Saturday, May 18, 2013

Obama: forcing a generation to grow up? West Point Part 2 (Reposted from Café Magazine, Chicago, 2010)

Somewhere along the line in our narcissistic prosperous ways a generation grew up thinking that the world was a reflection of their own. Any failure of humanity was simply due to the fact that they had yet to be tried.
If socialism failed it was because it hadn't been our turn to try it; we would know how to do it correctly. If there was war in the world it was simply because we had not given peace a chance. If there is poverty in the world it is simply because we haven't been in charge and we haven't given enough.
Only we could imagine a world without countries and no religion too. If only we trusted our egocentric, highly self-esteemed brains more and placed science and "reason" above anything else we could solve all the world's problems. If only we would be in charge some day.  Well, we are now.
Before the presidential elections we said that Obama was going to have to follow through on the policies of his predecessor regardless of his campaign rhetoric. In many regards he even said so himself. But many of his supporters, including the Rev. Wright, thought he was just being a politician, and as soon as he got to the White House he would bring all the troops home and the “two wars” would end. We said he would have to follow through because it is the realistic thing to do.
Obama's acceptance speech in Norway can be seen as West Point part 2.  As we mentioned before (“A Bubble gum Prize…”) Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to him as an attempt to tie “his hands and builds unrealistic expectations” and as “yet another effort to meddle in U.S. politics”. Ironically President Obama’s award of the Peace Prize has demonstrated that peace is not just talking about peace.
But president Obama has surprised many and shown a great deal of independence, at least in his speech. For those wondering about his foreign policy it seems he has declared himself a realist. We can also call it “continuity” abroad and at home. President Obama will basically continue President Bush’s policies abroad while continuing to balance his audiences at home.
There are many things in the speech that conservatives and liberals have found fault with, specially “conservatives”. But let the speeches at Norway and West Point speak for themselves. Let’s also look at some of his predecessor’s speeches.
“We are at war”, President Obama. “The terrorists and their supporters declared war on the United States”, President Bush.
“I come here filled with difficult questions about the relationship between war and peace”, President Obama. “I just want you to know that, when we talk about war, we're really talking about peace”, President Bush.
“Evil does exist in the world. A nonviolent movement could not have halted Hitler's armies. Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda's leaders to lay down their arms”, President Obama. “I'll just tell you that there are people at Gitmo that will kill American people at a drop of a hat and I don't believe that persuasion is going to work. Therapy isn't going to cause terrorists to change their mind”, President Bush.
“Only a just peace based upon the inherent rights and dignity of every individual can truly be lasting”, President Obama. “Our aim is a democratic peace - a peace founded upon the dignity and rights of every man and woman”, President Bush.
“The United States of America has helped underwrite global security for more than six decades with the blood of our citizens and the strength of our arms.  We have done so out of enlightened self-interest -- because we seek a better future for our children and grandchildren”, President Obama. “Hundreds of thousands of American servicemen and women are deployed across the world in the war on terror. By bringing hope to the oppressed and delivering justice to the violent, they are making America more secure”, President Bush.
“I am the commander in chief of a nation in the midst of two wars”, President Obama. “I believe the most solemn duty of the American president is to protect the American people”, President Bush.
“I -- like any head of state -- reserve the right to act unilaterally if necessary to defend my nation”, President Obama. “America will never seek a permission slip to defend the security of our people”, President Bush.
“The world continues to support our efforts in Afghanistan… the recognized principle of self-defense. Likewise, the world recognized the need to confront Saddam Hussein when he invaded Kuwait”, President Obama (remember, the second invasion of Iraq was continuation of the war initiated by Saddam “when he invaded Kuwait”).  “I believe that the free Iraq is in this nation's interests. Some have argued that confronting the threat from Iraq could detract from the war against terror. To the contrary, confronting the threat posed by Iraq is crucial to winning the war on terror”, President Bush.
“If I did not think that the security of the United States and the safety of the American people were at stake in Afghanistan, I would gladly order every single one of our troops home tomorrow. I make this decision because I am convinced that our security is at stake in Afghanistan and Pakistan”, President Obama (West Point). “I believe a free Afghanistan is in this nation's interest”, President Bush.
“We have given Iraqis a chance to shape their future, and we are successfully leaving Iraq to its people”, President Obama (West Point). “For all who love freedom and peace, the world without Saddam Hussein's regime is a better and safer place,” President Bush. Speaking for President Obama, U.N. ambassador Susan Rice said that Afghanistan, in her words, is “one theater of operation” in a larger war. “Iraq is no diversion. It is a place where civilization is taking a decisive stand against chaos and terror, we must not waver”, President Bush.

It took political courage for President Obama to move this far from his campaign postures. But why does President Obama insists in the false dichotomy of the “two wars”?  The answer must be “domestic politics”. It is time to rise to statesmanship and do away with the unjustified partisan jabs. But it would take extraordinary guts to go that one step further and admit that President Bush was basically right, at least publicly. In private he has already done so.
Perhaps before his term runs out we will hear from President Obama a similar humorous and self-deprecating quote like this one: "You can fool some of the people all the time, and those are the ones you want to concentrate on", President Bush.
In all seriousness we hope it would be more like this one: “I understand everybody in this country doesn't agree with the decisions I've made. And I made some tough decisions. But people know where I stand. The true history of my administration will be written 50 years from now, and you and I will not be around to see it”, President Bush.


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