FASCINATING - AT 11:29 A.M. ET: The Politico has a fascinating take on the president's upcoming (Tuesday night) speech on Afghanistan. Will there be a return to...to....Bushisms?
As President Barack Obama prepares to make the case for sending more troops to Afghanistan, some allies are urging him to return to a line of argument little heard since the Bush years: the United States has a moral obligation to protect the Afghan people, particularly women, from the Taliban.
Obama ran on a promise to restore cold-eyed calculations of national interest to American foreign policy, a reaction against President George W. Bush’s tendency to cast a confrontational foreign policy in terms of the freedoms it would achieve for nations that did not have them. And he has governed without the public appeals to human rights that marked American foreign policy ventures from Kosovo to Iraq.
But realism has proved, at times, a hard political sell. Bloodless talk about “engagement” has left the Obama administration without a compelling story to tell or argument to make. And its emphasis on process has only increased the pressure for more tangible results.
In Afghanistan, the White House was reluctant to play up the Taliban’s excesses and the plight of Afghan women while it considered withdrawing from an active role in the country’s governance. But as Obama moves toward sending additional troops – reportedly more than 30,000 more – to the country, supporters of the policy are urging him to stress human rights in an effort to revive support for an increasingly unpopular war.
COMMENT: You mean, it's possible Bush was right? Y'think? Isn't it remarkable that the man sold to us as the most pure, the most idealistic, the most high-minded leader in the history of humankind has to be reminded of human rights?
Will Obama move closer to...BUSH (!!)? Look, he's accepted most of the Patriot Act. Miracles happen.
But there's a problem. Some of the people trying to sell Obama on the "human rights" approach say it would have appeal to the left wing of his party, which is resisting a buildup of American troops in Afghanistan. That I doubt. The left does human rights these days only when convenient. I suggest that the human rights argument will have greater resonance on the right, where, in recent decades, there's been far more attention paid to idealism in foreign policy.
November 29, 2009