The Obama Drone Doctrine


PAUL JAY: Welcome to The Real News Network.
I’m Paul Jay in Baltimore. And welcome to the Vijay Prashad [inaud.]
now joins us. Vijay Prashad is a professor of international studies at Trinity College
in Hartford, Connecticut. His many books include Uncle Swami: South Asians in America and Arab
Spring, Libyan Winter. Thanks for joining us. VIJAY PRASHAD: Thank you. JAY: So we’re just after the elections. How
do you respond to another four years of President Obama? PRASHAD: Well, just very quickly, my sense
is that the party of rape was roundly defeated, and I think that is something to cheer about.
Secondly, I think it’s very heartening that the social landscape of the United States
is finally, perhaps, removing the preacher’s aura from the ballot box, meaning the resolutions
that passed on behalf of gay marriage, on behalf of recreational use of marijuana–I
mean, this is the America that I’m familiar with, and I’m glad it’s making at least some
kind of impact in the political domain. So these are just two of my immediate reactions
to the elections. Of course Obama was going to win. There was
no question. It’s extremely hard for an incumbent in the United States to lose, especially if
the challenger is mediocre. You know, the two previous times the incumbent was defeated
was when George H. W. Bush lost, and then before that when Jimmy Carter was defeated.
In both those cases, they faced formidable challengers in, you know, Bill Clinton on
the one hand and Ronald Reagan on the other. It’s not like Carter and George H. W. Bush
didn’t face an economic crisis similar to what Obama faced, but they really faced a
political adversary who knew in this telegenic age how to make an impact. Obama faced Mitt Romney, the worst kind of
character to have when there’s a financial crisis. You know, he utterly represents Wall
Street and money. He was incapable of overcoming that. If Obama hadn’t won in this landslide,
it would have been an absolute surprise to me. So that is fine. Right after he wins, he sends a little gift
to the people of Yemen in the way of a drone strike just south of Sana’a. This is very
interesting to me, because it reveals a great continuity, and perhaps a deepening of the
Obama foreign policy agenda. You know, people have been asking: who will
be the next secretary of state? Hillary Clinton has made it clear that she has had enough
of that position. And there was some suggestions earlier that Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador
to the United Nations, might take over from Hillary Clinton. Susan Rice is one of the
leaders, the intellectual and political leaders of the wing of so-called humanitarian interventionism–in
other words, war for human rights, a liberal kind of war. Unfortunately for her, around
this Benghazi attack on the consulate where Ambassador Chris Stevens was killed there
was a little bit of a dent to her reputation, and the Obama administration may not put her
up to be the next secretary of state. Instead, some eyes are focusing on the Republican
candidate John Huntsman. Huntsman had run against Romney for the Republican nomination,
he had been Obama’s ambassador to China, and he is something of an Asianist. So there are
some people in Washington who are saying that perhaps Huntsman might be the next secretary
of state. Others look to the more conventional candidate
and, I think, the one who might eventually become Hillary Clinton’s successor, and that
is Thomas Donilon. Donilon is interesting. He is a career man with the Democrats in terms
of the area of national security. He is now Obama’s national security adviser. He has
basically helped Obama craft some of those strategies, such as the drone warfare, etc.
Donilon also is a Washington insider. His wife is the chief of staff for Joe Biden’s
wife. His brother is basically one of the main advisers for Joe Biden. So that is a
classical, conventional safe bet for the Obama administration, to move to somebody like Donilon
at the State Department. JAY: I mean, you mention his role with the
drone strike. Am I mistaken? Is he one of the people that’s been helping create the
hit list? PRASHAD: Yeah. I mean, they have this meeting
once a week where they construct the hit list. Donilon is part of that community, you know,
also part of the community that created the architecture for a kind of, you know, attempt
by the United States to renew its primacy around the planet without heavy footprint,
you know, without actually invading a country, without invading Mali or invading Somalia
or invading Yemen, how to have a strong and powerful impact on those countries without
so-called boots on the ground. And this doctrine has pushed for drone strikes, and Donilon
was very much a part of it. And, of course, because, you know, we saw that drone strike
right after the election–you know, in a sense a snub in the face of the United Nations,
which just before the election had made clear that they were going to study the legality
of drone use–you know, there was no concern about that. It’s–to me it feels like this
is going to be a kind of central aspect of this second term of Mr. Obama, that drones
[crosstalk] JAY: Well, this will be the–this is the Obama
doctrine, I suppose. PRASHAD: [inaud.] the unfolding Obama doctrine.
And, you know, this is going to be for wars in the so-called small countries–as I mentioned,
Somalia, Mali, Yemen, and the borderlands of Pakistan. There are more fundamental questions before
the Obama administration, which I’m afraid they’ve fumbled during this campaign. For
instance, next year, Iran is going to have an election, and there’ll be a new leader
there of Iran. China right now is deciding on the next generation of leadership. It would have been a perfect opportunity during
the campaign, and perhaps even in the acceptance speech, for Mr. Obama to have said, we should
not make our foreign policy based on the personalities of the current rulers, particularly in Iran.
You know, the United States just formed its policy based on the kind of peculiarities
of Mr. Ahmadinejad, but Mr. Ahmadinejad no longer will be the head of government in Iran,
and therefore the United States has trapped its policy on something that is going to disappear
next year. It would have been a perfect opportunity to have called for a so-called reset of U.S.-Iran
relations, U.S.-China relations by welcoming the new leadership in these two countries.
Instead, Mr. Obama didn’t do that, and therefore lost a great opportunity to pivot away from
a politics of belligerence to a politics of diplomacy. JAY: There was an interesting debate just
before the election in the Israeli press. Two journalist pundits, columnist types–I’m
sorry I don’t have their names at my fingertips, but the debate was who’s better for Israel
vis-à-vis Iran, Romney or Obama. And the first–there was an email exchange that was
published. One journalist argues that Romney’s better because he’s more full-throttled support
for Israeli policy and would never let Netenyahu hang out on a limb and such, and the other
journalist was writing that he believed Obama, when push came to shove, if Iran really looked
like it was going to have a nuclear weapon, could sell such a war in a way that Romney
couldn’t, that he would, in other words, defang the antiwar liberal section of American society.
What do you make of that argument? PRASHAD: Well, you know, it’s an interesting
bunch of statements, but it doesn’t actually help us in any way, because there is no question
that both Obama and (had Romney won) Romney were going to take a very so-called strong
stand against Iran. There’s no question that both committed themselves to a pro-Israel,
anti-Iran kind of politics. What that exchange seems to reveal is that Romney, like Bush
before him, is tone deaf to public opinion and would go to some kind of military action
against Iran regardless of a million people in the streets of New York, etc., as we saw
in 2003 in the months before the U.S. went to war in Iraq. It’s true, therefore, that
the Republicans are tone deaf, and the neoconservatives would have used every and any means to have
some kind of military action in Iran. It’s also true that the Obama administration,
given the temperament of the administration, would be better suited to sell the war to
the American public or to sell a major strike to the antiwar section, you know, which would
then kneel down and say, well, Obama has no choice, etc. In both cases, there is going
to be some kind of attack on Iran. I think that’s very chilling. You know, whether you
have an administration that doesn’t care about the population or an administration that is
able to hoodwink the population, in both instances it is a loss for world affairs. JAY: Well, I’d argue, I think, a little differently,
which is I think Obama–and I have no doubt in my mind, ’cause I think he’s a total pragmatist
and is very subject to all kinds of pressures, especially from the Pentagon, but I don’t
think the Pentagon’s in any way eager for a war with Iran at all. I think they’ve so
far shown that. But my point is I don’t think Obama would want to have a real military attack
on Iran unless intelligence agencies told him fairly clearly they actually thought Iran
was moving towards construction of a weapon. And I don’t think Iran has any intention of
building a nuclear weapon. But whereas the Romney neocon conservative types–and they’re
going to be putting enormous pressure on Obama, as will Israel–their objective isn’t really
about the bomb. Their objective is regime change. PRASHAD: Precisely. I mean, exactly the case.
The Romney camp wouldn’t have even cared about intelligence at all. It is already the case
that the Americans, the Israelis, and the International Atomic Energy Agency have made
it clear that Iran has no intention of weaponizing, of moving in a weapons direction with the
nuclear program. But that has made no impact on the kind of belligerence even coming out
of Mr. Obama. So you’re right: they may not move to a major, you know, war towards regime
change in Iran, but they’re already conducting very harsh policies against Iran based on
intelligence that says that the Iranians are not interested in warfare at all. JAY: Yeah. That–I think that’s the most important
point. And that’s not getting talked about, that there already is a war against Iran,
and it’s an economic war, and it’s being waged based on intelligence that would never justify
those kinds of sanctions. PRASHAD: Precisely. And the Obama administration
has been able to sell both the kind of–you know, if I can put it bluntly, it’s been able
to sell the lie that Iran is a threat to the region at the same time as it’s been able
to sell the economic warfare as diplomacy. And that is a very dangerous situation, not
only, again, for the idea of international relations, but for the Middle East itself. JAY: Thanks very much for joining us, Vijay. PRASHAD: Thank you very much. JAY: And thank you for joining us on The Real
News Network. If you’d like to see more interviews and journalism like this, you see a Donate
button over here. If you don’t click it, we can’t do this.


45 Responses

  1. musick2138

    November 9, 2012 2:26 pm

    > expand the use of drone attacks
    After all, " Obama has [ALREADY] endorsed the Bush policy of attacking suspected al-Qaida leaders in countries that the U.S. has not (YET) invaded. In particular, he has not criticized the raids by Predator drones that have killed many civilians in Pakistan – and was soon to expand them radically as part of his GLOBAL ASSASSINATION CAMPAIGN. [MY caps] " — Noam Chomsky in (*RECOMMENDED* reading:) "Making the Future" (2012)

  2. blackdreamhunk2

    November 9, 2012 2:32 pm

    there is more there than meets the eye

    President Barack Obama cries as he thanks campaign workers

    clearly secrets not told. Can I also ask how much is envovled McCain

    McCain Calls for Air Strikes in Syria

  3. blackdreamhunk2

    November 9, 2012 2:36 pm

    Obama character is such that he thinks about human life. He is willing to talk and listen. Not like Mitt Ronney who would send army with out talking. Proof of that is netanyahu trying to push Obama into a world war 3.

  4. blackdreamhunk2

    November 9, 2012 2:45 pm

    Some who who does not care about people does not cryed, if they do you can tell they are faking it. In one of Obama speeches he says do you trust me? He seems like the type of guy who thinks about people first before he acts. he includes people not leave them out not like Mitt Rooney who is a bigot! Some who would send warships

    Maher Calls "Teabaggers" Racists; Uses N-Word As Proof

  5. Charmain LaReau

    November 9, 2012 2:46 pm

    Welcome to the real world out side of Hollywood my friend. Unless you where being sarcastic in that case go back to Zombie land.o If you are sincere research Direct Democracy and then look up Agenda 21 please and happy surfing and get ready to get a good scary education and wake up and join the real peoples movement

  6. blackdreamhunk2

    November 9, 2012 2:53 pm

    Clearly there is more here than meets the eye than just drones. I wonder sometimes if Obama is a puppet I know Hitler was. I was thinking he was puppet for wall street but the thing is wall street backed Mitt Ronney hence the market drop when Obama got reelected.

    "Obama Is A Puppet" – Eddie Griffin Speaks Out

    maybe I am thinking too hard?

  7. Paul H

    November 9, 2012 2:54 pm

    I'm sorry, I'm a UK citizen that does not believe anything I hear & half of what I see.

    When Obama was first elected, the World was lead to believe a profound change was taking place in the US this has not happened, I understand he has been up against a lot from the Republicans during the last four years.

    But, US foreign policy still remains highly questionable.

    Iran has not attacked any Country for hundreds of years, the US supplied Saddam Hussein with weapons then hung him, now drones.

  8. blackdreamhunk2

    November 9, 2012 2:59 pm

    remember when Obama was fighting with netanyahu what did the Us congress do after that fight???

    Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu Speech at the Joint Session of Congress – May 24, 2011

  9. Paul H

    November 9, 2012 3:13 pm

    I like to think, I'm already part of the peoples movement, not a fan of US/UK foreign policy and believe in the eventual demise of the petrodollar.

    I also believe Iran has the right to pursue its national interest, just as the State of Israel has no right to exist at the expense of the indigenous people of the Regine.

    I also believe politician will mislead/lie to the voter to obtain power, to meet the needs of their puppet masters.

    The statement was rhetorical.

  10. blackdreamhunk2

    November 9, 2012 3:16 pm

    another thing I found disturbing about Obama, what if Obama because he was trying to work with republicans he bent over backwards listening to them. We all know the that congress is not getting along right I am going to stick this link here. I have heared stories even obama was trying please chainy.

    Obama: 'I'll Wash Cars for Budget Deal' – Weaksauce?

    Obama: 'I'll Wash Cars for Budget Deal' – Weaksauce?

  11. blackdreamhunk2

    November 9, 2012 3:27 pm

    My point is there is more here than meets the eye when comes to the use of drones. Obama strikes me as person who would think about people first. Judging from what I see about Obama, Obama always seems to look at the good people that is why his speeches are so good. The devil is in the details

  12. wistoncap

    November 9, 2012 4:04 pm

    Holy fuck, are you blind… Obama is a corporate piece of shit moderate republican.. wake the fuck up… Glen Ford (of Black Agenda Report) had it right when he described Obama as "the more effective evil", now get you nose out of Obamas ass and start being a man instead of the mouse that you appear to be.

  13. blackdreamhunk2

    November 9, 2012 4:24 pm

    lol I knew I would get some one like you after my comments,you didn't read my other comments did you? where I talk about lobby groups. I thought of Obama corporate puppet but thing is why did wallstreet back Mitt Ronney then?

    Hello McFLY

  14. wistoncap

    November 9, 2012 4:30 pm

    With the 2 pieces of shit that ran for president this time around… the only guaranteed winner would be the 1%… and ill watch whatever link your trying to send, but do it as a message

  15. Payhole Everdouche

    November 9, 2012 5:10 pm

    This has already been mentioned, but it needs to be reiterrated again. Martin Luther King said: " I have a dream." Barack Hussein Obama says: " I have a drone." this is otherwise known as progress here in America.

  16. AI fan

    November 9, 2012 6:11 pm

    The the horror of hit list meeting is made so clear when you think of Obama deciding who he is going to kill each week.

  17. tsriF tasT

    November 9, 2012 9:56 pm

    Hiroshima and Nagasaki = USA are cowards . Drones = USA are cowards .nothing has changed nothing will .

  18. Anonymous247n

    November 9, 2012 9:59 pm

    Eh don't worry about it, every channel follows a general… "image". This one criticises what the government does. Someone has to, otherwise "collateral damage" would be the main form of damage done to america's enemies 🙂
    So don't take politics too seriously, or news media for that matter.

  19. DukeofStamford

    November 10, 2012 12:02 am

    What? the Al-Qaeda that America is supplying arms to in Syria. And you stop the problem by stopping the US from committing war crimes and invading sovereign nations without any justification. And by your logic, if a "suspected" terrorist was targeted by a drone, and you came home to find that they had also killed your whole family, then that would be ok with you because at least they got the "Suspected" terrorist, and it was your families fault for living next to a target on their list.

  20. Maphisto86

    November 10, 2012 12:12 am

    To play devil's advocate, the usual story goes if the USA did not drop the two atom bombs on Japan then the United States of America and their allies would need to invade the home islands which may have been less "cowardly" but would result in even more death and destruction for both sides. Of course by the time of those bombings Japan was on the ropes and many within it's government were advocating at least an armistice with the Americans.

  21. tsriF tasT

    November 10, 2012 12:17 am

    " for both sides" = war . We did not even fight them we just killed two whole city's full of children and workers and teachers and God only knows who I just hope the rest of the world is less cowardly then the USA .

  22. Dri

    November 12, 2012 1:28 am

    He's the president of the United States, he can't be a man of "the people" and the head of Nation-State at the same time. Perhaps having a proper view of the role of the executive in the US would allow us to dispell illusions about what his priorities are and will be.

  23. jeansprettypups

    November 12, 2012 4:39 am

    it is Obama clinton and his cabnet that has cause this and gave them over there the missles, guns, etc. matter of fact do you know who Obama called right after he got elected again his buddy the president of turkey which is a muslim brotherhood leader you better wake up it was the muslim brotherhood buses and who hit the towers what were they muslim brotherhood. Obamas cousin in africa called for jihad on all christians and had killed 100`s children women it does not matter now come on wake up

  24. dandylion

    January 24, 2013 9:59 am

    it's a commentary on these fucking swedes and their shitty prize that they give it out to murderous genocidal war mongers.


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