Saturday, December 12, 2009

I guess it was the Nobel Prize speech we'd expect

It was an interesting speech. Barack Obama has never presented himself as a pacifist. He's a nationalist and to a degree I did not expect two years ago, he has bought in essentially fully to the US/Zionist conception of the Middle East. So he gives a speech that peace depends on US victory in all of its conflicts. George W. Bush, Stalin, Ahmadinejad, Hitler, Bin Laden all could have given that speech with changes in details.

The icons of pacifism, Dr. Martin Luther King, Mohandas Gandi were naive and didn't realize, as Barack does, that violence is actually necessary. How much violence? No amount that could be determined a-priori. The amount of violence you observe the US applying under President Obama is the right amount of violence.

Giving him the award was a mistake and the speech confirmed that it was a mistake, but as mistakes go, nobody directly died because of the award. It is difficult to be overly angry. The nomination was made during the height of Obama-mania immediately after his inauguration. It was understandable, I imagine, and I do not think it in any crushing way discredits the committee or the award itself.

I do want to take a look at the portions that show Obama's view of the Middle East.
But perhaps the most profound issue surrounding my receipt of this prize is the fact that I am the Commander-in-Chief of a nation in the midst of two wars. One of these wars is winding down. The other is a conflict that America did not seek; one in which we are joined by forty three other countries - including Norway - in an effort to defend ourselves and all nations from further attacks.
The idea that a war can be discounted because it is "winding down" just strikes me as immature. The idea that the US did not seek its conflict with Afghanistan is typically American and wrong on more than one level. First there is no obligation to invade a country from which a terrorist attack is planned. Second, and more important, keeping the Middle East safe for Israel exacts a huge toll among the other people of the Middle East.

The United States targeted Iraq's water treatment infrastructure which led to hundreds of thousands of deaths of Iraq children. Egypt is kept under a dictatorship that Obama will not call authoritarian because its leader does not speak against Israel. The US now claims it is working to apply sanctions on the Iranian population to ensure Israel keeps its regional monopoly on nuclear weapons-capability. It was only a natural progression that the people of the Middle East would attack the US directly in retaliation for the misery the US applies to the people of the Middle East so that about 5 million Jewish people do not have to tolerate Arab majority rule.

The misery now inflicted upon Afghanistan and Pakistan to prevent the resources from these countries from being used to retaliate for US attacks on the Muslim world are now being added to the list of offenses committed - directly and indirectly in opposition to a one-state solution to the conflict over Zionism - that Muslim people will understandably seek to punish the US for. By today I would not expect Obama to understand that Dr. King is exactly right in that the violence he believes is morally acceptable and necessary is only begetting more violence.
For make no mistake: evil does exist in the world. A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler's armies. Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda's leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force is sometimes necessary is not a call to cynicism - it is a recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason.
I believe that Obama believes this, but it is a silly idea and completely false. The United States harms the Muslim world in specific ways - almost always ultimately in support of Israel. The US supports the authoritarian dictatorships in Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf relative to more anti-Zionist and more democratic leaderships in the region. Maybe these pro-Zionist regimes could continue without US support, but if they did Al Qaeda would have no conflict with the US. Bin Laden, speaking for Al Qaeda has said this explicitly.

Even though it is true that a change in US policy would convince Al Qaeda's leaders to lay down their arms, this is a concept Barack Obama simply will not allow himself to believe. In his world, it is impossible for the US allow even the peaceful defeat of Zionism in favor of a one state solution - and with that false but accepted premise, it is impossible for the US to peacefully resolve its conflict with Al Qaeda and the Muslim world.

Obama probably really believes he has shown a limit to Al Qaeda's reasoning, rather than his own. He's free to hold whatever views he wants, but a person whose thinking does not go further than rationalizations of his own nationalism should not be given a Nobel Peace Prize. Oh well, it seemed like the thing to do at the time.
To begin with, I believe that all nations - strong and weak alike - must adhere to standards that govern the use of force. I - like any head of state - reserve the right to act unilaterally if necessary to defend my nation. Nevertheless, I am convinced that adhering to standards strengthens those who do, and isolates - and weakens - those who don't.
The Barack Obama doctrine is pretty explicit here that, for all states, national interest renders all international law advisory rather than mandatory. If a country is willing to accept any international costs, it has a right and obligation to ignore "standards" that it judges hamper national defense. Just pointing that out.
That is why I prohibited torture. That is why I ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed. And that is why I have reaffirmed America's commitment to abide by the Geneva Conventions.
Obama has a bad habit of doing this in his speeches. He says things that are very transparently half-truths, and that only decrease his credibility. Prohibited torture? It is widely reported that torture continues under the Obama administration at least in the Bagram base in Afghanistan. Of course, Guantanamo has not closed, and the Geneva Conventions require steps, such as allowing investigation of Bagram and conducting investigations of previous Americans accused or ordering or failing to prevent torture that Obama does not abide by. Obama abiding by parts of the Geneva Conventions is no departure from George W. Bush who also abided by its interpretations of parts of the Geneva Conventions.
First, in dealing with those nations that break rules and laws, I believe that we must develop alternatives to violence that are tough enough to change behavior - for if we want a lasting peace, then the words of the international community must mean something. Those regimes that break the rules must be held accountable. Sanctions must exact a real price. Intransigence must be met with increased pressure - and such pressure exists only when the world stands together as one.
Sanctions for countries that "break the rules". This is a really common American tactic for directing the terms of discussion. "Break the rules" has no formal definition so it means what Barack says it means at this moment. Is invading other countries without UN authorization breaking the rules? It is clearly violating a ratified international treaty - while Iran's enrichment program clearly did not violate any treaty at least until the US pressured the UN Security Council to make a special exception for that country.

Barack avoids clearer constructions such as "fail to observe treaties" for less clear constructions such as "break the rules" or "refuse to live up to obligations" because clearer constructions are easier to refute to before a less informed audience. It is a tactic that only works in speeches. If an informed adversary gets to speak, this tactic only ends up further reducing his credibility. But I guess tactics like this are necessary when defending policy that is strongly pulled towards hypocrisy by the logical and moral contortions the US must conduct to justify its support for Israel.
So even as we respect the unique culture and traditions of different countries, America will always be a voice for those aspirations that are universal. We will bear witness to the quiet dignity of reformers like Aung Sang Suu Kyi; to the bravery of Zimbabweans who cast their ballots in the face of beatings; to the hundreds of thousands who have marched silently through the streets of Iran. It is telling that the leaders of these governments fear the aspirations of their own people more than the power of any other nation. And it is the responsibility of all free people and free nations to make clear to these movements that hope and history are on their side
There are reports that in the delivered speech, Obama said the US, as well as hope and history are on the side of protesters in Iran. After elections that have not shown there to be a national consensus against Ahmadinejad or in support of Mousavi, and polls that do not show a national consensus against Iran's supreme leader or form of government, I hold that Westerners, including Obama, probably overestimate the importance of the protest movement. Maybe Iran's supporters over-estimate the importance of anti-Obama protesters in the United States. We'll have new presidential elections in four years, at that point we'll see if Iranian politics will change direction. Before that, I'm pretty dismissive of the prospect of change in Iran's governance. Obama speaking in favor of the protesters does not have much impact in either direction. Everyone already knew the US opposes Iran's government. Everyone in the region also knows that the US would support Iran's government if it canceled elections and took positions more favorable to Israel. But we will not see that happen.
And yet, given the dizzying pace of globalization, and the cultural leveling of modernity, it should come as no surprise that people fear the loss of what they cherish about their particular identities - their race, their tribe, and perhaps most powerfully their religion. In some places, this fear has led to conflict. At times, it even feels like we are moving backwards. We see it in Middle East, as the conflict between Arabs and Jews seems to harden. We see it in nations that are torn asunder by tribal lines.
This is really a fundamental part of the US view of the region. There is a mysterious conflict that seems to harden. There is a mental block that prevents Obama from understanding the conflict. As it is repeated enough, and as the costs of the US sustaining one side of the conflict increases, that block will be broken, if not in Obama, than in one of his successors who is younger today. Restoring the rights of the Palestinians will require a single state just as restoring the rights of Black people in South Africa required a single state. Just as all of South Africa's neighbors were on the side of the Blacks, all of Israel's neighbors are on the side of the Palestinians. Keeping Israel's Jewish majority status secure against the will of all of its neighbors requires huge expenditures of resources by the US and causes justified hatred against the US by people who identify with the Palestinians. Obama cannot understand that, and because of this failure he will make foreign policy decisions that harm US interests unnecessarily.
Most dangerously, we see it in the way that religion is used to justify the murder of innocents by those who have distorted and defiled the great religion of Islam, and who attacked my country from Afghanistan. These extremists are not the first to kill in the name of God; the cruelties of the Crusades are amply recorded. But they remind us that no Holy War can ever be a just war. For if you truly believe that you are carrying out divine will, then there is no need for restraint - no need to spare the pregnant mother, or the medic, or even a person of one's own faith. Such a warped view of religion is not just incompatible with the concept of peace, but the purpose of faith - for the one rule that lies at the heart of every major religion is that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us.
More of Obama's weird inability to see US policy and its consequences objectively. US pressure prevents the lifting of the embargo against Gaza today, under Obama. Children are starving today, with Obama's support, at a far greater rate than anything ever done by Al Qaeda. A one state solution would not entail Jewish children starving. Obama, Stalin, and Bin Laden all think or thought they were fighting the good fight, more moral than their adversaries, only stooping to immorality when left with absolutely no choice.

The US ambassador in Cairo could, today, tell Egypt that the US would accept food entering Rafah in large quantities, and Egypt would stop opposing the will of its people in exchange for US support, open Rafah and save thousands of lives, right now. Doing so would also assist the process of leading Israel's Jews to realize, as South Africa's whites realized, that a peaceful resolution to the dispute is in their interests, even if it does not retain a state set aside with them in the majority.

Obama is just displaying a weird and cloudy conception of the dispute in claiming religion drives its brutality. The US kills hundreds of children in Afghanistan and Pakistan every month.


Overall, the speech was what you get when a person who is not a pacifist accepts a peace prize. Obama is not an unusually bad US politician as far as foreign policy, he certainly is not an unusually good one either.


lidia said...

"George W. Bush, Stalin, Ahmadinejad, Hitler, Bin Laden all could have given that speech with changes in details."

I hope that the list is but a joke - afterl all, you know as well as me that Ahmadinejad is NOT waging an agressive war, very unlike Obama (or Bush, or Hitler)

Then, I hate to disappoint you, but even though I see Zionism as a great danger and a heinous crime, it is all not only about Zionism. USA first raped Iran NOT in behalf of Zionism, and I suppose their role in Afghanistan 30 years ago was not much about Zionism either.

Arnold Evans said...

You're absolutely right about Ahmadinejad not attacking anyone else. Absolutely right, I shouldn't have included him in the list.

US policy, even in the region, is not _only_ about Zionism, but that is the single most important factor in the US' current dispute with Iran.

Afghanistan 30 years ago was anti-Soviet primarily but Afghanistan today is pro-Zionist primarily.

I have to spell my reasoning out on this issue better. I'll do it in another post.