Roger L. Simon

Barack Obama's Foreign Policy of the Absurd


Most of us have heard of The Theater of the Absurd. The term was coined by critic Martin Esslin to describe the works of such playwrights as Samuel Beckett, Eugene Ionesco, Jean Genet, Harold Pinter and Edward Albee and their relationship to the absurdist existentialist philosophy of Albert Camus.

According to Wikipedia, “Their [the playwrights’] work expressed the belief that human existence has no meaning or purpose and therefore all communication breaks down. Logical construction and argument gives way to irrational and illogical speech and to its ultimate conclusion, silence…. The Absurd in these plays takes the form of man’s reaction to a world apparently without meaning, and/or man as a puppet controlled or menaced by invisible outside forces.”

Little did Esslin know that, back in 1960, he would be describing the foreign policy of Barack Obama. Our president has, quite literally, developed a Foreign Policy of the Absurd — alienated, pointless, nihilistic and indescribable.

It also has a certain black comic quality, an irony, akin to the plays of Luigi Pirandello, the great Italian writer who prefigured the absurdists and whose most famous work is Right You Are, If  You Think You Are, often translated as It Is So, If You Think So.

In many ways, the Obama foreign policy seems to be a remake of the one authentic masterpiece of The Theater of the Absurd — Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot.  Only in the Obama version, it has been retitled as Leading from Behind (pretty absurd, no?) and the original lead characters, the hoboes Vladimir and Estragon, have been replaced by more contemporary figures.  It goes something like this:

Black stage.  Lights fade up on two bums — John and Hillary — sitting by a campfire, looking depressed.  Their once-fancy tattered clothes indicate that they have seen better days. A light flickers on the horizon.

HILLARY (brightening and pointing): Look, John!

JOHN (disinterested): What?

HILLARY:  Explosions!


HILLARY:  Mosul is on fire!

JOHN:  Mosul?

HILLARY (laughs and hits him with her hat):  The second biggest city in Iraq, you silly.

JOHN: Oh. (suddenly alarmed)  Genghis Khan is back?

HILLARY: Noooo…. It’s al Qaeda.  They’re taking over!

John stares at her, incredulous.  Finally….

JOHN (totally dismissive):  Nah… Bin Laden is dead and GM is alive.

For a moment, both look reassured.  But there are more explosions and they become a bit apprehensive again.

HILLARY (convincing herself):  Soon Monsieur Obama is going to come.

JOHN (nodding): Yes, he will come.

HILLARY: Everything will be okay.

They sit there.

JOHN (frowns): What if it’s not?

More explosions.

HILLARY (alarmed): Oops.  There goes Tikrit!

JOHN: Tikrit?

HILLARY: Al Qaeda took that too…. Dumkopf!

Hillary starts beating him over the head with her hat again.

JOHN (shielding himself): Okay, okay… another city. Iraq has a lot of cities.

She relents.

HILLARY: Soon Monsieur Obama will come.

No one believes it.

JOHN (plaintively): What if he doesn’t?

Immobilized, the two bums continue to sit there. They look increasingly nervous, almost terrified, as the firelight dominates the stage. Then, suddenly, an idea dawns on them.

HILLARY & JOHN (simultaneously): The video!

HILLARY (jumping up excited): Yes, the video!

JOHN (jumps up too): It will solve everything!

The two bums lock arms and start to dance a jig as lights fade.