by Jeff Huber
Navy skippers immemorial wrote "He hit the deck running" on their new junior officers' fitness reports until the phrase became, well, ship-worn. You mean that the officer just checked aboard, seems eager, if a bit much so, has done a nice thing or two, but it's not time to recommend him either for your job or for immediate transfer to civilian command. In other words, it's an expression that sounds impressive but doesn't really mean anything, something common to at least 95 percent of Navy writing.
But the expression appears to mean something in the case of Barack Obama, whose orders just showed up on the message board, as we say in the NAV, and who doesn’t even check aboard for two more months. In the past week he's made three significant interrelated foreign policy moves that involve Iraq, Iran and Russia that have potential to look good, go bad or turn ugly, depending on how he follows up on them.
Cleaning Up the Mesopotamia
Obama's move on Iraq, as far as I can see, is all good, mostly. He has said that any bilateral agreement of the status of U.S. forces in Iraq has to be run through Congress, or deferred for the new administration so it can "negotiate an agreement that has bipartisan support here at home and makes absolutely clear that the U.S. will not maintain permanent bases in Iraq.”
In one stroke, Obama has served notice that he will not sit by and watch the Bush administration dig an even deeper hole for him to climb out of, he's insisted on limiting executive power, and he's declared an end to the neoconservative agenda.
He's not only telling the warmongery that he won't stand for a slap job forces agreement in Iraq, but that he doesn't want to see any more wars started, most notably with Iran or Syria.
Some time ago, I don't know how far back, I wouldn't have expected even Bush to unilaterally stick his successor with a stink job treaty for a so-long-sucker present, but there's no doubt in my mind today that he'd do it in a heartbeat if he thought he could get away with it. To my thinking, any agreement on how we occupy Iraq amounts to a treaty, which the Constitution requires to be ratified by two thirds of the Senate. The administration's ambulance chasers would argue that when Congress passed the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002, it sanctioned Bush to do whatever he wanted in Iraq from then until kingdom come without giving them so much as a courtesy reach around.
If Bush decided to ram a bad agreement down everyone's throat, Congress wouldn't likely grow a spine overnight and stand up to him, and challenging the agreement in the courts would take so long we might as well defer the matter to the next life.
Obama's insistence that the agreement be approved in some fashion or other by Congress more or less ties Bush's hands. Obama probably doesn't have any legal clout right now, but Bush is no doubt worried about his legacy, and maybe about a legal issue or two that might be lurking for him when the guy who owns the pardon wand isn't a Republican, and maybe, just maybe, he's starting to think there might be something to that "hell stuff" everybody talks about.
By insisting on congressional review of any bilateral agreement with Iraq, Obama has also sent a clear signal that he's not interested in duplicating Bush's "plenary powers" shenanigans, especially in light of recent revelations that in 2004, Bush authorized Donald Rumsfeld to start wars darn near wherever he wanted to, in some instances without even having to tell Bush about it.
Goodbye, Cruel Arab World
The neocon paper trail, specifically the Project for the New American Century's September 2000 manifesto Rebuilding America's Defenses, makes it abundantly clear that the plan all along—before Colin Powell sold his soul at the UN, before 9/11, even before the Supreme Court made young Mr. Bush president—was to invade and permanently occupy Iraq. Geo-strategically, Iraq is the perfect military base of operations from which to physically bully the entire Middle East. Its central location allows for direct projection of land power into Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. The rest of the region's countries are in reach of tactical air power from Iraq. Logistics wise, Iraq has sufficient sea access to sustain a major force indefinitely, and its flat terrain allows for nearly perfect interior lines of communication. No other country in the region comes close to filling the bill, including and especially Iran.
The neocons' objective, of course, was to control the flow of oil through the gulf. Make no mistake; control of the global energy market is the lebensraum of the Brave New World Order, and if you don't think our woebegone war on terror hasn't been conducted for the benefit of Dick and Dubya's Big Oil buddies, ask you self why, seven years and change into it, the world teeters on the brink of an economic Gotterdammerung but Exxon Mobil just broke its own record for the largest quarterly profit ever by a U.S. corporation.
Whether Obama's abandonment of the neocons' objectives for Iraq means he's showing Big Oil to the servants' door remains to be seen. Dropping out of the game for control of Middle East oil won't necessarily change bad energy habits home. To say we're addicted to Middle East oil is like saying someone is addicted to Colombian cocaine. If Obama is serious about allowing Big Oil to open its raincoat offshore and in ANWR, it doesn't seem like anyone interested in making money will be motivated to build a car that runs on spit and boogers.
But let's burn that fuel dump when we come to it. For now, it's heartening enough that Obama pulling the plug on Iraq has done something not too many folks are noticing: namely, he's cancelled the Second Cold War we were on the brink of entering into with Russia, China, Iran and the rest of the Axis of Energy.
Next: From fissile to missile to epistle and back.
Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes at Pen and Sword . Jeff's novel Bathtub Admirals (Kunati Books), a lampoon on America's rise to global dominance, is on sale now. Also catch Scott Horton's interview with Jeff at Antiwar Radio.