14 April 2014

How Obama's Rhetoric Reinforces America's Grand Strategic Pathway to Catastrophe

Future historians may well view the 25 year pattern of aggressive behaviour exhibited by the United States since the end of the Cold War to be acts of arrogant triumphalism aimed at humiliating the Russian remnants of its Cold War adversary.  Examples are overwhelming, including America's promotion of (a) NATO expansion after making promises to the contrary, (b) the wars of the Yugoslav succession culminating in the Kosovo War, (c) the neo-liberal looting of Russian state property during the Yeltsin regime, (d) the abrogation of the ABM treaty, (e) the unprovoked aggression in Iraq, (f) the unfocused whack-a-mole' war on 'terror' in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, etc., (g) the "colour revolutions" in Ukraine, Georgia, and Kyrgyzstan (h) the war of 'responsibility-to-protect' humanitarian aggression in Libya, (i) the quasi alliance with and support of Jihadis in the murderous civil war in Syria in the name of regime change, and now (j) the tolerance of neo-fascist conspirators and provocateurs in the active pursuit of regime change in Ukraine. 
It now seems probable, perhaps inevitable, that a comparison of America's behaviour with the disastrous triumphalism, vindictiveness, cynicism, and outright lying exhibited by the Allies during the 1919 Versailles 'peace' conference lies in the historical offing. 
The basic goal of any sensible grand strategy should be to end conflict on terms that do not sow the seeds of future conflict. Yet the United States seems to be careening out of control in the opposite direction.  
Barack Obama, a man who likes to compare himself to Abraham Lincoln (a man who understood the nature of a sensible grand strategy), promised to change America's behaviour.  He came out of nowhere to win the presidential campaign of 2008 with soaring rhetoric centered on the now forgotten slogan: "change you can believe in."  But as president, the mismatch between Mr. Obama's words and deeds emerged to cement the status quo, including especially America's grand-strategic march to disaster.
Of course, Obama is merely a bit player in an ongoing drama: the roots of America's grand strategic pathway to catastrophe reach deeper into the dim mists surrounding the origins of the Cold War and especially the domestic politics defense spending accompanying the rise of the Permanent War Economy that began 65 years ago. The habits and mores of the war economy are now deeply woven into the fabric of our domestic politics. (See for example, my essay The Domestic Roots of Perpetual War)  

The essay linked below by David Bromwich, a professor of literature at Yale, brilliantly analyzes the central role of Obama's rhetoric plays perpetuating destructive grand-strategic policies of his three immediate predecessors. I urge you to read the entire essay carefully. 
Ukraine and Iraq: A Reminder
David Bromwich, Huffington Post, 27 March 2014 

Yesterday President Obama gave a speech at the Palais des Beaux Arts center in Brussels. His ostensible audience was the European Union chiefs. His intended audience was all the second-echelon Great Powers (minus Russia and China). Some phrases at Brussels showed the usual signs of his workmanship: 

"Those ideas eventually inspired a band of colonists across an ocean." 

"Dizzying change opens the door of opportunity to the marginalized."

"We've never met these people, but we know them. Their voices echo calls for human dignity that rang out in European streets and squares for generations."

"Freedom will continue to triumph over tyranny, because that is what forever stirs in the human heart." 

Read those sentences in order and you pretty much have the plot of it. The stately march of eloquent platitudes, with a dash of humility and an echo of Lincoln like stardust on his sleeve -- it is the pattern we have come to know in many settings. And it prompts a thought. The president might at this point consider the value of not being inspirational. 

Obama thinks of speech-making as one of his most important functions. But all of his major speeches have a peculiar quality, at once calming and stirring, emollient and assertive. He does not hesitate to provoke large actions in which he cannot participate. 

The gap between Obama's words and actions has now become one of the identifying marks of his presidency. ...

Continued here at the Huffington Post.