What Obama Should Have Said

May 23, 2011

President Obama’s speech on the Middle East last week was nothing really new.  He chastised the usual culprits for suppressing human rights in their countries and assured us all that the United States government would remain vigilant in its pursuit of truth, justice, and the American way when it comes to supporting the oppressed in the Middle East.  Oh, he did shock Israel and her proponents by mandating that any peace talks between her and the Palestinians must begin with an acceptance by both sides of the borders as they existed in 1967.  This proposition of course has Israel losing territory before it has even started to negotiate.  One question is will this really result in successful peace talks this time around?

Of course the bigger question for Americans is, where does Obama get the authority to issue any mandates with respect to Middle East peace negotiations?  The simple answer is he has no authority in that area.  He is the president of our country chosen to protect our rights, defend our Constitution, and enforce our laws.  The issue of Middle East peace is between Middle Easterners and that is who should decide the matter if there is to be any long lasting peace in the region.

But I read the president’s speech anyway.  In fact, at some point as I was reading the usual implied dribble about how America would solve all of the world’s problems I dosed off into a glorious daydream.  Here is the speech Obama gave in that splendid fantasy:

“My fellow Americans, I come to you tonight to mark a new beginning for American foreign policy.  Israel, the Palestinians, and the other Middle Eastern nations are going to have to solve their own problems.  America is done ruling the world.  We have enough problems of our own that need our attention and as a nation we have learned for way too long that when we meddle in the affairs of other nations instead of pursuing a foreign policy of friendship, trade and exchange things normally turn our poorly for us.

Take America’s entry into World War I for instance.  It was meant to “Make the world safe for democracy”.  Instead our involvement ultimately produced Adolph Hitler in Germany.  President Wilson, like all presidents, had good intentions, but America’s unnecessary entry into the war was the deciding factor leading to victory for the Triple Entente.  His support for France’s over the top retribution toward Germany manifested in the Treaty of Versailles economically destroyed that country and paved the way for the rise of Hitler and his National Socialist party.  The result was another word war where millions more died.

Then there are the smaller conflicts our government has gotten engaged in from time to time.  On the Korean peninsula in the 1950s, 40,000 Americans and 2 million civilians lost their lives fighting an enemy that is still a thorn in our side to this day.  In Vietnam, 50,000 Americans and 1.5 million civilians perished and many more vets are still experiencing the effects of that war some 35 years later.

Closer to our own time period, let’s not forget that the CIA’s covert overthrow of popularly elected Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeegh in the 1950s ultimately led to the menacing theocracy in present day Iran.  Our military support of the Mujahideen in Afghanistan produced the Taliban and Osama bin Laden.  Lastly, our decade’s long support for Israel, even when she has been egregiously in the wrong, has produced terrorist networks bent on violently persuading America to change her policy.

There are many more examples of American meddling that have resulted in dire consequences for our country.  In the interest of time I will stop there.

My friends, it took us 10 years, 3 wars, 5000 American, and countless Iraqi, Afghani, and Pakistani lives and at least $2 trillion dollars to finally bring Osama bin Laden to justice.  And what do we have to show for it?  Nothing.  Al Qaeda has appointed an interim head to replace bin Laden, the organization has threatened retribution for his death, and our liberties at home are still being violated in the name of national security.

After deep reflection, I have devised a new direction for U.S. foreign policy.  A foreign policy which will go much further to ensure our safety than any illegal wiretap or airport groping ever could.  Effective immediately, I have ordered the following:

The immediate withdraw of U.S. forces from Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya;

The immediate halt to drone attacks and military incursions into Pakistan;

A cut of hundreds of billions of dollars in military spending;

And the promise to friend and foe alike that the United States seeks peaceful relations with you based on integrity, mutual respect, and trade.

By ending our quest for worldwide hegemony, we will be able to focus all of our attention and resources on the dire state of our economy.  We have a lot of work to do, but by bringing the troops home and cutting our monstrously large military budget we can make great strides to balance the federal budget and get our economy moving again.  Good night.  God bless you and God bless the United States of America.”

Wouldn’t that have been a better speech?

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

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Evaluating Obama’s Record After More Than Two Years as President

April 26, 2011

Recently, President Obama kicked off his 2012 reelection campaign.  Looking past all the political jabbering of the talking heads and pundits, the most astounding prediction of all about the next race for the White House is that Obama is expected to raise $1 billion for his campaign efforts.  Given the president’s failure to fulfill his previous campaign’s promises of hope and change, a great question to ask is, who is going to donate that large amount of money to his campaign coffers?

I mean the guy has an absolutely abysmal economic record as president.  Adhering to a dogmatic Keynesian policy, in just two years he has increased the national debt by 50 percent with nothing good to show for it.  Unemployment, counting the underemployed and discouraged workers, was about 19 percent when Obama took office.  Currently that number is at about 22 percent.  After more than two years in office, Obama’s economic policies have given no hope to millions of unemployed Americans.

Of course, all of the spending and inflating of the money supply under Obama is beginning to have a huge negative effect on the economy.  Anyone who has grocery shopped or purchased gasoline lately has certainly noticed higher prices.  Now, many would blame Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke and his ridiculous easy money policy for current rising prices.  They are correct.  But, let’s not forget that Obama nominated Bernanke for a second term as chairman in 2009.  The president had the opportunity to do the right thing and nominate an individual that could have brought sanity back to our monetary policy.  But then again, Obama and his cohorts in Congress need Bernanke to monetize their lavish spending programs to ensure their reelections.

In fact, Obama won’t recognize his or the Fed’s culpability in bringing about inflation.  Instead he is resorting to the famous political technique of scapegoating.  According to Obama, speculators are potentially to blame for high gas prices and thus rising prices in general.  His Justice Department is going to investigate whether speculators are driving up the price of oil and therefore harming consumers.

Well, of course speculators are driving up the price of oil because they know more about how economics work than anybody in the Obama Administration.  They know that with the trillions of new dollars the Fed has pumped into the economy since 2007 oil prices which are priced in dollars are going to go up, probably way up.  They would not be bidding up the price of oil today if they believed that in the future they will not be able to find a buyer for their oil futures.   They are not causing harm to consumers.  Fed policy under Bernanke is the culprit, but the president seems clueless about this fact.  As general prices continue to rise because of Obama’s Keynesian policies, Americans will continue to lose hope that their lives are getting better.

Obama’s foreign policy is as abysmal as his economic policies.  During the 2008 campaign he promised “change that we can believe in”.  If by “change” Obama meant even more war than George Bush provided than he has fulfilled that campaign promise.  Since taking office Obama has not ended the U.S. occupation of Iraq.  He has increased troop levels in Afghanistan by about 30,000.  He has increased unmanned drone attacks over Pakistan killing innocent civilians and providing a recruitment tool for Al Qaeda.  He led the NATO invasion of Libya, which was supposed to be a “humanitarian” effort, but has quickly turned into a regime change operation.  Obama claimed he would not put boots on the ground in Libya and then it was reported that U.S. special operations forces had been on the ground in Benghazi for three weeks training the rebels.  Now, fighting between Qaddafi forces and the rebels is in stalemate and many analysts believe it will take a NATO invasion with ground troops to dislodge Qaddafi from power in Tripoli.  The president has put himself in a tough spot.  If his previous war-like tendencies are any indication, we can expect U.S./NATO troops to be fighting pro-Qaddafi forces in Libya soon.

Barack Obama’s first two years as president has been a catastrophe.  Unemployment and prices are up and we face a national calamity because of burgeoning debt at the state and federal levels.  He has increased not diminished our exposure to war by ramping up military attacks over Pakistan and leading the effort to overthrow Qaddafi in Libya.  These conflicts will only waste more money we don’t have and make us less safe.  Again, it should be asked, if Obama hopes to collect $1 billion in campaign contributions, where will it come from?  My best guess is Wall Street and the Military Industrial Complex.

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


Why the Constitution Matters in Military Affairs

April 18, 2010

Week after week it’s easy for me to blog with compelling arguments that most things Congress does is unconstitutional.  But, up until about two years ago with the advent of Ron Paul’s Freedom Revolution and last year’s birth of the Tea Partiers, most Americans would have said, so what if something is unconstitutional?  That document is outdated and irrelevant.  These are modern times with issues unimaginable to the Founders.  Nonsense, the eternal truths contained in the U.S. Constitution are as relevant today as they were in the 1700s.

Take making war for instance.  Article 1 Section 8 gives Congress, not the president, the power to declare war.  In that same section, Congress has the power to finance the endeavor.  Since the end of World War II, the clause pertaining to declaring war in the Constitution, like many others, has been almost totally ignored by both the Congress and president.  Additionally, Congress has rarely if ever invoked its power to restrain presidential power by controlling the purse strings of the military during times of war.  The consequences have been horrendous. 

In the 1960s and 1970s it led to an 11 year war in Southeast Asia.  Instead of a declaration of war the military action was justified on the basis of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution passed in 1964.  The resolution gave President Johnson the authorization to do whatever was necessary in order to assist “any member or protocol state of the Southeast Asia Collective Defense Treaty.”   This vague and open ended wording led to much criticism of the president and his Secretary of Defense over how they conducted the war.  Specifically, President Nixon’s expanding of it to include the bombing of Cambodia made an already unpopular war almost an event that tore the country in two.  It also led to over 50,000 American and countless Southeast Asian lives being lost.  The conflict ended in defeat for the U.S. and spending for the war caused high inflation which hurt American households, facilitated our manufacturing base to move overseas, and eventually brought on problems like the Savings and Loan crisis.

In current times we find ourselves mired in two conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.  To be sure, Congress did not declare war in either circumstance.  For Afghanistan, it passed a resolution authorizing the president to use all “necessary and appropriate force” against those whom he determined “planned, authorized, committed or aided” the September 11th attacks, or who harbored said persons or groups.  For Iraq, the resolution authorized the president to use the Armed Forces of the United States “as he determines to be necessary and appropriate” in order to “defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq; and enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council Resolutions regarding Iraq.”

It seems like Washington never learns from its mistakes.  Again, loosely worded resolutions instead of firm declarations with a narrow objective allowed President Bush to abuse his powers by spying on Americans, holding prisoners at Guantanamo Bay indefinitely, and expand the bombing to include other countries other than Afghanistan and Iraq, namely Pakistan.  In addition to over 1 million Iraqi and Afghani deaths from the main theaters of war, 1 in 3 people killed in the expanded bombings of Pakistan have been civilians. 

Because Washington has not followed the eternal truth that war should be entered into and conducted carefully, our government is primarily responsible for the destabilization of the Middle East.   It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that because of the threats of invasion that came from the previous administration and with American military might all around it Iran is attempting to acquire nuclear weapons.  Even though Saddam was a vile and ruthless tyrant his Iraq acted as a counterweight to Iran.  Today, Iraq is in chaos and if U.S. forces do ever leave it will be ripe for a takeover by Islamic extremists.

A Republican Congress unfortunately did not deny George W. Bush the ability to launch an unjust war on Iraq based on lies, misinformation and his desire to avenge Saddam Hussein for allegedly sending a hit squad to assassinate his father.  One man made the decision to start the war in which Americans would die and hundreds of billions of dollars would be spent.  This was not the intent of the Founders who were wise enough to give the powers of declaring wars and financing them to the Congress.  The Founders gave them to Congress because it is a deliberative body that represents the many viewpoints of Americans.  These viewpoints, like in the enactment of laws, place a check and balance on the solitary power of the president.  Congress has abdicated this constitutional power and consequently has propped up an imperial presidency – something the Founders, other than Hamilton and Adams, would have vehemently rebelled against.

In 2006 the Democrats took back control of Congress with a pledge to end the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.  For a time there was hope that they would restore the constitutional balance of power in war making. They simply could have done this by cutting funding for the wars.  But instead, Congress continues to finance the wars and in fact has gone along with President Obama’s wishes to continue funding bombings in Pakistan and to escalate the war in Afghanistan – so much for the hope that Congress would exert control over the powers granted to it and rein in the powers usurped by the president.

Wars are costly both in terms of human life and monetary expense.  Unless an attack on U.S. soil is imminent, Congress must retain its constitutional power to declare war and use its authority over funding it to limit the president’s actions.  By not following these constitutional mandates we have become a militaristic society almost constantly at war in adventures far beyond what the Founders envisioned.  This has caused a drain on our families, our finances, and our country’s reputation in the world.  Fortunately, many Americans are finally waking up to this reality.