Thursday, January 22, 2009

Another view on Obama

Glen Ford, the executive editor of Black Agenda Report, gives a critical analysis of the promise of Obama in Aljazeera.

He makes a number of interesting points, in particular about Obama's plans to boost the American military presence in Afghanistan (even while planning to withdraw from Iraq and promising in his inaugural speech to have a less aggressive foreign policy). The Taliban is warning Obama to learn the lessons of Bush, and before him the Soviets (they might have added the British before that).

As Dr Martin Luther King recognised, military escapades are generally incompatible with progressive social programmes because of the huge resources they suck up. (A reminder of the old poster about looking forward to the day when the airforce has to run a cake stall to buy a new bomber seems inevitable at this point).

Of course Ford presents some of the reasons why even those of us very happy to see Obama's election, and inspired by his oratory, have nagging worries. He seems to be surrounding himself with conservative advisors and staff, in general. This raises concerns not just about how they may argue against, and place obstacles in the way of, progressive change, but also about who will run things if anything does happen to him. Popping him off would seem less tempting to the CIA / Mafia types if they thought his VP would be even more dangerous to their interestsl.

In addition, his position on Palestine is not promising for Palestinians. It seems to me a positive step would be to start talking to the democratically elected representatives of the Palestinian people, Hamas, rather than just Abbas. Otherwise it looks like America wants the world to have democracy, but only if they vote for approved candidates.

Having said all that, his immediate agenda, set out on the first day, has a number of positive elements. I think that what he will do is create more space for activists to organise and for people to live their lives. I'm still hopeful.


Blair Anderson said...

BHO's references to unfolding the 'clenched fist' seems to have been interpreted as focused on foreign targets, whereas the problem resides at home with a legacy of rebellion from the African American sector still the target of racist policy (80% of Police stops with search in NY, African American!). That this leads to unintended outcomes including 'death by ballistic invasion' of otherwise law abiding citizens, and a massively disproportionate representation in the justice system.

It is notable that NZ media never visit this question either. Such is 'white privilege'.

My fear, despite an earnest 'hope to the contrary' is that BHO may yet be seen as the highest 'Uncle Tom' in office.

I believe that the USA has to revisit its drug policy before ANY progress can be made in truly emancipating its folk of colour.

Consider, the Mexican Border (war) has claimed more lives in the past year than Americans have lost in Iraq, and twice that of 9-11. Columbia similarly. Hamas and Hezbollah earn their weapons by trading in certain lucrative agricultural substances (mainly cocaine) whereas elevating the USA presence in Afghanistan correspondingly raises yet again the question of the role of drug policy, institutionalized corruption, arms and the Taliban.

Perhaps the USA needs a lesson from Class D. (smile)

Dylan Horrocks said...

Good post. I worry about Obama's talk on Afghanistan and Pakistan a lot - the excellent Mr. Fish (on Truthdig) drew a chilling cartoon that summed up Ford's LBJ comparison here:

And Blair, I think you're right about US drug laws - IMHO, the "war on drugs" is to US domestic policy what the "war on terror" is to its foreign policy. And as long as it continues, change can only go so far.

But there's still hope - after all, if Obama has given us nothing else, he's given us that. And it remains to be seen whether Obama's more conservative statements and gestures are tactical maneuvers for Washington consumption, or indications of an LBJ-type descent into the dark side. For now, I would rather be an activist with hope than rushing into cynicism and despair.

And Obama's lobbying change is important - let's hope that bears fruit...

Dylan Horrocks said...

Oops - let's see if I can make that url work: