What Do these First Six Months Mean?
Where Are We Going?
I think the Europeans, who, remember, caught Obamania quite early, thought they were going to get more of the bipartisan American security shield, albeit with a charismatic multicultural veneer that would resonate with their citizens: no more Texas. No more Christianity. No more twang. No more nuclur. No more Iraq. But same old NATO. Same old bad cop to their good cop. Same old wide open Ami economy. Same old chance for triangulation. And?
As we are seeing in the Middle East, in the case of Israel, with Turkey, on the recent Iranian upheaval, and during the South America visit, Obama is clearly to the left of Europe. He sees himself more as multicultural prophet born out of the Third World, foe of colonialism, angry at past imperialism, skeptical of capitalism, eager to showcase his non-traditional ancestry and tripartite nomenclature. By coming from the West, but separating himself from the history of his own country, Obama has become a citizen of the world, who polls far higher, as intended, in the Middle East, than does his own country.
At no point does he suggest that the fact his father left Kenya for the U.S. and fathered at least one son who would grow up American rather than Kenyan was a great gift, as we see with the ordeal of many of the Obama half-siblings in Africa. Yes, he talks about change in America, but never tells the world exactly how an America of many races and faiths never descends into the hatred and violence we see most elsewhere in diverse societies. How, after all, does one apologize for success? ("I am sorry we are not killing as in the Balkans; so sad we do not follow the Rwandan model; schucks, no Kurd-Shiite-Sunni troubles here.")
It used to be cute to talk about how "Bush turned off the Europeans." Perhaps. But beneath all the public demonstrations and burning effigies, the old guard knew that Bush, like Clinton, Bush, and Reagan (but not Carter), would be there should the Russians, Koreans, Chinese, the lunatic regimes in the Middle East, the Al Qaedists and the rest threaten Western interests.
I don't see how they can assume such a thing any more.
From the trivial like the treatment of the Churchill bust or the DVD gift to Gordon Brown, to the profound like the serial apologies, voting present on Iran, and deer-in-the-headlights stance on Korea, they must assume that the "European Rapid Deployment Force" is now their primary bulwark against the foes of civilization.
Bottom line: "Be careful what you wish for."
It is neither caricature nor reductionism to suggest that the degree to which a country has expressed past hostility to the United States, the more it wins attention and apology from Barack Obama. In contrast, to the degree a country is constitutional and pro-American, the more likely it will be either ignored by Obama or its internal affairs "meddled" with. Cf. the case with Iran, Venezuela, the West Bankers, Russia, etc. In contrast, woe to Israel! (And Iraq too).
Weird Iranian Politics
There is a certain difficulty, unease really, that one sees among Leftist and liberal commentators on Iran. The demonstrations in Tehran are ideal topics of liberal anguish: hundreds of thousands in the streets, women, gays, students, all calling for freedom, human rights, and non-violent change -- and opposed by religious fundamentalists, the gun-toting army, creepy police. It should be a no-brainer.
But there is often silence. Why and how?
1) Obama is President. US official policy is now liberal official policy, and there is a certain party line to embrace (we forget how right-wing radio went after Bush for the Dubai ports deal, the steel tariff, open borders, the deficits, No Child Left Behind. Prescription drug, etc.).
That means the President's heretofore Kissingerian realism -- wait until one side wins, and then deal with the winner in terms of our own interest -- gets a pass. Suddenly liberals who called for the overthrow of everyone from the odious Pinochet to the even worse Somoza, are well, silent, offering Obama sound enough talking points that we must not play into the hands of this or that side, that both sides have anti-Americanism in common, that the bomb lurks large. Their realism may be clever and in the long run astute for the US, but it is realism nonetheless, and just the sort of realpolitik that they used to decry.
2) The Iranian fascistic government -- theocratic, anti-gay, anti-religious tolerance, anti-feminist -- has always disguised its venom with Che-like popular anti-Americanism. Its theocrats don't wear ties. They mouth Hollywood-like anti-Americanism. They hate Bush as much as the Left does. In other words, the Iranians (cf. again Clinton's lunatic 2005 Davos remarks praising to the skies Iranian "democracy") have always been given a sort of exemption given their Third-world fides, and refrain "we are the perpetual victims of a CIA-inspired coup over six decades ago." (Kermit Roosevelt did not prevent democracy in Iran from 1979 to 2009 any more than Pearl Harbor forced the United States to spend a lot on defense the next 60 plus years).
3) Iraq looms large. The Iraqi elections were far more open, far more inspected than anything in the long history of Iran. Maliki is a more legitimate leader than any in Iraq. And yet we shun Maliki as tainted, while suggesting that Iranian thugs are somehow more authentic (note the large number of essays suddenly appearing arguing Ahmadinejad really won the election and the result should be respected.)
Here at home
We know the boilerplate: The President outlines the problem, punctuated with those awful "them" and "they" and "some" and "others" who as extremists stand in the way of all good things and present "false choices", but remain unnamed. (Sort of like the tropes in 1984).
Then the standard references come to "the mess we inherited", the "prior administration", and "what we found." These are the prefaces to his reluctance to ... (fill in the blanks: run the private sector, spend massive amounts of money, take over health care, raise taxes, etc.). Then he pauses, takes a deep breath, and in fact outlines ways to take over GM, regulate compensation, run up massive deficits, nationalize health care, and plan record tax hikes.
Then he finishes with variations on the old campaign formula "this is the moment", "hope and change", "yes, we can", "we will not be deterred."
No one can quite believe that one has just heard Obama deny that he's going to do exactly what he then outlines he is going to do -- but at least for the last six months this deception sounded good.