Obama: The Provincial President
"Why Obama hates Netanyahu, and vice versa" is explored in a remarkable essay by Haviv Rettig Gur of the Times of Israel:
At a recent gathering of the Israel Council on Foreign Relations, the eminent former director general of the Foreign Ministry, Prof. Shlomo Avineri, called Obama’s foreign policy “provincial.” It was a strange choice of words to describe the policies of a president with such a cosmopolitan outlook and so much eagerness to engage the world.
But Avineri had a point.
Obama’s remarkable memoir, “Dreams from My Father,” includes a powerful account of how his experiences as a young, keenly observant social organizer in South Chicago instilled in him the sensibility that would come to define his presidency.
In the book, he describes his reaction upon hearing the children of a poor Chicago neighborhood divided into “good kids and bad kids – the distinction didn’t compute in my head.” If a particular child “ended up in a gang or in jail, would that prove his essence somehow, a wayward gene…or just the consequences of a malnourished world?”
“In every society, young men are going to have violent tendencies,” an educator in one majority-black Chicago high school told him in the late 1980s. “Either those tendencies are directed and disciplined in creative pursuits or those tendencies destroy the young men, or the society, or both.”
The book is full of such ruminations, and they echo throughout Obama’s rhetoric as president. In his last speech to the UN General Assembly, he asserted that “if young people live in places where the only option is between the dictates of a state or the lure of an extremist underground, no counterterrorism strategy can succeed.”
For Obama, terrorism is, at root, a product of social disintegration. War may be necessary to contain the spread of Islamic State, for example, but only social reform can really cure it.
Add to this social vision the experience of a consummate outsider – half-white and half-black, with a childhood and a family scattered around the world – and one begins to see the profile of a man with an automatic empathy for the marginalized and an almost instinctive sense that the most significant problems of the world are rooted not in ideology but in oppressive social and economic structures that reinforce marginalization. This sensibility is broader than any economic orthodoxy, and is rooted in the hard experience of South Chicago.
After taking the helm of the world’s preeminent superpower in January 2009, this social organizer set about constructing a foreign policy that translated this consciousness into geopolitical action.
“The imperative that he and his advisors felt was not only to introduce a post-Bush narrative but also a post-post-9/11 understanding of what needed to be done in the world,” James Traub noted in a recent Foreign Policy essay. “They believed that the great issues confronting the United States were not traditional state-to-state questions, but new ones that sought to advance global goods and required global cooperation — climate change, energy supply, weak and failing states, nuclear nonproliferation. It was precisely on such issues that one needed to enlist the support of citizens as well as leaders.”
The world was one large Chicago, its essential problems not categorically different from those of South Chicago’s blacks, and the solutions to those problems were rooted in the same essential human capacity for overcoming social divisions and inequities. This was Obama’s “provincialism” — his vision of the world that favored the disadvantaged and downtrodden, that saw the ideological and political clashes between governments as secondary to the more universal and ultimately social crises that troubled a tumultuous world.
No wonder the gang at NBC attacks anyone using the word "Chicago" as racist; it's the entire prism through which their God King sees the world.
Perhaps what worried Mr. Obama the most about Prime Minister Netanyahu speaking today were the inevitable comparisons of tone and style, and for good reason. As a result of watching Netanyahu, Jazz Shaw of Hot Air takes a second look at Bibi:
When the Prime Minister finished speaking today, I realized exactly how wrong I had been in assuming that this was going to be some cheap, catchpenny display. This was, as I said on Twitter in the moments following the address, one of the most powerful speeches which I have seen delivered in that chamber in the modern era. Netanyahu was the essence of many attributes so lacking in American politics today. He was gracious, not only to those who obviously support him, but to those who might disagree with him here on various policy points. (And, as I will cover below, even with those who were simply rude.) He projected wisdom and rational thought, so frequently lacking in the cheap seats of the theater of American politics. He was sincerely grateful for all that he and the nation he represents have received from the United States and for the consanguinity between our nations. He expressed confidence and hope in a lasting relationship which should be a hallmark of civilized relations in the modern world.
Above all, he was not there to be a politician as I had previously supposed. He was there to be a leader, but also a gracious ally, speaking as an equal on the world stage. He did not come with his hat in hand to ask America to save him. He reiterated that Israel could save itself, but that it would not have to stand alone as long as those with common values which embrace basic goodness stood together in sodality. It was, quite simply, one of the most moving speeches I have witnessed in many years.
I was wrong – in the worst way, since I have clearly allowed cynicism to poison the well – when I supposed that this speech was a pointless, partisan, political ploy. I think I’ve spent too long watching American politicians standing up on cable news and barking out the same tired talking points which their minions repeat ad nauseam for the mainstream media complex. I was highly impressed and felt a bit ashamed. I owe the Prime Minister an apology and I do so now.
I miss the days when America was led by a grownup who had faith in his country and its people. I hope we have that experience once again.
Related: "Dreams from Netanyahu’s Father," from Seth Lipsky of the New York Sun and Time magazine.