Heading Forward to the Past, Colltalers
We’re back to our miserable ways again, a steady, media-fueled, seemingly inexorable path to yet another war in a faraway land. As we all now know, this chain reaction always starts when ‘advisors’ are sent. Then come the air strikes and shortly thereafter, a full blown intervention.
Whether President ‘Hope’ Obama is to blame for lighten up the wick this time, or events on the ground in Iraq are simply too strong an allure to avoid an armed response, may be theme for countless books to be published in 20 years or so. For now, what’s clear is that we’re A-Go.
Which means that we haven’t learned zilch from our pass experiences, some of them still in progress. Afghanistan remains an open wound, Pakistan and Libya are germ-festering inflammations, and the situation in Ukraine and Gaza is far from coming to a peaceful resolution.
On the contrary, both Russia and Israel took quick advantage from falling off of last week’s headlines, to advance their questionable claims over neighbors’ territories. As the world can’t keep its focus on more than two or three conflicts at a time, they may be just being pragmatic.
And so is, for completely different reasons, the Ebola virus, which keeps thriving in poverty-stricken Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, spreading undeterred through entire regions. It’s killing both the sick and also the doctors and medical personnel engaged in treating them.
There’s no need to continue listing the well-know corollary of illnesses and pestilence sickening this world of ours. But the point can’t be missed, that yet another multi-billion war effort, and the certain loss of thousands of lives taken with it, can’t really be the solution to anything.
About that hope thing, and unfulfilled presidential promises. The election of Barack Obama has been the single, most unpredictable fact in American politics since, arguably, the JFK assassination (which may be revived once again next week, with the Warren ‘Single-Bullet-Theory’ Commission report’s 50th anniversary). After over 200 years of republic, the U.S. finally elected a black man to its highest office. Hooray.
His ascension from a bright but little known Chicago politician to a position to, first, challenge heavy-weights of the Democratic Party, and then take on the still large racist percentage of this country, was a historical, and unprecedented feat of far reaching consequences.
More than his race would imply, however – in what was likely done by design -, what the candidate Obama attracted was an earth-shattering mandate to heal the nation, reassert its democratic role in the world, and, yes, reassess social and economic priorities, race relations included.
It took less than a year for such promising mandate to start collapsing under the weight of a congressional body far removed from ideals of social and race equality, and the complexities and geopolitics of a world in constant transition. Plus a handful of poor decisions of his own.
But while cynics rushed to slap ‘I told you so’ all over our flatten faces, it’s a fact that most campaign promises rarely survive a few months in office, so this commander-in-chief is not alone in succumbing to serious shortcomings while transitioning from candidate to president.
Then came reelection (don’t worry, we’re not about to run an Obama inventory just yet, and we’re just about to get to the point), and, despite considerable nail bitting, the president’s win also put on a display his new-found pragmatic approach to the politics of the possible.
Some say that’s when we write the death sentence of our high humanistic aspirations for the future. Perhaps. But what’s puzzling now, when President Obama is not yet quite the lame duck he’s about to become in a year or so, is why he’s already showing a certain fatigue, and renewed willingness to get even closer to Pentagon hawks and the same warmongering politicians who’ve worked so hard to undermine his presidency.
That he’s now reasserting a similar rhetoric, that in the past led this nation to spill rivers of blood and sink billions into the warrantless Iraq war, only gives credence to the claims that the president has abandoned some of the principles that got him elected in the first place. Never mind the ‘novelty’ of his race as a defining factor, young voters’ enthusiasm, or the muscular social network campaign that they’ve ignited.
Indeed, a recurrent criticism of President Obama has been how quickly he adopted the mantle of protector of this country’s military hegemony, rather than its tradition of civil rights, and how often he’s parroted the national security credo to justify political assassinations, spying on citizens and progressive organizations, and support a defense doctrine that constantly runs over and demoralizes diplomatic efforts.
As for the president’s Wednesday speech, outlining and formulating what could be characterized as a familiar set of prerequisites, in order NOT to go to open war with ISIS, including his denial that’s he’s willing to do just that, it was easy to detect some of the flaws of his rationale.
For despite his oratorial skills, he couldn’t avoid implying that ‘a broad coalition to roll back this terrorist threat,’ is still on paper and to date, no country not named U.K. has formally signed up to it. Even more glaring is the absence of America’s most disreputable friend, Saudi Arabia.
A radical religious dictatorship, the country’s been the inconvenient American ally, largely invisible and rarely mentioned in the same sentence with the word terrorists, like Iran and the Palestine ever so casually are, even though Osama bin Laden and 15 of the 19 9/11 bombers were Saudi nationals. Would that be because its majority is as Sunni as ISIS? or is it because it’s also the world’s largest oil producer? Both, perhaps?
Just as others before him, President Obama either subscribes to a flawed belief that the U.S. is in a position to purge the sins of the world, and not be called upon its own, or has fallen into the trap defense contractors have set up to him. In any case, he’s at an all too common quagmire.
Lacking the political clout to confront unrealistic expectations about containing what’s been a religious bush war since the 7th century, the president could’ve tried to seek guidance from a political demographics he hasn’t consulted with since his early days in office: his constituency.
Instead, he appealed to an indifferent congress, whose many members of his party are at peril of losing their own comfy political seats in the coming midterm elections. Or even worse, to Republicans who, from day one, have never for a single moment supported any of his decisions.
You may gather by now that we’re not optimistic about the outlook for a nuanced solution for the Middle East, specially because we don’t live in that zip code and those who do, don’t seem to give a damn about finding common ground as we do. Gee, with all the efforts to becoming energy-self-sufficient relying almost exclusively on fuel-based sources, one wonders why we remain so fixated on that part of the world.
Coming full circle, for as long as there are powerful interests at risk, underlying and dictating our involvement out there, we don’t see how even more weapons will bring about a lasting solution for that mess. Specially while ordinary Americans are left to rot for lack of jobs, housing, better health care, and, yes, racial equality. Or why vilifying ideologies that oppress and deny citizens’ most basic rights sound so familiar.
They may talk about leadership as if it were synonymous with bigger weapons, when most people know, or should, that one leads by example, by deeds, by standing in defense of those who can’t fend for themselves. The hungry, the sick, the homeless, deserve as much, if not more, compassion, and willingness to wage war, as those engaged in a death match to decide whose god is best, and whose followers are worthier.
With the level of media manipulation we’ve been submitted, is not likely that a large-scale anti-war movement, a coalition of progressive forces of society, here and in the rest of the world, will hit the streets anytime soon. Not until blood starts spilling again, or some kind of draft is reinstated, forcing sons and daughters of privilege to serve and give their lives for the country, as it’s required from the poor and the immigrant.
Short of that, we hope against hope that calmer minds and kinder hearts prevail, and peace efforts come to fruition and all that, of course. We haven’t given up but won’t apologize for not being overtly positive about our current predicament either. Still, as we tell each other and mean it, have a great week, for despite everything, we still have at least one condition to make all the good possible in this world: we’re alive.
Since we’ve spoken of the U.K., a last, wee word to wish luck to our Scottish friends (and possibly distant relatives) at their own moment of reckoning. There’s no right or wrong way to go about it, so choose wisely and may your vote count for something good for all Scots. WC