Almost two years and one disastrous election later, we’re still waiting for the other Barack Obama to make an appearance, and from the gab coming out of Washington right now, it looks like we’ll be twiddling our thumbs a bit longer (if not forever). Once again, the sweet talk of compromise and bipartisanship is on the lips of the president, but not, of course, on the lips of top Republicans. Talk about consistency!
Right now, all the news chatter is about domestic policy (health care, tax cuts, etc.), but count on the Republicans—Rand Paul aside—to light out after the president sooner or later at least as hawkishly on foreign policy as they have domestically. Already, Senator John McCain and others are preparing the ground to launch what’s likely to become a jihad against Obama’s civilization-busting “mistake” in announcing a vaguely “conditions-based” drawdown of vague numbers of US troops in Afghanistan for July 2011. And that’s just a start. On a whole host of issues from the Iraq and Afghan wars to Israel, Iran, and North Korea, buckle your seatbelts and hold onto your hats. The critical weather in Congress, especially in the House, is going to get fiercer, and a president with a most un-Harry-Truman-ish tendency to placate is unlikely to stake his fighting future on foreign policy.
So expect war drums and alarums to the horizon (i.e. 2012) from congressional Republicans. And when it comes to the famous Republican urge to cut every budget in sight, be assured of one thing: our wars, the Pentagon budget, and the industrial part of the military-industrial complex—in other words, our next generation weaponry, however ill-conceived—will surely be removed from the “table” where “all options” are always placed.
According to Chris Nelson of the invaluable Washington insider newsletter, the Nelson Report, “The likely new chair of House Armed Services, ‘Buck’ McKeon (R-Ca.), is a big supporter of Missile Defense and the Navy, while the Armed Services appropriations subcommittee will likely be chaired by Bill Young (R-Fla.), and between his and McKeon’s districts, there are very few ‘missing’ major space and defense contractors.” McKeon has already made it crystal clear that he’s in favor of “boosting” the already bloated Pentagon budget.
Oh, and to complete the trifecta, the likely new head of the House Foreign Affairs committee is Cuban refugee Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. (She once said: “I welcome the opportunity of having anyone assassinate Fidel Castro and any leader who is oppressing the people.”) She’s guaranteed to push for an ever fiercer policy on Iran, while offering total support to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing Israeli government against the Obama administration. She’s already called on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to expel all Palestinian diplomats from the US, and to cease sending American Muslim religious leader Feisal Abdul Rauf, creator of “the mosque at Ground Zero,” abroad to represent the country.
None of this should surprise anyone. Starting in January, it will evidently be morning in America again for Islamophobes. As co-director of Foreign Policy in Focus and TomDispatch regular John Feffer points out, there’s a little bit of history going back a mere thousand years or so that, when it comes to Islamophobia, we ignore at our peril.