Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The continuing militarization of American foreign policy in places most of us never think about....

... like the Darfur region of Sudan.

It is important to read this entire NYT article on the impact of Major-General Scott Gration on the Obama administration's policy towards the genocidal government in Khartoum. You need to read it for yourself, because it is carefully balanced and subject to distortion if I pick out too many quotes about Gration himself.

But it is disturbing on multiple levels:

1) The continuing and apparently expanding use of US military personnel in diplomatic roles. To a greater extent than most previous administrations, President Obama appears to be relying upon military rather than diplomatic personnel to make critical assessments and carry out foreign policy.

2) The lack of transparency in our new foreign policy:

On Monday, the administration unveiled a new policy in Sudan, outlining an effort that officials said was aimed at ending the mass human suffering there, promoting a definitive peace and preventing Sudan from serving as a haven for terrorists.

Though the details of the policy remained classified....


3) The continuing emergence of foreign-policy-via-prolonged internal infighting:

The administration’s new policy signaled the end of one vigorous — some said heated — debate and the likely beginning of another. The administration deliberated for months in meetings led by officials steeped in Sudan’s bloody history.

People close to the talks said views fell generally into two main camps: one advocating a tougher line against Sudan led by the United Nations ambassador, Susan E. Rice, and the other calling for a more conciliatory approach, led by General Gration.


None of these are problems unique to the Obama administration, but combined with the painfully slow internal deliberations on Afghanistan strategy, what appears to be emerging is the image of a President who prefers to preside over internal debates rather than provide a specific, visualized structure of foreign policy. Some would argue that President Obama's willingness to listen to divergent viewpoints is a strength that was sorely lacking in the Bush White House, and there is some truth to that notion.

But it also bespeaks an administration that chews over virtually every foreign policy decision so many times that the original situation may have already changed by the time it makes a decision.

2 comments:

Delaware Watch said...

"To a greater extent than most previous administrations, President Obama appears to be relying upon military rather than diplomatic personnel to make critical assessments and carry out foreign policy."

A bald assertion w/ no supporting evidence.

"Though the details of the policy remained classified...."

Begs the question. You assume that there isn't a good reason for keeping this classified and then merrily accuse the Obama administration for a lack of transparency.

"The continuing emergence of foreign-policy-via-prolonged internal infighting"

Perhaps you would prefer the Obama administration to act precipitously, even dogmatically. Not me.

"what appears to be emerging is the image of a President who prefers to preside over internal debates rather than provide a specific, visualized structure of foreign policy"

A "specific, visualized structure of foreign policy"--ah, you do prefer a dogmatic approach. That's not very pragmatic and flexible of you.

"Some would argue that President Obama's willingness to listen to divergent viewpoints is a strength"

Indeed.

"But it also bespeaks an administration that chews over virtually every foreign policy decision so many times that the original situation may have already changed by the time it makes a decision."

I say it bespeaks an administration that doesn't see almost every foreign policy concern in black and white terms. I happen to like that.

It's a bit mystifying to me that what you perceive as a slowness to act isn't welcome to you. Why don't you see it as a hesitancy to intervene heavily in international affairs.

mdeals said...

Its a lack of transparency