Saturday, September 14, 2013

Obama and Putin - Let's Be Optimists!

So, Obama has waged a “feckless” (my word) and confused foreign policy, Putin has “bested him,” and the US looks inward, the world has no cop, the Russians are back in play in the Middle East where they have been aching to arrive again as a Big Power, they say.

As my roommate Peter Kelley from Aroostook County, Maine, used to say, “Bull-diggy.”  Instead, it is time for optimism.

Let’s get away from American “primacy.”  We’re big, we’re powerful – but we’re not the only ones in the world.  We are a settled country, where the government has a monopoly on violence, which is what a non-failed state is.  OK.  We think we have the best government there has ever been – OK, that’s defensible, although not airtight, and as far as I know, it’s true.  Putin is ridiculous when he talks about democracy, and about everyone’s not having achieved it fully, implying that he and Russia have, I guess, although that’s not certain from his editorial.

The Russian government wanted to come over and lobby the House of Representatives!!  How hard to believe is that??  Why isn’t anyone saying anything about that, I wonder?  Putin publishes in the New York Times – lots of holes in his argument, but still!

The fact is, and has long been, that settled governments have a lot of common interests, overwhelming common interests, against disruptive forces like terrorism (did Putin chuckle an “I told you so” when the Chechens hit Boston?), and against their combined assault on the commons of the earth’s environment.

We have to pay attention to human rights, OK – but it’s better than it used to be.  Jews can still emigrate, can’t they?  China has lifted tens of millions out of poverty.  But still – we have a lot in common, and if we don’t get all absolutist on the human rights thing, the civil liberties (which I treasure), if we concentrate on a more public health point of view, a collective good point of view, we can celebrate a coming together, ice-flow breaking up of American-Russian cooperation.

I get pissed off at Obama, true.  But along with millions of others I got pissed off at Nixon, but in retrospect, policy-wise, he was very good in so many ways.  He relied on Pat Moynihan domestically, and although he was terrible on Chile – thanks, Henry – if he had just had a different personality, he would have been pretty good overall.  And my being pissed off at Obama isn’t even near the ballpark of being pissed off at Nixon, not even at the hotdog stand outside the stadium, or even paying off some kid to watch my car when I’m a few blocks away at the game, not near.  So, let’s just call it a general disappointment that will fade with time and with appreciation of the real achievements of the Obama Administration (excepting Eric Holder and his outlawing of investigative journalism when it concerns the Feds.)  But that’s just personal, not business.

Why not let Putin into the game and work together?  It’s not like we’re doing so great on our own.  Why not let him keep Syria in his pocket (do we really have much of a choice, really?)  Does it really hurt us?  What’s Putin’s position on Israel?  I don’t think he’s against it; I bet he is willing to see a successful so-called Peace Process.  Does he want to construct a new Warsaw Pact in the Middle East?  Don’t think so.  Does he want Iran to have the Bomb?  Don’t think so.  Does he want countries to adopt a Communist form or government?  Don’t think so.  I mean really, even if Russians are mean sons of bitches, where is the threat?  Am I just so blind?  Will the Russians construct a new operating system and outlaw Microsoft?  Will they overtake Google?  Where is the competition?  Oil?  Oil?  We’re all on our way to conservation and home-brewing from shale.  Maybe I’m blind.

So, I’ve thought from the start that Kerry will go down as a remarkable Secretary of State, far surpassing Hillary, who really was a competent presence, but nothing remarkable.  Smart, but not innovative, nor probably very flexible.  Could it still be Kerry for President?  I think that ship has sailed and hit the rocks.  But, could it be a new era, and a Nobel?  Could be.

I’m going far, far into euphoric optimism here, buying a stock as it emerges shakily from a very long base.  It’s really too early to tell.  That’s why this essay will simply stay on the blog, not read by many, and if it really becomes true bulldiggy, who will remember?

But I say, let them work together.  Let’s not forget that Fox News and the war-mongers of the Right, always there, will yell and scream.  David Talbot thinks that it was Kennedy’s opposition to the war-mongers that got him killed (Brothers, 2007, Free Press).  Eisenhower identified the Military-Industrial Complex, and it was only in late drafts of the speech that he amended that term from his initial one, “Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex.”  So, we will hear a lot from the House, whose members’ districts still thrive on the military, dispersed strategically throughout the US.  There are interests, there are viewpoints, there is violence always as a threat.  Personally, I would double Obama’s security detail.

But I’m optimistic.

Budd Shenkin

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