Tuesday, December 01, 2009

A Night of Despair: My Response to President Obama's Speech on Afghanistan

I voted for Barack Obama. Happily. Hopefully. Maybe even desperately. I wanted change. I believed and continue to believe that the United States is on the wrong track morally, economically, politically, and spiritually. I believed and continue to believe that we are run by soulless corporations that feed us an endless round of distractions, scandals and crises that preoccupy us while we are bled dry. I was under no delusion that if Candidate Obama became President Obama he could change the very marrow of the nation, but I was hopeful that he would at least change the conversation. That hope has been on life support for months. Tonight it finally died.

I do not like the health care reform bill. It is a gift to the insurance companies, and does nothing to improve healthcare or reduce costs. But I could at least comfort myself with the notion that it is a step in the right direction; that once something is on the books, future politicians can work to make it better.

I did not like the bailout of Wall St. It was a gift to the very people who crashed our economy. I would have used the money to keep people in their homes, to create a Green Jobs Corps similar to the conservation program FDR created during the Depression. But I could at least comfort myself with the notion that without it things would have been much worse.

I do not like cap and trade as a means of saving the planet. It is a scam, and will do nothing to lower CO2 emissions. By the time it has any effect, if it has any effect, things will be far worse than then are now. If we want to stop global warming we have to do something bold. Read James Lovelock’s The Vanishing Face of Gaia, and Stewart Brand’s Whole Earth Discipline for ideas that make sense to me. But I could at least comfort myself with the notion that we are recognizing the problem.

I protested against the Iraq War, and hoped President Obama would end it. We are still there. When we leave, if we leave, Iraq will become a puppet of Iran, and our people will have died in vain. But I could at least comfort myself with the notion that the president is winding things down.

I supported the taking down of the Taliban and going after Al Qaeda. We did that. According to our own government there are less than 100 Al Qaeda fighters left in Afghanistan. We won. When did we decide to rid the country of the Taliban? When did we decide that the Taliban are a coherent group that can be identified and defeated? No one has been able to create an Afghanistan in their image—not Alexander the Great, or the British, or the Soviets. Why do we think we can do so? Afghanistan is not a nation, but a jumble of competing tribes and warring groups. The Karzai government has no credibility, and neither do we.

I know Candidate Obama was pro-war in Afghanistan, but I was hopeful that President Obama took all this time discussing the Afghan War because he had a change of mind. Instead he took weeks to do what John McCain would have done in twenty seconds. Did I vote for a slower version of McCain? Is this change? Is this hope?
All this will do is convince our enemies that we are the Crusaders they imagine us to be. It will further solidify the Muslim world against us. It will not make us safer. To imagine that we can train Afghani forces to take on the Taliban is absurd. One out of every four Afghan police officers is AWOL. We will be in Afghanistan for years. And then we will do what we could do today: declare victory and leave behind a mess.

If we want to worry about Taliban and the security of the United States, the problem is in Pakistan. If we want to worry about nuclear armed madmen, the threat is in Pakistan and Iran. We have real enemies out there, but occupying Afghanistan for another five to ten years does nothing to stop them, and in fact will make things worse.

I am sick over the decision of my President. I feel angry and hopeless. Voting Republican in 2010 won’t help. And voting for third parties only allows me to feel self-righteous while charade of a two-party democracy continues to mask the fact that we are no longer a democracy but an oligarchy of the rich, for the rich, by the rich.

My only hope now is in a war tax and a draft. Demand that the American people pay for this madness now. Not just the wealthy, but everyone. Maybe if we feel the financial cost of war we might bring it to a close.

And reinstitute the draft. We don’t have enough volunteers to cover the wars in which we continue to engage, let alone the ones coming up (Pakistani Taliban and Iran), so we force our soldiers to go back over and over and over again. That is wrong militarily and morally. We need more soldiers. If these wars are good for America, then make all American’s fight them. No deferments for college. No way out for the wealthy. Every able-bodied young person must go.

The only reason these wars have gone on as long as they have is that most of us could avoid paying for them directly with our dollars and the lives of our children. With a tax and a draft we are all engaged in war, and most of us will resist.

Right now most of us are like me— confused, depressed, and passive. We content ourselves watching Glenn Beck or Keith Olbermann. I fear Beck and love Olbermann, but neither is offering me a way out.

I am not sorry I voted for Barack Obama, but the hope he promised has turned to despair.

I hope he is right, and that I am wrong.


Jordan said...

Shalom Rav,

Try watching Bill O'Reilly. His has been the #1 (in the ratings) cable news program for over 8 years. Try watching for 2 weeks. Or, use a vcr/dvr to record him while you watch Keith Olbermann. That'd be the reverse of what I did which was to watch Bill while recording Keith. The point is to judge for yourself. Fair and balanced you know.


roy said...

I too despair my friend.

When folk say Obama is a "Socialist," my response is "no he isn't... or I would have gladly voted for him. Instead he was my third choice and is doing just what I feared he would do."

I still try to have hope...

Rabbi Rami said...

True, where is a good socialist when you need one. As for O'Reilly... I know he is still number one, but he is almost mainstream in today's newstainment industry. Glenn Beck is by far the more dangerous character. I think the Colbert Report had something to do with this. The nightly satire of O'Reilly took the edge off of him somehow. But Glenn, he is our new Senator McCarthy/Father Coughlin.

But the bigger issue is not fair and balanced, but truth telling. I doubt anyone of our "news" people know what is going on. I suspect that the real decision makers are off the news radar. I am becoming a conspiracy nut. Not that I have a favorite theory, only that I am haunted by the idea that there is a secret cabal of people running the show behind the scenes. As a Jew and a Mason I doubt it is either of these groups. Maybe David Icke is right and reptilian humanoids are running the world.

Steven Maimes said...

Good post. War is rarely the answer... And more war in Afghanistan is not the right thing to do. I also am saddened that Obama made this poor choice. PEACE not war.

Jordan said...

Shalom Rav,

You wrote: "As for O'Reilly... I know he is still number one, but he is almost mainstream in today's newstainment industry.....I think the Colbert Report had something to do with this. The nightly satire of O'Reilly took the edge off of him somehow."

Is this analysis based on your actually having watched Bill O'Reilly with any regularity; e.g.,
2 weeks in a row as I suggested in my previous post?


Trish said...

I agree with your frustrations but not with your solutions. It is true that electing Obama was not going to change "the very marrow of the nation," but it is true that the very marrow of the nation changed to elect Obama. Things can only change from that point and I think they are well on their way. We sat back for a year to see how much change could be enacted by a new president and we have all found what you have found - not much. That's to be expected. Wholesale change doesn't happen overnight. It doesn't happen over a decade. Maybe it doesn't happen at all! If it is true that we learn from history that may be the one thing that can be learned. But some shifts do happen. They happen because there is a ground swell of belief that makes them happen. Where is the 100th monkey that makes everything make sense? I don't know but I believe she's coming along.

Raksha said...

Rabbi Rami: I'd like to cross-post this essay on Democratic Underground (my favorite political forum) if it's okay with you. I'd post the first part of it and include the link to your blog. The DU regulars are a pretty articulate bunch, so posting it is likely to increase the number of comments far beyond what you usually get here. That's why I thought I should wait for you to give me the green light first.