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|Change you can already disbelieve in|
President-Elect Barack Obama raised millions of dollars, ran a campaign, secured the Democratic nomination and won the presidential election largely because he represented change.
As he claimed, this was "change you can believe in."
His criticism of both Hillary Clinton (during the Democratic primaries) and John McCain (during the general election) was principally due to their bad experiences and closeness of the failed policies of President George W. Bush, respectively.
Last week, when questioned about some of the choices he has made regarding his cabinet, Obama stated, "What we are going to do is combine experience with fresh thinking. But understand ... the vision for change comes first and foremost ... from me. That's my job."
According to The Washington Post, Obama is expected to retain Robert M. Gates as defense secretary and expected to appoint Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton as secretary of state and retired Marine Gen. James L. Jones as national security adviser. All of which have been greeted with relief at the Pentagon.
But what about within the Democratic Party? What about those change-seekers who actually believed Obama when he said that 'most combat forces will be removed within sixteen months' (once he became President)?
Well…don't panic. That is, don't panic if you were hoping that President-Elect Obama would be more conservative than Candidate Obama.
First, Obama has no intention of drastically altering the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) developed as a result of the (close your eyes now if you cannot stand the truth) SUCCESS of the military surge in Iraq. You know the one…the one candidate Obama criticized the Bush administration about and hammered Hillary over. The one destined to fail. The one that actually worked. Yeah, that one!
Also, Iraqis taking control over their country again was crucial and a sign of SUCCESS. Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari were instrumental in pressing the US on the SOFA (that sounds like a party I went to once), as was the Iraqi Parliament.
In other words…US forces should be out of Iraq by 2011. This appears to be a reasonable time table instead of one that could put US forces at great risk. Still, this is not quite within the 16 month window of candidate Obama.
So, where is the 'change we can believe in'? There won't be any here. At least not yet. And, certainly not in foreign policy.
Obama will mainly support a continuation of the Bush administration's policy in Iraq. But let's be fair. Bush did not invent this policy himself. The Bush policy in Iraq is nothing more than a continuation of the Carter Doctrine (which had its origins in the Truman Doctrine) followed by the Reagan Corollary and the Clinton Iraqi Liberation Act. Sorry for the unintended use of facts. But that is the truth.
That means that Bush did nothing more than follow a long line of other US Presidents into the Persian Gulf and have mixed results. In fact, there have been many positives (i.e., Lebanon, Libya) and some failures (i.e., Iran, Palestinian-Israeli peace process) over the past eight years.
Now back to Obama.
Obama looks to press U.S. allies for an increased effort in Afghanistan. After all, did he not travel to Berlin, Paris and London only be greeted by screaming crowds of teenage boys and girls? Sorry, that was Miley Cyrus.
If he thinks that NATO forces will be deployed or redeployed to Afghanistan, he is naïve and will soon realize why. Does anyone really believe that Germany is going to institute a major policy shift to placate a new American president over their own electorate? Not a chance.
To be candid, I like most of what he has done so far from the perspective of continuity and expertise. But I am not Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi or Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. A fact that I thank the Good Lord for on a daily basis. These two pillars of leadership are foaming at the mouth about the conservative picks of Obama. But what guidance has either of these provided since Democrats took control of the Legislative Branch in November 2006? No need to Google this one…they have done nothing. These two do not cast even a shadow of true leadership.
So, what will be next for Obama? Prolong the Bush tax cuts? Delay universal health care? Will his economic team show the same sort of 'change' that the foreign policy team has so far?
John W. Sutherlin, PhD, is an assistant professor of political science at the University of Louisiana-Monroe. He also is co-director at the ULM Social Science Research Lab. He can be reached by e-mailing Sutherlin@ulm.edu.