Lynch and Singh at the Hudson Institute

Did you miss Timothy Lynch and Robert Singh‘s presentation at the Hudson Institute July 22?

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Obama and the Third Bush Term — A Competent One

In recent days Barack Obama has sought to establish bluer water between himself and John McCain over Iraq.

Did he succeed?

Timothy Lynch and Robert Singh

Obama and McCain duel over foreign policy in this NY Times article

Yes, he has succeeded to a degree. He has made it clear that Afghanistan will be the first front in his revised war on terror. By wrapping up Iraq quickly – most US brigades, save for a residual force, to depart with sixteen months – he is promising to redirect US violence on the Taliban. McCain, alternatively, says that the Iraq war should not be judged according to a timetable established in a US electoral campaign. If winning takes time then time it shall take. The war on terror is not a debate between Iraq-firsters and Afghanistan-firsters. It is a global war on multiple fronts that demands attention to all those fronts.

Two features are worthy of note. First, despite what elements of his domestic base may be hoping, a President Obama is not seeking a withdrawal of US forces from the Middle East theater. Rather, he is pledging to redeploy American troops so as to better advance the war on terror. His initial caution over the Iraq liberation was not grounded in a leftist pacifism. It was, instead, the product of his empiricism. The Iraq war was a tactical misstep which he is pledged to correct. But the essential strategy of Bush’s war on terror has not been disavowed. President Bush stands accused by the Illinois senator not for being a warmonger but for being an incompetent war monger. ‘Make me commander in chief,’ Obama is saying, ‘and I will make violence abroad more effectively. Pakistan watch out.’
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Tim Lynch – Stateside

After Bush author Timothy Lynch will be here in the US soon. Come hear him speak, tune in to KQED on July 15, or catch the archive at the Forum link below!

[Update] Listen to the Forum broadcast here >>

Please check each link for specifics about each event.

July 15

KQED San Francisco

World Affairs Council, San Francisco

July 22

The Hudson Institute, Washington DC

The World Affairs Council, Washington DC

Back to the Future, with Barack Obama

Timothy Lynch and Robert Singh

Barack Obama is now the repository of the hopes and dreams of all those cosmopolitans and sophisticates who still see Iraq as a disastrous mistake, the war on terror as a fiction, and a return to the Bill Clinton years of supposed ‘peace and prosperity’ as seven years overdue. But these expectations are already so high that, assuming the Illinois neophyte wins in November, a strong element of buyer’s remorse is almost inevitable in 2009, for three reasons.

<<Jonah Goldberg’s LA Times commentary on the future of Bush’s reputation>>

Firstly, if Obama does make it to the Oval Office, it will not be as a McGovernite ‘bring the troops home’ candidate but as a ‘hard power’ Democrat. As it has since 1972, national security remains the reliably painful Achilles heel of Democratic presidential aspirants. Obama’s platform thus far, such as it is, promises not to abandon the war on terror but to rebrand and wage it more effectively. His main rationale for getting US forces out of Iraq is not to turn their swords into ploughshares at home but to redeploy them to Afghanistan. Obama has committed to using US forces in the border states of Pakistan against al Qaeda if Islamabad refused to do so. Notwithstanding the unforeseeable threats that will arise after 2009, an Obama presidency will not see the end of action for the US Marines, Predator drones or special forces.

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Timothy Lynch and Robert Singh in today’s Wall Street Journal

Don’t Expect a Big Change in U.S. Foreign Policy

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Obama and Bush Sr.

What will be the Bush legacy in the next US presidency? According to policy experts Timothy Lynch and Robert Singh, the next president will be bound by history to follow a foreign policy very close to that of George W. Bush.

Timothy Lynch and Robert Singh

Two possible reasons account for Barack Obama’s recent embrace of George H. W. Bush. The first is that he wants to portray himself within the mainstream of the US foreign policy tradition and that he sees Bush Sr has standing squarely within it. He is in effect asking us to consider him as a welcome return to a diplomacy which was cautious and limited, more Kissinger than Wolfowitz. The second, building on the first, suggests an Obama foreign policy will defer to international law and rebuild American likeability abroad. As a campaign strategy this is commonsensical. As a foreign policy strategy is potentially disastrous.

We’ve argued in our recent book that a President Obama would likely adapt to the fact of American primacy rather than dilute it. If Obama is sincere in what he is saying about Bush Sr – and he may be – we might be wrong about him. Obama, instead of tweaking the Bush Doctrine for foreign consumption (our argument), could actually be engaged in a far more problematic endeavour: the revision and reapplication of a foreign policy that between 1989 and 1993 was hardly a study in success. What is it that Obama wants us to see in his foreign policy through the prism of George Bush Sr?

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In For the Long Haul: Petraeus and the War

The war in Iraq is ugly, ambiguous, and marred with incompetence. It leaves an awkward legacy for our next president. According to Timothy Lynch and Robert Singh, this is nothing unusual for the US, nor for fighting on such terms. More surprising: the policy patterns that led to the war will likely continue this way after Bush steps down.

Timothy Lynch and Robert Singh

The parallels between the ongoing US actions in Iraq since 2003 and US actions in Korea after 1950 were especially apparent at the Senate hearings on Tuesday. In both wars a charismatic general held the attention of the nation and the fate of his president. Indeed, of his future president too. The most important military official serving George W. Bush is Dan Petraeus. Ditto Harry S. Truman and Douglas MacArthur. Each general brought stunning success that was profoundly controversial back home. The wars they waged caused the popularity of their respective commander-in-chief to plummet. Importantly, their wars were not short, sharp, shocks. They entailed a massive military and economic subvention by the United States – at the request of the host government. America has ‘occupied’ South Korea since 1950; its troops are still there. Iraq, we were warned again yesterday, could be at least as long.

For those with sufficient patience, the legacy of Korea for Iraq is a positive one, as is the legacy of the cold war for the war on terror. If America can stand by its allies over the long haul, in a dangerous neighbourhood, in a global war against a diffuse but ideologically committed opponent it will succeed in this venture.

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