Thursday, November 6, 2008

Great expectations

The weight of the past, present and future will add drag to Obama's ascent to the White House

Tariq Ali, Wednesday November 05 2008

"......It is an awful time to be elected president, but it is also a challenge, and Franklin Roosevelt accepted such a challenge in the 1930s by imposing a social-democratic regime of regulation, public works and an imaginative approach to popular culture. He was helped by the existence of a strong labour movement and the American left: the Reagan-Clinton-Bush years helped to destroy the legacy of the New Deal. It is a new economy, heavily dependent on global finance and a deindustrialised America.

Does Obama have the vision or the strength to turn this clock back and forward at the same time? In the realm of foreign policy, the Obama/Biden approach has not been too different from that of Bush or McCain. A New Deal for the rest of the world would require a rapid exit from Iraq and Afghanistan and no further adventures in these regions or elsewhere. Biden has virtually committed himself to a Balkanisation of Iraq, which now appears less likely since the rest of the country as well as Iran and Turkey are opposed, for different reasons, to the creation of an Israeli-American protectorate in Northern Iraq with permanent US bases. Obama would be best advised to announce a rapid and complete withdrawal. Apart from all else, the costs are now prohibitive.

And sending troops based in Iraq to Afghanistan would only recreate the mess elsewhere. As numerous British diplomatic, military and intelligence experts have warned, the war in South Asia is lost. Washington is certainly aware of this fact. Hence the panic-induced negotiations with the neo-Taliban. One can only hope that Obama's foreign policy advisers will force a retreat on this front as well.

What of South America? Surely Obama should mimic Nixon's trip to Beijing and fly to Havana, ending the economic and diplomatic embargo of Cuba. Even Colin Powell acknowledged that the regime had done a great deal for its people. It will be difficult for Obama to preach the virtues of the free-market, but the Cubans could certainly help him in establishing a proper healthcare system in the United States. This would be change that most Americans would be happy to believe in. Other lessons are also on offer from other South American countries that foresaw the crisis of neoliberal capitalism and began to restructure their economies over a decade ago.

If change means that nothing changes then those who have put Obama in the White House might decide after a few years have passed that a progressive party in the United States has become a necessity."

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