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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

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

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

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

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

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

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

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

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

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

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.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
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

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

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

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

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.

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.
by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Tue Nov 11th, 2008 at 08:12:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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