Daily Archives: December 5, 2009

Obamanalysis

Just a bit more on the Obama speech. Andrew Bacevich and Nir Rosen were on Democracy Now on Dec. 2. Bacevich, who self-identifies as a conservative and graduated from West Point in 1969, could with some justice be deemed a right wing anti-imperialist in the (small ‘r’) republican tradition while Rosen is a journalist who has spent extensive time in both Afghanistan and Iraq.

The link is here, but let me emphasize the following remarks:

AMY GOODMAN: President Obama also praised the United States as a country that has not sought world domination or occupation.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: More than any other nation, the United States of America has underwritten global security for over six decades, a time that for all its problems has seen walls come down and markets opened, and billions lifted from poverty, unparalleled scientific progress in advancing frontiers of human liberty. For unlike the great powers of old, we have not sought world domination. Our union was founded in resistance to oppression. We do not seek to occupy other nations. We will not claim another nation’s resources or target other peoples because their faith or ethnicity is different from ours. What we have fought for, what we continue to fight for, is a better future for our children and grandchildren and we believe that their lives will be better if other people’s children and grandchildren can live in freedom and access opportunity.

AMY GOODMAN: President Obama last night at West Point. Nir Rosen?

NIR ROSEN: Every empire has claimed it’s not an empire, it doesn’t want to occupy, it wants to help. Indeed, the American empire has done the same thing. The British in Iraq [in the early 20th century] were uttering the same things the Americans in Iraq were uttering in their occupation. Why do we have military bases all over the world if not an empire seeking to control much of the world? These days imperialism works in a different way. Maybe you don’t need direct physical control of every place, but you still have the physical force and the threat of violence. Indeed, I think we are actually a failure as an empire. We actually managed to make the Taliban look good. We took the most detested regime in the world, the Taliban, removed them in a matter of weeks and here seven or eight years later they’re more popular than ever. They’re stronger than ever.

AMY GOODMAN:Among who?

NIR ROSEN: Among the people in Pakistan and many Afghans, at least many Pashtuns. When I’ve been in Afghanistan you often hear non-Pashtuns expressing hostility to Americans. I have heard many Tajiks say, “Amreeka Dushman Islam”, “America is the enemy of Islam.” Nobody really wants the Americans there.

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, Professor Bacevich, your book is called “The Limits of Power, The End of American Exceptionalism”, responding to what Nir Rosen has said and President Obama’s last point about why we are in Afghanistan.

ANDREW BACEVICH: Yeah, I mean, I think the president’s sort of capsule description of modern U.S. history and our role in the world is extraordinarily important and the reason it is important is because that text could of been lifted out of a speech by Harry Truman, by John Kennedy, by Lyndon Johnson, by Richard Nixon, by Ronald Reagan, or by George W. Bush. This is the preferred narrative of American history, the way we prefer to see ourselves and, therefore, the narrative that we use to justify all that we do in the world. It is really telling and extraordinary that this president, whose background is quite different from all those other presidents that I just named, and who came to office promising to bring about change, it is extraordinary that he himself would embrace that narrative so uncritically. I think that is indicative of the extent to which whether there is going to be any change in Washington, it is simply going to be changes on the margins and that the Washington consensus, the status quo, is firmly in place.