Monday, June 07, 2010
Obama And The World: Should America Have A Foreign Policy? Does The World Need It?
There was a time, a century ago, when Turkey was known as the sick man of Europe. Today America might be called the psychopath of the planet.
Or a beehive collapse disorder in the ecology of politics.
Let's try an extended metaphor. America is like Heidegger being a Nazi: how could the begetter of Sein und Zeit, a man of supernatural intelligence, his head full of great ideas ... how could he have fallen for all that Germanic-destiny-embodied-in-Der-Fuhrer claptrap? How can we Americans, our heads full of ideas of greatness, our hallowed constitution enshrining the freedom of the individual ... how can we go forth and kill foreign individuals by the thousands on a pretty regular basis?
How could Heidegger have thought that ancient Greek and his German were the only languages worth thinking in? How can we think our country is the only indispensable nation worth emulating?
We happen to be the dark id of nations, yet we imagine we're the shiny superego.
We happen to drop more bombs on people than anyone, yet we believe we're crop-spraying the manna of freedom.
We happen to be Darth Vader, but we think we're Luke Skywalker.
Heck, while we're at it, let's carry our metaphors to a vulgar extreme: for the US to have a foreign policy is like putting a vagina on a rock. It seems like an interesting idea, and it softens the idea of a rock, but in the end, a rock is a rock, and who wants to sex it up with a rock?
President Obama is the vagina on our rock. He talks pretty, and looks pretty, even to the hard cases out there, but in the end, America is still a hard rock, whose foreign policy consists of nothing less than killing foreign civilians by the thousands via bombs, drones and guns, or devastating the world economy via Wall Street. Plus we've got over 800 military bases all over the world -- staging places to make it easier for us to kill foreigners.
I'm just trying to stick to the facts here. I'm trying to avoid reification -- creating a thing out of an abstraction. I'm throwing out metaphors to head-butt our language into the Ding-an-Sich of what we do. We talk about America being all for promoting human rights and freedom -- abstractions, abstractions, metaphors, metaphors -- but the actual scientifically verifiable real-life strictly-data facticity of our foreign adventures, the realpolitik behind the screen of metaphors, the concrete here-and-now specificity of our being-in-the-world, comes down to this and this alone:
Thousands of dead bodies laid out in the morgues and graves of foreign lands, put there by our soldiers and their weapons.
Our foreign policy is to kill foreigners.
AMERICA'S FOREIGN POLICY IS TO KILL FOREIGNERS.
Suck on that one, dear reader. Let the banal simplicity of this bald claim sink into the tight spaces between your teeth.
Some foreign policy, eh? Not that we would ever admit it. There's a gap between what we say and what we do -- between our aura and our actions, between our policy statements and our material effect on the world -- that's wider than the gap between Hannah Arendt and Lady Gaga.
1. THE WORLD'S PROBLEMS AND HOW WE MAKE THEM WORSE
With the wars in Iraq and Iran and Pakistan, and the war of Wall Street against regular folks, the US has caused most of the unnecessary problems in the world.
Is there a counterpoint to this devastation? Have we done anything much to help solve the world's problems?
The war in Congo in which five to six million people have been killed and thousands raped: we haven't solved that. In fact, we've stayed out of it. Perhaps that's a good thing: if we were involved, there may be ten million dead by now.
The war in the Sudan, the genocide in Darfur, etcetera: we haven't solved that. We got a little involved, but then got the hell out. Perhaps wisely, too.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict: we haven't solved that. In fact, with all the money we give Israel, we're just making it easier for them to kill Palestinians, which they do at a rate of 30 Palestinians dead for every Israeli dead. We're standing firmly behind the guys who kill more of the other guys. Perhaps if we didn't, fewer people would get killed.
World poverty and world hunger: we haven't solved that. In fact, the effect of our Wall Street meltdown threw a 100 million folks all over the world out of work and into hunger. We've made this problem worse.
Climate change: we haven't solved that. In fact, together with China, we're the ones creating the problem. Per person, we create more pollution and planet-damaging emissions than anyone: we're only 4% of the world's population, yet we burn up 25% of the resources it burns.
Drugs: we haven't solved that. In fact, we create this problem, because we're the biggest market for drugs.
But don't despair, America. We now have this great new president, whose skin color resembles millions of foreigners out there, and whose middle name Hussein is conveniently Muslim, and who is the most popular world leader since Jesus.
But what has he done?
Let's take a look at Obama and his various penumbrous interstices with the world out there. Let's fix our regard on four topics:
1. Obama and the Muslim world.
2. Obama and climate change.
3. Obama and China.
4. Obama and nukes.
That about covers the extent of our current foreign policy.
And as policy goes, it's about as weird and wacky as can be imagined: US foreign policy is an irony-clad scenario penned by Billy Wilder in partnership with Terry Southern and Charlie Kaufman, enacted by Monte Python on a Shakespearean stage littered with dead bodies.
2. OBAMA AND THE MUSLIM WORLD
Obama has, in the parlance of fluffy new-age speak, “reached out” to the Muslim world. He committed this compelling deed of nicey-nicey nicety in a speech in Cairo on June 4, 2009. He said: “have come here to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world; one based upon mutual interest and mutual respect; and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive, and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles – principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.” He said: “In Ankara, I made clear that America is not – and never will be – at war with Islam. We will, however, relentlessly confront violent extremists who pose a grave threat to our security. Because we reject the same thing that people of all faiths reject: the killing of innocent men, women, and children.”
But what is he actually doing? He's out there killing Muslims, and many, if not most of them, are innocent men, women and children. We call them collateral damage, but they're actually human people with families. Our speciality appears to be blowing up wedding parties.
Obama's predecessor Bush began this war on the innocent for a quite sensible if not very moral reason -- to get our hands on their oil. But that hasn't worked out all that smoothly, and now we're just out there killing people. I haven't seen any valid excuse for our current killing, in either Iraq or Afghanistan. We're sort of stuck on automatic killing cruise control. At least Obama has promised to get us out of Iraq and Afghanistan, so we're on a sort of temporary diminishing slo-mo killing spree. With some vague teleology of we'll-stop-killing-you-guys-sometime-soonish when our president thinks he's done enough to convince all the hawks in America that he's a stand-up killer of foreigners. We've got nothing against you towelheads per se, OK? It's just that we've got to keep up appearances back home. Hope you understand.
That's our relationship with the Muslim world: we talk pretty and kill them.
Being human, just like us, they don't like it. In fact, they sporadically try and kill us back. They did it spectacularly well on 9/11, and spectacularly not-well with the shoe bomber, the exploding gonads Christmas bomber, and the Times Square car bomber, this last attempt having a less explosive effect on our citizenry than a Meg Ryan snit fit has on Tom Hanks (although it's been useful as propaganda, because we're now claiming it's Taliban-inspired, to give us some kind of spurious reason for fighting the Taliban, I guess).
The terrorists staged a remarkable killing coup on 9/11, but ever since then it's been terrorism by stoners. Harold and Kumar Blow Up White Castle. The best bit of terrorism was when an Iraqi journalist threw two shoes at George Bush. That's how I like my terrorism: weird and wonderful and fun with the target being missed. Not that I would've minded seeing a nice red bump on Bush's forehead caused by Muslim leather, to add to the self-inflicted bumps he got from choking on a pretzel.
At least the terrorists have been totally explicit about the reasons for their actions. The so-called 9/11 mastermind Shaikh Mohammed says he masterminded 9/11 because of US support for Israel against Palestine and US support for other repressive regimes in Middle East. That's why the 9/11 hijackers were mostly Saudis -- they hate the Saudi government, and they hate our support of that government.
But that fount of presidential wisdom, President George W. Bush, said the 9/11 hijackers attacked us because they hate our freedoms. Now this is a man who has acres of verdant BS between his privileged Yalie ears, a kind of mountainous Himalaya territory of rocky, snowy BS from sea to shiny sea ... but this hate-our-freedoms mantra has got to be the most immense shit of the bull out of a human mouth since Jesus promised folks that the meek shall inherit the earth. As Osama Bin Laden wittily taunted back, if they hate us because of our freedoms, why didn't they attack that most free of all Western nations, Sweden, instead of America?
It's like we don't want to admit that the terrorists have any half-valid reason to be cross with us. It's like we're too morally sissy to own up to the fact that their horrible actions may have something to do with our horrible actions. They've got to be totally irrational hate-our-freedoms jerkoid mindless idiots, not guys with a valid beef. In fact, it's totally bizarre that the motivations for the 9/11 attack are nowhere to be found in our august 9/11 Commission's Report. One might say that the terrorists have been incredibly unsuccessful, because we never got why they're doing what they're doing -- so we can't ever learn to do anything that'll take away their motivation and make us safe. Jeez, what do they have to do for us to get the point? Perhaps sky-write over Washington every day for the next decade -- “hey, we terrorists are trying to massacre Americans because we don't like you backing the Israelis against the Palestinians and propping up oppressive regimes in the Middle East. We promise not to terrorize you if you just pull your schnozzes out of our business.”
The 9/11 Commission blithely omitted this from their report. They got the when and the where and the how, but not the important why. Listen, let's not tell the world why the bastards attacked us. Let's just say they're crazy maniacs inspired by the desire to bonk seventy-two virgins. Hey, let's not EVER upset our touchy pals in AIPAC and Israel by saying they're the reason we're getting attacked. Let's not give our dumbfuck American public any good reason to start saying we should think twice about our support for Israel and Saudi-Arabia. The fact that our foreign policy actually CAUSES and ENCOURAGES terrorism in the world should be left right out of our foreign policy considerations. That's what makes us such a rational actor on the world stage, compared to the terrorists who are incomprehensibly loco compared to how sane we are. After all, we've got more reason to kill hundreds of thousands of Iraqis than they have to kill a few thousand Americans. They want to kill us because they're crazy, and we kill them because ... er, because ... er ... we need to fight them over there so they don't fight us here ... no, that was our excuse two years ago ... er ... how about this? after we establish democracy in Iraq, it will create a miraculous domino effect of freedom in the Middle East ... er, is that a little too pie in the sky? ... er, how about ... er ... whatever.
It's taken a complaint by our commander in the region -- General David Petraeus -- to focus some brief attention on the why of “Islamic terrorism.” He is our latest moronic military hero, because he oversaw the “surge” success in Iraq -- which was not achieved by a surge in troops, but by a surge in cash with which we bought off our Sunni insurgent enemies. (Silly question: shouldn't we just have paid off Hitler, and how much might he have settled for?) This hapless hero of the neocons, Petraeus, explained that "enduring hostilities between Israel and some of its neighbors present distinct challenges to our ability to advance our interests in the area of responsibility ... Arab anger over the Palestinian question limits the strength and depth of U.S. partnerships with governments and peoples."
I guess we should count ourselves lucky that Petraeus was not immediately branded an anti-Semite and exiled to Gaza. I guess all those medals he plasters on his uniform afford him some protection from our pro-Zionist commentariat (though there was a bit of a fuss). Obama doesn't have all those medals, so you won't find him repeating the statements of his favorite general. No, Obama will complain about the Israelis building settlements, but he'll do nothing to actually stop them from doing it, even if they rudely announce they're doing it in contested Jerusalem while VP Joe Biden is visiting Israel. Obama will get Hillary to make a self-righteous phone call to the Israelis. He'll get our Special Envoy George Mitchell to run like a glorified messenger lad between Israel and the Palestinians, trying to organize proximity talks. “Proximity” talks: WTF!? I'm guessing it means that folks living down the block from each other prefer to talk to each other via intermediaries because they can't stand to see each other face to face in case they catch each other's cooties. No doubt such talks are a sure road to everlasting peace and all-around comity.
And when Israeli soldiers act like pirates and board a ship in international waters and kill a bunch of humanitarian activists who have the gall to fight with them when they rappel onto their ship, what does Obama do? (Really weird that Israel is saying their soldiers were attacked -- that's like a guy breaking into a house complaining the owner hit him with a chair -- and also saying the ships were more interested in breaking the Gaza blockade than delivering humanitarian aid -- of course they were interested in breaking the blockade, just like civil rights workers in the South were more interested in desegregating lunch counters than getting lunch.) The whole world outside the US is shocked and disgusted at Israel, and Israelis themselves think they've created a PR disaster (Israeli novelist David Grossman surely has the last word: “Above all, this insane operation shows how far Israel has declined”), but what does Obama do? He asks for an investigation.
In short, Obama is doing everything he can to do absolutely nothing. With Obama, oratory replaces the drudgery of actual industry. A pose is better than a deed. His doing-nothing-ness includes his nice speech in Cairo, when he said, “As the Holy Koran tells us, 'Be conscious of God and speak always the truth.' That is what I will try to do – to speak the truth as best I can, humbled by the task before us, and firm in my belief that the interests we share as human beings are far more powerful than the forces that drive us apart.”
Yada, yada. Have no fear, Babyface Barack will continue to speak the untruth. Not because he's a born liar, but because our foreign policy is a born lie, and Obama, along with all America, buys into the grundliche lie that our foreign policy is not about killing foreigners, but about freedom or human rights or stabilizing unstable countries (unstable because we destabilized them), or whatever other metaphors and abstractions occur to our politicians to blind them to the fact that our heroic troops are blowing foreign children to bloody bits on a daily basis -- kind of like Catholic priests abusing kids, but in our case we leave them mercifully dead instead of alive and traumatized. Mind you, often the parents are blown to bits, and the kids ARE left orphaned and traumatized. We do this even though more Americans die in our wars than the terrorists killed with 9/11. And let's not forget that so far an extra 30,000 of our soldiers got diagnosed with brain injuries AFTER they got back home from the war. We devastate the living on top of killing ourselves.
Oy vey, America. If you're a foreign country, just pray to your gods that America doesn't decide to develop a foreign policy towards you.
3. OBAMA AND CLIMATE CHANGE
So plucky Obama goes to the UN climate summit in Copenhagen in December 2009, where 119 countries meet to tackle with might and main the planet's biggest problem -- its future fitness for human habitation.
What happens? The weirdest things.
The developing world -- the ones we smashed up in colonial days so now they're still developing instead of being developed, so they don't have their own Wall Streets to ruin themselves and have to depend on us for their ruination -- this developing world spent their time at the summit needling the developed world. They pointed out to the developed world that climate change is the developed world's problem, not theirs, because we developed to the point that we're causing climate change. They hinted that we just brought them in on the problem to screw them in some way, especially by not giving them enough money to combat climate change themselves. That's what the developing or emergent or Third world does at international conferences -- get self-righteous about the fact that the developed world never gives them enough money to do something the developed world wants them to do. In effect, they told us to go fuck ourselves about climate change, which we then in fact did, talking a lot among ourselves and deciding little.
The leader of the second worst climate change agent after us, Chinese premier Wen Jiabao (the other Chinese leader is president Hu Jintao), didn't really want to talk to anyone at all. He mostly stayed holed up in his hotel room watching reruns of Chinese opera from the Gang of Four days, or maybe jerking off to Western porn, whatever world leaders do in strange countries when they don't feel like talking to anyone, and sent lower level emissaries to go deal with the likes of Gordon Brown and Angela Merkel and exasperate them by insisting on cutting out any treaty language that might hold countries to actual numerically precise lower emission targets.
Obama flew in two days before the end, and got freaked because no progress had been made, besides Sudan saying that emission restrictions would be like a genocidal Holocaust for the Third World -- nice coming from a leader who's been doing a quiet little genocide of his own in Sudan -- which prompted mutterings that the uppity Sudan leader ought to be arrested for genocide himself and go stand charges at the Hague.
Just your regular folksy international summit of folks meeting to decide to do folk-friendly things for folks around the world.
What to do? Obama made a speech, which is his thing. I orate therefore I am.
And he promptly offended the Chinese. Apparently, they're not all that much for being transparent about emissions. They don't mind cutting down on emissions, they just mind being actually seen to do so. We emit therefore we are -- but if nobody sees us doing it, we don't emit, so there.
Obama got to meet for an hour with the Chinese president, and then couldn't find him again after his speech offended the Chinese. Premier Wen Jiabao kept acting like the elusive Pimpernel. In the end, Obama and Hillary had to barge into a meeting that the elusive Premier was having behind Obama's back with Brazil, South Africa and India.
But there wasn't a place for them to sit down, so Barack and Hillary had to find chairs first. It was a kind of Keystone Cops moment in a Keystone Cops conference.
In the end the summit came up with nothing concrete, except a promise to meet again. Of course there were some empty words. Nature abhors a vacuum, but international conferences adore them. At the impromptu US-barging-in meeting, some non-binding fine-sounding words were hashed out between Obama, China, Brazil, India and South Africa, to which the UK later agreed.
These empty words were presented to the full conference on the final day. The full conferencees were kind of irked that they hadn't been in on the last-minute hashing out of the empty words, so they decided to go no further than to say that they “take note” of these words, and thus the UN Copenhagen Climate Summit ended.
It was basically an international Feydeau farce, with the most original definition of an agreement since Chamberlain thought his agreement with Hitler at Munich had brought peace in our time. A “take note” agreement. Now that's an agreement with real teeth in it -- more teeth than an earthworm has feet. Hey, we're prepared to say that we heard what you said. It was like a kid saying to her mom, I heard that you said I should clean my room, so that makes it OK that my room stays a mess.
Chirpy Obama called these overheard words “a meaningful agreement” and “an unprecedented breakthrough.” That old slicko Obama, what a pol: he can put a fragrant spin on smelly urine bemisting the tiara of a princess. Lest we forget, these breakthrough words of great meaning said stuff like this: "We emphasize our strong political will to urgently combat climate change ... We shall, recognizing the scientific view that the increase in global temperature should be below 2C, on the basis of equity and in the context of sustainable development, enhance our long-term co-operative action to combat climate change."
WTF!? The sane mind can only boggle. Believe me, your butt has a more meaningful agreement with diarrhea.
4. OBAMA AND CHINA
So Obama goes to China in 2009 and nothing much happens. So Obama repeatedly asks China to lean on Iran and North Korea about their nuclear ambitions, and nothing much happens. So Obama wants China to revalue their currency so their exports won't be so cheap and easy-for-us-to-buy, and world trade won't be so distorted in China's favor, and we won't all stay plunged in debt to them and to ourselves, and nothing much happens.
Here's the deal with us and China. China screws us and we let it happen, because China owns our asses. We owe them gazillions. They're happy to keep our dollars in cold storage, as long as we buy their exports, which we do. We expand our economy by making more debt; China expands their economy by making more stuff. We're their market; they're not our market. We're the idiots; they're the smart ones.
They've rigged the world market in their favor by undervaluing their currency, and there's nothing we can do about it. We used to rig the world economy in our favor with the Bretton Woods Accords and the IMF and the World Bank, but now China is doing it.
We can't even complain too loudly, or try and fight back, because the Chinese have all the cards, which include all our cards, and if we get too uppity, they can just dump the buckets of American greenbacks they have, and destroy our holy dollar. They've got us by the short and curlies. All we can do is grit our teeth, bend over and grin lamely.
America is China's bitch.
They know it and we know it, and that's the end of the story. There's not a thing Obama can do to change this. Our president and all us fellow Americans are walking around with made-in-China vibrating dildos uncomfortably buzzing up our posteriors, and we'll just have to get used to it.
Meanwhile, China is making oil deals in Latin America and the Middle East, and buying up land in Africa to grow food, and generally securing their dominance over the world's resources, while we end up flooding the Gulf of Mexico with the tons of oil we actually intended to have in the tanks of our non-productive driving-around-in-cars economy.
I guess we'll be asking the Chinese quite soon to come and build some of that high-speed rail they build so well in their country ... in our country. We're too useless to do it ourselves. We are the only industrialized country whose infrastructure is 60 to a 100 years old. When we come up with something vaguely new, like the Acela Express, it's like a slow-motion train compared to the express bullets they have in Europe, China and Japan.
5. OBAMA AND NUKES
So Obama has been banging on about nukes, it seems like forever and ever -- or at least since his testicles descended.
Every politician has a bee in his bonnet about some stupid thing that makes no difference to anyone but himself.
Barack Obama's stupid thing, probably a leftover from his student days, is nuclear disarmament.
He wants a nuke-free world. All very noble, but it won't make a spitball of difference to anything anywhere anyhow.
In fact, having nuclear weapons is probably a good thing. It stops big countries from starting wars with each other and restricts war to small countries, like the free-for-all in Congo, and ensures that big countries will pick only on small countries, a US specialty.
Still, there is Obama, making nice with the Russians and signing a new treaty with President Dmitri A. Medvedev this year in Prague after many a moon of squabbling on the telephone. The treaty, if ratified by lawmakers in both countries, requires each country to deploy no more than 1,550 strategic warheads, down from 2,200 allowed in the Treaty of Moscow signed by President George W. Bush in 2002. Each is limited to 800 total land-, air- and sea-based launchers ― 700 of which can be deployed at any given time ― down from 1,600 permitted under the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty of 1991, or START.
It's trumpeted as a massive international success for Obama, but it's just a meaningless piece of nonsense on paper that at best will cost a few buggers their jobs -- the guys who have to baby-sit those nukes -- so now they can look for more meaningful work instead.
I guess it gives Obama and Putin and Medvedev something to talk about when they're at odds with each other about what to do with Iran, which is understandably trying to get itself a nuclear bomb, what with the US having started two wars on either side of it, and Israel threatening to bomb it for whatever reason Israel may have, which is mostly that it doesn't want Iran to have even one nuke despite the fact that Israel has between 200 and 400 of the suckers. You can't have what we have, Iran, because it doesn't seem fair to us. Of course it seems totally fair to the Iranians. Wouldn't it to you? Why should Israel have 200 nukes and Iran not even one teeny-weeny one?
Such looniness infests the world of nuclear insanity.
Between you and me, who do you trust more NOT to ever use their nukes: the Israelis or the Iranians? It's a toss-up.
The new START treaty was signed two days after the U.S. Department of Defense released a new Nuclear Posture Review, which establishes as a goal of America's foreign policy, in President Obama's words, "to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy and focus on reducing the nuclear dangers of the 21st century, while sustaining a safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent for the United States and our allies and partners as long as nuclear weapons exist."
When you get behind these Obama-pretty words, this is what the new Posture says:
We will not use nukes against non-nuke states: we'll respond with conventional weapons against a chemical or biological attack from a non-nuke state on the US, not with nukes. But the non-nuke states have to be “in compliance” with their non-proliferation obligations (which kinda puts Iran and North Korea in our nuke sights). So the Posture doesn't categorically say we reserve nukes for retaliation only against a nuclear attack. It also says some other stuff: we will not develop new nuke warheads, which seems to rule out employing lower-yield more “usable” bombs, and we won't do any more testing. We will also reduce the size of our strategic “hedge” of warheads -- the ones we hold in reserve but don't dismantle.
So OK, we won't ever nuke anyone who doesn't have nukes, except Iran and North Korea. Big change. Huge progress. What crap. Meaningless. Empty posturing about stuff that'll never happen. A new kind of satire that belongs in a sci-fi movie.
Anyway, Obama's anti-nuke stand makes him very popular among young people, and he even made a big speech about it in Prague last year, talking about his wish to have a nuke-free world. Waste of a speech as far as I'm concerned. His time might've been better spent taking Michele to The Increased Difficulty of Concentration, one of Vaclav Havel's absurd plays.
6. THE ONE GOOD THING ABOUT THE NUCLEAR BEE IN OBAMA'S BONNET
Mind you, there's one good thing about Obama's nuclear bee in his bonnet -- the safeguarding of nuclear materials, so terrorists can't get their hands on it and build a nuke to blow Washington D.C. to smithereens. Obama is probably right to be concerned about that, since his personal ass will be the single actual ass that terrorists will be thinking of exploding along with the behinds of members of Congress and the Pentagon.
This whole scary nuke thing is absurdly bizarre, like something imagined by that big influence on Havel, Eugene Ionesco. The Bald-Headed Prima Donna Nuke Rhinoceros. Here's where the absurdity starts: the countries with nukes, who built their nukes to make themselves safe, are the ones who don't feel safe. Having the nukes sort of defeats the purpose of having the nukes. Because now they're not only scared of the nukes of other countries, they're scared of their own nukes. They worry that terrorists may get hold of one of their nukes and nuke one of their cities.
Maybe it's how they transfer their guilt about having nukes onto the terrorists, and make themselves feel not so bad about having nukes -- hey, it would be so much worse if terrorists had them. Come to think of it, maybe this is more Alfred Jarry than Ionesco or Havel, more balls-out absurdity than nuanced absurdity.
So Obama got the greatest collection of world leaders ever seen together (47 of them, a perfect terror nuke opportunity) to come and hang out in Washington on April 12 and 13 of the year 2010 A.C. to promise they'll put all their nukey stuff safe and sound under lock and key, away from the scary fingers of terrorists. They vowed to secure all “vulnerable” nuclear material within four years.
You better hurry, terrorists. You've got only a four-year window in which to get hold of some nuclear material, after which you'll have to go back to relying on your old standbys of explosive gump in your underwear or bags of store-bought fertilizer.
7. SO WHAT KIND OF A FOREIGN POLICY SHOULD WE HAVE?
Now we've retailed the sum total of actual results stemming from Obama running around the globe like a randy hamster in 2009 and 2010. It amounts to this: hopefully in four years time it will be harder for terrorists to get hold of nuclear material to make a nuclear bomb.
Did we need a foreign policy to achieve this? No. In fact, as I've tried to make plain, the world may well be better off without any foreign policy from us. Our best foreign policy would be to get the hell out of the world's affairs: withdraw from Afghanistan and Iraq like Obama says we will, dismantle our 800 overseas military bases, and concentrate on fixing ourselves up. Our best foreign policy move may very well be what Congress is trying to do now: hogtie Wall Street somewhat so it will have to try harder next time to damage us and blow up the entire world economy with its shenanigans. Fixing ourselves up lets us do what Bill Clinton said: lead by the force of our example instead of the example of our force.
It's high time America resolutely refuses to be the leader of the world so we can look to our own fucked-up affairs exclusively, and help the rest of the world that way. If a fish rots from the head down, maybe we could best help the world by cleaning out the rot in its head, which is us.
The less we achieve in foreign affairs the better. I'm all for a totally isolationist US non-foreign policy.
Listen, the world kind of likes us again because they like Obama, and they despised Bush, which is a welcome change.
But Bush made a bigger negative difference on the world than any positive change Obama can ever make.
After all, when the world held the biggest protests in history -- the millions upon millions who marched against the US going to war with Iraq -- Bush told the world to go fuck itself. Ever since, the world has decided to let the US go fuck itself. At that time, our only big friend was British PM Tony Blair. Remember? And now he and his party are not running the UK anymore, mainly because he chose to be our friend and joined us in a war against Iraq that a large majority of his own country fellows wanted nothing to do with.
What Bush did was cost America its authority in the world, and I'm afraid we'll never get it back. It consisted of four authorities: our moral, political, military and economic authority. Moral authority? Gone with Bush's torture policy. Military authority? Gone with us screwing up two wars (remember Rumsfeld?). Political authority? Gone with Bush's go-it-alone cowboy neocon mentality. Economic authority? Gone with our no-regulations hands-off “free market” economic policy ending up in Wall Street wrecking the world.
Even our friends are wary of us, because we weaken them, and make them lose control of their own countries, like what happened with Blair.
The world has lost its faith in America, and it was right to do so. And high time.
Now the world is fast taking its matters into its own hands, and often leaving America to twiddle its thumbs all by itself. America asked for observer status to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) but was refused. The SCO consists of China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, with formal observers India, Iran, Mongolia and Pakistan. The 2007 “guests of honor” included President Karzai of Afghanistan and the gloriously named President Berdymukhammedov of Turkmenistan; at that 2007 gathering, President Ahmadinejad of Iran delivered himself of an anti-American tirade enjoyed by all.
8. TURKEY: OUR NEW RIVAL IN THE MIDDLE EAST
This same Iran has now struck a nuclear enrichment deal with Turkey and Brazil in which it will send a portion of its nuclear material out to be enriched elsewhere, which leaves us and our much-vaunted sanctions against Iran -- that we've been trying so hard to rope Russia and China into -- looking like just another piece of hapless US foreign policy moronity on the world stage.
It's kind of easier to make a nuke deal with Iran when you're a country who doesn't have nukes. Less hypocrisy involved.
I believe this Iran-Turkey-Brazil deal, brokered by two second-tier nations, one of which represents the developing South, may be the biggest watershed in international diplomacy in our time. It's a straight-up poke in the eyes of the permanent members of the UN Security Council by two nonpermanent members. Taken together with the rise of the BRIC nations (Brazil, Russia, India and China), and the fact that China, India, Brazil and South Africa were having a climate change meeting in Copenhagen that Obama had to barge into to be a part of, it spells the end of the indispensability of the indispensable nation. Once the stand-alone hyper-power of the world, America has been fatally wounded by Bush-Cheney to be the eminently ignorable rogue state, best left out of important international negotiations. I expect we're going to see more of these US-excluded foreign agreements. Come to think of it, maybe Turkey and Brazil should broker an Israel-Palestine peace -- if Turkey and Israel can ever be friends again after the IDF offed nine Turkish citizens on the high seas.
The world probably started learning something when they saw that those countries who did not go along with the US-designed World Bank and IMF neoliberalist strictures did better than those who did.
The Iran-Turkey-Brazil deal marks the end of America's dominant throw-weight in the world. It's instructive that we did not effusively congratulate Turkey and Brazil on achieving what we couldn't. We went all peevish, like adolescent brats. It's tough for us to admit that our political capital, squandered by Bush-Cheney, doesn't count for everything anymore. We've passed the peak point of our world power.
The only lasting result of our foreign policy of the last decade has been to make Iran the most powerful country in the Middle East. And they're supposed to be our enemy. That's one weird foreign policy: to go around weakening your friends and strengthening your enemies.
Iran ought to be our best friend in the region -- better than Israel, for a start -- if only because they're the other top dog in the Middle East whom we've helped to an even greater topdoggery than before. But Iran is not our friend, for reasons I cannot unearth. I still remember my utter astonishment when Bush listed Iran in his three-nation “axis of evil” along with Iraq and North Korea. Yikes, what was he smoking? Hadn't the Iranians just held nation-wide candle-lit vigils for us in the wake of the 9/11 travesty? Aren't the Iranian youth in love with Western styles and icons? WTF!? Jeez, if we can be friends with Egypt and Saudi-Arabia, why can't we be friends with Iran? After all, they're the closest thing to a democracy there is in the Middle East besides Israel. I know, they're a theocracy that funds Hezbollah and Hamas, but we're a plutocracy that forks over billions to the killer state of Israel and the women-oppressing Saudi-Arabia (exporter of the terrorist-inspiring Wahhabi religion), so what's the big difference?
But then, we don't really have a foreign policy. Clinton had one. Bush's foreign policy was very simple: fuck the world. Obama's is very simple, too: talk pretty and do nothing. His pretty talk includes a National Security Strategy released May 27, 2010. "As we fight the wars in front of us, we must see the horizon beyond them," Obama writes in an introduction. "To get there, we must pursue a strategy of national renewal and global leadership -- a strategy that rebuilds the foundation of American strength and influence."
Military superiority must be maintained and "the United States remains the only nation able to project and sustain large-scale military operations over extended distances," the document says. But "when we overuse our military might, or fail to invest in or deploy complementary tools, or act without partners, then our military is overstretched. Americans bear a greater burden, and our leadership around the world is too narrowly identified with military forces." The strategy cites four "enduring national interests" that are "inextricably linked:" security, prosperity, values and international order.
In other words, 52 pages of yada-yada boilerplate. Secretary of State Clinton delivered a supporting speech at the Brookings Institution, in which she coughed up more boilerplate: "We are in a race between the forces of integration and the forces of disintegration, and we see that every day. In a world like this, American leadership isn't needed less; it's actually needed more. And the simple fact is that no significant global challenge can be met without us."
Yeah, right. Hil baby, you just keep on leading while Turkey takes over as our major rival to leadership in the Middle East and China leads the world with their money and personnel in building the emergent world's infrastructure.
If you think about it, maybe Obama gave Hillary the meaningless job of Secretary of State out of some subconscious childish desire to avenge himself on her for giving him such a tough ride in the 2008 primaries. What exactly is Hillary doing? She's sort of living in a parallel universe of meaning, somewhere cut off underwater with many vacuum pipes leading to and from her pant-suited presence, as the real world forms silently around her like plants growing eerily in a hydroponic tank.
Of course, we're still out there killing Muslims, which is our actual foreign policy. Well, not our policy really, just the thing that is physically happening over there with our money and our personnel and our materiel. And your taxes.
What with spritzing on about Copenhagen and the Chinese and the loss of our hyper-power status, I forgot for a moment what we're actually DOING overseas.
We kill therefore we are. America kills therefore America is.
And the sane mind can only boggle.
Posted by Evert Cilliers at 12:25 AM | Permalink