Permanent Meddling

By Daniel Larison

Gregory Scoblete outlines a number of ways that Obama could adopt foreign policy views he will never adopt to reassure wary antiwar voters.  This was perhaps the most striking:

He could, for instance, echo the arguments made by Edward Luttwak from the Center for Strategic and International Studies in the British magazine Prospect, and argue that "We devote far too much attention to the Middle East, a mostly stagnant region where almost nothing is created...." Rather, he wrote, "with neither invasions nor friendly engagements, the peoples of the Middle East should finally be allowed to have their own history."

Virtually no one in Washington would want to go anywhere near endorsing Luttwak's benign neglect, and certainly it is not a view that will be embraced by a candidate who already has to persuade the political class, the media and the voters that his election is an acceptable risk.  This has always been the limit imposed on Obama's candidacy, imposed as much by the candidate himself as it has been by others, which is that a younger, less experienced relative newcomer to the national political scene was never going to be able to pursue a genuinely transformative agenda in the area of U.S. policy that most desperately needs it, namely foreign policy.  There are three straightforward reasons for this.  Overcoming concerns about a lack of foreign policy experience necessarily requires defending most of the status quo, any Democratic nominee will be targeted with claims that he is the new McGovern and so has to eschew any radical breaks with most established policies, and most importantly the Obama who gave the recent speech in Berlin and spoke to the Global Affairs Concil in Chicago last year clearly has no intention of transforming the American role in the world, except perhaps to expand it.

It isn't clear what the point of Scoblete's exercise in advising Obama is except to remind antiwar voters that Obama does not generally hold non-interventionist views and instead has always argued "within the status quo" and framed his positions as the best way to advance American "leadership" in the Near East and throughout the world.  Even so, Scoblete's recommendations are interesting insofar as they remind all of us how little actually separates McCain and Obama when it comes to foreign policy  when compared to truly transformative alternative policy views.

Cross-posted at Eunomia