Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Whither to Rant

I’ve been working on a large writing project so haven’t had much time to rant. Now that I’m finished, I’ve been having a hard time thinking of what to write; it’s all so depressing and demoralizing – Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize as he’s escalating the war in Afghanistan and increasing the defense budget? Israel’s refusal to acknowledge the legitimate needs and aspirations of the Palestinian people because it’s fixated on accumulating real estate? Health Care reform in the US tailored to preserve the profits of the industry rather than serve the needs of the citizenry? Action on climate change which amounts to inaction? One after another natural disasters in the Asia Pacific region, in most cases exacerbated by environmental degradation?

But first an apology.

Sometimes when writing a blog, which is usually done on a short schedule and in my case doesn’t include professional editing, you say things which get interpreted far differently than you intended. And so it was with my comment on my last post that my novel Y3K was liked by all but those who can’t deal with big words.

I didn’t mean to insult or denigrate anyone just because they didn’t like or couldn’t deal with my book. If I had taken more time I would’ve mentioned that many people who liked Y3K also had their criticisms – mostly on the order of preachy, pontificating, wordy - which I fully accept. At any rate I didn’t mean to sound or be arrogant.

Back on topic: Let’s start with Obama’s Nobel Prize. It has generated a lot of controversy, though hearing a short clip of Bush recently, which instantly provoked a feeling of revulsion, it’s clear how far Obama has raised the level of discourse internationally. He keeps a cool head, he can listen and talk to anybody, he’s driven to compromise and deflect rancor, all necessary qualities of a peacemaker. He’s working on nuclear disarmament and he scrapped the provocative but useless missile defense so there are rationales for giving him the prize.

A short while ago Obama spoke at a gathering of gays and lesbians. He said all the right things including that he was going to end the ban on homosexuals in the military (though he waffled by not saying when). He then went on to praise those gays who wish to serve and finished by saying, especially when we are fighting two wars.

So that’s the trade off. He’s immeasurably better than any Repug could possibly be on issues like gay rights, supreme court appointees and America’s standing in the world. Europeans hated Bush more than Americans. At the same time the Man of Peace is fighting two unnecessary wars.

The US has now been in Afghanistan more than eight years. We deposed the Taliban after 9-11 because they wouldn’t hand over Bin Laden. The Taliban said he was a guest in their country and they couldn’t turn him over without seeing some evidence against him. Bush considered asking for proof as an affront to America so proceeded forthwith to take over the country.

So who is the international community (it is after all a NATO force) fighting in Afghanistan? The Taliban say they have no interest in fighting the West, they only want the occupation to end. Are we there to fight Al Qaida? Last I heard there were about 100 Al-Qaida in Afghanistan. 100,000 troops and an equal number of mercenaries to fight 100 militants?

So then are we there to save the Afghan people from the Taliban? The Taliban can certainly cause a lot of trouble, but the people remember what is was like under their rule and really don’t want them, so it’s very unlikely they could take over the country again.

Obama appointed a hard line general, Stanley McCrystal, to run the Afghan adventure. The good general leaked to the press that if he doesn’t get an additional 40,000 troops there’s a good chance of failure. In fact, if he doesn’t get the requested troops he’s covered his ass in case of failure. If he does get the additional manpower and the mission still fails, which it is almost certain to, the burden will be on Obama’s shoulders. By the Pentagon’s own standards in fighting insurgencies – 25 troops per 1000 population – it would take an army of half million to stabilize the country.

Obama recently held a forum of heavy thinkers to discuss the war, but no peaceniks - people opposed to continuing the war - were present; that viewpoint was not welcome. Only the same mentality that led the Vietnam fiasco to go on for so long was allowed to be voiced.

His ‘necessary’ war should really be called his nonsensical war. Same with Iraq. He promised to withdraw ‘combat’ troops within 18 months. That’s been set back to 2011. Even so, that would still leave 50,000 non-combat troops and an even larger number of mercenaries. A few years back 60% of Iraqis said it was ok to kill American troops. Every poll I’ve ever seen on the matter showed a majority of Iraqis wanting the US to withdraw immediately. If they wish to sort it out themselves, why are we there six years later?

Why did Obama ask for even more money for the military than Bush when the US is already spending more on defense than all other nations on Earth combined? In just the eight years of the Bush regime the defense budget was doubled. To fight ragtag insurgents and militants in broken-down Afghanistan? To protect oil supplies coming from Iraq? Why not just divert a few hundreds of billions from defense to green energy?

Those two wars have cost a cool trillion dollars… and still counting, not just because the wars are ongoing, but also because all the money to wage them was borrowed so interest payments will continue for decades.

I needn’t detail the massive number of solar panels, windmills, electric trains both urban and interurban, that that money would buy. Or the transformative effect it would have if spent in the developing world where social and infrastructure needs are far greater.

I hate to say this but I despair of any of the issues mentioned in the beginning of this post coming out well. Every case bodes ill. The best that can be expected in today’s political world falls far short of the minimum necessary to make things right.

Obama, decent, well meaning guy that he is, seems to be completely in awe of the fat cats around him and catatonically unable to challenge their hegemony in any meaningful way. The Peace prize, it is said, was given more to encourage him than for anything he’s actually accomplished, other than rhetoric, that is. The problem is his almost desperate need to mediate and accommodate makes it near impossible for him to think outside the box, or take on the powers that be. In nearly every case he’s dumped on his constituency, the Dems and progressives who elected him, and stood by the corporate and military masters of the US government.

His campaign slogan should have been, ‘Compromise and incrementalism you can sort of believe in’.

That’s all I can stand to write for now.


Anonymous said...

Big words, preachy, pontificating, wordy? How else will you win the Nobel Prize for Literature?

You have it right, Obama won for not being Bush.


Anonymous said...

Not planning on the Nobel just yet!!!