He’s Not the Messiah, He’s Just Another President

This post was written by Guest Post on September 27, 2009
Posted Under: Health Care,International,Obama,US Politics

Guest post by Chris Girffiths

It’s not been an easy summer for Barack Obama. This month has seen yet more shrieking from the right-wings as he attempts to introduce a ‘radical’ scheme to offer US Government-backed health insurance scheme so the poorest people can get medical treatment. Hardly trying to append “SR” to the “US”, is he? But even this moderate move is seen as groundbreaking by the American Right, so sure are they that public sector provision is unpatriotic and even treasonous. Against this backdrop – which looks a lot like a Confederate flag – Obama’s got his work cut out.

The Fox-News-backed protesters are right about one thing though: Obama is a fundamentalist. This is an unpopular sentiment with everyone who’s read those really moving autobiographies; and granted, Obama’s much more likeable than Bush – but let’s face it, he’s not exactly differing from the last President in foreign policy, is he? The occupation of Iraq goes on, more troops go to Afghanistan and the aims are never set out, although we all know it’s about geo-strategic resource issues (oil, to be blunt). Obama rightly criticises British imperialism through his account of his grandfather’s experiences at the hands of the British colonial administration in Kenya, but is happy to serve as Commander in Chief of the most far-reaching empire the world’s ever seen, one that continues to ignore the Geneva Convention and support despotic regimes like Saudi Arabia. This is at odds with the lazy journalistic line that George W Bush was somehow an aberration while Obama is a return to the non-interventionist America we knew and loved – plainly untrue, as the US has intervened in over fifty countries since 1945, overthrowing democracies when they got in the way of American interests.

Aside from directly waging war on underdeveloped countries and contributing to worsening human rights in Iraq, Obama sits atop an economic system designed to subjugate the global South, meaning that informally the continents of Asia, Africa and South America are effectively under colonial rule. The World Trade Organisation continues to campaign for removal of tariff barriers in the developing world, despite the fact that all the major industrialised nations got to where they are today by using tariffs. The International Monetary Fund and World Bank carry on making ‘aid’ loans conditional on privatisation, as if Bechtel and Haliburton hadn’t enriched themselves enough already, prising open the global South for business. Is Obama going to change any of this? Probably not: he believes in American exceptionalism every bit as much as his predecessors, writing in Foreign Affairs that the US is “called to provide visionary leadership”. As leader of the free world, shouldn’t he have given us all a vote on this?

Unfortunately, the journalistic profession and many others in the US and Europe are guilty of extreme sloppiness: they’ve relied on Obama’s own accounts of his political philosophy, heavily analysed his moving speeches, and rightly celebrated the historic occasion of the election of a black President, but failed to step back and consider his policies in any depth beyond whether he was doing enough to sort out the recession. His small number of policy changes are impressive as far as they go, but our biggest worry should be what stays the same: foreign conquest, exploitation and disregard for human rights. There might be a more likeable front-man in place but real change will only come if the people who carried him to power in the first place start holding him to account by using their powerful voice to call for the dismantling of American empire.

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Reader Comments

Denim Justice

I think this is a really good start at explaining what is wrong with Obama, but it could do with more detail about stuff like his position on Guantanamo, the whole CIA torture memo thing, Binyam Mohamed, the Patriot Act, and particularly the way he has acted in the whole health care debate: he has hardly been defending the public option, much less proposing it and arguing strongly in favour of it. In fact, at every opportunity he has said that he is open to alternatives, i.e. to a health care reform bill that doesn’t have a public option written into it, which means it won’t be reform at all. More detail on how he has escalated the war in Afghanistan, with links to details and pictures of how his “change” in foreign policy there has resulted in the deaths of even more innocent Afghan and now Pakistani civilians, would be useful.

Written By Denim Justice on September 28th, 2009 @ 3:01 am

I’m afraid, without mincing my words, this is all just ridiculous. Obama dosn’t, and, to my knowledge, never did, claim to represent every fantasy of the full spectrum of the left. This criticism just amounts to the charge that Obama isn’t “your” Obama. As for the foreign policy stuff, we know Obama’s always been opposed to Iraq: for somebody so opposed to the US presence there to keep the troops surely suggests that there are good reasons why the war didn’t end at a stroke. on 20 January 2009. It’s equally preposterous to criticise him for “presiding over [a configuration of power that the radical left hates]“. For a start, surely you appreciate the difference between coming into a setup, and being the efficient reason for its existence or continuation? Also, I’m not sure what you mean by ‘fundamentalist’. If you mean it in the religious sense, I have to wonder how you came to that conclusion. I think these criticisms are too general and idealistic (and ideological) to be fair.

Written By Tendai on September 28th, 2009 @ 2:18 pm

Although I agree that these are unrealistic expectations of Obama, or indeed any American president, the criticism of Empire remains valid. I supported Obama’s victory, I continue to think he’s a vast improvement on Bush and that the world is a safer place for it, but I don’t think that makes a left critique of American hegemony any less necessary. If we temper our criticisms of government to include only what is achievable, no one will ever spell out exactly what they want.

Written By Salman Shaheen on September 28th, 2009 @ 2:30 pm

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