A Libertarian’s Hopes for Obama’s Second Term

November 15, 2012

Let’s face it, the Obama Administration has pretty much been a continuation of the Bush years.  In Obama’s first four years in office, Americans continued to give up constitutional rights with renewal of the Patriot Act, enactment of the National Defense Authorization Act, and the institution of a presidential “kill” list.  Our foreign policy was just as interventionist if not more under Obama as he increased troop levels (the “surge”) in Afghanistan, increased drone bombings in Pakistan and Yemen, and invaded Libya under the pretext of imposing a “no-fly zone” to protect Libyan civilians from Qaddafi’s air force.  Lastly, the corporate bailouts, economic stimulus boondoggles, and the Ben Bernanke regime at the Federal Reserve all continued under Obama.  And to think in 2008 that candidate Obama promised Americans “Hope and Change”.

With the recent “referendum” on Obama’s performance, also known as the 2012 Presidential Election, now behind us, the American people have spoken, well sort of, and have granted Barack Obama four more years as president.  Of course, in that election, like all presidential elections since at least 1960, the two publicized choices for the American people were Establishment Frontman A versus Establishment Frontman B.

The point is that Romney would be no better than Obama at being president.  Neither man respects constitutional rights, has a foreign policy that puts Americans first, or has any clue about economics.  Both became the nominees of their respective parties because they represent the status quo – a status quo which has made several influential players and industries a lot of money over the years.

But, I am trying to look on the bright side of things.  Granted that “side” is a sliver and any brightness in it is shadowed by a federal government that under Obama has gotten huge to the point of absurdity

So here goes – three hopes that I have for Obama’s second term that I think have a reasonable chance of happening because he doesn’t have to run for reelection and as president he can do them without congressional support:

Direct the Justice Department to Nullify Federal Marijuana Laws

In a memo sent out in 2009 from the Obama Justice Department to federal prosecutors, the Administration was giving prosecutors wide discretion in determining which medical marijuana cases to pursue and which to ignore based on their interpretation of state not federal laws.  This gave many hope as it appeared that violators of federal drug laws would not be prosecuted as long as they stayed within the bounds of their own state’s law.  As reelection time rolled around, the Administration tightened its stance against pot distributors.

Given Obama’s initial leniency on pot, the fact that he will never run in another election again, and with Colorado and Washington legalizing recreational marijuana, could the time be ripe for the Administration to direct federal prosecutors to ignore federal marijuana laws and not prosecute violators? 

Close the Guantanamo Bay Prisoner of War Camp

Indefinite detention is not only illegal in our system of justice, it causes more harm than good.  As Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Seymour Hersh has indicated, if prisoners at Gitmo weren’t terrorists when they entered, they are now.

By closing Gitmo, Obama could save lots of money and improve America’s image in the world.  This was an unfulfilled promise of his first term.  Now, with no possibility that neo-conservatives will use the issue to scare Americans into preventing his re-election, there is no reason this can’t become a reality.

Meet with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

In Obama’s second term, he should fulfill his offer made in 2007 to meet with Ahmadinejad.  He should meet with him to chart a way forward away from what would be a destructive war for both sides.  Concessions would have to be made on both sides.  It’s hard to say what Iran would ask for in exchange for discontinuing its nuclear program, but Obama does have more than 40 U.S. military bases surrounding Iran to negotiate with.

So there you have it.  Three hopes for a second Obama term for a libertarian.  It’s not much, but just these three things would protect rights, go a long ways toward the promise of America, and make us safer.  Given that, I probably just put the kiss of death on any possibility of these things happening.


The Regime Should be Questioned More than Ever

October 16, 2011

The drumbeats for war with Iran are pounding fast and furious in Washington.  The Obama Administration claims that it foiled a plot financed and directed by the Iranians to assassinate the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the U.S. on American soil.  According to Attorney General Eric Holder, the Iranians acting through an Iranian-American intermediary were in the process of hiring a Mexican drug cartel to make the hit when DEA agents intervened to save the day.  Obama and Holder are accusing the Quds Force, a special unit of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, of orchestrating the whole plot.  Those that desire war with Iran are using the allegation as a pretext for military engagement with the Islamic Republic.  For his part, Obama claims that all options are on the table for the U.S. to deal with the most recent “dangerous and reckless” behavior of the Iranian government.

But Iran specialists who have followed the operations of the Quds Force for many years say the plot just doesn’t make any sense.  They question what Iran would have to gain from assassinating the Saudi ambassador to the U.S. on American soil.  At a time when Iran has been focused on evading further sanctions against it by hiding its nuclear program and building relationships with non-Western allies why would it risk all that for bumping off the Saudi diplomat?  Why would it draw attention to itself through an act that has no conceivable benefit?

Additionally, experts say that the Quds Force is a sophisticated special operations unit.  They doubt it would utilize the likes of a former used car salesman, Mansour Arbabsiar, the Iranian-American intermediary implicated in the plot, and a Mexican drug gang infiltrated with both Mexican and U.S. intelligence agents.to carry out this sensitive operation in the U.S.  The whole scenario is beneath their modus operandi.

But, Obama and his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton press on with their story.  Secretary Clinton stated that the plot is “”a flagrant violation of international and U.S. law and a dangerous escalation of the Iranian government’s long-standing use of political violence and sponsorship of terrorism.”  The hypocrisy should not be lost on anybody who even remotely follows international news.  The Iranian regime is certainly a rogue cabal of henchmen and butchers, but the United States government is also engaged in “flagrant violations of international and U.S. law”.  What about “Fast and Furious,” the ATF’s operation which allowed Mexican drug lords to illegally purchase guns in the U.S. to be used in Mexico so the agency could “track” the weapons and facilitate arrests?

And there are far more serious violations of international law committed by the U.S. government.  Currently we have secret commandos (special hit teams) on the ground in more than 70 countries and that number is expected to rise to 120.  And let’s not forget about our undeclared drone war in Pakistan which has killed hundreds if not thousands of non-combatants.

At the end of the day, we live in very dangerous times.  Many in and out of our government will always need an enemy to demonize.  With the economy headed for an even bigger collapse than the 2008 financial crisis, scapegoats and distractions will be needed to deflect the blame from those that deserve it.  When all else fails failed regimes turn to war to rally the masses.  Americans need to question the veracity of our leaders even more and understand that in many cases what we allege of others we also are guilty of and therefore contribute to an unsafe world.  The last thing we need is war with Iran.  If Americans become more vigilant they can silence those drumbeats.

Ron Paul is Right about Iran

August 22, 2011

During the GOP Presidential Debate in Ames, Iowa, on August 11, the most significant exchange between any two candidates came when Rick Santorum called Congressman Ron Paul out for his position on our relationship with Iran.  Santorum, neoconservative extraordinaire, accused the congressman of being naïve about the seriousness of Iran developing a nuclear weapon of its own.  The accusation brought an emotional rebuke from Dr. Paul as he delivered a history lesson of Iran/American relations to Santorum while at the same time launching an emotional appeal for the policy of endless wars to seize.  The exchange highlighted the irreconcilable differences that exist between those who believe there is a bad guy under every rock and those who actually know history and understand international relations.  Santorum and his neoconservative brethren are the former while Ron Paul represents the latter.

It’s only common sense that if you corner an animal it will act aggressively in order to defend itself and escape.  Countries are no different.  As Congressman Paul noted in the debate, the United States military has Iran surrounded on all sides.  Our military currently occupies Iraq to Iran’s east, Afghanistan to Iran’s west.  Obama has escalated U.S. bombings in Iran’s other neighbor to the east, Pakistan.  There are also 3 American military bases in the Persian Gulf south of Iran.  A large naval base is in Bahrain and army and air force bases are in Qatar.  With all of that hostile American fire power situated so close to its borders, it’s no wonder Iran is feeling a bit vulnerable and in need of a little defensive weaponry.

Santorum argued that we have some special obligation to protect Israel from a potentially nuclear Iran.  It’s amazing how Israel seems to enter the conversation when our politicians speak of war.  In Santorum’s case it’s all a part of his pandering to Jewish and Evangelical voters.  But, as Ron Paul indicated to the former senator from Pennsylvania, Israel can defend itself.  As a matter of fact, Israel possesses nuclear weapons of her own.  Even Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has stated that he doesn’t think Iran will drop a bomb on Israel or any other country in the region.  The ruling cabal in Teheran may be brutal to its own citizens but it is not suicidal.

This, of course, is reminiscent of a former foe, the Soviet Union.  As Congressman Paul continued to school Santorum he pointed out that there was no regime more brutal to so many people for so long as the communist Soviet Union.  Under Joseph Stalin and various other crazy Soviet dictators, millions were slaughtered or left to die of starvation and all of Eastern Europe was subjected to Soviet domination for close to forty-five years.  After the Soviets stole our nuclear secrets and developed their own bomb we sold them grain and negotiated arms deals with them.  Both sides realized the importance of doing what was necessary in order to co-exist in a vastly more dangerous world.  At the end of the day, Iran has no chance of attaining the economic, political, and military capabilities of the now defunct Soviet Union.  As a matter of fact, chances are very good that if the Iranian leadership took the same path (military buildup) as the Soviet oligarchs they would end up ultimately in the same place – on the ash heap of failed regimes in history.

When the Soviet Union collapsed and the Cold War ended neoconservatives like Rick Santorum needed a new enemy.  Given America’s decades’ long meddling in Middle Eastern affairs and our unconditional support for the State of Israel, it was only a matter of time before blowback for our past sins would come to fruition.  September 11th 2001 was that blowback.  Santorum and his ilk had their enemy – Islamists.  In ten short years they have spent trillions on that foe with no let-up expected any time soon.  Now they have their sights set on Iran.  In order to prevent the next catastrophic war, the choice is clear in the next presidential election.  You can either vote for the candidates who see bad guys under every rock or you can vote for the candidate who actually knows history and understands international relations.  That candidate is Ron Paul.

Kenn Jacobine teaches internationally and maintains a summer residence in North Carolina