Will Obama change U.S. foreign policy?

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Hope soared worldwide at the election of Barack Obama as the first Black president of the United States. Emerging now is the sobering reality of his political direction. Yes, the threatening visage of the U.S. empire may slightly brighten, but its predatory actions will remain the same.

Neoliberalism, the unhindered operation of the capitalist market, will continue to sweep all obstacles away with armed force in an endless hunt for profits. Obama’s game plan, like his predecessors’, is war and deprivation, because capitalism cannot survive otherwise. The current Wall Street crisis has not changed his mission.

But it has created a new consciousness in the U.S. public. The “miraculous” free market has clearly revealed itself as chaotic and destructive. And while the government hands over gazillions of dollars to bail out the finance sector, it won’t provide homes,healthcare, childcare and jobs for the workers who produce the wealth in the first place.

Obama may be seen as part of this sea change in awareness and public anger, but he is not. His assignment is to co-opt and tame it for the benefit of major corporations.

New president, same politics. “I am a pro-growth, free-market guy. I love the market,” announced Obama on CNBC. Austan Goolsbee, a major economist from the Friedman school of economics at the University of Chicago, agrees. “If you look at his platform, at his advisers, at his temperament, the guy’s got a healthy respect for markets,” said Goolsbee in an interview in Chicago magazine. Obama has appointed him top staff official of the Economic Recovery Advisory Board.

Goolsbee is one of Obama’s many advisers and recent appointees who represent an abiding commitment to neoliberalism, which is merely a revival of classical economic liberalism. It dictates the less government intervention and regulation, the better for business. Economists who espouse this theory, be they from the halls of Harvard or the University of Chicago, have shaped the policies of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank that have wreaked havoc for decades.

The IMF and World Bank forced developing countries into economic dependence and strangling debt. This destroyed their social services, busted unions, polluted environments and privatized everything not nailed down. Authoritative authors on third world debt, Damien Millet of France and Belgian Eric Toussaint, have written a revealing article translated in the December 2008 Counterpunch magazine. It lays bare the role men such as Robert Rubin, Lawrence Summers and new Secretary of Treasury Timothy Geithner have played in causing economically propelled global misery.

Heavy on hawks. Not all of Obama’s scary advisers on foreign policy are economists. There’s John Brennan, businessman and a longtime CIA official and former head of the National Counterterrorism Center. While claiming to be against torture, Brennan describes as a “vital tool” the CIA’s rendition program, which kidnaps people and then delivers them to another country for “intensive interrogation.” He is the current chairman of the Intelligence and National Security Alliance (INSA), a trade association of private intelligence contractors who have dramatically, and no doubt profitably, increased theirrole in U.S. national security operations. Apparently, even spying is being privatized.

Another reactionary adviser is Dennis Ross, who worked for a pro-Israel think-tank and for FOX news, where he championed war against Iraq. Palestinian American journalist Ali Abunimah of Electronic Intifada described Ross and another transition adviser, Martin Indyk, as “two of the most pro-Israel officials from the Clinton era, who are totally distrusted by Palestinians and others across the Middle East.” Obama has appealed to the “most hard-line, pro-Israel” elements in the U.S., said Abunimah.

Despite Obama’s anti-war image during the campaign, his foreign policy positions are hawkish. To name a few: keeping U.S. forces in Iraq for the foreseeable future. Defining Iran’s Revolutionary Guard as a “terrorist organization.” Pledging to use unilateral force inside Pakistan to defend U.S. interests. Promising unfailing support to Israeli militarism, and saying not a word about its occupation and land theft in Palestine. Continuing U.S. support for the “War on Drugs” in Central and Latin America — in reality a rightwing U.S.-backed counterinsurgency campaign.

Usual suspects appointed. How the new president’s foreign policy will proceed is hardly mysterious. Obama’s picks for those who will propose and implement foreign policy, or as it’s now called, national security, are the opposite of what he appeared to call for in the campaign. Instead, an unsavory crew of Clintonites, Bushites, hardcore Zionists and Cold Warriors abound, with nary a solid anti-war voice on Iraq or a defender of the rights of Palestinians. In addition to Iraq, his team is replete with hawks on Afghanistan, Iran, Gaza, Pakistan and Sudan.

Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, the new president’s first pick after the election, signaled Obama’s political direction. Emanuel blocked funding of Democratic anti-war senate candidates in 2006. He is virulently pro-Israel, schooled by his father who was an Israeli terrorist in the group Irgun that assassinated and displaced hundreds of thousands of Palestinians before 1948. Emanuel is described as a bare-knuckles brawler. “Bad cop” to Obama’s “good cop?”

Robert Gates, Secretary of Defense under George W. Bush and now continuing his post under Obama, is a barrier to Obama’s stated position on Iraq. During the campaign, Obama said his goal was to pull U.S. troops out of Iraq in 16 months and send them to Afghanistan, the “good war.” Yet he appointed Gates, who has said he will not have to cut troop levels further in Iraq to free up at least two of three brigades for Afghan duty. When the arithmetic is complete, the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan will climb to more than 50,000 from some 31,000 there now.

Retired General James Jones, National Security Adviser, is the former supreme allied commander of NATO, the U.S.’s international body to thwart leftist movements. He has a long history at the CIA during the cold war. He heads an institute that challenged the use of the Clean Air Act to combat global warming; is a director of The Boeing Co., a weapons manufacturer; and also is a director of Chevron, the oil giant.

Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State, advocates militaristic approaches to Iran, Syria, Sudan, Afghanistan, and is a hardline supporter of Israel’s brutal occupation of Palestine. She is unapologetic about her vote for the Iraq war. She criticized Obama when he ruled out using nuclear weapons on terrorists.

Susan Rice, appointed U.N. ambassador, claims she opposed the Iraq war, but publicly promoted the myth of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. When she was U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs she was a “passionate advocate” for U.S. bombing of Sudan, ostensibly to “save” Darfur. But actually, the U.S. wants a foothold in this oil-rich country. She endorsed the Israeli lobby group, Washington Institute for Near East Policy, report that created alarm about an Iranian nuclear weapons program, and proposed that the U.S. work with Israel on policy that included “preventive military action.”

REAL change still to come. Barack Obama could not make the profit system serve people’s needs in the U.S. or any place else, even if he wanted to. Because he offers no alternative to neoliberalism.

But working people worldwide do. We can solidify across borders, expose the false promises, and organize to replace capitalism with democratic, rational socialism.

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