Bodine discusses Middle East policy
According to Bodine, modern American foreign policy must strike a balance between the relatively passive practice of leading by example and the relatively active practice of supporting American policies through interventionist means. Bodine called the current administration’s policies a welcome shift from the “muscular,” “neoconservative” policies of President Bush that strongly embraced the active view.
“The Bush foreign policy felt very strongly that we were exceptional, not only in terms of our roots and how we viewed ourselves but that we embodied world values,” she said, alluding to a “toxic mix” created by a unipolar international environment, a very strong economy and a world that “admired who we were.”
In Iraq, Bodine said the Bush administration not only hoped to remove a terrible dictator, but also wished to “remake Iraq and remake the Middle East.” She said that neoconservatives took a “global social engineering” approach to foreign policy.
“In those circles, there was a sense that we can do this on our own, we should do this on our own and we have an obligation to do this,” she said.
“The other legacy of Iraq is that we took our eye off Afghanistan,” Bodine noted. “Iraq was going to be easy … We would go over and finish Afghanistan, and we will be home before lunch.”
According to Bodine, the extended wars in Iraq and Afghanistan left President Obama with very difficult circumstances, “including an economy on the precipice and a military stretched thin.”
One of the Obama administration’s accomplishments over the last four years has been to change the rhetoric and substance of its policy on democratization, Bodine said.
“We stopped saying you have to democratize the way we tell you,” she added. “Each country will have their own form of democracy.”
According to Bodine, Obama foreign policy has continued to support change in governments but has allowed countries to change at the pace and in the style they prefer.
“This is not a truth relativism,” she said. “There are core human values, but the way you structure your societies to reflect this is up to you.” She said this has been reflected in the Obama administration’s comparatively nuanced dealings with the Arab Spring.
Another major part of the current policy, Bodine said, is a shift back to multilateralism and support for international structures. She added that there has been a walk back from engagement, but not a total avoidance of it, as exemplified in the U.S. doctrine of “leading from behind” in Libya.
Another way the United States has remained engaged in the world is through the use of drones, about which Bodine said she has “serious misgivings.” Bodine said she is wary that drones have become far from the exception: Today, they are a strategy of choice, justified as an alternative to boots on the ground.
“From our point of view, it’s a nice weapon; you sit in Nevada, and you shoot,” she said. However, she added, “The collateral damage has a cost, and the political costs are starting to outweigh any of the strategy benefits they might be.”
A drone overhead can see exactly where you are going, who you are meeting with and then suggest if you are up to no good, Bodine said.
“To me, that is a very creepy feeling,” she said.
The discussion took place in the den of Campus Club on Monday night.
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