Obama more than held his own on McCain’s home turf, foreign affairs, last evening and that, I believe, will be more than enough to overcome the hidden racist factor in November. Biden will crush Palin in his debate, in fact, Biden’s only concern will be to make sure he does not embarass her and create a pity backlash. Add in the financial collapse that is now hitting main street and McCain’s clumsy parachuting into D.C. while much more financially experienced congressional colleagues were trying to grapple with the complex negotiations over the Treasury/Fed rescue plan and the cards are stacked heavily in favor of Obama/Biden.
But that, unfortunately, was not the only lesson that came out of last night’s clash. The problem that will plague the next 8 years of an Obama/Biden administration is the singular lack of strategic vision.
Obama convinced viewers that he is smart, capable and articulate – every bit as McCain able to handle Putin, Ahmadinejad (at least Barack knew how to pronounce his name correctly), Bin Laden, etc. That will go a long way to reassuring undecideds (swinging now in his favor) that Obama can keep the nation “secure” as the saying goes.
The problem is that Obama presented no vision, no “weltanschauung” (world view), as the Germans say. He has no sense of what role America can or should play in the world. And without such a view, he has no deep sense of how and when to exercise American power. Personally, my view is that we should have restructured our entire approach to the world with the end of the cold war – dramatically downsizing our military presence around the world and engaging in multilateral economic and social development projects under the guidance of a much healthier United Nations system.
Instead we have lurched from crisis to crisis, botched intervention to botched intervention.
In fact, McCain’s one attempt to draw out the differences in his long Senate career and Obama’s well, short, Senate career, only highlighted the disaster that has been American foreign policy over the last 25 years – Beirut (Marines blown up), Somalia (Marines blown up), Bosnia/Kosovo (Yugoslavia blown up) , Iraq 91 (Shia and Kurds blown up), Afghanistan 2002 (Taliban and Al Qaeda not blown up), Iraq 2003 (Iraqis abused and blown up).
No one has any idea what Obama really thinks about America’s relationship to the rest of the world. He is not closely identified with any of the established schools of foreign policy thinking (realism, neo-realism, interdependence, democratic), though he appears to lean towards the soft power realism and “humanitarian interventionism” (now there’s a great oxymoron) of figures like Joe Nye, Samantha Power and Anthony Lake, the northeastern elite’s attempt to craft a substitute for liberal internationalism.
This Obama wants to start a war on the Afghan/Pakistani border with no apparent thought about the consequences for the delicate balance of power between India and Pakistan (each backed, in turn, by Russia and China, respectively). And this Obama wants to shift away from a mideast focus to a greater interest in containing China.
But at the same time he is close to the stalinoid authoritarians like Ayers, Klonsky, Davidson, Hayden, and Dohrn who identify with Hugo Chavez, Fidel Castro and China. For this crowd “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” is the operative principle. And that’s on a good day. Often they actually argue that life is better under those authoritarian regimes – as Michael Moore did when he thought the health care Europeans get in Cuba is the same as the health care that Cubans get there. LOL.
Thus, I came away from last night’s debate more fearful about the drift that America is likely to continue to suffer from under the Obama/Biden presidency. There is no coherent theory of the world that Obama can articulate. On a personal level he is likely far more sympathetic to the Ayers authoritarian outlook yet he knows that approach is deadly politically.
So his will be a very odd hybrid presidency – struggling to be both “environmentally sensitive” and yet still aiming to step on the gas with growing global competition for natural resources like oil and the demand to maintain the value of the dollar as the full impact of the financial collapse hits main street.
Hold on to your hats, it will be a bumpy eight years.