Streams

Is Obama's 'Might and Right' Foreign Policy a Change?

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Fred Kaplan, Slate's War Stories columnist, author of The Insurgents and the Edward R. Murrow press fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, discusses President Obama's foreign policy speech at West Point's commencement ceremony yesterday as well as his latest Slate column.

Guests:

Fred Kaplan

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Comments [48]

Sredni Vashtar from the Shed Out Back

Observations on this lazy Sunday after the original broadcast:

I found it frustrating that none of the West Point callers ventured a political opinion or much of an opinion on anything. It was like Brian was proverbially pulling teeth. The first guy was particularly un-forthcoming. Why call in if you've nothing to say?

I disagree with jgarbuz's definition of American exceptionalism. It's defined different ways by different people, but I think jgarbuz is alone in defining it as the mere fact of it entering Western consciousness after Europeans stumbled upon it and "changing history forever," whatever that means.

I find the accusations of Fred Kaplan being right-wing a bit much when he's married to Brooke Gladstone of On the Media. If anything, she leans a bit left, and I've heard nothing to indicate theirs is a Carville-Matalin type marriage. Having read many of his Slate columns, my sense is that Kaplan is more of a Realpolitik kind of fellow and not a knee-jerk lefty that some commentators apparently wish he were.

Jun. 01 2014 03:14 PM
simpsonsmoveblew

"Every problem can't be solved with a hammer."

There are more categories besides "Wackamole" or "Ignore." Guy's been in office too long.

For the sophisticated leader, this world is alive, holistic and can be navigated by values.

May. 29 2014 09:48 PM
hilts

Tom,

How the heck does revealing US espionage measures taken against China and Russia come under the category of whistle blowing? In the minds of Snowden and Greenwald there is a moral equivalence between the US, China, and Russia.

Sorry to break it to you Tom, but anyone who sees moral equivalence between the US, China, and Russia is in fact a "brain dead zombie".

May. 29 2014 12:35 PM
jf from reality

you can fantasize that in the future people will remember us the way, convincing yourselves that war of choice is legitimate action of a government. But know that my opinion, is the opinion of the future. Militarists will be remembered as little more than cave men or the Spanish inquisition. War is mass murder of innocent people in their homes for corporate looting of the taxes you pay.

May. 29 2014 11:53 AM

RUCB; the founding fathers were part of an armed revolutionary movement. Yes they would be hanged if captured.They might also prevail by winning militarily. Snowden is a lone whistle blower; he does not have an army behind him and has no legal defense if he goes on trial.We are not in a civil war; though we are becoming more polarized.

May. 29 2014 11:51 AM
jf

America is a a polluted depressing trash strewn place with air that is filled with the intense odor of toxic cancer causing chemicals that come from its cars, festering with corporate parasites which are committing murder by selling poison as in mcdonalds and cigarettes, 80% of American food banned in other countries, and tools for murder like guns, destroying the ocean by filling it with plastic, Future meltdowns from temporary nuclear power plants built to last 30 years, fracking, making earthquakes, coal dumping poison in the water supply, oil pipelines breaking and covering towns of poor people. while Germany get's most of its energy from the sun.

May. 29 2014 11:35 AM

Seth; in case you haven't heard there is plenty of immigration going on outside the US. And if you go back far enough all nations are made up of waves of immigration[settlers of conquerors] by various ethnicities,[tribes, we call them if we're talking about the pre nation state past].There was a time when if you weren't quite a WASP you were not deemed American enough. I imagine today in the UK an immigrant from India is considered more "English" then an immigrant from Somalia ,say. Today they're a nation of immigrants too!

May. 29 2014 11:33 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

The United States is the Empire of Liberty and don't who don't see that are blind to the realities of this world. If not for the US, the world would be 10 to 100 times more horrible than it is.`

May. 29 2014 11:16 AM
Tom

Just when it could have been a legitimate debate, "brain dead zombies", and all credibility is lost. sad.

May. 29 2014 11:12 AM
hilts

Congrats to Fred Kaplan for making the case against Edward Snowden.

As evidenced by the comments to this thread, many Brain Lehrer listeners need intense deprogramming because they have become brain dead zombies who believe Snowden is their Messiah. Shame on you Brian for not doing an effective job of educating these criminally naive listeners.

May. 29 2014 11:08 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Sheldon

The NSA is charged with doing things that the president does not want to know about. It's called "deniability." If the president does not know, it's only because his orders are that he is not to know unless things go wrong and it becomes found out. `

May. 29 2014 11:08 AM
jf

The army is nothing but a way to mass murder millions of innocent people for corporate profit. There is no honor in this! ALL SOLDIERS SHAME HUMANITY! PEOPLE WHO NEVER CHOSE TO GO KILL CHILDREN IN THEIR HOMES DESERVE MEDALS. THE ARMY DESERVES TO GO TO PRISON FOR LIFE. IT'S MURDER. TO SELL WEAPONS WITH TAX PAYERS MONEY. TO AVOID UTOPIA. TO DRAIN ALL THE MONEY that could create a better world with no enemies.

May. 29 2014 11:07 AM
JesseLemisch from NYC

What in the world is this right-wing toady doing on Lehrer without come kind of a trigger warning? He was billed as some sort of authority, but his presentation consisted of mindless attacks on Snowden. And, as regards Obama, Kaplan was totally taken in. It's the drones, stupid. Obama doesn't want too many more boots on the ground, but he is announcing his continuation of war by other means.

May. 29 2014 11:06 AM
Seth

The US is the only country built by the hands and blood of people from every other country -- that's what makes us Exceptional. French are in France, Jews are in Isreal, Dutch are in Holland, but Americans are the mutts of the world. People here are stakeholders in every other country. That's why whenever there's a problem in another country it's up to us to help solve it. That's Exceptional, but not Above any other country.

May. 29 2014 11:06 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

Mr Kaplan, when the commander in chief - the #1 defender of our constitution - our President, embarrassingly, did not know that "his" own NSA was tapping the German chancellor's phone - that's a problem. Keep drinking your kool aid sir.

May. 29 2014 11:02 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

This nation is the GREATEST NATION ever to have come into existence in human history, and all those who don't agree I ask them why are you living HERE and not elsewhere? Why don't you GO to a better oountry to live there?

The US liberated the Iraqi people from Saddam as it liberated Germany from Hitler and Japan from Tojo and the militarists. Did many innocent people die in those wars? Of course. The enemy uses its population as human shields. They engage in "asysmmetric" warfare, which means terrorism and using civilians in ways that are illegal under the laws of war as defined in the Geneva Conventions. They do not fight using insignias or distinct uniforms. They fight as guerrilla terrorists and then claim to be "innocent civilians." The Viet Cong used such tactics in Vietnam and the Jihadists used those tactics in the Middle East. But then they claim that America is murdering civilians. Pathetic.

May. 29 2014 10:59 AM
Nick from UWS

@dlm - So what you're saying is that these are people who would rather unquestioningly donate their life to the US military, or unquestioningly take the life of a stranger, than risk a bad assignment or be denied leave. Jesus Christ.

May. 29 2014 10:58 AM
Mr. Bad from NYC

This segment is pure politics, a little mud for everyone to sling... The fact is Obama's speech was terrible, a mediocre rehash of nat sec policy for kindergartners, prolefeed for public consumption, it was the wrong speech for the wrong audience that's all. West Point is an elite university not a community college.

Ed Snowden is most certainly a patriot. He correctly recognized that the constitution is more important then the will of powerful men and the shadow government. Fred Kaplan is a shadow government shill greased by his contacts in the gov to make him feel like he "knows" something. A chump.

May. 29 2014 10:56 AM
Steve from Manhattan

Note to Mr. Kaplan -- Edward Snowden is not a defector, so comparing him to Russian or Chinese defectors is just foolish. And when he repeatedly has said categorically (if not in this particular interview, but in many others) that he has not passed any information to any foreign agent, that includes the FSB. And is the CIA's and NSA's computers really any more secure or immune to foreign agents than Glenn Greenwalds, or yours or mine??

Stop obfuscating and hiding behind red herrings... Your bias blinds you to the realities and truths of this situation and story, and do not befit a journalist of your stature...

May. 29 2014 10:55 AM

@Tom

"So were the men who founded this great nation. As well as many others since who we have built monuments to."

All of the founding fathers knew that they would be hanged if the Crown had captured them.

Snowden broke his employment contract and then ran rather than face prosecution. That is not patriotic. Until Snowden faces the prospect of actual prosecution, his motivations are suspect.

May. 29 2014 10:55 AM
JF

THE ARMED "SERVICE" DOES NOT SERVE OR COUNTRY. SERVING OUR COUNTRY WOULD BE TO BOYCOTT THE ARMY. THEY SERVE EVIL POLITICIANS WHO ORDER MASS MURDER FOR CORPORATE PROFIT!

May. 29 2014 10:55 AM
Mr. Bad from NYC

This segment is pure politics, a little mud for everyone to sling... The fact is Obama's speech was terrible, a mediocre rehash of nat sec policy for kindergartners, prolefeed for public consumption, it was the wrong speech for the wrong audience that's all. West Point is an elite university not a community college.

Ed Snowden is most certainly a patriot. He correctly recognized that the constitution is more important then the will of powerful men and the shadow government. Fred Kaplan is a shadow government shill greased by his contacts in the gov to make him feel like he "knows" something. A chump.

May. 29 2014 10:54 AM
dlm

@Nick and Brian Lehrer

President Obama is the ultimate boss of any West Point Cadet. They or their family would be foolish to publicly criticize him. It would be frowned upon and they would pay in terms of poor assignments, denied leave, etc. So they are just not in position to give an honest opinion.

May. 29 2014 10:53 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Amy

America does have the BEST form of government in the world, and only those who have actually lived or worked elsewhere understand that. The US system of government is the best, the freest, the most respectful of indivdiual rights than any other in the world, except for maybe one or two tiny little countries of minor global significance.

May. 29 2014 10:53 AM
JF

YOU COULD HAVE FREE HEALTH CARE OR YOU COULD GIVE THE MILITARY ALL THE MONEY TO GO MASS MURDER INNOCENT PEOPLE IN THEIR HOMES. MAKE BABIES BURN FROM THE INSIDE OUT WITH WHITE PHOSPHORUS. FREE FIRE ZONES, URANIUM TIPPED WEAPONS RADIOACTIVE FOR MILLIONS OF YEARS. POISONING THE PEOPLE OF IRAQ FOR EVER WITH CANCER.

May. 29 2014 10:52 AM
Amy from Manhattan

I've never heard proponents of American exceptionalism put it in terms of having the best system of gov't. They just say America is the best because it's America, & therefore whatever we do is right.

May. 29 2014 10:50 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

When the Europeans "discovered" this hemisphere, this "New World" they called the Americas it changed the world forever. What makes America "exceptional" is that its very discovery and its integration into the rest of the planet changed the planet forever. The balance between Europe, Asia,Eurasia, Africa was changed forever.

That is what "American exceptionalism" means. It's very discovery and settlment changed the world in a way that cannot be undone. No one wants to confront America directly and everyone wants on America on its side. It is the decisive country. It was in WWI, and certainly in WWII, and put down Communism, Fascism, Nazism and Islamic jihadism. America is the target of anyone wanting to control the planet. That's what makes it exceptional, because it represents freedom and independence to all who really want that stuff.

May. 29 2014 10:50 AM
JF

YOU COULD HAVE FREE COLLEGE FRO EVERYONE OR MURDER MILLIONS OF INNOCENT PEOPLE MAKING AMERICA LESS SAFE WITH A BLOATED MILITARY. CHOICES

May. 29 2014 10:49 AM
Sean from brooklyn

The term should be American Misconceptionalism.

May. 29 2014 10:49 AM
Nick from UWS

Asking new cadets from West Point to comment on the President's speech is like asking a robot what it really thinks of your new suit. It hasn't the slightest idea even how to start. That's the lesson here...West Point cadets are those of the highest level of military brainwashing. Strange that Brian would not realize that.

May. 29 2014 10:48 AM
John from Brooklyn

This is the first time I've had to turn off the Brian Lehrer show. Totally one-sided and ridiculous. A caller claims to speak for all military, and brings up the ridiculous idea of American Exceptionalism, and ISN'T CALLED OUT THEN AND THERE? Is this FOX? JEsus!!!!

May. 29 2014 10:48 AM

Brian, FYI: The Marines are a part of the Navy.
The Commandant of the Marine Corps and the Chief of Naval Operations both report to The Secretary of the Navy:
http://www.navy.mil/navydata/organization/org-over.asp

May. 29 2014 10:47 AM
Tom

"Snowden is a lawbreaker and a fugitive from justice."

So were the men who founded this great nation. As well as many others since who we have built monuments to.

May. 29 2014 10:47 AM
Matti from NYC

Paging John from the office! Marti Chuzz! What do you think about this segment... Ha ha, give us your best remarks! Really tear into this topic and the callers... Or not? So you like the callers?

May. 29 2014 10:47 AM

Why should he be a martyr to our criminal justice system that does not recognize his defense as a whistle blower? He would spend the rest of his life in prison if he says that he broke the law for the good of the country[MLK did not get such harsh sentences when he was part of a movement. He was not tried with being a traitor or a spy].The judge would instruct the jurors to the letter of the law[s]and the sheeple jurors would base their verdict on those instructions, as they often do. Jurors often say they would have liked to acquit or convict as the case may be, but based on the letter of the law as presented by the judge, HAD to render a verdict that went against their actual belief of what would have been real justice. When jurors fail to comprehend that they have the power, and duty to follow their conscience and their reasoning, as that is their role as jurors, then they have been co-opted in a rigged system. Snowden has no legal defense in such a system and would be a fool to give up his freedom for a system where jurors are sheeple following a meta narrative about the judicial system that results in the absurdity of their putting aside their reasoning, power, and belief about what would be just! He does not owe such a flawed system it's due.

May. 29 2014 10:47 AM
oscar from ny

Satan should be pleased by the accomplishments of his retick, finally now the races speak loud and proud with authority as if the hatred for a black president overcomes and soon will pass..so now the races separate themselves even more, the enemy of us is achieving its goal to destroy our art, faith and brotherhood with the lies it mixes with facts..but also a new ppl will emerge from the lord who has sent us in humility to kill these terrorist of freedom, love equality faithfulness to the good of mankind ..I just hope these young ppl learn fast because the devils is in the house..and I don't mean our president.. I mean satan ..the ancient serpant who is the enemy of all the world

May. 29 2014 10:46 AM
jf from SUICIDAL DYSTOPIA CALLED AMERICA

MASS MURDERERS. TRAINING TO BE MASS MURDERERS. SPLATTERING TODDLERS BLOOD ON THE STREETS IN FRONT OF THEIR HOMES. THERE IS NO HONOR IN THE MILITARY. SHAME ON YOU YOU SHAME HUMANITY. OBAMA MURDERED HUNDREDS OF CHILDREN WITH DRONES. SOLDIERS MURDER CHILDREN IN FREE FIRE ZONES. MASS MURDER FOR CORPORATE PROFIT. PERIOD!

May. 29 2014 10:45 AM
hilts

Snowden is a lawbreaker and a fugitive from justice. He's the first whistleblower who didn't have the guts to face the actions of his consequences so he took refuge in a dictatorship.

May. 29 2014 10:44 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

US policy reminds me of the actor Jimmy Stewart, the slow-talkin', slow-thinkin' reluctant sheriff who has a job to do but doesn't really like having to do it, but does it anyway because no one else can do it and everyone is counting on him.

America is just a big Jimmy Stewart, the slow-thinking, slow-talking, reluctant warrior that does it reluctantly but with integrity when it has to do it. Because it has no other choice. America just cannot stand aside because the world falls apart when it does.

May. 29 2014 10:42 AM
Nick from UWS

What I'm hearing is that these kids have drunk so much military Kool Aid that they are now literally unable to think critically or express themselves coherently about the "mission" of the US military. Brainwashed to the max. The better question would be "Why are so many of our children volunteering to get killed or kill others?" What the hell is wrong with them?

May. 29 2014 10:41 AM

rah rah

May. 29 2014 10:38 AM
Tom

This stumbling, bumbling caller is going to be an officer in our military??? another reason for not going to war again anytime soon.

May. 29 2014 10:36 AM

the speak was what you tell a child...or the American public....

May. 29 2014 10:35 AM
Seth

hilts, seriously??? everything Snowden has said has turned out to be true, and everyone in Washington is re-writing laws becasue of what he exposed. Snowden seemed smarter than I gave him credit for. Maybe we need more sissy's in this country not fewer. We'd never know all this if he were in jail.

May. 29 2014 10:31 AM

Snowden exposed with concrete evidence the overreach of our government and non elected leaders...he did a great thing. Who gives a flying fandango if he is a narcissistic.

May. 29 2014 10:30 AM

Interesting re-phrase of that maxim...When all you have is a hammer, everything begins to look like a nail. More than 25% of the Federal budget is spent on the Defense and Intelligence industries. We need to pull down this level of spending, otherwise some future President will be in the position of defending why s/he DID NOT use our hammer...

May. 29 2014 10:28 AM
dlm

This analysis is as disjointed as Obama's speech.

May. 29 2014 10:27 AM
hilts

Snowden was at his most repulsive when explaining why he ended up being in Russia. The US govt didn't force him there. He went there because he doesn't have the guts to face justice in an American courtroom. Snowden is a narcissist and a sissy.

May. 29 2014 10:24 AM

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