THE SPINE NOVEMBER 30, 2007
Some of you may recall my infatuation with Barack Obama. I am a bit less taken with him now...actually not less taken with him, but with his views on foreign policy. I am still convinced that he is the genuine article, unlike his opponent, the lady with stick-figure passion and no real humor at all. And certainly no sense of humor about herself. And, yes, a president who is a person of color -- which is not a sufficient reason to vote for him -- would change the dynamics of America's relationship with the world. Still, he has to have sound views about that relationship. The fact is that, especially since he has pegged himself to his panel of truly mediocre foreign policy advisers, his do not. It did not start with his almost religious faith in diplomacy at one of the Democratic debates. Diplomacy should not be a mantra. Indeed, sometimes it can be as perilous as war. In any case, the foreign policy that, sadly, Obama seems to have embraced has no rigor. It is, instead, rigidly pliable.Who is responsible for this change from the time I met with him a few months ago? Maybe it's a tactical calculation: some pollster has told him he has to run from Hillary's left in the primaries. That would be some (tainted) consolation. And maybe the person is him, himself.So his foreign policy advisers do trouble me. The first is Zbigniew Brzezinski (who came in to the game as a hawk decades ago, a democratic Pole against the Soviet Union). Then, theory enmeshed him, or what looked like theory: the theory of convergence between the United States and the Soviet Union. It reads downright silly just now, and it is. It is true that this is an insight he shared in a joint book, Political Power: USA/USSR, with Sam Huntington, who is deeper than he is, much deeper, and sometimes also wrong in my view. It was one of those little insights that they mistook for a penetrating analysis. I remember Zbig telling me (and three others) in the White House that he aspired to do for the U.S.-Iraq relationship what "Henry" (Kissinger) had done for the U.S.-Egyptian relationship. Oh, how he dreamed.Now, he is fixated on Israel and how our ties to it ruin and handicap our policy with everybody else. Yes, he's an obsessive. I am an obsessive. The fact is that, given his crotchets, he cannot be a political asset for anyone. The second adviser also has no political or intellectual cachet. He is Anthony Lake who has been cow-farming in western Massachusetts for maybe a dozen years. He was replaced by Sandy Berger because Bill Clinton needed a heavy. And that is a joke in itself. Berger was afraid of his own shadow, his most daring act being his filching official documents on terrorism from the National Archives.The third worrisome figure is Susan Rice, an Albright protege (which should assure no one) who was assistant secretary of state for Africa during Clinton-time. If anybody really looked into her role in the Liberia and Sierra Leone bloodletting and the protection of tyrants they would find a certain political intimacy with Jesse Jackson who arranged things for the dictators and for their bank accounts.The fourth is a retired rear admiral who is "very sad and very worried about what's happened to our foreign policy." I'm worried, too.Aside from Zbig, these advisers made an appearance with Obama in Portsmouth. It was reported by Alec MacGillis in Wednesday's Post.