Senator Barack Obama insists he seeks a new foreign policy for America, but his comments tend to reflect what has been true of the world, not necessarily, what is emerging on the world scene. We believe a modern foreign policy must be centered in confronting modern and emerging issues rather than fighting with tools of the past. It is time for Obama to rethink what are the issues of modern life and how best to confront their presence.
Among the most glaring issues of foreign policy since the collapse of the Soviet Union is the creation of large armies and air forces and weapons has scant connection with military issues of the 21st century. The United States spends about $700 billion on its military which matches what the rest of the world spends, but there is little evidence this is effective use of resources. There will not be a nuclear confrontation in the near future, if ever, not will there be battles in which large armies with tanks confront one another on the battlefield. Step one in an Obama foreign policy is rethinking the entire nature of our armed forces and how best to use them in conflict situations. The evidence is currently clear modern fighting occurs in small groups because war has become decentralized. How best can an American fighting force become weapon to use in decentralized fighting?
America has poured billions of dollars into fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan without seriously considering who was the enemy. From the moment our troops entered Baghdad, the United States government was totally confused about objectives, let alone who would challenge their authority. Bush assumed he was in 1945 when Allied forces accepted the surrender of the German army. Thus the entire structure of Iraq’s armed forces disappeared in a moment. Obama must focus on clarifying who is the enemy we are fighting in Iraq because unless that question is clear, what is currently proceeding is doomed to ultimate failure. John McCain believes the enemy is al-Qaida, but is it? Barack Obama must recognize the “enemy” is not al-Qaida, but those forces within the Muslim religion which reject modernity and seek to move intellectually backwards. Iran is more an example of a government which is out of touch with modern economics and social changes and the result has been a desultory economic development that leaves its citizens on the fringes of economic success. Question One for Obama: “What should be American foreign policy towards the fractured Muslim world which is grappling between the forces of modernity and those seeking to move backward in time.
The entire military and economic forces of America under President Bush have been focused on “winning” without any conscious thought as to what “winning” means. John McCain continues insisting “we are winning” in Iraq and Afghanistan. But, he has never defined the nature of what constitutes “winning.” I suspect in his mind the word “winning” conjures up images of a defeated “enemy” surrendering. Senator Obama must clarify for the American people the meaning of “winning” and “losing” because most are as confused as the president about those terms. The problem in modern conflicts is there is no “victory” if what is meant by that term constitutes one party gaining all of its objectives and the other meekly allowing it. This has been misunderstood by Israel and has led to the current confusion which surrounds the Palestinian-Israel conflict.
There are no winners and losers in modern conflicts and Senator Obama must begin a dialogue with the American people to help them understand the nature of what happens in the contemporary world when one is engaged in combat with an enemy that does not represent a government, but rather is the spokesperson for an ideology. Unless, the American people grasp this subtle, but all too true reality, political dialogue in America will continue its present confusion.
In the coming days we shall continue this dialogue about the changing world.