Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Making Enemies

Hal Pepinsky, pepinsky@indiana.edu, pepinsky.blogspot.com
February 2, 2010
I admire President Obama personally as much as I have admired any president in my 65 years. In his State of the Union address last Wednesday, he was on domestic policy a model of responsiveness, the way of relating that accommodates difference rather than trying to overcome it. Here as a group it is Congressional Republicans who remain stuck in the inherently violent posture of just saying no.
In his foreign policy, President Obama is locked in an equally violent position in foreign policy, of just saying yes to the U.S. military-industrial complex. In yesterday’s budget, he exempted the Pentagon from his domestic spending freeze, and granted the military a 3% increase with a total appropriation of nearly half the budgeted federal deficit. Barack Obama caved in to military-industrial orthodoxy the moment in his campaign when he pledged that defeat in Afghanistan would remain unacceptable. He has scarcely wavered from giving “national security” anything it wants. Happily, this no longer includes federally criminalizing medical marijuana. Unhappily, it includes spending 33 cents of every USG dollar in Haiti on military security, while one cent goes directly to Haitians, most of whom even in Port au Prince have still not been entrusted to receive food and water.
In the wake of WWI, US sociologist W.I. Thomas proposed an oft-cited theorem: Things that are defined as real are real in their consequences. If Congressional Republicans are united in defining health care reform legislation as their enemy, single-payer, salary-for-service, immunity from denial of coverage for prior conditions, and on and on, will find themselves more united in their enmity to enemies of reform. Likewise, enemies will continue befriend enemies of ours abroad when our special forces invade their homes at night and take their loved ones away, and when pilots of our drones in cubicles in Virginia and Colorado fire missiles into compounds across national boundaries.
I’m afraid that the greatest tragedy of the Obama administration will become multiplication of enemies abroad and paralysis at home. Gorbachev did the Russians and the world a favor when he gave up military-industrial aggrandizement. Otherwise, imperialists tend to implode faster by investing more desperately in military superiority as empires collapse, as the president proposes to do by building a new generation of nuclear warheads in the name of abolition. Please Mr. President, don’t let military inevitabilists play with your head, any more than as a foreign policy team y’all play with ours. Love and peace--hal

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