Obama gave his ‘Big Foreign Policy’ speech yesterday, and a transcript is up on his website.
Rhetorically, it’s a good speech. I agree with a lot of what he says, and love his reclamation of the American role:
I still believe that America is the last, best hope of Earth. We just have to show the world why this is so.
He says other things that ought to resonate with the readers here – he wants a bigger, more lethal military, and he expressly reserves the right to act unilaterally if he believes the justification is there.
The elephant in the room remains his – I believe – fundamental misreading of the roots of the challenge we will face in the next decade.He says:
A recent report detailed Al Qaedaâ€™s progress in recruiting a new generation of leaders to replace the ones we have captured or killed. The new recruits come from a broader range of countries than the old leadership – from Afghanistan to Chechnya, from Britain to Germany, from Algeria to Pakistan. Most of these recruits are in their early thirties.>
They operate freely in the disaffected communities and disconnected corners of our interconnected world – the impoverished, weak and ungoverned states that have become the most fertile breeding grounds for transnational threats like terror and pandemic disease and the smuggling of deadly weapons.
Some of these terrorist recruits may have always been destined to take the path they did – accepting a tragically warped view of their religion in which God rewards the killing of innocents. But millions of young men and women have not.
Delivering on these universal aspirations requires basic sustenance like food and clean water; medicine and shelter. It also requires a society that is supported by the pillars of a sustainable democracy – a strong legislature, an independent judiciary, the rule of law, a vibrant civil society, a free press, and an honest police force. It requires building the capacity of the worldâ€™s weakest states and providing them what they need to reduce poverty, build healthy and educated communities, develop markets, and generate wealth. And it requires states that have the capacity to fight terrorism, halt the proliferation of deadly weapons, and build the health care infrastructure needed to prevent and treat such deadly diseases as HIV/AIDS and malaria.
He’s right and he’s wrong here, I believe. The movement we face is both something that is fertilized by the kinds of conditions he describes above – and yes, we would go far in choking it off if we were to fix these conditions, and we should.
But it is also carefully nurtured by state actors who harbor, support, and subsidize its growth for their own relatively Westphalian reasons.
I believe we face a movement seeded and nurtured by both the conditions in the ‘edge states’ and by carefully executed support from states which are not and should not be considered ‘failed’.
When I understand how Obama proposes to deal with that, I’ll be able to unqualifiedly support his foreign policy.