Sunday, December 13, 2009

Anger at Obama

Dear Readers,

The Political Pagan is now able to return to life after more than a month of being snowed in by multiple projects and responsibilities, from the always-exhausting business of college teaching to attending the American Academy of Religion conference in the lovely Canadian city of Montreal.

The PP has also been weighed down psychologically by a sense of anger and despair about the increasingly militaristic direction of the Obama administration. Now he will give voice to these feelings.

At a time when America is in economic free-fall, with increasing numbers of unemployed living on the slender lifeline of unemployment compensation, foreclosures on mortgages continuing to drive people out of their homes, and health care reform increasingly devolving into a Christmas gift for the health care and insurance industries that makes this year's Goldman-Sachs bonuses seem paltry by comparison, the brilliant idea of the "Hope and Change" President is to double our troop commitment to the quagmire of Afghanistan, and to actually accept the Nobel Peace Prize with a pro-war speech.

Not many weeks back, this blog had words of praise for Barack Obama as representing a change from the warmongering ways of the Bush-Cheney regime toward a more diplomatic, intelligent, and collaborative foreign policy. This author now deeply regrets and wishes to apologize to his readers for those words of praise. Obama seem to be doing all that he can to take up the mantle of "War President" from the ashes of the Bush presidency.

It is becoming clear that Obama's obsession with being a "bipartisan" leader, "reaching across the aisle" and so forth, includes being willing to act like a neo-con Republican when it comes to foreign policy and the use of military force abroad. It is an open question whether Obama really believes that this military adventure in Afghanistan is actually going to produce any worthwhile results in that beleaguered, divided and demoralized country, with its long history of rising up and fighting to the death against foreign occupation and aggression. What seems more clear is that Obama hopes to win the support of Republicans, or at least conservative-learning independent voters, by devoting resources to the one kind of government program that conservatives and Republicans can always be relied upon to enthusiastically support: the use of military force.

And the cynical political calculation of this anything-but-idealistic President is paying off. Though Republicans in both houses of Congress have generally been the "Party of NO" in refusing to support ANY domestic policy initiative put forward by Obama and the Democrats, when he made his West Point speech kissing up to the pro-war side of American society, these same Republicans suddenly had words of praise and a new tone of respect for Obama. Their one complaint was Obama's mention of an eighteen month deadline to begin withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, following the initial escalation of 30,000 extra troops. Obama's people quickly mollified the voices of discontent with the time limit by explaining that the deadline was nothing hard and fast, just a goal that might have to be modified.

One thing curiously missing from the Republicans' enthusiasm for Obama's expanded Afghan war effort was any concern about the cost. This was really striking. For months, Republicans have been screaming and shouting that we cannot possibly afford any large-scale expansion of national health care because it would be too expensive, it would bust the budget, push the deficit to a breaking point, place an unbearable burden on future generations, and so on. However, when the Afghan escalation was proposed, with a price tag of an extra $30 billion per year beyond the already considerable costs of the existing war effort, not a word of concern was raised by Republicans or conservatives about costs, burdens or deficits. War, you see, is ALWAYS worth paying for. A blank check for the military is the secret soft spot of the so-called deficit hawks, and a blatant demonstration of disgusting hypocrisy--"we can't afford to do anything" versus "no limits, no worries"--to anyone concerned with the sad state and unmet needs of American society.

It is becoming painfully clear to this Political Pagan that America is a dying empire. In our death-throes, we are able to do one thing only: thrash and smash around the world with our immense military might, even as conditions inside America get worse and worse, and the country falls farther and farther behind other countries in terms of education, health, medical care, infrastructure, and technology, except for military technology where we still are #1, since we spend as much as the next 20 countries put together.

Many other countries have better education, transportation, health care and retirement systems, but who cares? We have Arlington National Cemetery with line after line of headstones commemorating our valiant soldiers. Who needs a functioning society when you can have a great military cemetery? What fool would trade in the world's greatest military for silly things like health care, schools with adequate funding and technologically up-to-date mass transit systems? What idiot would propose government-funded employment programs like the WPA of the last great Depression/Recession to provide work for our legions of unemployed young people, when we can instead shepherd the young into our armed forces and our prisons?

This author feels deeply betrayed by President Obama, and deeply depressed by the strongly-rooted militarism of American society. It is hard to see any hope right now. Obama was our last chance for a fresh start, and increasingly, it feels like the winner of the 2008 election was not the "Obama" that his supporters were hoping for, but Bush. The Bush legacy of pro-Wall Street, pro-war, anti-social assistance policies lives on. Obama is making some changes here and there, nice small things, but the big picture remains fundamentally Bushian.

This blog apologizes for its past praise of Obama. A man who claims to respect Martin Luther King and Gandhi while bowing to the every wish and whim of jingoistic militarists is no friend of peace. He should NOT have been given the Nobel award. Judging from the pained faces of those forced to listen to his appalling speech in Oslo, I think many of the members of the Nobel committee are feeling much the same way.

This blog today is all Politics and no Paganism; so be it. Readers of past entries know that the author is much concerned with how certain forms of Paganism show a militaristic tendency. This will be discussed more in future.


Paul said...

Unfortunetly, when dealing with politics, your sence of cynasism should reign supreme. Much like yourself I am an educator and a "Northern-Tradition" pagan; however, I teach civics in addition to history.

Politicians always use terms like "change" or "a new direction" to always mean "more of the same".

Im my classes I have alwasy asked my students to answer the quetion "Are we the new Rome?" and we do suffer many of "The Empires" ills (We're streached too thin, infighting, ect). I would like to see the United States avoid Romes fate, as I'm sure you do, but if we follow our surrent course I don't think we can.

My follow up question to you Professor; As Pagans, more specifically "Norther-Tradition" pagans, what can we do to help steer the United States away from this "more of the same" attitude?

Leviathan said...

Before you completely abandon your support for our President...a man who has returned dignity, intelligence and common sense to the office...please consider the following.

1. The military action you decry has already had its first success in killing a high-ranking Al Qaeda official, Abu Yahya al-Libi. This man was instrumental in planning additional 9/11-style attacks against the West.

2. For the first time an American president understands the unique dynamic between Afghanistan and Pakistan, a dynamic that Al Qaeda has exploited to shield themselves. Despite the risk to American military, which I respect, does he not deserve an opportunity to dismantle this terrorist organization to protect an even larger number of Americans, as his predecessor failed to do?

3. This president understands that power in the middle east is derived from oil. Take away the need for oil, through energy independence and good policy, and the power center dissolves, finally.

I understand your cynicism about the attempt to appeal to conservative Americans for 2012. Look at history. Politics is the way things get done, like it or not. But to imply this is the only reason for his actions is myopic. Fareed Zakaria has a good analysis on what the mission actually is, and the definition of "success". Link here.

Anonymous said...

Friend, Obama always said, during the campaign, that he believed that the war effort in Afghanistan needed to be ramped up. Wasn't anyone listening when he said this?

This is why I cast my vote (at least during Florida's primaries) for Dennis Kucinich, the Ohio congressman who, so far as I can tell, is the only elected official who actually works for the people and doesn't pander to the opposition or give the entire store away.

Dennis wanted to establish a Department of Peace had he become President. He wanted the US out of both Iraq and Afghanistan immediately. He wanted to repeal the PATRIOT Act. He wanted universal, single-payer health care for all American citizens.

For some reason, people either did not know he was running, OR he's just TOO lefty for the nation right now. I'm not sure which.

So how anyone can complain about Obama actually fulfilling one of his campaign promises is beyond me. I just don't understand that.

Chris said...

I don't understand your indignation when Obama was quite explicit about finishing the War in Afghanistan, calling it a "war of necessity," during his campaign. Anyone who actually listened to his rhetoric during the campaign, rather than be enamored by it, would know that his actions here are nothing of a surprise.

"Hope and Change" was clearly out the window when the answer to an economic crisis was to through money at it.

Anonymous said...

Postscript to my above comment:

Please allow me to step forward and openly and clearly state that I do not believe President Obama should have been awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace.

From what I understand, the Nobel Academy awarded him that prize for doing nothing more than "kindling hope" or something like that. I think they had already selected the winner of the prize barely two weeks into his administration.

I think they acted a bit hastily.

Seeing Eye Chick said...

I don't see this as bad. Afghanistan was originally armed by Americans to fight the Russians if you will recall. It is a lawless area run by warlords and it was the area where Terrorists have been able to train for attacks on other countries. We should have invaded that country right after 9-11. The problem is that Shrub--being the Genius that he is--didn't commit enough resources to do what needed to be done in that area and instead committed to Iraq and increased our fronts for reasons that were purely corporate. Now Obama inherited both half assed Wars and you think he just pulls out just like that? He could and just leave a vacuum and hope that what fills that void isn't worse than what helped spawn 9-11. Unfortunately he has to finish the job there. Or we will be right back there within the next decade--same crap differen president. Obama didn't make these messes, but he has to clean them up.

Birka said...

I'm a Heathen and an Army wife. My husband has already been deployed to Iraq and there's a good chance he could be deployed to Afghanistan too.

In the Army community where I live, there is no talk about abandoning the war or there being too many deaths. People don't voice those opinions if they have them I don't think.

This current surge in Afghanistan is copying the strategy used in Iraq and that turned the tide for American servicemen and women serving over there. Before the surge there were more deaths but after the surge, security was greatly increased.

I think on some level Obama knows that Afghanistan cannot be won. This surge and time limit (we're out by 2012) is either a way to pull out without losing face and/or give Karhazi a kick up the ass and let him know that either he and his lot decide what side they're on and get their act together or they lose help. I think it's necessary and a lot of military I've spoken to think so too.

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