Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Well the "election of the century" is over and done. Wall Street failed to give their candidate of moderation a resounding vote of confidence, plunging almost 50o points on the day after the election. This, however, is not a vote of "no confidence" either, as the expectations of an Obama victory had been factored into stock prices for weeks before the event. the market responded today to further bad economic news rather than to anything political, and tomorrow or the day after is likely to see further wild swings either up or down.
Molly will comment on the Obama victory in her own time and way. My first impulse was to head over to a couple of the worst American anarchist sites ( you know the type, either the terminally cultish or those who want to promote the idea that minor childish vandalism is of exactly the same significance as major popular movements and that we should all be one big happy family) to see if I could dredge up the usual self-referential cheerleading for mindless escalation of militancy. I couldn't find anything really good and stupid, only slightly so. I'm sure it will appear soon enough. Quite often when I read "anarcho" stuff coming out of the USA I fail to see much difference between them and the equally mindless "conservatives" of their country. On election night I saw an example of this on the BBC when one conservative media guest threw a temper tantrum over an interview at Republican headquarters that was slightly !!! questioning, in a way that those of us outside the imperial borders find quite normal in our media. Froth, froth, froth, spit, spit, spit..."liberal media bias". My God, these people are as clueless as many of my own mad comrades down USA way are. "Liberal" is not equivalent to "mother-fucking son-of-a-bitch" out here in the rest of the world. "Back in your kennel !" Bad dog ! Bad dog!
Well, I know for a fact that there are many good and sensible anarchist comrades down USA way, and I have great hope that they will eventually overwhelm their nuts. All that I can say is that I'm glad it isn't such a great problem up here in the frozen north despite the best efforts of 'Anarchy Inc.' to export their trash to other countries.
All that is well and good, and hopefully I'll be able to find a sensible American commentary soon to reprint here rather than looking for nuttiness. For the moment, however, here's one view from the buffer states ie Britain. The following was reprinted on the Libcom site, but it comes originally from the English Peace News website. Much of what the Obama presidency has promised is domestic in nature, but a great part of his appeal to the rest of the world is in the hope of a change in US foreign policy. Here is one view from Britain.
Obama wins, but will he bring change?:

Democrat Barack Obama today became the first African-American president of the United States. But in foreign policy will he deliver the change he has promised?
It is hard not to get carried away by the hysteria of Obamania.

Those wishing to keep a level head should certainly keep away from the mainstream media. Jonathan Freeland, writing about Barack Obama's July speech in Berlin for the UK's most progressive national newspaper The Guardian, breathlessly reported the Democratic US presidential nominee "almost floated into view, walking to the podium on a raised, blue-carpeted runway as if he were somehow, magically, walking on water." Although he doesn't reference the second coming, the liberal American journalist Jann Wenner's description of the Great Black Hope is no less gushing: "There is a sense of dignity, even majesty, about him, and underneath that ease lies a resolute discipline... Like Abraham Lincoln, Barack Obama challenges America to rise up, to do what so many of us long to do: to summon ‘the better angels of our nature'."

The propensity of some journalists to bow to the powerful clearly knows no bounds. But what lies behind the slogans, sound bites and rhetoric presented to us by Obama's slick PR machine and the willfully naïve media?

Contrary to the widespread myth surrounding his candidacy, from his public statements there is very little to suggest Obama will make significant changes to US foreign policy - the topic of his Berlin speech and the issue that most effects the rest of the world.

Like George Bush, Obama views the world in Manichean terms and believes the United States has a divine right to intervene anywhere in the world. "We lead the world in battling immediate evils and promoting the ultimate good", he proclaimed in his first major foreign policy speech in April 2007. "We must lead by building a 21st century military.... I strongly support the expansion of our ground forces by adding 65,000 soldiers to the Army and 27,000 Marines." That's right folks, liberal America's poster boy wants to increase the size of the US military, whose 2008 budget is already a staggering $711 billion - a figure greater than the budget of the next 45 highest spending countries in the world combined.

It is important to remember Obama's opposition to the foreign policy of the Bush Administration has largely been on tactics grounds - cost and failure - rather than principled moral objections. For example, Obama believes the US invasion and continuing occupation of Iraq is a "strategic error", rather than an illegal act - as described by ex-United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan - or the "supreme international crime," as the Nuremberg Tribunal determined in 1946. Indeed, for a man who prides himself on being a "citizen of the world" Obama is strangely silent about the suffering of other nations under the boot of his own. How many times has he mentioned the more than one million Iraqi people who have died because of the invasion, according to UK polling company Opinion Research Business?

His headline grabbing pledge to withdraw from Iraq, is actually nothing of the sort. If you read the small print you will find Obama has only promised to withdraw combat troops, which only comprise about a third of US forces currently in Iraq and Kuwait. Earlier this year Robert Kahl, Obama's foreign policy coordinator on Iraq, recommended keeping between 60,000 and 80,000 troops in Iraq until at least 2010 to play an "over-watch role" - supposedly to conduct ‘counter-terrorism' operations, train Iraqi government security forces and protect US facilities and citizens.

By reducing US troop levels in Iraq Obama hopes to transfer 10,000 extra troops to escalate the increasingly bloody ‘good war' in Afghanistan - where President Bush "responded properly" he noted. Indeed by signing an order in July authorising illegal US military ground incursions in to neighbouring Pakistan, the incumbent US President seemed to be paying tribute to the Senator from Illinois, who had stated his support for the exact same policy a year before. "I continue to believe that we're under-resourced in Afghanistan... the real centre for terrorist activity that we have to deal with and deal with aggressively", said Obama in the summer. Compare this militaristic posturing to this month's admission by the British military's top brass that the war can not be won militarily, and the testimony of the current British Ambassador to Afghanistan, who reportedly said the US/NATO presence is "part of the problem, not the solution" and that the American strategy was "destined to fail."

On Iran, Obama told the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in June "there is no greater threat to Israel - or the peace and stability of the region - than Iran." Interviewed by Fox News's Bill O'Reilly last month about the so-called nuclear ambitions of Tehran, Obama stated he "would never take a military option off the table". US dissident Noam Chomsky perceptively points out that by constantly threatening Iran with military strikes, Obama is brazenly violating the UN Charter, and also going against the wishes of the vast majority of Americans, with 75 per cent favouring building better relations with Iran, according to a recent Program on International Policy Attitudes poll. Furthermore, by telling a Cuban American audience in 2007 that he would continue the barbaric 47-year embargo on Cuba because "it is an important inducement for change", Obama views are not only opposed by the majority of Americans (who broadly support ending the embargo), but also run counter to global public opinion, with the UN General Assembly voting 184 to 4 in favour of ending the blockade last year.

Obama's hawkish pronouncements shouldn't really be surprising when you consider most of the United States' wars in the modern era have been initiated by Democratic presidents - Kennedy and Johnson in Vietnam, Carter in Afghanistan and Clinton in Somalia, Kosovo and Iraq in 1998.As the only realistic alternative was the Republican John McCain, progressives in the United States and around the world were undoubtedly hoping for a Obama victory on November 4. However, we should not be under any illusions about what that really means. Those opposed to aggressive western military interventions abroad and corporate-led globalisation, fearful of climate change and interested in promoting fair trade and human rights will have to continue to fight for these causes regardless.
Text written by Ian Sinclair for Peace News. Slightly edited by libcom for context

1 comment:

Larry Gambone said...

An excellent article, I read it in its entirety. I see certain possible similarities between the present situation and that of the Kennedy election. In 1960, the Civil Rights Movement was developing and the New Left was in an embryonic state. No one (especially the “experts”) would have guessed what was in store for the USA (and the world) in a mere 7 years. Kennedy was a conservative Democrat Cold Warrior, but who spoke of change and hope and had an aura of youth and vigour. Millions of Americans took him at his word and began a serious push for peace, civil rights and the eradication of poverty. Kennedy had to be pushed kicking and screaming to act in these directions. His recalcitrance, plus the action of being in a mass movement for change radicalized a large section of the youth, who then went way, way, beyond DP corporate liberalism. I think the possibility exists for a similar development with Obama, with the following differences: 1. It won't be just the youth that will be radicalized, but the adult working class 2. The social movements and the anarchist and socialist organizations are already there, on the ground – “the wheel does not need to be re-invented” as in the 1960's. 3.An economic, environmental and social crisis of massive proportions exists 4. the US Empire is in decline. These factors lead me to conclude that the radicalization could be much more profound and effective than 40 years ago. After a generation of brutal reaction, the American people may surprise the rest of the world and become an inspiration once more, as the 1960's Movement inspired us back then.