January 5, 2010

Obama's Choice: Military or Civil

President Obama will release an "initial series of reforms" Tuesday after meeting with his National Security team, Cabinet members with national security responsibilities, and spy agency chiefs.

A competent speech would begin with a short outline of security measures (none of them oppressive like his current response), briefly explain future military operations, then spend the majority of time emphasizing political and social reform both in America and failed states. The price tag for economic development during potential interventions - Pakistan, an allegedly broke Yemen, and Nigeria to name three - would easily exceed the military budget. Palestine and Kashmir are nothing to fear.

An incompetent speech will spend the majority of time on "watchlists," aggressive security measures that alienate the failed states America fears, Obama's ability to defeat terrorists everywhere in the world, and puffing one's chest up in general. Regional outreach is minimal. Political, economic, and social aspects of counterinsurgency will be thrown in for appearance then quickly disposed in favor of more counterterrorism.

So which will it be?

Obama's every action has tilted towards the latter - and he's already got Yemenis scared and Hillary Clinton beating the drums. Mark Perry, a Washington-based independent military and foreign policy analyst, told Al Jazeera that Clinton needed to approach the situation more diplomatically:

"The escalation in the rhetoric seems to have happened overnight. Hillary Clinton has looked in her toolbox and pulled out a lecture for the Yemeni government that they have to do something and do something now because a single aeroplane on American tarmac with an unsuccessful bomber has made Yemen an international threat.

The Houthi rebellion in the north is the key issue here and it can only be solved diplomatically. We're not going to go into Yemen with the 10th Mountain division or the 82nd Airborne and help the Yemenis in their own country. We're only going to destabilize if we do that. This is the time for Hillary Clinton to stop lecturing and start working on diplomacy."

That goes triple for Obama.

[Update: Instead of military tunnel vision, Obama seems to have chosen a third route - blame everyone else. This won't work for Abdulmutallab or Afghanistan.]

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