This is not a democracy: Behind the Deep State that Obama, Hillary or Trump couldn’t control
Foreign policy never really changes regardless of who holds the White House. This is why exceptionalism always wins
There are two ways to consider the White House’s announcement last week that, no, American troops will no longer withdraw from Afghanistan as previously planned. You can look back over President Obama’s record in such matters or you can face forward and think about what this decision means, or implies, or suggests —or maybe all three—about the next president’s conduct of foreign policy.
I do not like what I see in either direction. What anyone who looks carefully and consciously can discern in Obama’s seven years in office are limits. These are imposed in part by inherited circumstances, but let us set these aside for now, appalling as they are. My concern is with the limits imposed by the entrenched power of our permanent government, otherwise known as the “deep state.”
With the first Democratic debate in Las Vegas last week, the serious party joins the unserious party in articulating a vision of America’s proper conduct abroad. The question Obama’s two terms force upon us is how much any of what we hear from the Democratic candidates will matter even if we assume one of them succeeds him.
The Obama administration’s accumulated inventory on the foreign side is a mixed bag to put the point mildly, and one has to count it heavily net-negative at this point. The big accomplishments, of course, are the accord governing the Iran nuclear program and the resumption of diplomatic ties with Cuba. While both represent hard-fought political victories, there was considerable backing for these undertakings in the intelligence agencies, the Pentagon, the State Department bureaucracy and the corporate sector. Hang on to this distinction.