HARVARD SQUARE COMMENTARY

May 19, 2008
Implication for the Long Run

Developments Last Week

John Turner


A Changeless World
May 16, 2008

Barack Obama is now under attack for suggesting that actions taken by the U.S. government might lead to changed behavior among foreign organizations. In Republican talk that's the same thing as appeasement.

The Republicans have a single foreign policy: kill all the bad guys. Nobody, not even Obama, has the guts to ask them outright, what if there are too many?

The idea that organizations like Hezbollah, Hamas, and the government of Iran can be eliminated by killing everybody associated with them is so foolish it's like building a nation's policy by watching a Rambo movie.

Even David Brooks, in a column that's supposed to be moderate towards Obama, after acknowledging the Democratic candidate's intelligence, asks "whether he's seasoned and tough enough to deal with implacable enemies." We don't get to ask columnists questions, but if we could, we might inquire what this seasonedness and toughness leads to.

Obama has suggested that a combination of pressure and support for humanitarian measures might, over time, turn violent organizations towards diplomacy. It has happened dozens of times in history. Remember the IRA? They used to be implacable too. But to suggest such a thing in American politics is to bring forth ten thousand sentences with Neville Chamberlain as their subject. Bad analogies are the standard fare of American foreign policy debate.

If the American public allows juvenile tough talk to bring down any candidate who wants to use something other than military destruction in dealing with enemies, then we are committing ourselves to perpetual George Bushism. We see where seven years of that has brought us. Imagine our situation after a quarter century of it.


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