Wednesday, April 09, 2008

The Experienced Yes Man

One of the things that remains a mystery to me is the whole debate on whether or not Obama is "experienced" enough on foreign policy. But what the hell does that mean? How does one "gain" experience on that kind of thing? And can that only be gained in Washington? Or is it enough to just read the papers, read books by smart historians and whatnot, and in Obama's case, to be a bright guy getting tutored by bright people who have worked in the right kind of foreign policy jobs? Shouldn't that be enough? Or is it truly necessary to sit on a Foreign Relations board to understand how diplomacy and game theory work?

From what I've seen of those guys, it's not like they do much of that stuff at all. It's all about political posturing and partisan fights. I fail to see how that will help anyone solve the conflicts in the middle-east. I think they already have enough of their own partisan fights to worry about and don't need ours.

Because it seems to me this is the kind of thing where you've either got it or you don't. You either have a fundimental understanding of how humans work and how different countries interact, or you don't. Particularly as political jobs require political skills; not foreign policy skills. And too often, these areas collide, so the right foreign policy is bad politics and vice versa. And more importantly, a politician with a politically-popular foreign policy that is bad foreign policy will continue to have a bad foreign policy, and will intentionally refuse to learn any real experience that counters his political goals.

And let's face it: I'm talking about the pro-war stance. It's idiotic. Just insane.'s really difficult to oppose war. While a pro-war Senator can blithely talk about keeping troops in Iraq for 100 years in some magical shoot-free zone, and not be asked what his position is if the shoot-free zone never appears; a pro-brain Senator is forced to explain every single position and is assumed to be a naive schmuck no matter how well he answers.

Being pro-war is instant street cred for these guys. And being "experienced" means that you realize that you can't trust anyone and have to keep bombing the shit out of everyone until they give up (though the reality is that the neo-cons are much too trusting of the wrong countries). But that doesn't take experience. All wingnuts already advocate that and most of them haven't even moved out of their mom's basements. But somehow, these guys are considered "tough" for wanting other people to die. But as the musical Hair said, it's easy to be hard. Blowing shit up is easy. The hard part is figuring out how to fix everything again afterwards. But somehow, the "experienced" candidates aren't really good when it comes to "afterwards."

And for McCain and Hillary, it's deeper than that. Sure, they're "tough" enough to know how to threaten our enemies and kill innocent people. But they've been around Washington a long time, and that means they have even more experience than the standard Keyboard Commando (if you can imagine that). And because McCain's been around even longer, we're to imagine that he must have even more experience than Hillary. As if experience is simply a matter of punching a timeclock, rather than learning anything or proving that you're right about anything.

But of course, it's not. Just being there doesn't prove you actually learned anything, and for Republicans like McCain and Hillary, any experience they learned was of the wrong kind. All they've learned is that you can't bomb your enemies quickly enough, or you'll lose points in the polls. Yes, I know, Hillary's pretending to be a peacenik now that she finally realized we weren't going to just hand her the nomination. But I have no doubts that if she were to somehow get the nomination that she'd suddenly become her old neocon-lite self again. That's the kind of experience you learn in Washington. Not how to avoid conflicts; but how to profit from them.

And Obama clearly knows this, and is taking advantage of it. When they say he doesn't have enough "experience," all they really mean is that he hasn't been around Washington D.C. long enough; and that's what he says in his speeches. And it's true. That's all they mean. McCain's been around longer, and so we're to assume he has more of this "experience." But the truth is that all it shows is that he's been wrong longer. And I even call bullshit on that. He's not saying this stuff because he actually believes it. He's saying this because he's a Yes Man who feels compelled to tell people what they want to hear.

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