Obama’s Foreign Policy and the End of the American Era

Steve Walt, co-author of the ground-breaking The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy, gave a keynote address on “Obama’s Foreign Policy and the End of the American Era” at an event is co-hosted by the IIEA and UCD’s Clinton Institute for American Studies. You can download the Post Event Notes from this event here.

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Mr Netanyahu goes to Washington…and Washington quails

Former Ambassador Chas Freeman on AIPAC’s campaign against Barack Obama, despite the latter’s extraordinary efforts to appease the lobby group.

John Mearsheimer thinks that Obama is doomed to disappoint.

Barack Obama gave a major speech on the Middle East on Thursday, May 19, and it is clear from the subsequent commentary that he impressed few people. The main reason for this is that he did not say much new or indicate that there would be any serious changes in US policy in the region. It was essentially more of the same with some tweaking here and there. Nevertheless, he did manage to anger some people. For example, Israel’s hard-line supporters were outraged that he said: “Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps.” For them, the 1967 borders are “Auschwitz borders” and thus can never serve as a basis for negotiations.

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United we stand

by Brenda Heard

News during the last couple of weeks has rumbled in to shake an already rickety balance of world order.   Perhaps one of the most disturbing images accompanying those headlines, though, was not that of more bruised and bulleted bodies.  Rather, the image was of what the Associated Press termed a ‘jubilant crowd’.   As though they had just won the World Cup Final, Americans waved flags as they sang and chanted their patriotic celebration.

Osama Bin Laden, they had just been told, had been shot dead.  After nearly a decade-long manhunt, he had finally been pounced upon in Pakistan.  The crowd cheered.  And when President Obama made the official announcement, he coaxed the nation to cheer the same; he concluded by quoting the American pledge of allegiance:

Let us remember that we can do these things not just because of wealth or power, but because of who we are: one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all’.

‘Indivisible’.  In this one word lies the notion that has fed American policy for many, many years:  united we stand—divided they fall.

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Ecuador expels U.S. ambassador

Heather Hodges

The following press release is from the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR). Mark Weisbrot is co-writer with Tariq Ali of the Oliver Stone film “South of the Border“.

A declaration by the Ecuadorian government that U.S. Ambassador Heather Hodges is “persona non grata” and must leave Ecuador as soon as possible should not come as a surprise, Mark Weisbrot, Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, said today. Weisbrot noted that the expulsion follows recent troubling revelations in cables released by Wikileaks that describe U.S. government co-ordination with Colombia over a public relations strategy to attempt to link Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa to the Colombian guerrillas the FARC.

“The Obama Administration doesn’t seem to know how to have normal diplomatic relations with democratic, left-of-center governments in the hemisphere,” Weisbrot said. He noted that there was a trend – well documented through U.S. government cables, funding disclosures, and other information – of attempts to undermine governments in Bolivia, Brazil, Honduras, Venezuela, and other countries.
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US wavers on Middle East

Barack Obama, who even today was lecturing Iran in the obnoxious school-masterly tone which American presidents feel obliged to adopt in their declamations, once again turns a blind eye when the violence is pepetrated by a friendly despot.

The US and president Barack Obama continue to waver in their position regarding the unrest sweeping through the Middle East. The country says it will not dictate events in the region. But Obama has criticised the Iranian government’s violent response to protests there, while at the same time maintaining a more neutral tone with Bahrain. Many find the US’s response disappointing, and some feel the White House will only react strongly to those governments it does not have a stake in.

Al Jazeera’s Patty Culhane reports.

And this is the kind of violence that is being wrought by this ‘reliable ally.’

Reflections on Nuclear Power

October 1979: Riot police stand behind the blockaded front gate of Seabrook, NH nuclear plant during an anti-nuclear protest by the Coalition for Direct Action (Photo: Ken Kelley)

by Ken Kelley

It seems unimaginable, several decades after accidents at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, to hear people like President Obama tout nuclear power as a clean source of energy. Obama announced $8 billion in taxpayer subsidies last year to build two reactors in Georgia, despite the fact that—from the mining of uranium to the unresolved issue of disposal of highly toxic radioactive waste—nuclear power is the most environmentally dangerous way of generating electricity.

While the Georgia reactors will be the first built in the U.S. since the 1970s, there are over 60 new nuclear plants under construction worldwide, mostly in Asian countries like China, India, and South Korea. Talk of a “nuclear renaissance”as if it were some kind of cultural reawakening—has brought me back to the heyday of the anti-nuclear movement in the late 1970s, when it seemed that the industry was on the ropes and that nuclear power would soon be a thing of the past, leaving only its toxic legacy for future generations to deal with.

I remember one late afternoon on a hot spring day in 1977, as I waited with other members of the Clamshell Alliance to be arrested for the third occupation of the construction site at the Seabrook nuclear power plant in New Hampshire.  At dusk, a state trooper led me on to a school bus, packed with chanting protestors.

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Obama, Inc.

Obama's teleprompter

In an earlier essay, David Bromwich noted that whereas other presidents’ have been judged for their performance, Obama is unique in so far as his performance is measured mainly in terms of his oratory. Following the shootings in Tucson, Arizona, Obama garnered much praise for peroration at the memorial service. For many it was the return of the yes-we-can, inspirational preacher politician. The same style — what Bromwich calls ‘a mostly fact-free summons to a new era of striving and achievement, and a solemn cheer to raise our spirits as we try to get there’ — also carried over into his 2011 State of the Union speech (video at bottom). In this excellent piece, Bromwich — one of PULSE’s Top 10 Thinkers of 2010, and one of the most astute observers of Washington politics — once again subjects Obama to his extraordinarily perceptive analysis.

Barack Obama’s 2011 State of the Union address was an organized sprawl of good intentions—a mostly fact-free summons to a new era of striving and achievement, and a solemn cheer to raise our spirits as we try to get there. And it did not fail to celebrate the American Dream.

In short, it resembled most State of the Union addresses since Ronald Reagan’s first in 1982. Perhaps its most notable feature was an omission. With applause lines given to shunning the very idea of government spending, and a gratuitous promise to extend a freeze on domestic spending from three years to five, there was only the briefest mention of the American war in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The situation in each country was summarized and dismissed in three sentences, and the sentences took misleading care to name only enemies with familiar names: the Taliban, al-Qaeda. But these wars, too, cost money, and as surely as the lost jobs in de-industrialized cities they carry a cost in human suffering.

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FDA Prepares to Unleash Genetically Engineered Salmon on World

by Ken Kelley

GE salmon vs. Atlantic salmon (Photo: AP)

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is now reviewing a proposal by a Massachusetts company, AquaBounty Technologies, to sell genetically engineered salmon, which grow twice as fast as wild fish.   If approved, it would be the first transgenic animal to be allowed into the human food supply.

The fish, called AquAdvantage Salmon, were developed at AquaBounty’s hatchery in Prince Edward Island, Canada.  They are Atlantic salmon with an added growth hormone from the faster growing Chinook salmon. Engineers additionally inserted a gene from an eel-like fish called the ocean pout into the salmon, which activates the growth hormone and keeps the fish growing all year long.

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“Only the mood music has changed”: Tariq Ali on Obama’s presidency

OK… here’s the PULSE exclusive I’ve been working on. Hope you enjoy.

Is president Barack Obama the change America has been waiting for or is he another corporate Democrat representing elite interests?  According to Tariq Ali, very little has chanced between Obama and former president George W. Bush.  In his latest book “The Obama Syndrome: Surrender at Home, War Abroad,” Ali argues that Obama is carrying on the reckless policies of the Bush regime.  If Obama continues down this path, the Democratic Party not only face the prospect of the House & Senate in 2010 but also the presidency in 2012.  This should be a cause for concern.

I caught up with Ali during his American book tour and here’s what he had to say about the Obama presidency.

Where did the idea for this book emanate from? Why did you want to write a book about “The Obama Syndrome” and what does that refer to?

The idea occurred because I speak a lot on the United States. People ask me questions after each talk and increasingly in the past two to three years, the talk has been about Obama.  I thought a short book which essentially provided a balance sheet from the left on the mid-term would be a useful exercise. Given that he’s being attacked nonstop for being a socialist, a leftist, being a Muslim and all this nonsense that comes from the Tea Party-Fox Television alliance, I thought it was better to have a hard-headed realistic account about who the guy really is.  So my book is a critique of him, but it’s also by implication a very sharp critique of people who claim that everything Obama is doing is so radical that they can’t take it anymore.

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The Coup Is Not Over: Marking a Year of Resistance in Honduras

by Joseph Shansky

At one point during the military coup in Honduras last year, a US representative to the Organization of American States (OAS) joked that Hondurans were living in a state of “magical realism”, a folkloric literary genre blurring reality and the surreal, often in the historical or political context of Latin America.

He wasn’t far off, despite the bizarre comparison: A democratically-elected president is overthrown by an elite conspiring against him, forced out of the country, the military takes over, the people revolt in massive opposition, while governments across the world refuse to recognize the new regime and withdraw their ambassadors. Only the United States, the most powerful of all countries, remains on the fence, then hops off onto the side of the golpistas (coup-makers) while presenting a straight face of diplomacy.

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