The Open Dimension

Commentary on social issues; politics; religion and spirituality

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Location: Laguna Hills, California, United States

I am a semi-retired psychotherapist/psychiatric social worker and certified hypnotherapist. Originally a practicing attorney, I changed careers during the 1980's. My interests include history, constitutional law, Hindustani classical music, yoga, meditation and spirituality.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Obama's Foreign Policy: Not a Time to Wait and See

Does anyone have some insight into what is going on with Barack Obama with regard to foreign policy- and the varied related issues inherited from the Bush regime? Because I don’t and I am very seriously concerned.

If my understanding is correct, President Obama’s intention is to have American “combat forces” out of Iraq by the summer of 2010. But he speaks of maintaining “residual forces” for purposes which are far from clear to me. How many exactly, and for how long and for what precise purposes? The responses have seemed rather vague. But one thing seems clear: No matter what they’re called American troops in Iraq will continue to be targets for insurgent aggression.

Why has a time period of a year and a half been set for “safe exit” from Iraq? Why exactly? Why isn’t a year safe? Why isn’t six months safe? Why are we all accepting so readily that so lengthy a period is mandatory? That’s a year and a half more that American soldiers have to be dodging bullets and bombs over there. A year and a half more that many of them will be returning home in metal coffins. Most of us would readily acknowledge that Iraq was a totally unnecessary aberration. So why do we seem to consent so generously to prolonging the disaster? Why aren’t we asking tougher questions? Why aren’t we making more noise? Real noise. Effective and sustained noise. It’s simple but sorrowful arithmetic: The longer we’re there the more of our soldiers will die- or be seriously injured or maimed for life. How can we be casual about all this? A disastrous unjustified war continues- and continues. Have we just gotten so used to it that we hardly notice any more? Why aren’t we more upset- more outraged? I don’t get it.

Then, speaking of disasters, there’s Afghanistan. Obama intends to send 17,000 more troops there. Obama’s Surge. For what precisely? The government we established there can hardly hold Kabul and has virtually no influence in the rest of the country, where the Taliban has been steadily gaining ground. So what are 17,000 more Americans going to accomplish other than serving as targets for the bullets, bombs and artillery of the Afghan guerillas? What are they going to be dying for? What’s the strategy? What are the objectives? What’s the mission? What we’ve done- thanks to Bush and his cohorts- has been to get ourselves into intractable messes that we can’t seem to get out of. Whom do we have next to thank- Barack Obama? What is he doing? Why aren’t we raising all kinds of hell with him? I can hardly believe that he was a Neo-Con in disguise. So what is leading him now to out-Bush Bush? We can’t just sit back and watch this happen. We just can’t. Rationally we can’t. Morally we can’t. Just as human beings we can’t. For God’s sake how can we continue to watch people dying for nothing? What are we becoming?

Then there’s Pakistan. As far as I can see that’s the real problem in the region. The Pakistani government has in its control hundreds of nuclear weapons. And more and more the Taliban and Al Qaeda are emerging from the borderland hills and making incursions into the body of the country. What proportion of the population is in basic sympathy with the terrorists? I don’t know. But I gather the proportion is sizeable. Formerly it was considered remote that the Islamic militants could gain control of the government. But of late I’ve heard experts on the region beginning to utter cautions regarding current possibilities. Militants in control of nuclear weapons- I don’t even want to think about the prospect. But it seems to me that all our diplomatic efforts, all our intelligence efforts, and- yes- all our ad-hoc military efforts ( not massive occupations) should be directed toward what unfortunately appears to be a gathering storm in Pakistan.

Afghanistan again. Our obsession has to end. What form of government subsists there should not be our abiding concern. Only that whatever form of government emerges, it does not provide a launching pad for radical militants to attack the U.S. and our allies. I think Obama has had the correct mind-set in this context: Unclench your fists and we can start shaking hands. And shaking hands denotes cultural sensitivity, diplomatic creativity and- in plain terms- making it worth their while. And that means financial aid, economic development and re-building the devastated country. And most of all it means getting the hell out because our continued presence is what they hate us for the most. And if we don’t get out- fast- they’ll hate us to the point that the situation will become irremediable. I pray with all I’ve got that that hasn’t happened already.

Barack Obama. Pardon me for reverting to my career as a shrink; but my counter-transference is not positive. I have a very uneasy feeling- as in: “What’s going on with this man that we need to know about-or- that we should have known about?” Let me be more specific about my misgivings:

The Republican Party. It’s all very good to have positive ideas about bipartisanship; and I know that Abraham Lincoln made efforts in that direction. But the Republicans of today- except for a handful- are in no sense “the loyal opposition.” They lost the election and they’re now afraid that they’ve lost too much of their tight grip on the country. And “tight grip” to them means corporate domination of the American population for maximum profit- financial profit- money. That’s what they’re all about. Nothing- nothing- else. I hear politicians talk about ideological differences. Ideology is just a cover for the Republicans. They would use any ideology that was convenient to their purpose- to gain more-and-more profit for the wealthiest. That’s what free market and deregulation and tax cuts and so on and so forth are all about. They don’t give a damn about the “welfare of the American people.” The American people, except those who are very rich, are in their view losers and patsies whose only purpose is to willingly serve the purposes of the Money Machine. As John Dean has pointed out, to the Republicans the people are subjects, not citizens. So what kind of an entity are you attempting to be “bipartisan” with, Mr. President? Has your idealism gotten out of hand? Are you still back at Harvard Law School, where you won the law-review presidency by assuaging the conservative students? You must know that this is a different milieu altogether- and a far different brand of “conservative” for that matter. No, their only purpose will be to obstruct, to sabotage, to hound you without cessation. They’re not even afraid of being totally absurd. Did you hear Senator Richard Shelby today questioning your citizenship? He’s not some know-nothing from Sheboygan. He’s not Joe the Plumber. He’s a prominent Republican leader. It may be smart to demonstrate to the American people that you’re open-minded and inclined toward cooperativeness. Who knows, some Obama- Republicans might be created that way. But to expect the Republicans to be sincerely cooperative. Dreams are made of this.

What worries me is that Obama’s bipartisan sentiments may be a factor in his failure to firmly denounce abuses by the Bush administration. I am very concerned about his failure to support unequivocally a process of investigation of and appropriate prosecution of war criminality on the part of the Bush administration, including offenses by Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney themselves. If indeed, as he says, no one is above the law, then why the tentativeness? I have even heard- and in fairness I don’t know if it’s so- that he has assured lower-level operatives who were “following orders” and torturing prisoners that they won’t be prosecuted. I earnestly hope that he does not subscribe to the Nuremberg defense. There are historical precedents precluding that kind of thing.

Then there’s the matter of rendition- or in plain English- kidnapping people and taking them to foreign countries to be tortured. Why hasn’t President Obama denounced this practice and stated clearly that it is to be ended? Does he believe it to be an appropriate anti-terrorism tool that should be retained? I hope not. But, given his silence on the subject, I can’t be sure.

Those are my major serious concerns: Why so long to get out of Iraq with so many more people having to die for nothing? And are we engineering some species of permanent occupation there? Why what appears to be another Iraq- another Vietnam for that matter- in Afghanistan? Why the apparent reluctance to prosecute war crimes? Why the failure to renounce “security measures” which are repugnant to the conscience of anyone who has one?
I voted for a man who I was convinced was highly intelligent, politically astute, honest and true to his principles. Now I worry that the person for whom I voted either was or has become overburdened by rather airy theoretical baggage and rather too willing to sacrifice his principles to what he deems to be political expediency.

I hope very sincerely and very earnestly that my worries will prove groundless. And I hope that contrary evidence will present itself soon. Very soon.