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The Cutting Edge: Blog of Ed Knudson
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Joining Obama Against Himself?
9/5/2013

I want to join with President Obama in his quest to rid the world of chemical weapons. I believe he was genuinely moved at the horrendous images of children gassed to death, just as he was moved by the senseless killing of children at Sandy Hook School. He wants to do something about this, the world should not just turn away from this without consequences. I agree, something should be done.

And I also want Obama to succeed as president. It was amazing to me that a man of such great character could have been elected in this country in the first place, and then re-elected. The over-the-top hostility so many have for Obama I attribute to racism pure and simple. Many extreme conservatives and others who call themselves libertarians refuse to accept anything Obama proposes. This is small-minded, in fact, verges on literal mental illness. When people holler and scream in ways that damage themselves and their country they have lost their connection to reality.

I expect that Obama calculated that those who supported his election will tend to support him now since he has put forward such a strong moral argument against the use of chemical weapons. Many of us supported him because of his stance against the Iraq war. But that war too was sold to the American people on the basis of high moral purpose, to bring "freedom" to the Middle East. But that war was also sold on the basis that Iraq's dictator was a threat to this country, and had used and was threatening use of weapons of mass destruction. And just so, after Obama says the United States should engage in a moral and humanitarian effort in Syria, he then follows up by saying chemical weapons in Syria can be a threat to this country. He wants to use both moral and national security arguments. And this, of course, is just what the neoconservatives were doing when they made their arguments for the Iraq war.

Obama has now decided that only a big military strike will be able to turn the tide in Syria and serve to punish the Syrian president. Military power is efficacious. This is neoconservative dogma. It is what John McCain has been saying all along. Obama is now doing not that which Obama himself said was his preference, negotiation, even with the enemy; he is doing what the neoconservatives have been urging him to do, get tough, use the big guns, only "strength" will work against "those people". One way to say this is that Obama the president is acting against himself, the person Obama who said he believed in negotiated settlements of political questions.

In fact on a whole host of issues it seems that Obama talks one way and governs in another. He talks economic justice but then acts in ways wholly supportive of corporate interests. Obama is making his decisions on the basis more of politics than moral judgment. A couple days ago he held a think session, drawing many of his advisers together to discuss how to move forward on Syria. All of these folks were political and communication advisers. And such folks are not asking what is right and wrong, they are oriented to Obama's political opponents. They tend to discount Obama's own political base. So rather than do what his base wants, Obama ends up doing exactly that which his base does not want, in this case, talking tough on use of military force as if this will solve the problem.

This is Obama against himself.

It is especially ironic that the key to a negotiated settlement in Syria may be Russia. But in the Ed Snowden affair Obama has decided that arresting Snowden is more important than good relations with Putin. This means that Obama is not in a good position to discuss Syria with Putin. With his better self Obama the person probably agrees with the motives of Snowden, that the American people deserve to know more about how their government is involved in monitoring conversations in this country. But as president Obama is working against himself in his determination to use every means necessary to arrest Snowden. And this now is creating the conditions within which Obama thinks he has to try to use military violence to get what he wants in Syria. How much more evidence do we need to realize that violence begets more violence, which is exactly what will happen in Syria if Obama sends in the bombs.

Obama has not been faithful to himself, or the people who elected him. He could wake up, make a turn to peace, announce a new direction to his administration, risk meeting with Putin and the new president of Iran, and set a new direction for the world. But, alas, he is being driven by the old politics of empire, against himself.














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