Obama: Make US domination of the Middle East more effective

Obama made his pitch to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee yesterday with a speech here in Chicago. I encourage anyone who still has illusions about Obama's great progressive candidacy to read the full text. Taken as a whole, the speech is sickening. It's not so much that Obama states his strong support for American imperialism in the Middle East and Israel's continuing repression - we're probably desensitized to that sort of thing by now. It's that he lavishes long passages on humanizing Israelis in service to the dehumanization of Arabs. There is no evidence from the text that Israel has ever committed a single questionable act, while Arabs are seen to be constantly terrorizing poor Israel.

In the speech Obama also spells out clear policies on Iran, Iraq, and Israel. He calls Iran "one of the greatest threats to the United States, Israel and world peace" and criticizes Bush administration policy for making Iran stronger. Obama's approach would include
direct engagement with Iran similar to the meetings we conducted with the Soviets at the height of the Cold War, laying out in clear terms our principles and interests. Tough-minded diplomacy would include real leverage through stronger sanctions. It would mean more determined U.S diplomacy at the United Nations. It would mean harnessing the collective power of our friends in Europe who are Iran’s major trading partners. It would mean a cooperative strategy with Gulf States who supply Iran with much of the energy resources it needs. It would mean unifying those states to recognize the threat of Iran and increase pressure on Iran to suspend uranium enrichment. It would mean full implementation of U.S. sanctions laws. And over the long term, it would mean a focused approach from us to finally end the tyranny of oil, and develop our own alternative sources of energy to drive the price of oil down.
In other words, Obama would expend considerable effort to isolate Iran and destroy its economy while conducting discussions with its government. Obama's policy would only strengthen the Irani desire for nuclear weapons to protect itself. And it's probably untenable anyway. US sanctions are already extremely strong, so the only change is that Obama would strong-arm European and Middle Eastern countries to further isolate Iran - something the Bush administration has already tried unsuccessfully. But that aside, what's revealing is that Obama supports collective punishment of the Irani people as a means of reducing their leadership - including their elected president - to subservience.

On Iraq, Obama calls for troop withdrawal to be completed by 2008 May. But, he also has this to say:
My plan also allows for a limited number of U.S. troops to remain and prevent Iraq from becoming a haven for international terrorism and reduce the risk of all-out chaos. In addition, we will redeploy our troops to other locations in the region, reassuring our allies that we will stay engaged in the Middle East.
This is a nice way of saying that altho the project of establishing Iraq as a military base from which the US could project military power throughout the region has failed, Obama has no intention of giving up the larger objective. American domination of the Middle East is the reason terrorists target the US, but just like every Republican and Democratic president since FDR, for Obama controlling the region's oil is the most important thing.

As for Israel, Obama argues that America must never apply any sort of pressure on that country - certainly not by withdrawing the massive subsidies the US provides, but not even thru toothless diplomatic pressure. "No Israeli Prime Minister should ever feel dragged to or blocked from the negotiating table by the United States", he says, and "we must preserve our total commitment to our unique defense relationship with Israel by fully funding military assistance". He also blames Lebanon for Israel's attack against it, and refuses to work with the "extremists" who Palestinians elected to represent them.

Now, Clinton and Edwards (and McCain and Giuliani) are just as bad as Obama on all these issues. But people whose critical faculties have for unknown reasons been overwhelmed by Obama's empty rhetoric about hope should pay more attention to speeches like these, in which he reveals his concrete policies. We have to wait and see if Obama comes up with anything good on domestic policy, but until that time I see no reason to support him over Edwards.


Chris said...

well, i have a feeling that one reason some people are excited about him (and will support him over edwards) is that he is black.

this seems like a problematic issue, obviously the media has really latched onto the comments of some blacks who feel that obama does not have an "authentic" or similar experience of being black to them.

needless to say there are a wide array of responses to obama, that could be almost endlessly explored. in particular, there is the question of white guilt.

but i haven't heard many commentators (left, liberal, or whatever) openly address this question of whether he is worth supporting because he is black (or at least shying away from putting it that way.)

i think that there are a lot of wierd assumptions that go into voting for someone because of who they are, rather than what they would do. this isn't in the spirit of what i would think of as democracy; it seems to play into the image of the president as some kind of "father" of the nation, a conception more mythological than political. (i guess this makes the question of electing a woman even more complex. at this point i'm tempted to say "fuck identity politics" but i know that's overly simplistic.)

nonetheless, much of the political analysis that i hear from the mass media leads me to believe that this is how many people cast their votes... not that i should necessarily trust this analysis at all.

i personally think that you should vote pragmatically, and i always thought that a vote for the left-er third parties (the green party, in other words) was a good idea because it might "threaten" the democrats to move further left (although nothing like that has perceptibly occured, so i suppose i was wrong there) or at least make the media pay more attention to the issues raised by such candidates.

still, electing a black president (or a woman) could have an effect on people that would be positive (in terms of racism or sexism) regardless of the status of the candidate's "blackness." or not?

i've got no clue, it took me like forty minutes to write this.

Jake said...

i think you may be right that the excitement for obama among progressives has more to do with white guilt than anything else. obviously electing a black or woman president would have huge symbolic weight. i'm pretty skeptical that it would accomplish anything in terms of attacking racism/sexism tho. in particular, the emergence of powerful and successful black people like powell, rice, oprah, and obama is just used to argue that black people can succeed if they try, and if they're poor then it's their own fault. as for clinton, i suspect that the authentically sexist americans already hate her so much that if she were elected it would only confirm them in their misogyny.

in a tangentially related issue, does anyone know why black people seem to like hillary clinton? not that either edwards or obama is bothering to address racism, but what on earth would make black people nostalgic for the clinton years? or is this just a media-generated illusion?

Patrick said...

Speaking of white liberal guilt and black community loyalty to the Clintons...NPR noted this morning that Hillary's crowd in Selma was almost entirely black and almost entirely local, while Barack's crowd in Selma (at the exact same time) was much more white and much less local. Of course, they didn't provide any figures to support this, so it's difficult to tell whether the reporter's perception tracks with reality.