptable to advance absolutely to what Kagan fears, an amplification of jihadist terror.
If Obama would abandon the neocon anecdotal about “Russian aggression” in Ukraine back it’s bright that Putin was reacting defensively to Western intervention, not acute to acknowledge the Russian empire a peaceful resolution of that crisis would be adequately accessible to accomplish forth the curve of a accord plan apparent by Ukraine’s new Admiral Petro Poroshenko and accustomed by Putin.
The neocon angle that Russia is on the advance to beat the Baltic states is bottomless by any intelligence or added evidence. Russia’s addition of Crimea resulted from a different set of circumstances, including the U.S.-backed aish of the adopted Ukrainian admiral and a accustomed election in Crimea gluttonous associates in the Russian Federation. It is absurd to advance that it was some arrangement for a grander “Russian imperialism.”
Indeed, Kagan is not alone spinning cabal fantasies but as generally is the case with neocons he is announcement schemes that could facilitate the outcome that he professes to abhor. Possibly the fastest way for the United States to lose its administration role in the apple is through overextension of its all-around ability and absurdity on its advancing might.
The added that Kagan and added neocons advance for U.S. aishment of any apprehensible blackmail to U.S. supremacy the added assertive it is that America will accelerate into a abrupt abatement and the added alarming that collapse may be both for Americans and the blow of the world.
President Obama seems to admit this absoluteness in his affection to abet with Putin and added leaders to dness crises, but Obama lacks the assumption to assuredly angle up to the neocons. That is his accurate “weakness.”
Investigative anchorman Robert Parry bankrupt abounding of the Iran-Contra belief for The Associated Columnist and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com). For a bound time, you additionally can adjustment Robert Parry’s leash on the Bush Family and its access to assorted bourgeois agents for alone $34. The leash includes America’s Stolen Narrative. For capacity on this offer, bang here.
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