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Obama as World Leader

by Frank Schnittger Fri Nov 7th, 2008 at 07:45:26 AM EST

Cross-posted from Daily Kos and Booman.  All recommendations appreciated.

Behind his winning rhetoric of Change, Obama has managed to maintain a remarkable opacity about what he would actually do as President, particularly when it comes to the USA's preeminent role in world affairs.  Sure he will try to get troops out of Iraq sooner rather than later and redeploy some of those resources to Afghanistan. Sure he is more predisposed to  multilateralism and diplomacy rather than starting more wars - for example with Iran.  True, he won't be a climate change denier, a free market deregulater, a cold warrior, or a bombastic proponent of the "New American Century" where all other powers are supposed to supplicate to the shining city on a hill. But what will he actually do, and do his early appointments give us any clues?

The first thing to be said is that he brings a new world view to the office - one explicitly opposed to the neoconservative neo-imperialism so characteristic of the Bush regime.  Obama's African heritage, his Kansas roots, his Indonesian schooling, and his Hawaiian youth all help to give him a sensitivity and appreciation of the world outside continental USA. His actual foreign policy experience may not be much greater than Sarah Palin's, but at least he doesn't believe that living next to Russia and Canada constitutes a qualification for high office.


When the world outside America listened to Bush they were instinctively distrustful, and that included many people ideologically predisposed to be pro-American.  Only those elites with a vested interest in doing business with Official America or adopting neo-conservative, market deregulation ideologies in their own countries treated him with any respect.  Friends and foes alike were bemused that such a great power could be dominated by such small minds.  The USA's global political influence is now far smaller than its economic and military strength might otherwise enable.

Obama's eloquence harks back to an earlier time, a time of Martin Luther King, the Kennedys, Bob Dylan, and Noam Chomsky, when America really was the leader of a world striving to be free.  But now we live in a new world, post Berlin Wall, post Wall Street meltdown, where old empires have been torn down.  A world made up of the resurgent powers of Japan, China, India, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Russia, Brazil, Venezuela and the European Union will never accept Global domination by one or two powers again.  American interest will be seen as just that - American interests - and for America to become a predominant player on the world stage again it will have to identify and act on Global interests rather than on any self-serving definitions of Democracy or "War on Terror" which were never much more than a cloak for its own imperial ambitions.

So what is Obama's world view, and can we infer any greater vision for a new world order?  Does he support a greater role for global regulatory organisations - the UN, WTO, World Bank, IMF, and the International Court of Justice?  Will Americans become subject to International Law for War crimes, genocide, human rights violations, torture, and cluster bomb deployment against civilians?  Will Obama drive the conclusion of a successor Treaty to Kyoto, will Nuclear Proliferation Control Treaties apply to Israel as well as Iran?  Will Obama support, rather than seek to undermine the further development of the European Union?

Progress on all these fronts involves accepting that American interests - whilst valid in their own sphere - do not always trump global interests, and that dealing with Global problems sometimes involves some subordination of National interest - however large - to the greater good of the World as a whole.  Other nations understand this.  The EU is explicitly about surrendering and pooling some National Sovereignty so that greater problems. problems which cannot be solved at a purely national level - can be more effectively addressed.  

There has been a lot of debate in the US Presidential election as to whether the US is a centre right or a centre left nation.  No one seems to be asking the rather obvious question: centre left or right of what?  What is the Centre? Is it the centre of where the USA has been since the Reagan revolution post 1980?  Is it the centre of one pole in a Cold war dominated bipolar world order?  Or is it the centre of the World as a whole?  Where is that centre - and does any such concept make any sense at all?

Certainly if you take "Old Europe" as the centre, the USA has been to the far right ever since Reagan - with support for Apartheid, unilateral military interventions, uncontrolled globalisation, and a systematic undermining of multilateral institutions like the UN and related conventions the norm.  The notion was that it was economics in the form of global corporations dominating free markets, rather than politics, in the form of states and multinational organisations and conventions which should be the dominant actors on the world stage. But Europe, no more than the USA, is no longer at the centre of World political gravity or action.

But let us be clear, for a while this strategy appeared to work.  World aggregate economic growth has been almost unprecedented in recent times, and relatively unregulated globalisation has enabled an unprecedented transfer of capital, production, natural resources, technology, knowledge, expertise, tourism and culture throughout the world.  But it has also exacerbated the development of enormous geographic and social inequalities in the world.  Africa has become something of a developmental black hole whilst China, India and the middle and far east have prospered.  Europe and the US have only maintained their dominance of the globalisation process by the use of increasingly sophisticated branding, marketing, intellectual property and financial engineering Ponzi schemes which increasingly substituted apparent or affective value for the intrinsic value of the products being created.

What is happening now is the world wide realisation that the old empires have no clothes.  That formerly "third world" countries can produce products just as good if not better at far cheaper cost.  That they can control their own oil and mineral resources and keep the profits at home.  That there is simply no comparison between the value to be had in a five star hotel in Bali or New York.  So a lot of what has been happening in the recent global realignment is just a re-balancing of fair values and economic justice.  Why should workers in China earn so much less than their counterparts in the "West"?

There is nothing that Obama can do to change this.  Creating barriers to globalisation now is akin to locking the stable doors long after the horses have bolted.  Capital, production, technology, resources and the consequences of resource depletion are global now. Obama is smart enough to know all this, but do the American people realise all this?  Was there any indication, in the Presidential campaign, that either side were ready to embrace a world order where the USA is no longer the preeminent player, economically, politically, or even militarily?

Of course every nation indulges in a little chauvinistic nationalism at election time - be it "Deutschland über alles" or "America, the greatest nation in the world".  But does even the American left understand the degree to which the world has changed?  A world where the US$ is no longer the currency of last resort, where Wall Street is no longer the preeminent source of global capital, where American brands no longer represent the ultimate in desirability, where American courts can no longer set aside European patents with impunity, where American war criminals risk prosecution if they travel abroad?  Is even the American left ready to countenance the loss of National Sovereignty which may be required to truly tackle global problems and where it will be UN rather than US forces which deal with particularly intransigent dictatorships and human rights violations abroad?

So far Obama has given little indication that he understands or is willing and able to lead America into a realisation and acceptance of these new realities. His approach to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, for instance, seems little different to the neoconservatives. With the appointment of Rahm Israel Emanuel as Chief of Staff, and the emergence of Jewish American leaders in both House and Senate we could have an even more entrenched approach to what has been the single most difficult and incendiary problem in world affairs.  On the other hand, mainstream Jewish Americans have often been more realistic on that issue that the more ideological driven Christian Zionist and Neoconservative Right in the US.

There are also other, more hopeful indicators that Obama will operate in a totally different paradigm when it comes to foreign policy. He will, for instance, close Guantanamo and hopefully reaffirm the USA's commitment to the UN Geneva Conventions on Torture. His appointment of Samantha Power as a senior foreign policy adviser also indicates a real concern with human rights, genocide, and the consequence of war crimes.  Whether she gets a senior appointment in his Administration is, of course, an entirely different matter.

We will know there has been a sea change in American attitudes when we see the first US defendant charged with torture or war crimes before the International Court of Justice.  I will not be holding my breath.  Obama saw what happened to Carter when he appeared weak on the world stage.  But it was not Carter who was weak,  it was the US illusion that it is still possible to act unilaterally in a complex and shrinking global world order where global resources of oil and credit have peaked, and where you have to accept a pooling of Sovereignty or else face increasing wars with diminishing returns in an attempt to impose your will on others.

However Obama does have an opportunity to become a truly global leader.  The world is not exactly overflowing with great leaders right now.  South Africa is declining after its halcyon days under Mandela. There is no Gorbachev in Russia or visionary leader in Europe.  China is focused on China and Japan on Japan.  There has been a turning inwards in political cultures as the economic crisis undermines internal political stability.

Obama could become the truly preeminent Global leader of our age, but only if he has the strength, leadership and vision to recognise that America is not diminished by being of greater service to the world as whole.  America once had that vision and that visionary - who helped to end a huge economic crisis and a World War.  His name was Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  His successors have been political pygmies by comparison and have diminished both the USA and the World.  I hope Obama has the ambition to be not just a good President, but a truly great world leader.  The idealism of the American people deserves no less.

Display:
The setting sun, low on the horizon under scattered dark clouds (here in Remscheid), shines beautifully on Frank's world view above.  And Obama?  Well, we'll gradually see, won't we.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anaïs Nin
by Crazy Horse on Fri Nov 7th, 2008 at 10:32:01 AM EST
Very kindly and poetically put - and a Recommendation! A rare honour from so august a source!

Vote McCain for war without gain
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Nov 7th, 2008 at 10:42:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
i think he could become a world leader, if he chooses to do so by example, not by force or undiplomatic arm-twisting.

he is certainly of a different calibre than any other world leader at present.

his most herculean task will be to put his own house in order. after that, the world could be his oyster.

that job will take his two terms to accomplish, but meanwhile any intelligently sustainable move to do so will do much to inspire and encourage similar and parallel moves internationally.

nice diary, frank, written from the heart.

"We can all be prosperous but we can't all be rich." Ian Welsh

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Fri Nov 7th, 2008 at 11:17:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks.  It started from a sense that Obama could be a great world leader but also a great deal of uncertainty as to what his ultimate objectives are. Hopefully there are some facts and logic in there as well, but we really have very little to go on at the moment in divining his ultimate ambitions.

Vote McCain for war without gain
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Nov 7th, 2008 at 11:55:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
you're welcome, your diaries are always relevant, pithy and interesting, but this one seems more personal.

we've never had a world leader before, the concept is cartoonish, it implies a level of consciousness and responsibility that few national leaders attain and practise, so it's a blank slate upon which we can project and affirm what we want.

waht i want in a global leader is remarkably similar to what barack obama endorses.

i found his speech 4 years ago at the dem convention too fluffy, too glib, but what turned me around was reading his autobiography, and watching him surf the challenges and hatred thrown at him throughout the campaign.

the way he paced himself was impressive, too.

this period between election and inauguration is horrible, i find. i wish it could be eliminated.

crippled by the situation from really leading, he has to watch gwb act out his last juvenile pathologies, when the people have spoken...

this makes him much more of a lame duck than gwb, imo.

stupid system.

matt taibbi has an interesting take on obama, saying all he did was not be a dick, while the competition worked itself into an undignified lather or was revealed as criminally incompetent...

what i like most about him is the relationship of his ego with the rest of his mental architecture, it's just one of the bearing walls, the others being a big vision, a tranquil faith, and a desire for co-operation and harmony between nations.

the narrowness of the gap between the scylla of disappointed lefty support (fisa) and the charybdis of righty howls of unamericanism took a master mariner to squeak through, one false move and he would have been an interesting blip in history.

he's young, inexperienced, but has the gravitas and groundedness of a man twice his age, and the times we live in, and the faith so many have in him will for more experience upon him than most folks would ask for or have a clue what to do to rise to.

it's a miracle, and every day he's allowed to live, firms up the narrative that america, and the world, are ready for a new style of leader.

"We can all be prosperous but we can't all be rich." Ian Welsh

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Fri Nov 7th, 2008 at 05:44:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
melo:
we've never had a world leader before, the concept is cartoonish

Maybe people are reading more into the term of World leader than I ever intended.  In my use/meaning of the term, Gandhi, Roosevelt, Stalin, Hitler, Churchill, Kennedy, Johnson, Reagan, Gorbachev, Mandela etc. were all world leaders in the sense of having a profound influence far beyond the formal borders of their own nation state.  Gandhi wasn't even a state leader, and the others had no formal responsibilities beyond their own constitutions/electorates/parties.  The term is neither necessarily good or bad (as the above list confirms) and is usually a mixture of both.

When I use the term in relation to Obama it expresses a hope that his influence will result in the ending of some wars, the development of more effective means of international cooperation and conflict resolution, the emergence of more effective global governance structures to deal will global issues - climate change, financial systems, genocide, famine and disease etc.  

It doesn't mean that I expect him to become some kind of formal or informal world President.  Just that I hope he will be  very good US President who will benefit both the USA and the world.  This doesn't have to be a zero sum game. In GWB's case it was a zero minus game where both the USA and the World were diminished.

Vote McCain for war without gain

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Nov 7th, 2008 at 06:40:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
ah, i understand.

i agree.

"We can all be prosperous but we can't all be rich." Ian Welsh

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sat Nov 8th, 2008 at 12:48:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Obama gives the impression of being thoroughly grounded in his self, or in the depths of his being.  His self identity does not seem entirely bound up with his ego.  He appears to have a vigorous and powerful ego that he seems able to transcend.  This ability gives him access to enormous inner resources, especially in the case of good judgment, is likely the source of his appearance of calm at the center of the storm, and, I believe, is the basis of his charismatic appeal.  I believe he has the potential to be a truly transformative leader.  He will have to be in order to be successful.

He has demonstrated a profound ability to inspire people and to win over skeptics.  In order to be successful, he will have to use these abilities to bring a substantial majority of the population along with him in a consensus for a change in the way we see the relationship between the individual and society, the obligations of each to the other, and a new understanding of the realities of the world and of the place of the USA in the world.

Jimmy Carter demonstrated that you cannot just tell the  US electorate that our situation has changed and we must adapt to it.  Unless the President can make a majority see and accept the facts of the case, he will be simply out bid by the next big lier and denier who comes along.  It would be foolish to rule out the possibility of the emergence of a new leader in the mold of Ronald Reagan by 2012 or 2016.  The population must be vaccinated against such a catastrophic possibility.  The best way to accomplish that is by leading a transformation of the country into a better and more successful society.  Accomplishing that would be Obama's greatest legacy.  Anything less just sets us up for the next leadership disaster.

As the Dutch said while fighting the Spanish: "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Nov 9th, 2008 at 06:02:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A very perceptive comment.  I think how Obama governs will be almost as important as what his actual policy changes.  The paradigm within which US politics is played has to change, not just the pecking order within it.

See How Obama won for an interesting take on Obama's organisation and ego.  Of course he will eventually be found to have feet of clay, like everyone else.  But it is the manner of doing politics, of building society, of engaging people's hopes and dreams which can endure.

notes from no w here

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Nov 10th, 2008 at 06:42:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It might just be that he knows he has feet of clay, which would make for a refreshing change.

A couple of years as President will screw him up anyway: I don't believe it's possible to stay grounded in reality to the end of the first term, never mind the second term.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Nov 10th, 2008 at 06:44:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Which is why we need a paradigmatic shift, not just a change to more competent personnel, and what he leaves behind him is more important than what happens to Obama himself.  The last two such changes were the Civil rights movement of the 1960's and the Reagan revolution of the 1980's.  Before that we had FDR/new deal. Pradigmatic shifts change the frame of reference of the entire polity - forcing even the GOP to completely change track.  

Perhaps stuff like abortion, gays, and assualt weapons in private hands will finanaly be taken off the table and cease to exist as mainstream political issues - or wedge issues used to contra-distinguish major Presidential candidates and parties.  Perhaps the issue will become not regulation/deregulation, but what kind of regulation.  Perhaps the notion of invading a country because you don't like it's regime will come to be seen as absurd.

We can live in hope, but we must also watch and see whether real change is intended.

notes from no w here

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Nov 10th, 2008 at 07:07:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I, of course, fear that you are right.  But would we both not be pleased to be proven wrong?

As the Dutch said while fighting the Spanish: "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Nov 10th, 2008 at 12:15:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I had dinner tonight with an old Finnish CEO who escaped from Hungary  with his Hungarian girlfriend in '56. We talked about all and everything.

"He'll be shot", he said. It is a possibility.

But I believe that the 'awakening' is bigger than the man. The awakening is the only thing that is really important. 10% more compassion. 10% more motivation. 10 % more awareness of the world around. 10% more of anything can tip a balance.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Fri Nov 7th, 2008 at 05:50:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"He'll be shot", he said. It is a possibility.

Unfortunately, a distinct possibility.  Several very amateurish plots already uncovered and people arrested.  America has its share of extreme fanatics on the right.  All it takes it one successful attempt.

IMO, Obama has the leadership capability to be extraordinary.  But he has to survive and he has to conquer an entrenched and disfunctional system... and assuming he does have an extraordinary "vision".

Time will tell.

by Jagger on Fri Nov 7th, 2008 at 10:03:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ya know, Sven, there are a whole lot of us who have been trying not to say this out loud, on the theory that experessing it might make it more likely to happen. But we know the possibility exists. Oh yes, we do know. Particularly those of us who remember Dr. King and Senator Bobby Kennedy and President Jack Kennedy.

I do most sincerely hope that the Secret Service is every bit as good at its job as its reputation alleges.

by Mnemosyne on Mon Nov 10th, 2008 at 08:39:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Obama could become the truly preeminent Global leader of our age, but only if he has the strength, leadership and vision to recognise that America is not diminished by being of greater service to the world as whole.

I'll never truly understand why the rest of the world looks for America to provide global leadership and then complains of America's arrogance when we attempt to.  I give up...  I'm sure it is some cultural difference I just need to learn to accept.  I don't think I've ever heard an American have such impossible expectations of leaders of other countries.  It makes my head spin.  

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Fri Nov 7th, 2008 at 12:12:41 PM EST
The rest of the world isn't homogenous. I for one don't look for a global leader, and don't like the Führerprinzip ( = leader principle).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Nov 7th, 2008 at 12:14:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
110% agreed.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Fri Nov 7th, 2008 at 12:21:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, I know you don't. :)

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Fri Nov 7th, 2008 at 12:22:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
We need to get away from this idea of any one person/country providing leadership.  It invites terrible outcomes when bad leaders are elected here.  Even if Obama does a great job and becomes all those good things Frank talked about, it'd still leave us with a setup bound to colossal failures down the road.

It isn't a unipolar or bipolar global leadership structure anymore, and attitudes need to adjust to that reality.

One of the reasons I'm pleased to see the likes of Samantha Power around is because, aside from the obvious appeal of new blood in DC, I'd like to get some people in office who didn't come up during the Cold War (she was only 20 or 21 when the Wall came down), and who aren't damaged goods in that way.

I hope Obama will name her as his national security adviser.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Fri Nov 7th, 2008 at 12:21:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... under the cover of American Leadership rhetoric.

Part of the process may be framing the Republican "I call it leadership when I bully and failure to follow when you object to consent to being bullies" as "lazy leadership" ... and framing "collaborating as an effective member of a group" as "principled leadership".

One advantage is y'all in Europe do not actually have to do it with wink and nods ... since American media largely ignores what most of y'all do and say, you can be quite open about "we'll let the Americans say they are leading on this as long as they behave in a reasonable manner behind closed doors".

But over the long term, it does require some more standing up to American politicians who think they can show "leadership" by bossing other countries around, and handing them enough foreign policy failures that the appeal of that line of grandstanding begins to fade.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Fri Nov 7th, 2008 at 02:37:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'd like to get some people in office who didn't come up during the Cold War (she was only 20 or 21 when the Wall came down), and who aren't damaged goods in that way.

I don't see experience of the cold war as necessarily negative.  Bush's cold war warriers never learned from the experience.  Others developed a deeper and more balanced perspective from the experience.

by Jagger on Fri Nov 7th, 2008 at 10:08:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I have to agree, and don't agree with the "damaged goods" concept in relation to people either - more often than not it is a "marketing concept" denoting people whose reputations have been damaged by association - e.g. with Clinton or Bush - and says nothing about their actual capabilities or current views.  Sure Rahm Emmanuel has been stridently pro-Israel, and sure he worked in the Clinton White House.  But lets wjudge him on what he does in his current role.  Obama knows him a hell of a lot better than we do.

Personally I would love to see Samantha Power appointed to a senior role because she would be such a breath of fresh air compared to the current denizens of State and the National security apparatus.  She is inexperienced at that level, however, and hopefully the hard nosed operators there won't be able to chew her up and convert her into one of them.

Vote McCain for war without gain

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Nov 8th, 2008 at 04:57:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'll never truly understand why the rest of the world looks for America to provide global leadership

The rest of the world doesn't look for America to provide global leadership anymore: it has given up on America. It's pretty much only Europe and Japan that still pine for responsible leadership from America. And the reason why they do isn't that hard to understand: cultural lag from the immediate post-World War II period.

the deepest problem is that, sixty years after the end of WW2, Europeans still see themselves as somehow dependent on the United States. For their elites, the reasons are clear and understandable, but the rest of us, including a big part of the Left, still put too much of our hopes in expecting the US population to elect a "good prince", as they have just done with Obama. We should determine our foreign policy, and our social model irrespective of  American choices and we should not be afraid of talking with other countries, like Russia, China or Iran without worrying what Uncle Sam thinks. Europeans often view the United States as a model of democracy, but there can't be anything more undemocratic than for us to determine our policies in a way that depends on elections in which we do not participate.

The US population elects its president, not the Master of the Universe. This seems to be understood nowadays in Russia, Asia, Latin America and the Muslim world. Only in Europe do we still need to decolonize our minds.

A View from Europe: Our Obama Problem

A bomb, H bomb, Minuteman / The names get more attractive / The decisions are made by NATO / The press call it British opinion -- The Three Johns

by Alexander on Fri Nov 7th, 2008 at 12:29:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's pretty much only Europe and Japan that still pine for responsible leadership from America.

I think you can add Africa to the list.

http://blog.foreignpolicy.com/node/10243

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Fri Nov 7th, 2008 at 01:19:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Strangely enough many Iranians appear to be the same way.

On the one hand they "HATE" the US - on the other it's where most of them would want to emigrate.

The Iranian leadership wants two things: respect, and secure borders.

The Iranian people want the material liefstyle they see on their illegal satellite TV's.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Fri Nov 7th, 2008 at 01:47:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Respect goes an awfully long way - rather like Marmite ;-)

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Fri Nov 7th, 2008 at 05:52:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Of course, unlike Europe and Japan, there are wide areas of Africa where the US could in fact lead to good effect, if only those doing the leading were leading in a positive direction.

Of course, much of the potential benefit of US leadership in Southern Africa is helping to keep US corporations on a shorter leash, and in order to be able to do that, its necessary to have a US Government that wants to keep US corporations on a shorter leash.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Fri Nov 7th, 2008 at 02:40:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There was also an Iraqi fellow at our party last night, who gave a speech about Obama being a global leader.  That I understand.  The Irish?  Not so much...

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Fri Nov 7th, 2008 at 01:23:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I dunno.  The Irish apparently love Obama.  I think someone must have told them (coughFRANKcough) there was an apostrophe after the O.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Fri Nov 7th, 2008 at 01:31:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ah shure doesn't Barry O'Bama come from just down the road from where I was raised.  Just a few generations in between.  The Irish Taoiseach has already invited him to come and visit the oul sod - some months after I did so.  The O'Bama scheduling people are sooo unimaginative.

I have to laugh at you guys saying you're not into leaders having listened to you rant about Bush for so long.  Why did you bother if global leadership doesn't matter?  I'm probably as concerned with the cult of leadership as any of you - and some of the expectations for Obama on the US left are patently absurd.  But short of re-writing the US constitution the US Presidency is a factor we all have to deal with - for good or ill - and having suffered the bad times please don't deny me the pleasure of hoping for some good.

Vote McCain for war without gain

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Nov 7th, 2008 at 02:37:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
For the record, I am into leaders.  In fact, I think you will find my Odds&Ends illustrate my unhealthy obsession with world leaders.  I am pro-leader.

I just don't understand the cognitive dissonance I hear from a significant number of non-Americans about the role of American Presidents.

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Fri Nov 7th, 2008 at 02:48:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's simple really.  Many people recognise that we are living in a de facto era of American domination - not just political, but military, economic and cultural as well.  The US has a military presence in over 100 "sovereign" nations, and a corporate and media presence in almost all. The system of global capitalism we live under - dominated by global corporations - is largely American in origin, ideology, design and control.  

Many people recognise that for all its faults - it is better than the competing systems of Nazism and Stalinism it defeated. They are prepared to work with America but distraught that America has not been prepared to work with them.  They bought into the ideology and failed to recognise the growing imperial reality.  Democracy and Freedom meant American Democracy and Freedom - and their relative servitude.  That system is changing now - largely due to the neoconservatives own hubris and over-reach.  Obama would be making a mistake if he thinks it can be rebuilt.  

We now have an emerging multi-polar world order which will bring its own (and different) global problems.  The last time we had a multi-polar world order, it lead to WW1.  I hope we have learned a little in the meantime, but when I saw the neocons tearing down thew pillars of international law I began to despair.  I'm not yet sure how different an Obama presidency will be.  More competent, certainly, but how much wiser?

Vote McCain for war without gain

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Nov 7th, 2008 at 03:04:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
We slammed those below Dubya, too. Already, I am slamming Rahm Emanuel, and asking Drew about the composition of the Democrat congressional majority. So don't be reductionist. Not to mention that you spoke about global leadership, not US.

Let me mention two things that bug me about "leadership", beyond my anti-Atlanticism and the bad allusions in German.

First, by praising leadership abilities, one forgets that in a democracy, leaders are supposed to get their power from the people. What politicians should have is not some magic ability to go ahead, but ideas, then we the people decide which is the best idea and give the guy powers to attempt to realise it.

Second, the present-day concept of leadership is very closely linked to, I would even say was introduced by, neoliberalism. What neoliberals understand under "leadership" is the ability to push through unpopular reforms -- in effect, stuff they have NOT been elected for -- best by getting people to accept it in the process.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Fri Nov 7th, 2008 at 02:54:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Authoritarians have always had a contempt for the people, whether in a democracy or no.  the neo-libs simply turned it into a marketing problem - how to sell policies no one (except the elite) really wanted.  Lefties on the other hand will always slam anyone in power - until they get into power themselves.  Ok - that was unkind and unfair - some anarchists and alternative types would prefer if their were no large power structures of any kind at all.  Unfortunately that makes them very vulnerable to conquest by the authoritarians who will sell their product as the "order" everyone apparently needs and wants - when what they really want is to be left alone by the authoritarians.  Hell I don't need to say this to you.  You've just written a brilliant diary history of the Ottoman invasions of Hungary.

Vote McCain for war without gain
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Nov 7th, 2008 at 03:41:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Authoritarians have always had a contempt for the people, ...Lefties on the other hand will always slam anyone in power

What's your take on the long history of Leftist Authoritarian regimes?  LOL.  

But seriously, this is an oversimplification and does not really illustrate an appreciation for the relationship between people and their leaders outside the world of Hollywood cartoons.

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Fri Nov 7th, 2008 at 03:50:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If you just want to insult people and claim a superior political wisdom why waste your time on this blog?

Vote McCain for war without gain
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Nov 7th, 2008 at 05:07:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Who did I insult?  Have I wasted your time?

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Fri Nov 7th, 2008 at 05:10:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If you consider my understanding of politics to be the equivalent of a Hollywood cartoon then I am deeply insulted and I can't understand why you would be bothered to read and comment on my stuff - other than to be gratuitously offensive.

Vote McCain for war without gain
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Nov 7th, 2008 at 05:13:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Or, crazy idea, because I want the people who read this blog to think about things critically instead of simplistically.  It's ok to disgree, but facts remain facts and pointing them out is not a personal insult but an attempt to keep the conversation within the realm of reality.


"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Fri Nov 7th, 2008 at 05:19:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What "facts" have you pointed out which demonstrate that my argument is equivalent in sophistication to a Hollywood cartoon?  And if my argument has strayed from the "realms of reality", in what way have you proved you have a superior grasp of reality?

Vote McCain for war without gain
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Nov 7th, 2008 at 05:26:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The existence of leftist authoritarian regimes would seem to invalidate your statement.  My pointing out their existence has obviously upset you.  And yes, I do find vast generalisations about politics cartoonish and formulaic and out of sync with what I have witnessed.  The election of Obama shows that people with left-leaning ideology are craving strong leadership.  Meanwhile, many conservatives are terrified of the power the newly elected leadership will wield.  Everything is not as black and white as you present it.    

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Fri Nov 7th, 2008 at 05:37:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You conveniently left out the last part of may sentence you quoted: (omitted part in bold)
Frank Schnittger:
Lefties on the other hand will always slam anyone in power - until they get into power themselves.
which was a deliberate jibe at the historical tendency for some anti-establishment lefties to become even more authoritarian when they achieved power themselves.  So pointing out that some leftwingers can be authoritarian doesn't upset me at all.  In fact I stated that:  Frank Schnittger:
The system of global capitalism we live under - dominated by global corporations - is largely American in origin, ideology, design and control.  

Many people recognise that for all its faults - it is better than the competing systems of Nazism and Stalinism it defeated.

And this is not a generalisation?  poemless:

The election of Obama shows that people with left-leaning ideology are craving strong leadership.

Really?  Obama got rather more than the votes of left leaning ideologists.  Most wanted alternate leadership to McCain/Palin, and authoritarianism in an US context seems to be more characteristic of right wingers - left wingers often being called liberals with good reason.

And yes of course there are lots of generalisations in my diary.  There always are in short pieces.  If I want to write an academic piece I will do so in an academic context, and I won't try to write a history of the recent world in 20 paragraphs.

I'm sorry I didn't get to read your diary.  I meant to and perhaps you present an alternate argument there.  However even if I disagreed with it I promise I wouldn't accuse you of a Hollywood cartoon character level of understanding.  I think it helps to be  bit more careful and respectful in your criticisms.

Vote McCain for war without gain

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Nov 7th, 2008 at 06:20:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And I think it helps if you chill out.

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Fri Nov 7th, 2008 at 06:23:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Always happy to chill - and to argue my case - the more so if others accuse me of being incapable of doing so to any worthwhile level.  However I take this as an offer of a truce - and am happy to accept.  I may have mistaken a Manta for a Sting ray...

Vote McCain for war without gain
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Nov 7th, 2008 at 06:50:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Hey - didn't you call me a bottom feeder once?  Watch out, us Manta Rays have superior memories! ;)

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Fri Nov 7th, 2008 at 06:20:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Also, I have not claimed a superior political wisdom, but if you think I am guilty of that, well, I'm not going to pretend I don't know what I know in order to avoid making others feel ignorant.  Jerome and other talk about economics in a way that makes me feel stupid, but I'm pretty sure I've learned a lot as a result of them not pretending to be ignorant.

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Fri Nov 7th, 2008 at 05:16:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Lefties on the other hand will always slam anyone in power - until they get into power themselves.

True.  And, in that case, a new group of Lefties will slam the newly-empowered Lefties.  It's part of our charm, amigo. ;)

I've always said: Liberals are the Mets fans of politics.  When our team fucks up, we boo them and start throwing things.  To the extent that it goes well beyond constructive criticism, and we only finally feel like we've fucked ourselves with our pants on after it's too late.

Which is why I've preached that folks need to calm down right now and not get worked up over the presence of Rahm Emanuel or someone like him unless there's something concrete that Obama does on policy to warrant getting worked up.  It's of no use and without merit until then, so sit back, give'em a chance to prove themselves, and rule afterwards.  Suspicion?  Totally understandable.  Endless OHNOEZICANHAZPANCAKEZ!@ diaries on Daily Kos?  No, those folks need to get a grip.

I stopped worrying about Obama quite a while ago after coming to the conclusion that he'd consistently thought stuff out well ahead of how far ahead I'd thought stuff out.  He assembled probably the greatest campaign staff in American history and took down two of the greatest names in American politics, the Clintons and John McCain.  I'm not sure people appreciate how amazing a feat that truly is.  I like to think of myself as someone who understands the mathematics of campaigns pretty well, but I'm not fit to shine these guys' shoes.  Obama's earned a little leeway from me.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Fri Nov 7th, 2008 at 07:23:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
His press conference was pretty assured today - for someone who had probably just been give 20 conflicting pieces of advice - nice bit of humour about the dog and the seances too.  He only talks to living Presidents?  Don't know quite how canned the question were, but he matched to wrap his answers around the key campaign talking points.

Vote McCain for war without gain
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Nov 7th, 2008 at 07:41:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Some presidents are good at press conferences, some aren't.  Kennedy was great.  He was always happy to spar with the press, and the press loved him for it.  Bush is awful in press conferences.

The economic advisory board is a decent cast of characters, but he probably wasn't being given too much differing advice.  There's been a unifying of the two wings of the Democratic Party's economic people over the last few years.  Whereas under Clinton, you had two camps --the Public Investors/Economic Activists (Reich, Krugman, Stiglitz) and the Budget Hawks (Summers, Rubin) -- you now have a group that largely agrees and fits more with the former category.  Summers has talked a great deal about fighting wage stagnation.  Rubin has 'fessed to Reich being right about public investment.

So, on the economic front, I'm optimistic.  I think there's plenty of agreement on the critical stuff.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Fri Nov 7th, 2008 at 07:57:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not sure if the left in the US has set its expectations to absurd levels.  Too high?  Probably, but that's also probably inevitable.  Obama won't meet them, but nobody would.  What I find absurd is that every name dropped by the press on this or that position -- positions that, for now, have dealt almost exclusively with strategy/message (Emanuel, Gibbs and Axelrod) rather than actual policy -- is now starting huge fights in the blogosphere.  Some think they're disastrous, some think they're great.  Again, I think it's silly to rule either way when we're still 74 days from the Inauguration.

I don't deny you the pleasure of hoping for good outcomes at all.  I'm enjoying the same thing.  And I've no doubt we'll get some good outcomes.  The next four to eight years will be much, much better than the past eight.  We'll get some not-so-good ones too, of course.  That's life.  I'm just saying that I think there needs to be a re-balancing of perception, especially here in the states, about how leadership across the globe should work in the 21st Century.  We need new thinking, or at least old thinking that isn't mired in Cold-Warriorism.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Fri Nov 7th, 2008 at 02:55:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Last night, as we all celebrated Obama's victory, giddy out of our minds, everyone was also like, "Don't get me started on how much I am pissed off by Obama."  "Oh, I know I am going to hate a lot of the things he does."  "I can't stand him!"

Mind you, all of these people drove across the country to work on his campaign.  LOL.  

We know him.  We know what to expect from him.  In some way, we know that it is a good thing that he wont pander to us.  We know NO politician is going to please us.  But we also know he is smart, looks at the big picture, is highly disciplined, and very effective.  Which is what we need right now.  And that to elect a black urban intellectual in the political climate of the last 8 years is nothing short of a coup.

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Fri Nov 7th, 2008 at 03:04:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That's, I think, the mature way to look at it.  And it's why I'm not too concerned.  I know Obama's going to do things that piss me off.  So would anyone else.  Hell, I'd probably do things that'd wind up pissing me off if I were president.  I think the netroots get sidetracked by very minor issues and miss the big picture sometimes, which is understandable for now given that there's no real news at the moment beyond Lieberman's fate (although I do wish Kos would work on getting the troops mounted up for this runoff election in Georgia).  I think Obama's got the brains and discipline to solve, or at least put on a good way down the road to solving, some key problems (health care, energy/climate change, economy), and at the end of the day, that's what's important.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Fri Nov 7th, 2008 at 03:22:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Maybe. But the bigger picture is that he's vulnerable to the press hyenas, and if he doesn't deliver substantial change - not just more Clinton-ish DLC-driven triangulation, but something fresh and different - there's a real danger of his fans deciding that he has screwed them over.

Which means that in 2012 they will vote for the other guy or gal, who will, undoubtedly, be far worse as a president.

Obama didn't win this time because he was black or because people liked his policies. He won because enthusiasm for a change mobilised volunteers on a scale that has never been seen before in US politics.

His political chances are completely dependent on those volunteers, and he can't afford to lose even 20% of them. His usual 'I realise we're going to disagree about some things' spiel is only going to take him so far - people are going to be expecting real improvements in their security and living standards.

If they get to 2012 and look back thinking 'Actually - that was kind of a Blair experience' he's toast, and the supposed massive national realignment and permanent Democratic majority will evaporate into nothing.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Fri Nov 7th, 2008 at 03:34:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Also to add - just once, I would like a leader who chooses to pander to us and not the usual people who've been pandered to for decades now.
by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Fri Nov 7th, 2008 at 03:36:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Obama's dependency on his activist support base is crucial.  If he sells them out he's just another establishment toady who will be sucked up and spat out by the military/industrial/financial complex.  He actually needs an ongoing level of tension with the establishment to keep his support base mobilised. Once he is accepted by the establishment as a reasonable centrist who won't ham their interests the raison d'etre of his support base is destroyed.  And once his base is destroyed the establishment can do what they like with him - he will have become their pawn - like a Samson with no hair and no independent source of strength.

Vote McCain for war without gain
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Nov 7th, 2008 at 03:48:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I would argue that your characterization of Obama is does not reflect reality.

Barack Obama is an establishment politician.  I know, I know people do not want to hear that, but he is.  He always has been.  People can believe what they choose, but the facts are undeniable.  Non-establishment politicians are not surrounded by the David Axelrods and Rahm Emmanuels of the world.  Obama is an exceptional establishment politician.  But he's not grassroots.  I'm sorry.  He has used the grassroots community every step of the way to achieve his goals, but he's never shown any kind of tribalism or loyalty to them.  His entire history is one of disappointing people who thought he was the champion of their cause.  He did it at the Harvard Law Review.  I have a friend who wrote policy papers for him during his Senate race, and after Obama won, was replaced with Daschle's people.  

Also, this support base you speak of is mythical.  There is not one base of support.  It should be clear from looking at the electoral maps that his support is heterogeneous.  It includes leftist progressives and Rockefeller Republicans, the GLBT community, and a homophobic African American constituent, it is grassroots citizens and Washington insiders.  He's a human Rorschach test.  Everyone except McCain supporters believes they are his base.  Now, if you are Barack Obama, how do you please your base?  Because your base does not even agree with itself!  So instead of cherry-picking ideological tribes to pander to, I think he should make decisions based on his own wisdom and how effectively they will make America a more safe, prosperous and just nation.  And that's all he's promised.  And that is all I expect from him.

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Fri Nov 7th, 2008 at 04:50:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, but the point I'm making and Frank is making is that he needs all of that base. It doesn't matter that it's not just the netroots - who remain the DLC's useful idiots in the same way that the Christian fundiegelicals are useful idiots for the repubs.

What matters is that if he doesn't live up to at least some of his promise in an obvious way, his support will crumble and the next cycle will go to whatever foetid creeping thing crawls out from the far right.

He may have screwed over supporters before, but the country as a whole is too big to screw over, and he doesn't have the luxury of doing that again. His charisma buys him some breathing space, but there has to be some delivery and pay off too - he's not going to be able to fool all of the people all of the time.

As for trusting his wisdom - why? Things will get better or they won't. Wisdom isn't the issue - results are.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Fri Nov 7th, 2008 at 05:23:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And that's what really scares the "centre right" Gopers who are now arguing he must betray his base and govern in a bipartisan manner from the centre.  They know how much he depended on his diverse base to get him elected and that they will now expect him to deliver on at least part of the agenda he promised them.  His base has become a real obstacle to the normal process of house-training politicians in the ways of the elite.

Vote McCain for war without gain
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Nov 7th, 2008 at 05:31:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
He can't please his entire base all the time.  Like you said, our coalition is now much too diverse for that.  It's why he's got to stick to big-picture stuff and not get bogged down in this or that issue that only matters to a small group.

That said, he owes the GLBT community.  His failure to come out more clearly against Prop 8, among other problems, allowed the Mormons and their allies to prey on ignorance of the legislation in minority communities, especially among black folks (and to a lesser extent Latinos).  There's clearly an issue of homophobia among them.  We've known that for years, and leaders who are minorities have talked at length about it for a long time.

They need to step up and make this the civil rights issue it so clearly should be, so that we can throw this stupid ban out in two years.  Obama, Jesse Jack Jr, Bill Richardson, the mayor of Los Angeles, Cory Booker -- they all need to fix this.  Starting, like, now.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Sat Nov 8th, 2008 at 11:44:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There's a diary on Kos that shows that there aren't enough black voters in California for them to be responsible for Prop. 8...

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Sat Nov 8th, 2008 at 03:12:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Link?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Nov 8th, 2008 at 03:47:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
link

Warning : story has about 2000 comments.

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères

by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Sat Nov 8th, 2008 at 04:43:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's close, but that's probably true.  Blacks are only 6% of Californians.  Latinos (36%) and Asians (12%) are the dominant minority groups.

If blacks had voted against it in the same proportion as Latinos (53%) or even whites (50%), it still would've failed.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Sun Nov 9th, 2008 at 01:26:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Except that there isn't any evidence that Obama will do that. He will pander to the establishment. Indeed, I think his presidency will be very similar to that of Bush except in terms of image and actual imperial effectiveness ... Bush's main problems were, of course, poor image and incompetence as an imperial manager. Obama will do more or less exactly the same things as Bush, except he'll look better and he might do them in a cleverer fashion. That actually makes Obama much worse for the rest of the world than Bush would have been. At least Bush was driving the US right over a cliff twenty years before true imperial decline was scheduled to take the country down.
It is very depressing to see the extent to which Obama's campaign has been able to blind intelligent people across the globe. This is a man bought and paid for by Wall Street and AIPAC who has done nothing but mouth the words 'hope' and 'change'. His actual decisions to date belie those words.
As for Frank's contention in one of the comments here that Obama's proposed shift of military focus to Afghanistan is merely some sort of political ruse to enable him to disengage militarily from both Iraq and Afghanistan -- forget it. Obama will keep the military in both places and it will remain there until the money is gone or the respective local resistance movements and/or their allies inflict defeat on the US military (which they will do, in the end). I for one hope they manage it Teutoburger Wald-style (don't laugh - William Lind thinks Iran could do it to us forces in Iraq.)
by wing26 on Sat Nov 8th, 2008 at 06:05:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Hi wing26.  Why would any rational imperial leader want to remain in Afganistan?

Vote McCain for war without gain
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Nov 8th, 2008 at 06:27:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Hi Frank. Well, I think your question shows part of the problem here. You already assume that Obama is 'rational' simply because he looks and sounds it in comparison to Bush (and a whole lot of other recent US presidents). But that does not mean he is exempt from the run-of-the-mill delusions that plague American politics. Principal among these is that the US really is some fantastic military power and can do whatever it wants militarily.
But I do not want to enter into a discussion of what 'rationality' might mean in a US political context. For what it's worth, I think nearly all US mainstream political leaders are insane (as in disconnected from reality, unable to understand reality's limits). Below, Jake mentions Putin. The difference between Obama and Putin is that Putin is probably already an order of magnitude more realistic simply by virtue of not being an American.
The real point is what Obama has said about Afghanistan. Basically, he said 'Screw Iraq, Afghanistan's the good war and that's where we're going!' Now I do not think this is at all able to square with some sort of strategic withdrawal. If the populist angle mattered at all (which it doesn't), Obama would have said, 'I know you're all sick of bullshit wars, so I'm bringing our troops home, especially from Afghanistan, which is strategically pointless.' And with as little faith as I have in Americans, I think that would have gone over a treat. But that isn't what he said at all. He is on record as saying he will increase the US military commitment to Afghanistan.
We all know that politicians lie to get elected, but the lies are usually positive ones. They don't usually promise to keep fighting a stupid, immoral, unwinnable war that is unpopular domestically, unless they are actually dumb enough to mean it. And I submit that Obama, despite how suave he appears, is dumb enough.
If Obama told any lies to get himself elected, they were the 'hope and change' ones, not the 'We're staying in Afghanistan' ones.
by wing26 on Sat Nov 8th, 2008 at 12:21:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Obama will do more or less exactly the same things as Bush, except he'll look better and he might do them in a cleverer fashion. That actually makes Obama much worse for the rest of the world than Bush would have been. At least Bush was driving the US right over a cliff twenty years before true imperial decline was scheduled to take the country down.

While I largely agree with the premise, I disagree vehemently with the conclusion. I'd much, much rather have a smart emperor running a nuclear power than a drooling moron. "Desperate, flailing implosion" is not a qualifier that's designed to make me sleep soundly when applied to empires with enough megatons to scorch every major city on the planet five times over.

I think the US just got rid of a Yeltsin and replaced him with a Putin. Yes, it means that the US will be more powerful, just as Putin has made Russia more powerful. But I think you'd be hard pressed to argue that humanity is worse off with Putin than with Yeltsin.

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sat Nov 8th, 2008 at 09:48:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
For Chechens, Putin was no improvement over Yeltsin, not at all. For Afghanis and Iraqis, Obama may not be one, either.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Nov 8th, 2008 at 10:18:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Chechnya did actually cross my mind when I wrote it. And yes, being a more effective emperor will mean that he will be more effective at making life miserable for those he decides to make life miserable for.

But I don't think he'll be making life miserable for quite as many people.

Obviously, the world would be a better place without emperors. But until that happy day, I'd much prefer smart emperors over stupid ones.

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sat Nov 8th, 2008 at 11:02:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I prefer Mussolini over Hitler.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Nov 8th, 2008 at 11:28:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Before the above is misunderstood as an analogy between Hitler and Obama or Putin (pace poemless), I should make my argument explicit.

You'll notice that I have't argued that Putin was worse than Yeltsin for the majority of the citizens of Russia, or even for EU-Russia relations. Indeed I do not think so. But I won't draw a general conclusion from this specific example. I brought up Hitler and Mussolini to counter JakeS's general claim.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sat Nov 8th, 2008 at 02:32:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Point taken.

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sat Nov 8th, 2008 at 04:28:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A case could certainly be made that Hitler wasn't the sharpest knife in the drawer either.

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sat Nov 8th, 2008 at 04:31:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
We need to draw a distinction between delusional and reality based leaders.  Hitler and the neo-cons were both delusional to a degree, failing to see almost no limits to their own power and no bases for the power of their opponents.  These guys are ultimately defeated when their  delusions are defeated by reality - but often at great cost.  

Putin and Obama, I would argue are realists by comparison.  They have a more sober appreciation of the limits of their own power and the reasons why others might oppose them.  They are more amenable to negotiated solutions taking both their interests and those of their competing powers into account.  They can build on common interests rather than polarising situations to such a degree that only extreme force - on either side - can resolve the conflict of interest.

Obama may not be a starry eyed idealist who will bring peace in our time overnight.  But neither would he start stupid wars, and or re-polarise situations that are starting to find a relative level of stability.  That is  huge improvement on where we have been, and I will take it for the moment.

notes from no w here

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Nov 9th, 2008 at 09:29:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think that distinguishing between delusional and sane leaders is a better split than between dumb and smart ones.

OTOH, while being smart does not guarantee that one is not delusional, there is a point where dumb and delusional become virtually indistinguishable.

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Nov 9th, 2008 at 12:16:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There's dumb and dumb. I don't think Bush would ever have nuked the world or gone up against the Russians even as his empire went straight down the vortex of the bog. McCain ... hard to say, the man's got 'issues'.
But anyway, in general terms you are wrong. See, the rest of the world doesn't want a competent imperial manager for the US. We want an incompetent one, because such people are easier to beat. Bush, being a fool, did immense damage to the US imperium. I hate the US imperium, and I hope to live long enough to see the US itself reduced to the point where it is accorded the same international interest and respect as, say, New Zealand (i.e. pretty much none. I initially wrote 'Zimbabwe', but Zimbabwe still gets a lot of attention through mere notoriety). But it was only fifty-fifty, until Bush came along and did such sterling work. Believe me, ten years ago I would never have imagined seeing the US in such poor shape. (Now I expect the US to be essentially defunct before I retire, not a decade after I'm dead). Now, the only reason people still pay attention is because they haven't realized the place is doomed. (We got six pages of Obamania in our newspapers after he got elected ... and I live in Asia! What is this crap?)
Hopefully, Obama is so constrained by institutional interests that he'll be functionally stupid as President, no matter how intelligent he may be otherwise ... in fact, it's a given. We see it already. Look after Wall Street and Israel before he's even in the White House. Hope and change? Maybe. For the US's enemies, that is.
by wing26 on Sat Nov 8th, 2008 at 12:36:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Bush did immense damage to the US empire, not the least by bogging it down in Iraq. Though in principle probably many iraqis agree that the end of the US empire is a good thing, they would have prefered the US empire not bogging itself down in their country. In the same way I suspect most afghaniis could have done without bringing down either evil empire.

A vote for PES is a vote for EPP! A vote for EPP is a vote for PES! Support the coalition, vote EPP-PES in 2009!
by A swedish kind of death on Sat Nov 8th, 2008 at 08:49:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But even if Bush/McCain hadn't nuked the world, they could have done immense damage. An invasion of Iran, another clumsy attempt or two at installing puppet dictators in South America... there's no end to the amount of mischief those crazies were getting themselves into.

I think - and at this point a guess is all we have - that Obama has greater mental flexibility than Bush/McCain on the subject of foreign policy. Read: He'll be able to understand and more or less accept when a country has clearly and unequivocally left the US sphere of interest.

Bush/McCain seemed to have no willingness to concede loss of territory. And if you have a major power trying to enforce its will on what is clearly another major power's turf... Bad Things Happen. Think Georgia or Lebanon. Or a Chinese invasion of Taiwan, for that matter.

Yes, a US empire that flails out desperately at a variety of lost causes would weaken itself faster than a US empire that cuts its losses and manages more or less orderly retreats from its former colonies... But flailing about would hurt a lot of people on the way.

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Nov 9th, 2008 at 06:27:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
wing26:
See, the rest of the world doesn't want a competent imperial manager for the US. We want an incompetent one, because such people are easier to beat. Bush, being a fool, did immense damage to the US imperium. I hate the US imperium, and I hope to live long enough to see the US itself reduced to the point where it is accorded the same international interest and respect as, say, New Zealand (i.e. pretty much none.

By the logic of this argument, we should all have been rooting for a Palin Presidency.  The problem is that if the US is reduced to the influence of a New Zealand, the likelihood is not that we will have lots of New Zealand type countries in the world living in peace and harmony with one another, but a world dominated by China, Russia, Islamic countries or multinational corporations of no particular national loyalty - something which may be happening anyway.

A uni-polar world order leads to unparalleled hubris and arrogance, and I a glad that era is drawing to a close.  But a multi-polar world order -in the absence of strong International legal institutions - could be even more unstable.  We have to be careful about what we build to prepare the unipolar system - and the cataclysmic decline of the US is not guaranteed to give us a better world.

notes from no w here

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Nov 9th, 2008 at 09:40:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think the US just got rid of a Yeltsin and replaced him with a Putin.

Agreed.

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Mon Nov 10th, 2008 at 12:21:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
....maybe a Putin with an Idealism transplant...?

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson
by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Tue Nov 11th, 2008 at 08:07:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Replacing a delusional with a realist is a good start even for the present.  But visionary realists also plan for the long term which is an even better start.  You don't have to be an "impractical idealist" to make some very good decisions for the future.  You should know!

notes from no w here
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Nov 11th, 2008 at 08:14:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Assuming that his idealism isn't for the sole benefit of the cameras. We don't know that yet. His idealism could exceed what he felt safe to campaign on... or it could fall far short of what he thought opportune to campaign on.

I'd never even heard about the guy before he started campaigning, and I always take election campaigns with a largish grain of salt, so I don't think I'm qualified to comment on how much of his program he's actually serious about.

He might surprise us and turn out to be a Gorbachev. He might disappoint us and turn out to be a Bliar. But right now, I think he looks like a Putin.

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Nov 12th, 2008 at 10:45:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't know enough about these Russians personalities to be able to comment but it might be instructive to revisit this thread in 6 months to see if opinions have changed.

The good news ... it's only a life sentence. You eventually leave this planet of idiots.
by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Tue Nov 11th, 2008 at 08:12:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Agreed.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Fri Nov 7th, 2008 at 03:42:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Furthermore you'll have the Palinites pushing fascism and world conquest in order to reclaim America's rightful place in the world.

The good news ... it's only a life sentence. You eventually leave this planet of idiots.
by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Tue Nov 11th, 2008 at 08:14:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
... to America for global leadership is the US Government's insistence on sabotaging global collaboration when the USG is not perceived to be leading the movement.

That is, the USG leading on an issue makes progress possible because the USG is not then working day and night to stymie progress on the issue.

The annoyance with the not infrequent USG arrogance on issues that the USG has decided to "lead" on is, of course, entirely independent of whether someone wants the USG to lead or not ... I can want someone to take a position as head coach of the Cincinatti Bengals or Columbus Crew and at the same time not want him to be an arrogant prick about it.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sun Nov 9th, 2008 at 12:03:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
People don't look to America just 'cause, so to speak.

the USA has built itself the largest economy in the world, has more military bases worldwide than any other nation, and has since the turn of the 20th century inserted itself into other nations' affairs more than any country. It has used it's power to largely dictate most global systems. It was and remains the world's first and largest super-power.

So big surprise when there's a 900lb gorilla in the room that people spend a lot of time looking to that gorilla's behaviour, good and bad.

At it's worst, like Bush, the world suffers through the USA's influence and tries to get by, and/or ameliorate the damage. At it's best, the USA's global power has meant it can set a compelling example - ie that influence has been used for 'good'. Both circumstances have resulted from which driver has the head of the gorilla.

In Obama, the world hopes and craves for that good compelling example.

Short version - the USA has a lot of power, therefore the world 'looks' to how it uses it, via your leaders. In return for the power and the blathering on about a light on the hill, we expect a raising of the bar.


"This can't possibly get more disturbing!" - Willow

by myriad (imogenk at wildmail dot com) on Mon Nov 10th, 2008 at 11:54:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Welcome, myriad, and well put.

The rest of the world has often got little choice as to how to react to US power.  For instance the Irish Government acquiesced to rendition flights through Shannon despite the vehement opposition of the overwhelming majority of the people.  The serious people tm in the elite calculate that the consequences of pissing the US off are worse than pissing off their own electorates, and democracy be damned.


notes from no w here

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Nov 11th, 2008 at 06:10:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Obama advisers celebrate - The Irish Times - Fri, Nov 07, 2008

Prof Samantha Power said Mr Obama had made it clear in his campaign that his priorities were getting out of Iraq responsibly, doubling efforts in Afghanistan and taking advantage of the momentum generated by the presidential election.

She said Mr Obama wanted the anti-Americanism of the last eight years to be a thing of the past, but he viewed it as a security challenge and not simply a popularity contest.

"When governments are afraid of associating with the US because they will fall in general elections, it is not good for our ability to burdenshare and draw resources from other countries in meeting global challenges," she said.

Prof Power and her husband, professor of law at Harvard University Cass Sunstein, jointly delivered their inaugural lecture at University College Cork last night where both are adjunct professors of law. They spoke on the topic Whither America: Law Human Rights in the next US administration? In an interview with media in advance of the lecture, Prof Power said she and her husband had not been offered any role in the new administration and had no expectation of this.

Prof Sunstein, who also played an advisory role, commented: "We are really celebrating the election of somebody we admire and worked for. Anyone who in this period is thinking about their own job is not thinking about the right thing." He said one of Mr Obama's many achievements had been bringing himself and his new wife together on the campaign. The couple were married in Co Kerry last year. When he met Mr Obama after his election victory, the president-elect told him "you owe me one" for introducing him to his wife-to-be.

Stressing that she was speaking on her own behalf and not on behalf of Mr Obama, Prof Power said the president-elect wanted to work to create a collaborative co-operative framework that had been missing on everything from global warming to strengthening efforts in Afghanistan on the development and economic side, as well as the military side.



Vote McCain for war without gain
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Nov 7th, 2008 at 02:50:51 PM EST
Remind me - why are we in Afghanistan?
by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Fri Nov 7th, 2008 at 03:00:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Apparently to kill Osama bin Laden.  Of course he is probably already dead, but to admit that would be to spoil the party. Obama had to hang tough on Afghanistan so his policy on Iraq wouldn't make him seem wimpish in comparison to McCain.  Now he can start withdrawing from Iraq - even the client Iraqi Government wants them out - and redeploy some troops to Afghanistan.  

As soon as he can declare some kind of mission accomplished there he will withdraw from Afghanistan as well - for reasons of cost alone - if not for the utter strategic stupidity of it.  He will probably cut a deal with Pakistan to act as enforcer in the region, perhaps even with Iran.  He just needs to sort out a little local difficulty in Palestine and re: suspected nuclear weapons programs in the meantime.

The problem is Israel needs to keep the Palestinian conflict on the boil to keep the US fully engaged.  Never has a small nation more success fully led a much larger one around by the nose.  Whoever dreamt up Christian Zionism was a genius.  Not only did it solve the historic problem of Christian antisemitism, it effectively gave Israel control of US foreign policy.


Vote McCain for war without gain

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Nov 7th, 2008 at 03:25:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
ThatBritGuy:
Remind me - why are we in Afghanistan?

pashtun smack?

they don't have walmart yet?

they're mean to girls?

the taliban and warlords have too many guns and shit (we gave them to kick russki ass)?

and now they're kicking ours... (it's what afghans do)

"We can all be prosperous but we can't all be rich." Ian Welsh

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Fri Nov 7th, 2008 at 05:51:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Obama could become the truly preeminent Global leader of our age

But what do you mean, "a preeminent global leader" ? What kind of concept is that ? Where does he get his power from, and who controls him ? Is he elected on a global scale ? How does that fit with the various national and supranational institutions ? What kind of authority would he enjoy, over whom ? And the authority would be his, or his nation's ? And all the while, he'd do it out of pure idealism ?

Truth is, I really have difficulties with your diary, Frank. I don't understand what you are aiming at.

by balbuz on Fri Nov 7th, 2008 at 03:51:47 PM EST
{{applause}}}

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Fri Nov 7th, 2008 at 03:53:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And should anyone get the idea that I am simply trying to incite a debate or worse, I strongly urge you to read the serious things I have written about the leadership of Russia.  You will find my stand of the issue is pretty consistent.  When we get a global government, then we can elect a global leader.  For now, the American President's primary responsibility is to his own people.  His role abroad should be constructive and respectful of international law.  But Obama is no more a leader for the people of Ireland than the President of Ireland is my leader.  


"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Fri Nov 7th, 2008 at 04:05:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think you fundamentally misunderstand what I have been trying to say - which probably means I haven't said it very well.  So I will take some time out and consider how to say it better.  This conversation seems to be laced with so many misconceptions that it may be better for me to start again.  My basic point would be this.  No national state or national leader acts in a vacuum.  All act in a global context of interstate relationships, some formal, enshrined in bilateral treaties or multi-lateral organisations, some informal.  All seek to maximise their national interest, but increasingly those national interests are inter-twined.  So to say that what Obama does doesn't effect Ireland,or (even if only in a small way) what Ireland does doesn't effect the USA is nonsensical.  To take even a small current example:  there is already concern in Ireland than Obama's proposed corporate tax changes will de-incentivise US corporations from locating or expanding some of their operations in Ireland.  Equally Irish companies are increasingly invested in the US, and are thus effected by tax changes, $ devaluations, interest rates etc.  Another example would be connerns about undocumented Irish immigrant to the US.  We live in an increasingly interconnected world.  To think of this simply through a nation state paradigm is to think of it in very 20th. century terms. Nationalism as an ideology is no longer equal or optimal to the task of addressing the problems of the 21st. century. However to think of it in other terms inevitably involves using supra and trans national concepts. This is normal in an EU context.  It seems more difficult to communicate this within the terms US political culture and debate..

Vote McCain for war without gain
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Nov 7th, 2008 at 05:01:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, obviously, Obama will go on to become leader of the One World Government we'll have established by the time he finishes his third term.
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Fri Nov 7th, 2008 at 08:46:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
To my shock and surprise the Irish Independent, the largest circulation daily in Ireland, has published a large chunk of this diary as a letter to the Editor.  I sent the entire diary in just to help establish my credentials as a commentator, but never expected them to take the trouble to edit a long piece into a letter format - especially one with words like "opacity" in the first line.  

Either the Indo is going seriously upmarket, or I am going seriously down-market, and judging by some of the criticisms here, it seems more likely to be the latter!  I hope I don't get roasted on the letters pages of the Indo now, because I am getting to a bit of an embarrassment to my friends and family....  Previous letters published there attracted quite a lot of critical reaction.

Does Obama have a dream big enough? - Letters - Independent.ie

Behind his rhetoric of change, Barack Obama has managed to maintain a remarkable opacity about what he will actually do as president, particularly when it comes to the USA's role in world affairs.

Sure, he will try to get troops out of Iraq and redeploy some of those resources to Afghanistan. Sure, he is predisposed to multilateralism and diplomacy rather than to starting more wars -- for example with Iran. True, he won't be a climate change denier, a free market deregulator, a cold warrior, or a bombastic proponent of the "New American Century", where all other powers supplicate to the shining city on a hill. But what will he actually do?

Mr Obama brings a new world view to the office -- one explicitly opposed to neoconservative neo-imperialism. Mr Obama's African heritage, his Kansas roots, his Indonesian schooling, and his Hawaiian youth give him a sensitivity and appreciation of the world outside continental USA. His foreign policy experience may not be much greater than Sarah Palin's, but at least he doesn't believe that living next to Russia constitutes a qualification for high office.

When the world outside America listened to George Bush they were instinctively distrustful, and that included many who were ideologically pro-American. The USA's global political influence is now far smaller than its economic and military strength might otherwise enable.

Mr Obama's eloquence harks back to a time of Martin Luther King, the Kennedys, Bob Dylan and Noam Chomsky, when America was the leader of a world striving to be free. But now we live in a new world, where old empires have been torn down.

Mr Obama could become the truly pre-eminent global leader of our age, but only if he has the strength and vision to recognise that America is not diminished by being of greater service to the world as a whole. America once had that vision and that visionary -- who helped to end a huge economic crisis and a World War. His name was Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

I hope Mr Obama has the ambition to be not just a good president, but a great world leader. The idealism of the American people deserves no less.



Vote McCain for war without gain
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Nov 8th, 2008 at 05:16:52 AM EST
Well done, Frank, and well done the Independent...

solveig and I got back from a couple of days in Dublin yesterday....I was delivering this lecture

Equity Shares

and will do a diary on my experiences fairly soon...

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Sat Nov 8th, 2008 at 06:56:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well done.  Sorry I missed you.  Interesting group.  

notes from no w here
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Nov 8th, 2008 at 07:18:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Frank, you're an inspiration! More people should just send in their political commentary / diaries to papers!!

People may not always agree, but you definitely get the debates going - and that's at least half the work!

by Nomad on Sat Nov 8th, 2008 at 08:14:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
THANKS.  YEA - YOU NEVER KNOW WHAT HEY WILL PUBLISH. Some of my best stuff (in my view) never gets published, and sometimes you get a surprise like this.  Saturday is a great day to get in as more people have time to read the inside pages.

notes from no w here
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Nov 8th, 2008 at 08:27:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I hope Mr Obama has the ambition to be not just a good president

He'd better have it in him to be a great American president.  He doesn't have to be among the all-time greats, like Roosevelt or Lincoln, but he can't be Bill Clinton.  Not that I don't appreciate Bill Clinton's competence, because it'd obviously be a massive improvement over the current administration, but I expect more than simple competence from Obama.

As I've said, I'm 99% convinced he's capable of it.  The question that will remain unanswered until he takes office is, "Does he have the drive?"

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Sat Nov 8th, 2008 at 11:35:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Drew J Jones: I expect more than simple competence from Obama.

Why?

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.

by marco on Mon Nov 10th, 2008 at 12:00:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
We will know there has been a sea change in American attitudes when we see the first US defendant charged with torture or war crimes before the International Court of Justice.

This will take a real sea change in American politics, as the American Servicemembers' Protection Act specifically prohibits the US from allowing any of its nationals to be tried before the ICC.

"PROHIBITION ON RESPONDING TO REQUESTS FOR COOPERATION- Notwithstanding section 1782 of title 28, United States Code, or any other provision of law, no United States Court, and no agency or entity of any State or local government, including any court, may cooperate with the International Criminal Court in response to a request for cooperation submitted by the International Criminal Court pursuant to the Rome Statute."


"It Can't Be Just About Us"
--Frank Schnittger, ETian Extraordinaire
by papicek (papi_cek_at_hotmail_dot_com) on Sat Nov 8th, 2008 at 07:33:28 PM EST
Full text of ASPA.

Section 2008 of the act gives blanket authority to the President for an invasion of Belgium to free any national or designated ally being tried before the ICC:

SEC. 2008. AUTHORITY TO FREE MEMBERS OF THE ARMED FORCES OF THE UNITED STATES AND CERTAIN OTHER PERSONS DETAINED OR IMPRISONED BY OR ON BEHALF OF THE INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT

Frankly, I don't believe the congressional democrats are willing to spend the political capital needed to repeal this, even noting the fact that leaving a blanket authorization for the use of military force is insane.

This kind of nationalism enjoys as broad a support in the US. We're a nation of jihadists.

"It Can't Be Just About Us"
--Frank Schnittger, ETian Extraordinaire

by papicek (papi_cek_at_hotmail_dot_com) on Sat Nov 8th, 2008 at 07:59:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Netherlands.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun Nov 9th, 2008 at 05:21:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
[sigh...]

Usually I'm better than that. Thanks.

"It Can't Be Just About Us"
--Frank Schnittger, ETian Extraordinaire

by papicek (papi_cek_at_hotmail_dot_com) on Mon Nov 10th, 2008 at 07:30:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In the Roman empire, a Roman citizen could only be tried by a Roman court under Roman law - that is the essence of what imperialism is about: everyone is subject to our laws, but we're not subject to theirs.  The reason I chose that as a defining example is that I believe Neo-conservatism is only he most extreme form of US imperialism - many, perhaps the majority of American's would balk at - say Dick Cheney - being tried by the ICJ in the Hague - regardless of the merits of the case or whether he were ultimately found guilty or innocent.

Thus Obama is inheriting a polity which is fundamentally imperialist - Democrats as well as Republicans, and quite a few "progressives" as well have a contempt for the UN, for international law, and for American's tried under international law.  These attitudes run much deeper than the Obama/Bush divide, and until that changes, the US will continue to be a source of instability in the world - with US Corporations, Mercenaries, and Armed Forces acting with impunity around the world.

My next diary should perhaps be entitled "The limits of US Liberalism".

notes from no w here

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Nov 9th, 2008 at 09:54:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
about public diplomacy (I just finished reading a thoughtful proposal commissioned by the Council on Foreign Relations) I was struck by how much the US is represented by Rambo movies, McDonald's, KFC, Coca Cola, American Idol, etc. Never mind Union Carbide, Exxon-Mobil, Halliburton, etc. Never mind the past 8 years of official foreign policy.

This sort of drove me into a tailspin thinking about the notion of America's role in the world. Anything the Obama election might have done for the US needs to be viewed from the bottom of that deep, deep hole we've dug for ourselves.

Policy is just another expression of a society's culture and that being the case, we've cause to be humble indeed.

"It Can't Be Just About Us"
--Frank Schnittger, ETian Extraordinaire

by papicek (papi_cek_at_hotmail_dot_com) on Mon Nov 10th, 2008 at 08:03:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
We will know there has been a sea change in American attitudes when we see the first US defendant charged with torture or war crimes before the International Court of Justice.  I will not be holding my breath.

I have a diary on the subject to finish once I get settled back in, but this still seems like a strange misreading of the mission of the ICC. The Court is only supposed to step in if a country is not willing or not able to prosecute its own war criminals. In practice one should add - too weak to make it not worth it.

The only way I could possibly see an ICC prosecution of senior US officials is if they had been pardoned by Bush, and Obama approved of a Hague prosecution, and there was enough popular support for the concept to not make it political suicide. Without at least tacit US approval it won't happen. Just like Putin isn't getting arrested any time soon. Russia would object, and the rest of the major powers would see it as a far too costly action.

by MarekNYC on Sun Nov 9th, 2008 at 01:05:25 AM EST
Just seen this - please see my comment above.

notes from no w here
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Nov 9th, 2008 at 09:55:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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