Monday, July 09, 2007

Against Obama

A brilliant article by Pierre Tristram breaks down Barack Obama's "Renewing American leadership". If you wanted good reason not to vote for Obama -- which can only mean you're not too clued in, because in my view he has never been, and will never be, electable -- Tristram provides it.

The problem with Obama from the progressive point of view is that he just isn't a liberal. There's nothing in his record that suggests he is. Yeah, it's all cool that he's a black man and we'd all find it wonderful for Americans to swallow their racism and vote in a black, but voting solely on the basis of skin colour is liable to get you a bad black president rather than a good white one. People aren't necessarily good choices just because they are from a minority.

Curiously, Hillary Clinton is often, rightly, slated for her right-wing views. She was a junior Republican, after all, and it's a cliche that we become more, not less, conservative as we age. But Obama is to the right of Clinton on many issues.

If on no other issue, his record on Iraq needs closer scrutiny. He didn't support it, fair enough, and he's spoken against it, although never particularly strongly (because the Dems have the mistaken idea that there's a "centre" that supports the basic idea of interventionism but is pissed off because the US lost this one). But he's not for immediate withdrawal, and he doesn't offer a way forward. I don't think Americans should vote for anyone who is not for immediately and unreservedly getting your chaps out of there. And as Tristram notes, his suggestions on the military are hawkish and limited.

The world does need America. I don't doubt it. It needs a good America. It doesn't really need its troops though, and it doesn't need its ridiculously outdated thinking and realpolitik. It needs leadership. Obama won't provide it. He is clearly looking to position himself as a Clintonesque figure: a status quoist in foreign policy, rather than a big thinker. But this world is in the mire. We don't need more conservatives; we need big ideas to drag us out of it. Obama doesn't have big ideas; he has the same old same old but more of it.


At 10:45 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow you are seriously misinformed. Obama is a liberal. You obviously haven't studied his record at all. If you look at any ranking (National Journal, PP), he is to left of Hillary, Edwards, and every other candidate not named Kucinich or Gravel.
He did strongly speak out against the war (See his 2002 speech for starters) and does have a plan for getting us out (see his bill or read his website).
His foreign policy is hardly hawkish, it's just not pacifist or isolationist which is unfortunately what too many liberals have moved toward post-Iraq. If that's you, your only real option is Kucinich or Ron Paul.

At 10:57 am, Blogger Dr Zen said...

A fantastically clueless comment. "Rankings" in journals are based on the journals' own (often skewed) criteria. Obama is a centrist, very much in the mould of Bill Clinton. Edwards has repositioned himself to the left this campaign, and I'd agree that his voting record is no more liberal than Obama's, and I've noted before and did again that Clinton is a rightist. I noted that he has spoken out against the war, but his plan to withdraw wouldn't actually constitute a withdrawal. As Tristram notes, his policy on Iraq is hideously confused.

I believe an "isolationist" foreign policy would be a vast improvement on the one you're currently pursuing. As I noted, I'd prefer an engaged America, but its engagement is not actually for the good of anyone else at this point. Naturally, Kucinich will not get elected, and Ron Paul is a cryptofascist who hates people.

Above all else, any suggestion that America needs a *bigger* military should be viewed with enormous scepticism. What the fuck do you need it for? It is the wrong tool for the challenges ahead, and not realising that is a serious black mark against any polly.

At 10:29 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, so I should trust your criteria over the National Journal's? Sorry, but your writing makes me doubt the wisdom of that. Yes, Edwards has moved to the left, but anyone with a functioning brain can tell he's just pandering in order to win the primary. By the way, he also supports a bigger military.
Your failure to imagine a reason for it is the same kind of failure that led to 9/11. We need to be prepared for whatever challenges may come our way. The Iraq War has shown us that we're not prepared.

At 10:42 pm, Blogger Dr Zen said...

My writing makes you doubt the wisdom of what? Whether I can spot a liberal? Whether a few votes on the right issues makes a man a liberal? No liberal -- not a single one -- would want a bigger military. It's fucking demented.

Dude, I totally fail to imagine any good reason for a bigger military. You already match the military expenditure of the *whole of the rest of the world*. Needing more suggests that you just aren't doing a fucking great job with what you have, to say the least.

Saying that that failure is the same kind of failure that led to 9/11 is just pure demented. WTF do you mean by that? At best, 9/11 was caused by ignoring intelligence, not having a lack of troops. Actually, at best, stopping something like that is incredibly difficult. It's a big factor in asymmetric warfare: there just can't ever be enough surveillance, enough intelligence, to cover everything.

"We need to be prepared for whatever challenges may come our way" is incredibly dumb. You are not even clear what the challenges are, and trying to be prepared for them tends to complicate them, even engender them.

The Iraq war has shown clowns like you nothing at all. You knew nothing before it; you know less than nothing now.

At 1:30 pm, Blogger Arleen said...

A cryptofascist that hates people? I think you're being harsh.

At 1:38 pm, Blogger Dr Zen said...

Not really. I felt the "crypto" was generous.

At 11:42 pm, Anonymous $Zero said...

Bush and ilk have screwed up everything so bad that an immediate pull out would probably be disasterous.

which is probably just the way they wanted it in the first place.

it's much easier to make easy money off of destruction rather than creation -- it's just as simple as supply and demand -- destruction "creates" more demand, instantly.

and it's far easier to make easy money off of fear and loathing rather than love and progress.

they're in it for the easy cash, nothing else.

we shouldn't pull out immediately, we should stay there and help rebuild.

chuck the weapons and the outposts, and replace them both with hammers, nails, and sincere apologies, and make friends.

sounds naive, sure.

but it's the only sensible way to stop the escalating madness.

it is far better to make friends than to make enemies.

(unless you're just in it for the easy cash, of course).

with all of the hate and grief that Bush has "created" in Iraq, the nuts (and other mourners) probably *would* follow us home.

it's such a fucking mess.

which is precisely what they wanted.

At 11:59 pm, Anonymous efflux said...

I'm with Zen on this one. Actually read Barak's piece (everyone) and see then if you're not bothered by what he's saying.

I do read it in a bit more forgiving manner as Zen, however. I would say that Barak is simply trying to echo the so-called national discourse, without much awareness of just to what extent that discourse has been hijacked. It doesn't make much material difference, though; it's all dissimulation, and I despise it just the same.

But I leave it open to the possibility that I just can't quite come to terms with the fact that a democratic candidate is actually saying these things with regard to the content.


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