Stephen Zunes : Democratic Party Foreign Policy
In a direct challenge to the credibility of Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the International Red Cross and other reputable humanitarian organizations, an overwhelming bipartisan majority in both houses of Congress has gone on record supporting President George W. Bush’s position that the Israeli armed forces bear no responsibility for the large and growing numbers of civilian casualties from their assault on the Gaza Strip.
The Democratic leadership’s strident support for the ongoing Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip underscores how the Democrats suffer from the same illusions as the outgoing Republican administration: that placing an Arab territory under debilitating sanctions that punish the population as a whole, bombarding heavily populated civilian areas — resulting in widespread casualties among innocent people — and invading and occupying territories with a long history of resistance to outsiders will somehow lead to greater moderation from those afflicted….
The appointment of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State is nothing less than a betrayal of the anti-war constituency responsible for Barack Obama winning the Democratic Party nomination and his subsequent election as president of the United States. The quintessential Democratic hawk, Senator Clinton has proven to be one of the leading militarists on Capitol Hill and her appointment as the country’s chief foreign policy representative serves notice to the international community that the change they had hoped for will not be forthcoming….
The appointment of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State is nothing less than a betrayal of the anti-war constituency responsible for Barack Obama winning the Democratic Party nomination and his subsequent election as president of the United States. The quintessential Democratic hawk, Senator Clinton has proven to be one of the leading militarists on Capitol Hill and her appointment as the country’s chief foreign policy representative serves notice to the international community that the change they had hoped for will not be forthcoming.
For those hoping for a dramatic change in U.S. foreign policy under an Obama administration — particularly regarding human rights, international law, and respect for international institutions — the appointment of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State is a bitter disappointment. Indeed, Senator Clinton has more often than not sided with the Bush administration against fellow Democrats on key issues regarding America’s international legal obligations, particularly international humanitarian law.
The October 3 debate between Alaska Governor Sarah Palin and Delaware Senator Joe Biden was disturbing for those of us hoping for a more enlightened and honest foreign policy during the next four years. In its aftermath, pundits mainly focused on Palin’s failure to self-destruct and Biden’s relatively cogent arguments. Here’s an annotation of the foreign policy issues raised during the vice-presidential debate, which was packed with demonstrably false and misleading statements….
Barack Obama has alienated key sectors of his progressive base with statements and policy proposals regarding Israel in which he allies himself with right-wing Republicans. These have included: rejecting calls by human rights activists to condition military aid to Israel on an improvement in the government’s human rights record; defending Israel’s massive 2006 assault against Lebanon’s civilian infrastructure, which killed more than 800 civilians; disputing findings by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and other reputable human rights organizations citing Israeli violations of international humanitarian law; calling for an undivided Jerusalem as the capital of Israel without supporting the right of the Palestinian-populated eastern half of the city to be the capital of a Palestinian state; making exaggerated claims about Iran’s threats towards Israel while refusing to express any concerns regarding Israel’s threats towards Iran; and bringing in Dennis Ross — a prominent supporter of Israeli government policies — as his principal Middle East advisor….
Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama’s choice of Joseph Biden as his running mate has drawn sharp criticism from many Democrats as a result of the Delaware senator’s support for the U.S. invasion of Iraq, his flagrantly false claims about the alleged Iraqi threat, and the abuse of his position as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to suppress antiwar testimony before Congress prior to the invasion.
The excitement over the nomination of Barack Obama as the presidential nominee of the Democratic Party has been tempered by some key foreign policy planks in the 2008 platform, particularly those relating to the greater Middle East region. These positions appear to run counter to Obama’s pledge early in the primary race to end the mindset that led to the Iraq War.
In many respects, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama has played right into the hands of cynics who have long doubted his promises to create a new and more progressive role for the United States in the world. The very morning after the last primaries, in which he finally received a sufficient number of pledged delegates to secure the Democratic presidential nomination and no longer needed to win over voters from the progressive base of his own party, Obama — in a Clinton-style effort at triangulation — gave a major policy speech before the national convention of the America-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Embracing policies which largely backed those of the more hawkish voices concerned with Middle Eastern affairs, he received a standing ovation for his efforts….