This is the personal blog of Rick Staggenborg, MD. The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the official positions of Take Back America for the People, an educational 501.c3 nonprofit established by Dr Staggenborg.

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Monday, February 3, 2014


 Those who reflexively oppose President Obama on foreign policy share one thing in common with those who defend his actions unquestioningly: Neither is using a realistic measure to appraise him. In addition, partisan supporters who are unwilling to criticize him fail to use a consistent yardstick to compare his actions with those of his predecessor. Despite his many accomplishments, the similarities in foreign policy between the Obama administration and that of Bush are more striking to most critics than are the differences. While there is truth in this observation, it is not the whole story.

There is a pervasive myth that we elect Presidents who will represent the interests of America in foreign policy, if we choose correctly. The reality is that as a consequence of an electoral system thoroughly corrupted by special interest money, we elect Presidents who are vetted by a relative handful of extremely powerful individuals. They have a huge financial stake in the maintenance of the status quo in international economic affairs.  “American” interests have become defined as what serves the aims of powerful international financial institutions that have a disproportionate influence on both US domestic and international policy. The interests of these institutions have nothing to do with the interests of America or any nation. In fact, if Americans do not develop a clearer understanding of the nature of their power, nation states themselves will become obsolete. The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) is designed to do just that.

Of the largest 25 international corporations, almost all are financial institutions. Members of their Boards are also members of the Boards of the top 147 corporate behemoths that control 40% of the assets of over 14,000 international corporations and collect 60% of their total profits. This is how global financiers control key industries such as aeronautics, insurance, armaments, energy, telecommunications and others whose profits depend on control of natural resources and human capital around the world, including the US. Their enormous influence over the fortunes of businesses puts them in the position to determine who is a viable candidate for President. If you were hoping that Dennis Kucinich or Ron Paul can become President if we elect enough Democrats or Republicans, think again.

Foreign policy is not created de novo with each new administration. The general direction of foreign policy is determined by corporations and foundations that fund the think tanks that gave us the neocon agenda in foreign policy that is still the blueprint for military strategy. Think tanks also came up with the neoliberal agenda of free trade. These two ideologies are really two sides of the same coin. Both seek to extend corporate domination of the planet. Where economic coercion and bribery in the form of free trade agreements, IMF loans and economic and military aid are not persuasive and regime change is not possible by covert means, military force is used.  Neoconservatism and neoliberalism are so called because they are neither liberal nor conservative, but corporatist.

This is the reality that confronts the President. He still has all the powers granted him under the constitution as well as powers claimed by previous Occupants of the White House, but his use of them is sharply constrained by the political influence of special interests over Congress, the military, a CIA unaccountable to him under the doctrine of plausible deniability, the media and even the courts. If he wanted to end the “war on terror” that is a think disguise for an agenda of global corporate domination, he would have to take on the entire military-industrial-government complex that has mushroomed since WWII. It is a direct threat to democracy, as Kennedy found out when he tried toend the Cold War.

You may say Obama still has a choice and you would be right, but what chance of success would he have without America behind him? While we should and must criticize him when he chooses war over diplomacy as he did in Libya has largely done in Syria, we cannot expect him to take on alone the entrenched power of the entire political, economic and military structure of the oligarchy that the US has become. If we want to see democracy and justice in the US and the rest of the world, we must be the change that will make him do what must be done. We did it on Syria, when we told Congress in no uncertain terms that we will not use US taxpayer money to start WWIII. 

What few seem to appreciate is that the President set up a situation where our voice would determine a major foreign policy decision. The pressure on him to attack Syria from Israel, Saudi Arabia and neocons in the US was intense, yet he consulted with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and allowed him to publicly report that not only would an attack be incredibly risky, but that a decision was not necessary immediately. He then threw the decision to Congress, giving citizens a chance to weigh in. Our victory in stopping a disastrous attack on Syria showed that we are not powerless over the architects of what former CIA chief and President George HW Bush called the New World Order.

One of the most powerful forces aligned against Obama is the alliance between right-wingers in Israel and the US, who see their interests as identical. The base of fundamentalist Christians in the US constitutes the vast majority of Zionists in America. One of our tasks surely has to be to awaken Americans to the facts of Israeli occupation and apartheid. Obama has given us the chance by allowing diplomacy to succeed in Syria at least to the extent that he avoided a direct US attack that could have led to a regional and even world war. Many have concluded that by showing his willingness to let Putin score major points and rebuffing the attempts of Israel and Saudi Arabia to directly attack both Syria and Iran, Obama is showing that he will not bow to the demands of neocons in either Israel or the US. If there were any doubts about this, they should have been dispelled when he immediately reached out to Iran.

It takes a great bit of chutzpah to claim that the decisions that led to Americans stopping a rush to war for the first time in history was the result of a series of foolish stumbles by a President some claim is in the pocket of Israel.  If that were the case, how do they explain his immediately reaching out to Iran as soon as the crisis was over, infuriating both Israel and Saudi Arabia, already seething at his “mistakes” in carrying out the planned attack on Syria? Anyone who still thinks the President doesn’t know what he is doing has been gamed. For the rest of us, let’s take the hint and “be the change we need.”  Demand immediate cuts in the defense budget. Shut down unneeded military bases around the world, get rid of space age weapons that we will never need in an age of American dominance, end drone warfare, drastically curtail domestic surveillance and redirect the money to rebuilding America and becoming a responsible member of the world community.

In a democracy, the people are responsible for the actions of their government. If Americans aspire to living in a democracy and becoming a model for the rest of the world, it is time they took back their government from the hands of the architects of the New World Order. It is possible, and it begins when the movement to amend the constitution to reform campaign finance and abolish the doctrine of corporate constitutional rights becomes the basis of a social movement to end the corrupt rule of the plutocracy.

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