I hate to say I told you so, but here it goes.
In late September, in this column, I criticized Barack Obama for what I called a “pathetic” debate with John McCain, in which Obama got nearly everything about foreign policy wrong:
“He checked all the boxes. Barack (“Senator McCain is right”) Obama couldn’t find anything to disagree with the militarist Arizonan about. Support for NATO expansion? Check. Absurd anti-Russian diatribes? Check. Dramatic escalation of the war in Afghanistan? Check. I’m ready to attack Pakistan? Check. (Actually, on this one, McCain was the moderate!) Painful sanctions against Iran, backed up by the threat of force? Check. Blathering about the great threat from Al Qaeda? Check. It went on and on.”
I pointed out that Obama went out of his way to say things like: “I believe the Republican Guard of Iran is a terrorist organization.” And: “A resurgent and very aggressive Russia is a threat to the peace and stability of the region.”
Last July, in a major feature piece for The Nation on Obama’s foreign policy, I wrote:
“But in many respects, Obama seems likely to preside over a restoration of the bipartisan consensus that governed foreign policy during the cold war and the 1990s, updated for a post-9/11 world. … Even as he pledges to end the war in Iraq, Obama promises to increase Pentagon spending, boost the size of the Army and Marines, bolster the Special Forces, expand intelligence agencies and maintain the hundreds of US military bases that dot the globe. He supports a muscular multilateralism that includes NATO expansion, and according to the Times of London, his advisers are pushing him to ask Defense Secretary Robert Gates to stay on in an Obama administration. Though he is against the idea of the United States imposing democracy abroad, Obama does propose a sweeping nation-building and democracy-promotion program, including strengthening the controversial National Endowment for Democracy and constructing a civil-military apparatus that would deploy to rescue and rebuild failed and failing states in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.”
So are we surprised that now, as president-elect, Obama is selecting people whose views are coherent with Obama’s frequently stated views? Are we surprised that the views of Obama’s conservative and centrist advisers are, in fact, coherent with Obama’s own? And are we surprised that his choices for his foreign policy and national security appointments are drawn exclusively from conservative, centrist, and pro-military circles without even a single — yes, not one! — chosen to represent the antiwar wing of the Democratic party? No, we are not.
What does it mean, then? Do we still believe that Obama was pretending to be conservative and cautious on foreign policy during the campaign, in order to get himself elected? Or is the truth, like Occam’s razor, far simpler? Perhaps what Obama (and his advisers) said during the campaign reflects what they really believe.