Debate Question #2

Continuing (for a while … if this keeps getting ignored I’ll probably stop) the debate … a question for our candidates:

 

Strategy amounts to setting long term goals and objectives, tactics is the means of getting from here to there. Arguably we’ve been without a coherent Middle East strategy for decades, and we’ve replacing any strategy with a disconnected set of of short term tactical responses to developing situations. What would you identify as the key elements of a US Middle East strategy, Could you briefly describe what you envision as our strategic goals and objectives for the region?

Follow up: What do you see as the first tactical step moving in that direction?

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3 comments

  1. Boonton says:

    Answering as Obama:

    Our strategy in the ME has not been incoherent. In the short term we seek to destroy and disrupt terrorist networks whose mission are to mount direct attacks on the US and allies. In the long term we favor regimes becoming more open, less repressive and more democratic. We understand this may happen by regime overthrow (Libya, Egypt, possibly Syria) or by transformation over time (possibly Iran). The short term price is unpredictability since a more democratic regime means more decentralized power, more ‘players’ in the mix and more uncertainity whether the guy you’re making a deal with speaks for the entire country or not.

    We reject as impratical and too expensive the Iraq model of taking over regimes and nurse maiding them to democracy with an open ended committment as might be mirrored by our post WII relationship with Japan. The examples of this we inherited, Iraq and Afghanistan we are transitioning to independence where they will be responsible for their own security and development.

    Follow up: What do you see as the first tactical step moving in that direction?

    I’ll rephrase this as what tactical steps might one expect in the short term from this strategy:

    1. Be willing to ‘offend’ supposedly ‘friendly’ regimes that are either oppressive or unhelpful in our short term tactics in destroying terrorist networks. Unlike Romney and the Bush administration, we considered it more important to take out Osama Bin Ladan than maintaining good relations with a dubious ally of Pakistan because of its potential approval of a hypothetical Iran attack.

    2. Work with allies to provide support for regime change but not unilateral decisions to engage in nation building.

    3. Emphasize that occupations are on a schedule to end, not continue open endedly forever. Police and security forces in both Iraq and Afghanistan have to know that at some point they have to work on their own to ensure security, not simply exist for show while US forces do the dangerous work of suppressing insurgencies.

    4. Chide democraticizing countries as they falter in their steps (i.e. downgrading Egype to ‘non-enemy’ from ‘ally’).

  2. Mark says:

    Boonton,

    I see, your argument that we have an incoherent (or no) strategy is to counter that we have no strategy. Strategy comes in two parts, a broad outline of our goals and then broad outlines of our approach. For example, in Europe during WWII we had a goal of bringing Germany to the peace table seek unconditional surrender and the broad strategy was to get a foothold and hold for time with invasions of North Africa to be followed up by two part invasions of Europe from the South and West with the short term requirement that we keep the Soviets via Lend Lease supplied to prevent their defeat as best we might. That is strategy, what you’d offered wasn’t. Mr Bush offered post 9/11 a strategic vision of freedom and liberty (democracy) to the Middle East and short term to confront terrorism as we might. I would reject the Obama “strategy” (which really isn’t) as too hands off and pie in the sky wish-full thinking, with a notion that democracy and “open less repressive” regimes are going to come about via drone bombardment and UN actions. However, I’d agree with my counterpart that while intensive hands on rebuilding is not cost effective.

    In the tactical response, I find the Obama/Boonton response ranging from disingenuous to full metal B.S. For example, in his first response “we considered it more important to take out Osama Bin Ladan than maintaining good relations with a dubious ally of Pakistan” insinuates that the former President Bush knew were Bin Laden was but chose to ignore the intelligence, which oddly enough also means that Mr Obama ignored the known presence of Mr Bin Laden for a full three years before ordering his assassination (a tactic which the US has forsworn). This was not true and and isn’t true, i.e., a lie. His response is naive in the sense of forgetting that publishing hard deadlines for military action merely gives a timetable of endurance for the enemy, i.e., if you last to date X you win. Apparently he is so completely estranged with the real world that he has never found out that no large scale commercial project finishes on time or under budget and public overruns in time and money are worse performing than private ones.

    As an immediate tactic in the Middle East, I’d push use diplomatic means and domestic incentives to push commerce and American companies interests into to the Middle East, encouraging local plants and companies to open up and bring examples of American industrial, information, health care, and commercial practices to bring economic development to the Middle East. Wild eyed kids are willing to turn to murder and violence because they aren’t busy getting in on the money. Guys working 50+ hours a week making good money hourly have terror as a sidelight. America doesn’t have 100k people turn out for random riots and demonstrations because we have jobs. So the strategy for the Middle East is to assist them and push them as much as we can into first world industrial national partnerships as equal partners.

    Short term tactical guidelines would follow Mr Roosevelt’s “talk softly and carry a big stick.”

  3. Boonton says:

    I think I already produced a list of long and short term goals.

    insinuates that the former President Bush knew were Bin Laden was but chose to ignore the intelligence, which oddly enough also means that Mr Obama ignored the known presence of Mr Bin Laden for a full three years before ordering his assassination

    Actually it doesn’t, but Obama was explicitly criticized for supporting a tougher approach on Bin Laden, even if it required making Pakistan mad. At the time, it was argued that Pakistan was more important as an ally and Bin Laden was not that important. Of course most people expected this to mean more attacks in Pakistan’s northern regions which had a reputation for being outside the control of Pakistan’s gov’t. It was a bit of a shock to find Bin Laden sitting around one of Pakistan’s more posh places to live but that’s how it worked out.

    As an immediate tactic in the Middle East, I’d push use diplomatic means and domestic incentives to push commerce and American companies interests into to the Middle East, encouraging local plants and companies to open up and bring examples of American industrial, information, health care, and commercial practices to bring economic development to the Middle East.

    Talk about disingenuous bull shit. It’s very nice you’d encourage the Middle East to ‘buy American’ and let American commerce in. Not sure how that’s much different from any previous administration. Are you actually advocating a change in policy in the ME because I’m unaware of any administration that didn’t encourage foreign countries to utilize American companies!

    Short term tactical guidelines would follow Mr Roosevelt’s “talk softly and carry a big stick.”

    You seem to have confused a slogan with a tactic.