You are browsing the archive for President Barack Obama.

The Iran deal

2:07 am in Uncategorized by David Seaton

Things may unravel but at least there is hope. Perhaps this is what is most threatening to Netanyahu. He has never been willing to test the Palestinians in a serious way — test their good faith, test ending the humiliations of the occupation, test from strength the power of justice and peace. He has preferred domination, preferred the Palestinians down and under pressure. Obama and Kerry have invited Netanyahu to think again — and not just about Iran. Nothing, to judge by the hyperventilating Israeli rhetoric, could be more disconcerting. Roger Cohen – New York Times

If a diplomatic solution to the Iran nuclear issue is blocked and war follows, Israel will be accused of dragging America into a conflict. But if Mr Netanyahu confronts the Obama administration through the US Congress – and loses – the fabled power of the Israel lobby may never be quite the same again. Gideon Rachman – Financial Times

High political drama is in the offing, it appears that the President of the United States has (with appropriate deviousness) lured Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu into a decisive political battle on a battlefield of the president’s choosing; with world political opinion on Obama’s side and the American people recently having firmly signaled the US Congress their strongest reluctance to any more military involvement in the Middle East.

Obama just might win this one.

At this point what I find most truly interesting about the Iran deal as how secretly it was worked up… and that the Israelis apparently were kept in the dark… This is leading to a direct conflict between the United States and Israel… If Obama loses this test of strength, nothing much will have changed, every US president who has ever confronted them directly, has been defeated by the AIPAC or had their careers ruined, (with the exception of Eisenhower, when he pinned their ears back during the Suez crisis), but if Obama wins, that victory will mark a sea change in American politics.

Cross posted from:

Could a Nobel Peace Prize injure the sphincter muscle?

12:03 pm in Uncategorized by David Seaton

“None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available pursuant to this act shall be obligated or expended to finance directly any assistance to any country whose duly elected head of government is deposed by military coup or decree.” – Foreign Operations, Export Financing, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2006

It is getting harder and harder to write about all of this stuff nowadays, every time I start, the old gag reflex kicks in.



This would all be simpler if we conceded that gradually after WWII and picking up speed dramatically after 9-11, the United States has evolved into a corporate-military-security state… in short a “regime”.

And like our fellow old Cold Warriors, the Soviet Union, (which also was a corporate-military-security state-regime), we need to wrap our realpolitik in millenarian ideology… “We are building global democratic capitalism comrades“.

The “end of history” and all that… while we force-feed political prisoners in our Guantanamo gulag, kill American citizens without trial, etc, etc.

The present news cycle: with the absurd “where’s Wally?” of the Snowden affair… and the Egyptian coup d’etat that is not a coup d’etat, where an army that literally lives off American aid (in exchange for not troubling Israel) massacres the supporters of a legitimate, democratically elected government that they have overthrown manu militari, without the White House even giving them a sharp tug on their leash… impossible for anyone, anywhere to believe that the USA has not colluded in all of this… all of this brings us face to face with our hypocrisy… rubs our noses in it really.

Perhaps hypocrisy is to be preferred to cynicism, because as La Rochefoucauld famously said, “Hypocrisy is the homage which vice pays to virtue“,  which means that if good didn’t exist, bad people wouldn’t have to pretend to be good… Which is probably the best you can say about America’s present performance on the world stage.

America’s post-September 11th national-security state has become so well financed, so divided into secret compartments, so technically capable, so self-perpetuating, and so captured by profit-seeking contractors bidding on the next big idea about big-data mining that intelligence leaders seem to have lost their facility to think independently. Who is deciding what spying projects matter most and why? The New Yorker

These days, President Obama reminds me a bit of Mikhail Gorbachev, more by the hopes that so many people around the world misplaced in both men and their Nobel Peace Prizes, rather than any personal resemblance between them.

Gorbachev, when he was in power, was infinitely more experienced, not only politically, but though his life trajectory and with a much deeper understanding of the system he wanted to reform and also a much more sincere commitment to reforming that system and not just making beautiful speeches filled with “soaring rhetoric” about how nice “change” and “hope” were.

Gorbachev, unlike Obama, didn’t just “talk  the talk”,  he “walked the walk” and in so doing proved that intervening in huge, complex and corrupted systems, is likely to end in disaster. Obama has proved that talking is much more personally productive than walking. But like a great African American said, many years ago, “he can run, but he can’t hide”.

Another wise old fellow once said something to the effect that the present cannot judge itself anymore than we can judge a person by what he thinks of himself, that time alone will be the judge of our present affairs, but that old man also said that the present is always pregnant with the future and in time it will be clear that everything that is to come tomorrow was present in some form today, right now, under our noses waiting to come to fruition. Sobering thought that… nu?

Cross posted from:


Alexis de Tocqueville defines Barack Obama

8:51 am in Uncategorized by David Seaton

Quote of the day:

“Very few monarchs, from Augustus to our day, have failed to keep up the outward forms of freedom while they destroyed its substance, in the hope that they might combine the moral power of public approval with the peculiar conveniences of despotism. But the experiment has usually failed, and it has soon been found impossible to maintain a deceitful semblance of that which really has no existence.”
Alexis de Tocqueville (1805- 1859)  – “The Old Regime and the Revolution”



Cross posted from:

The Inauguration and the Speech

11:21 am in Uncategorized by David Seaton

I found Obama’s message encouraging, but then again the president always speaks/reads well.

Portrait of MLK

Figures like Martin Luther King, Jr are needed today to put continued pressure on the President.

His speech was a direct attack on the Reagan revolution and made important social democratic points about solidarity and equality — health and education — being directly connected to economic prosperity. I think it was also important to connect gay rights to the Declaration of Independence: America is full of beautiful words, filling those words with meaning is America’s perennial unfinished symphony.

Despite being black Obama isn’t Doctor Martin Luther King, and there doesn’t seem to be any MLK right now to pressure him. That is the American left’s perennial unfinished symphony.

In his speech the president was obviously asking the people who voted for him to pressure Congress to support his agenda. I think that in many ways the ball is now in the court of America’s progressives and they would be wise to play that ball as it lies. If there is even an ounce of sincerity in Barack Obama’s message, this is the best opportunity that America’s progressives have had since Reagan entered the White House, maybe the best since Johnson left it, ruined by Vietnam.

I think it is mistaken to criticize Obama for not being MLK, because, except for the color of their skins, there is no real similarity between Obama and King, Hawaii is a long way from Georgia and, except for the color of their skins, there are many similarities between Obama and LBJ, both being presidents of the USA and ex-senators.

Being dissatisfied is an essential ingredient in making a person progressive, but I think people on the left may be asking more of the US presidency than it can deliver. MLK, for example, was not LBJ: King produced the pressure, Johnson — who also did Vietnam — with that pressure, produced a wealth of legislation. What little we have of social democracy in America, in great part we owe to him.

Here is a sample of what LBJ did with an active society pushing him:

Read the rest of this entry →

Why vote for Obama? Let me count the whys – 3

8:26 am in Uncategorized by David Seaton

Military sShare of US Budgetmilitary-cost-pie


Mr. Obama concluded in his first year that the Bush-era dream of remaking Afghanistan was a fantasy, and that the far greater threat to the United States was an unstable, nuclear-armed Pakistan. So he narrowed the goals in Afghanistan, and narrowed them again, until he could make the case that America had achieved limited objectives in a war that was, in any traditional sense, unwinnable. (…) Out of the experience emerged Mr. Obama’s “light footprint” strategy, in which the United States strikes from a distance but does not engage in years-long, enervating occupations. .(…) Faced with an economic crisis at home and a fiscal crisis that Mr. Obama knew would eventually require deep limits on Pentagon spending, he was also shocked, they said, by what the war’s cost would be if the generals’ counterinsurgency plan were left on autopilot — $1 trillion over 10 years.  New York Times

His steep learning curve, basically, is “why” number three. The president seems to have quickly learned an important lesson that other presidents have taken much longer to learn or have never learned at all, that is: the Pentagon has the knack of spending endless money, while achieving little or no results, over unlimited time. In fact that process: (endless x little or no x unlimited) would seem to be the object of their existence.

Over the decades since the end of the Second World War, much of American policy has evolved into “killing people and blowing things up”, which is essentially the job description of the armed forces and America has the largest, most powerful, armed forces in the history of the world. Many careers have flourished, uncountable dollars have changed hands, hundreds of thousands of people have died and millions have been displaced in a chain of military disasters.  The United States famously spends more on its military than the next seventeen nations combined: if it could cut that down to say, more than the next five combined, then perhaps, while also raising taxes on the one percenters, the US economy, its infrastructure, its public schools and its safety net could be restored to health.

Obama is the first president to fully realize that most of this mayhem could be executed just as well, (with less casualties on either side, and much more cost-effectively), simply by using toy airplanes instead of thousands of over fed soldiers at the end of infinitely complex, wasteful, frightfully expensive and vulnerable supply lines.

Is all this blowing things up and killing people, even with toy airplanes necessary? The unpleasant truth is that “yes” it is. Why?

In its desire to micromanage the universe the USA has made many enemies over the decades, but the last batch they have made are the first to have ever hit the American “homeland” (sinisterly Teutonic term) and it turns out that although the USA packs the world’s hardest punch, its jaw is made of glass.

No sooner did Al Qaeda manage to kill 3000 Americans in territorial USA, than the citizens of the United States were willing to lock the Bill of Rights in a drawer and misplace the key… nothing could be more cost effective than to make the Americans scrap their centuries old, “inalienable rights” using only 19 young Arabs carrying box cutters. The asymmetry between the cost and its effect means that it will be attempted again and again. Sooner or later one of these attempts is bound to succeed, it is just a matter of time

The reality is that any successful, new attack on US soil will spark a fresh wave of hysteria, which would probably destroy the presidency of whoever happened to be in the White House when it occurred. The steps the president has taken to keep another 9/11 from happening on his watch have probably taken more bloom off his rose than anything else. However that is the reality, politicians deal in reality and Obama is a politician.

The Financial Times compares Obama to Facebook’s IPO:

Mr Obama’s frothy initial valuation offers parallels. Having marketed himself as the man who would transcend Washington’s cynical ways, Mr Obama’s brand was quickly tarnished. It was one thing to promise and fail to close Guantánamo Bay. It was quite another to produce a new rationale for indefinite detention without trial.

Without defusing the Middle East and with it the world of Islam, it is certain that American civil liberties will continue to be degraded, with this or any other administration.

As Al Qaeda draws much of its support and recruiting from America’s tacit connivance with Israel’s continuing oppression of the Palestinian people, no plan to end the threat of Al Qaeda to the USA can have any hope of success without solving the Palestinian question. Although it may not be enough, giving the Palestinians a state of their own, thus defining Israel’s borders permanently, would do more to “drain the swamp” than having the Pentagon endlessly trying to re-engineer ancient cultures into American suburbs.

Solving the Palestinian question would require putting considerable pressure on the Israeli government. It is fair to doubt whether any US administration would have the chops to do that. Would Obama? I really don’t know.  What I do know is that Mitt Romney is a close friend of Bibi Netanyahu and would consult him before doing anything in the Middle East…   So far, I hear nothing from the Republicans but attacking Iran, increasing military spending, cutting entitlements, supporting the Israeli right à outrance and lowering taxes for the wealthy.

So retuning to my leitmotiv of this “count the whys” series, I have no trouble at all imagining a better president than Barack Obama, but I cannot imagine that Mitt Romney, who is the only candidate with any chance of replacing him, would be that president.

Cross posted: