U.S. Executive Branch foreign and military policy is characterized above all by two fatal flaws. In the 1960s Senator William Fulbright criticized the Executive’s "arrogance of power", and this arrogance - combined with ignorance about the countries they attack - has continued until today. U.S. officials regularly try to force local leaders to behave as the Executive wishes, even when these leaders believe it is against their national interests. And the Executive ignores the local public opinion that is increasing the power of anti-U.S. groupings throughout the Third World.
Its second flaw is conducting a short-term, tactics-oriented foreign and military policy at the expense of long-term strategic U.S. interests. For nearly a decade, for example, U.S. Executive military and political leaders were so obsessed with achieving short-term military successes in Afghanistan that they endangered far more important long-term U.S. strategic interests in nuclear-armed Pakistan.
In actual practice U.S. Executive foreign and military policy is above all driven by ambitious politicians, military and intelligence officials looking to further their careers in the short-term, as when David Petraeus managed to become the head of the CIA after totally mismanaging U.S. policy toward Pakistan and Afghanistan; bureaucracies fighting vicious turf wars in an attempt to increase their budgets for the upcoming fiscal year; and U.S. corporations seeking to boost next quarter's profits.
Both arrogance and short-term thinking are in dramatic evidence today in what is the U.S. Executive's single greatest strategic error since Vietnam: its waging an expanding war in the 1.8 billion strong, nuclear-armed and oil-rich Muslim world. Its policies are turning hundreds of millions of Muslims against the U.S., including countless potential suicide bombers, as it creates far more enemies than it kills. If Executive actions were protecting the U.S., the numbers of U.S. foes would be decreasing. Instead they are exponentially increasing, and spreading to an increasing number of nations.
~ from America's Most Anti-Democratic Institution: How the Imperial Presidency Threatens U.S. National Security, by Fred Branfman ~
I will address the issue of arrogance tomorrow via a snippet from an excellent column by Conor Friedersdorf. (Hint: He notes that Dick Cheney and Barack Obama share something in common!) What I will focus on right now is the overarching capitalistic principle of ignoring the long-term to focus on the short-term.
In capitalist America, the ONLY thing that matters is the maximization of short-term profits. At first glance, this would seem short-sighted, but the elites have crafted a mechanism to get around this deficiency: They control the government. Since they exercise this kind of control, it means that they can take dangerous risks -- the kind prone to blow up in one's face -- without worry. If anything might happen to go awry, they simply instruct their political "employees" to bail them out financially and/or retroactively insure they are immune from charges of criminality.
Since this gambit has proven so successful within our borders, they have foisted the same arrangement on the rest of the world! This allows US elites to act with impunity wherever they want to. Laws, treaties, agreements or general societal expectations be damned. They do what they want because they can and they do it often because they think no one can stop them. (It seems they are right in this regard.)
Barack Obama is part of this system and he is a prisoner of it as well. He doesn't want to change the status quo and, even if he did, he certainly couldn't do it unilaterally. But, if he genuinely wanted to slow it down or constrain it to a degree, he HAS the bully pulpit under his feet. The very fact that he could stand on this pulpit, but steadfastly refuses to do so, should tell you all you need to know.
He isn't interested in leading toward the change we can believe in!