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Libyan Writer Ghoma
الكاتب الليبي غومة

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Sunday, 8 February, 2009

OBAMA AND THE MIDDLE EAST?

By: Ghoma


"To the conquered hate or compassion; to the victor the potatoes."
                                    Machado de Assis, Quincas Borba, p.13


        The reigns of power in the USA have just changed hands. With the Constitutional handing of power, comes, the long-awaited and yearned for, change of policies. If by ‘change’ was meant more than some foggy smokescreen, then there must be some factual grip to‘Change!’ It was the beef that fed Obama’s run to the White House: to change the course of events, perhaps even history itself. But it’s still too early in the game even to have some clues, hints or cues on what, where, or how any change must go. It ain’t yet a done deal. There’s also a good chance the change may not go beyond style. Perhaps to Mr. Obama, change is no more than the actual change of individuals holding the higher offices.

        Obama ran and was elected due in large part to his promises for a change from the course followed by his predecessor(s), in particular, G. W. Bush. Indeed a change from policies, followed by the various conservative and not-so-conservative administrations in the last 30-years or so, which, not only have brought the country on the brink of bankruptcy, but also have put the USA on a collusion course with good part of the world. With the ongoing financial meltdown, the new administration has thus its plate full from the get-go. Obama has made his task even harder when he adopted Change as a mantra to his long campaign season. The man and his charisma, change and the slogan "Yes we can!" have become magical luster and raised expectations by few notches up. In electing Obama, America has shown one of the two things: either it’s on the fringes of a major historical shift, or its marketing techniques have percolated and overtaken its political maneuvering and machinations. In any case Obama made sure his proposals remain as vague and abstract as could be tolerated. While it’s also true, the vagueness of the promises may have been due less to their undefinability and more to the gathering uncertainties which will face the new administration. Hence, Obama’s change may will turn out to be no more than hollowed tunes to rhetorical titillations. The proof is in the pudding, as they say; and the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.

        Change can mean different things to different people. Obama himself has never defined, what exactly was meant by his change. This absence of concreteness, thus, has made fulfilling some of the promises ain’t going to be an easy job, as the Italians say: Between saying and doing there’s an ocean. If change-from is perhaps a bit clearer, change-to is still fuzzy! Furthermore, effecting any noticeable change in a colossal juggernaught as the USA, in a short period of time, is a Herculean task. It has not been attempted yet. Even just shaking a country with 300-million humans and an economy hovering around the $15-trillion a bit is a perilous undertaking prone to all kinds of dangers and mistakes -not only for America but also for the rest of the world. Hence the conundrum: How to change the course of a country with a complex society, smoothly, and without a hitch, when no science has yet existed for it nor an art has ever attempted to contemplate?

        When the change involves a country like that of the United States, the complexity becomes tremendous and it adds up. Perhaps the technical-mechanical aspects of change are the least difficult though no less controversial. What’s challenging are the entrenched habits and behaviors, that’s, the culture that has spawned the lax attitude. Americans are convinced of their ‘exceptionalism’ and as being the latest version to God’s ‘chosen people,’ a gift to humanity, and a beacon to the world. With its long history of imperialistic dominance and hegemonistic interferences, a well-entrenched establishment, the question becomes: Can one man, or rather a whole administration, effect a meaningful changes, in policies as well as in the culture behind them? Any answer at this point is mere conjecturing. Even a tentative guess must h wait when the rubber hits the road. By then perhaps some of the sharp rhetoric would have been tempered off to what could be effectively done or achieved.

        If Obama is intent on carrying some, not all, of his promises to fruition, then Change would have to encompass a long range of issues and policies long neglected or left to the so-called ‘hidden hand’ to sweep them under the rug. Some of these are of historical proportions, such as, the Economy and Defense, while others are of the run-of-the-mill type, those of social concerns, of the so-called entitlements and programs, and a slew of other long neglected domestic issues. How to prioritize among these seemingly intricate areas is tantamount to chicken-egg type thing. Though, priorities have to be set, if change is to be more than cosmetic surgery to meet some of the expectations of a disgruntled and desperate electorate. Strategic choices also have to be made: Is the United States still intent on its ‘manifest destiny’ course, that’s to shape the world according to its unipolar vision of it? Is multilateralism going to replace unilateralism in fact or just in words? Are the United States of America ready to let go of their aggressive postures, which have led their attitude toward the rest of the world for, oh gush! long time? Is the beacon-on-the-hill going to deal with the world on equal terms, or at least as primus inter pars? In other words, are the United State ready to lay down its missionary zeal and accept the world, in the image of its own society, and live with it peacefully?

        The USA, as well as the rest of the industrialized world, is on the brink of a third major historical transformation since the Industrial Revolution. The new brave world is still unfolding. However, some of its aspects are already here. The Western world, today, is populated by a new kind of proletariat with no land or capital. Factories have emigrated offshore. Capital, in the globalized world, has come close to resemble fluids’ behavioral characteristics. It runs away from high-cost regions of low-returns and flows into low-cost areas of high returns. The "Rise of the Rest" in Fareed. Zakaria’s words, was a consequence as well as a cause to the free floating of capital. Historically, major shifts have come not without pain or winners and losers. The USA’s current economic problems have, in no small part, sprung from the change over from an industrial economy to a purely service-oriented one: From a manufacturing economy to what is being called ‘knowledge’ or service economy. This transformation has been accelerating slowly but steadily in the last 30-years in tandem with the USA outsourcing of good parts of its productive capacities to producers in the low-cost and newly industrialized regions in Southeast Asia. In less than the span of one generation the USA’s economy has changed hands and characteristics. The rapidity with which this shift has occurred has not given enough time for the work force to re-adjusting to the new demands. Given the still undefined looming economy, the big question thus becomes: If neither the existing nor the incoming labor-force were prepared for such a huge leap, what to do, then, with them in the meanwhile, until the next generation gets trained for the new tasks whatever they may be and wherever there will be?

        It’s been a continuous debate, since the beginning of the Republic, what role if any must be relegated to the state in the economy and in society in general. The Conservatives favoring the least role with a minimum, if any, interventions in economic and social spheres, except in defense and foreign affairs. Liberals on the other hand believe there’s an important role, and a big one, for the state to play in order to level the field. Thus American politics is caught between the ebb and flow of these two major trends. After 30-years of conservatives’ wishy-washy administrations, now the ball is in the hands of the so-called ‘liberals’. If politics can be predicted, this in grosso modo, could be translated into an economy geared less on defense spending and tax cutting and more on social spending.

        Social spending is a buzzword for a host of social programs. From infrastructures to health care, social security, education, retirements, etc. Some would say these offer both opportunities as well as obstacles to building of a healthy economy. Republican Administrations have left most of the working of the economy and its social consequences to market forces to decide who’re the winners and who’re the losers. They’ve done their best to maximize the national debt and burden the treasury so that when Democrats turn comes they’ll find their hands tied for spending what is needed before reducing debts to acceptable levels.

        As to foreign policy! it runs according to an American saying: if it ain’t broken don’t fix it! All indications so far point to Obama’s change will of style, more in tone than in substance. Obama helped by the goodwill of the world will capitalize on his smooth schmoozing to polish the rough edges of his predecessor(s) legacy. This, of course, can work for a while and can go only that far! Talking, as they say, is cheap. It doesn’t cost much to cool off the rhetoric and extend the hand. But when these have done their job and the smiles have stopped doing their magic, talk too will cease to enchant. It’s possible, that all the yapping will turn out to be no more than jawboning, a la European! with little substantial changes. For as long as American national interests, as its corporations, take the entire world as their arena of action, then foreign policy establishment as well as the defense posture have to stay abreast and be on the offensive. No matter what attitudes America has or what changes in its approach to foreign policy, with its global reach, the USA, will remain the premiere and indispensable nation without which nothing can happen. The course of American foreign policy was set for a long time now and will remain as the Empire’s claims still in course Taking this into account, if there’s any change, therefore will mostly be cosmetics, that’s regarding the modalities of power -which one better to use, soft or hard, and in what proportions in order to achieve the desired objectives- not the exercise itself. In other words, Obama is not going to dismantle the Empire and bring it home, unless the economic crisis turns out to be worse than what so far has been gleaned out of the labyrinths of Wall Street.

        As far as American foreign policy toward the Badlands of this earth, the Middle Eastern region, there’s nothing new to change its course. Given the power of the Zionist lobby and the weakness of the Arabs, American attitudes toward that area is almost carved in stone. It’s been set, after WWII, and remained since then without noticeable changes. Its main focus was to side with the stronger and more stable state. In adopting democracy and Western culture Israel has secured the Western backing for as long as the West will be master of the universe. This backing is not only because of the powerful Jewish lobbies in America and the rest of the Western world, that’s just the icing on the cake, but more importantly because of the compatibility of views and interests. Obama is face with all the combined factories that will make it such that there’s no apparent reason for the West to pressure Israel to do what it doesn’t see fit. In the face of Arab states’ apathy to modernity and fragmentation versus a well-established and a well-organized state, as the Israeli state is, of course the collection of backward hodgepodge of tribes, as the Arabs are, will always lose any meaningful backing or sympathy not only from the West but also from a huge chunks of the rest of humanity. Thus, as long as Arabs remain what they always were, outdated, the West will set their agendas without any regard to them. Israel was, is, and will be their favorite pampered baby. It has also so far served the West’s interests well by keeping the Arabs busy fighting each and chasing their own tails. Divided and weak, the Arabs will remain excluded from the table.

        Though Obama has voiced some concern toward the area, he’s destined to find it more than he can bite. His stated commitment to Israel’s defense -as the main and strong ally in the Middle East- is going to influence his grasp and framing of what can be done. His secretary of state, Hillary R. Clinton, long manifested bias toward the Zionists’ causes was not new but a well-trodden track. Thus Obama’s approach to the Middle East, is not going to be much different from that of Bill Clinton’s. It’ll be a Zionist driven agenda, structured mainly from their point of view as well as on what Israel wants to do. Palestinians will have to content themselves with whatever scraps that Israel hands then. Bits and pieces of territories that Israel deems unnecessary to its life style or security and thus can slough them off without much hoopla from its constituency. What is on the horizon could be summarized as follows: First, a contiguous, sovereign, and viable state have to wait, if ever, a distant future. Second, if anything worth to have will come out of what is going to be a prolonged dragging of feet and mind, the entity will need a lot cradling and rearing before it can stand on its feet. Both Americans and Israelis will dump their historical responsibilities and shirk their financial obligations. Both the USA and Israel will wash off their hands from any process of nation-building for the Palestinians. This with its huge costs will pass to the Arab states, namely the Gulf states, to handle.

        The Democratic Party, historically, has more pro-Zionist membership, if not sympathies, than the Republican Party. Given such divergences and constraints, Barack Obama, will find little motivation to add other headaches to his already overflowed plate. Zionists and their allies have already seen how to further weaken his resolve, if he’s to start with, even insinuating, to do something radical. If not by accusing him directly of having a shaky loyalty to their cause but that of not being a real red-blooded authentic American, the "one of us" syndrome! The inclusion of the "H." for Hussein in his full name, during the campaign season, was intended to convey the nutty notion of being a disguised Muslim, in the garb of a Christian. It’s part of a huge plot, concocted by Gofknowswho, to undermine the USA, from its inside by climbing into the top of its ruling pyramid!

        Add to all of this the apathy of Arab politicians to push for their presence and inclusion. Arabs have not started any initiative, on their own, for the last half-century at least. Like any unaccounted for, disgruntled minority, they just prefer to wait for some miracle to happen, to some sort of a Messiah to come to their help. They’ve forgotten or never learned otherwise, that politics is not an ethical art nor was ever a moral exercise, it answers only to pressure or whoever has more to offer. Pressure moves politics, not platitudinous gestures or passive consents. Arabs have never shown they can bite. Reason enough for Obama not to push hard to antagonize an active constituency and to take risks that will undoubtedly cause him a lot of headaches both domestically and worldwide, given the tight grip Zionists hold on media in the Western world.

        If Arabs think Obama will move out of his pure goodness of heart alone to come to their rescue, they’re grossly mistaken and will be disappointed. Obama is no Arab Salad nor ever will be one! Even if he wanted, state’s interests, will prevent him from doing "the Lord’s work" for nothing! Any initiative has to be evaluated as to its importance to the USA’s worldwide interests. If it doesn’t add up either in markets, influence, prestige or sheer returns then will not be pursued, period. As long Arabs still insist on their backwardness and disarray neither them nor their causes will ever gather the necessary compassion, rather most likely to continue, if to spur more, of the millennial hate that exist between them and the Western world. Thus Arabs have either to find a way to make their causes compatible with those of the West and their interests somewhat coincide with them; otherwise they’ve just to pull up their sleeves and go to work to solve their own damned problems. In gist, they have either to learn how to stop begging others to understand them, they’ve to stop supplicating Americans to do something about what they call their primary cause,’ the Palestinian one, and just lay there and die a slow and agonizing death.

Ghoma
Ghoma47@hotmail.com


More Articles Written By Ghoma

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