3 BIG PARADIGMS (HOLDOVERS from Cheney-Bush, et. al.) that OBAMA NEEDS to THROW OUT
By Kevin Stoda, Europe
Back in autumn 2007, long before Americans had any idea that Barack Obama would become our current USA President and commit himself to endless war in Pakistan and Afghanistan, I wrote an article entitled “THE CAMBODIAZATION OF PAKISTAN ROLLS ON–AS ARABS IN THE MIDDLE EAST CONTINUE TO RIDICULE U.S. ATTITUDE ON DEMOCRACY”. In that article, I warned that Afghanistan would become a much longer war if the USA continued attacking within Pakistan and sending more U.S. military trainers in.
Such an approach would likely prolong the USA’s involvement in the region for another decade (or two), i.e. as the U.S.A.’s attacks on Laos and Cambodia did in the mid-1960s.
I also emphasized in that same article that the USA is not any more welcome in Pakistan than it was in Vietnam, Cambodia nor Laos. “This is partially because the local Pakistani populace generally sees heavy U.S. military presence there as a quasi-American-colonialization of the Pakistani status quo.” I think many other historians are worried about the current trends in South Asia as well. Russia is even facetiously helping the USA fly in more equipment and troops in to Afghanistan than ever—following Obama’s recent summit in Moscow. (Moscow is thinking, “Sure, we will help the Americans have another Vietnam in Afghanistan—just like we did.”)
Recently, the Historians Against the War (HAW) emailed me a round table report from their January evaluation of the Cheney Bush years. At that round table event many famous historians, like Alice KesslerHarris and Barbara Weinstein spoke on their overall evaluation of the 2001-2009 era (i.e. an era of horror and grave regret). Among them was the foreign affairs historian Vijay Prashad, who noted that since Carter, every single U.S. president has continued to follow a flawed-but-similar foreign policy approach to Southwest Asia, the Himalayan–Stans, and most of the planet (outside Western Europe). More specifically, Prashed claims that three basically misguided beliefs lead to the continuing American travesty and underdevelopment of more democratic politics in Asia.
In the meantime, Prashed holds out a bit of hope for Obama´s domestic programs, but due to his many mainstream presidential paradigms he has simply accepted from 5 prior presidents, Obama appears to be currently only fit to repeat the sins, crimes, and misguided activities of his presidential predecessors.
3 LOUSY PARADIGMS OF U.S. FOREIGN POLICY 1979-2009
Prashed explained at the round table of HAW, “… I’m going to talk a little bit against the idea of presidential time—looking at U.S. history through the era of one presidential time—and suggest that even though we might be agreed on the personal stupidity of George Bush, the continuities between, say, Carter onward, are quite astounding on the level of foreign policy–though not domestic policy. So I would like to lay out a narrative of the continuity against the question of presidential time.”
Prashed then looked first at what-might-have-been, i.e. had the many Non-Aligned states in the world of the Cold War not suddenly capitulated to Debtor Capitalism in the late 1970s and 1980s. The Marxist historian Prashed speaks proudly of the far-sighted Fidel Castro who called an important summit of the Non-Aligned states in New Delhi in 1983, e.g. just as many Latin American states, from Mexico to Argentina were threatening to stop paying on their bad debts incurred during the first of many financial bubbles.
These early financial bubbles had grown up between 1972 and 1982 as the result of the first and second oil shocks. These bubbles were produced as huge amounts of petro-dollars in reserve at New York and London banks, e.g. where Middle Eastern Oil Sheikhs preferred to stuff their currency, arose. This situation of having too much money on hand led to a sense of crises for the bankers. This feeling of crises had led Citibank and other New York and London financiers to head to Latin America, Africa, and Asia knocking on doors and handing out money to be paid back later at usury rates.
In the wake of the first of a subsequent thirty-year-long series of financial bubbles, Castro had appropriately warned the poorer Non-Aligned states of the planet that “we are under attack from the International Monetary Fund, we are under attack from the advanced capitalist countries, who are in the middle of a problem.” Castro advised the 170 underdeveloped lands of the globe to unite and fight off the slavery offered them in the name of national debt and pro-West development. Castro, according to Prashed, then called for an international strike against debt payments and servicing. Castro claimed “we are creating out of our hard work to build our national infrastructure to create mutual trade, and not to send debt servicing back to the advanced industrial countries to get them out of their slump.”
Naturally, Castro was not listened to.
By the end of the 1980s , the world’s economy was in a mess as both (1) social democratic states were giving up on their commitments to the poorer and middle classes and as (2) even national revolutionary regimes in most every corner of the planet had joined by the same late 1980s–or early 1990s—the parade of peoples marching and lining up for the IMF, massive debts, overdependence on trade, and the GATT/WTO.
According to Prashed, the resulting decline in commitments by national states around the globe to their own people’s social and democratic development starting from the 1970s onward subsequently led to the rise of radical fundamentalist religious groups gaining political, economic, and social ground everywhere on the planet in a few short years. That is, in the absence of a high level of concern and commitment to the welfare-of-all as ürpscribed by trickledown economists of the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s (and the Bush-Cheney era), many rightwing extremist groups soon took over the social development roles abandoned by many of these same regimes and sectarian groups and unions went out of favor as they had no power to return favors without socio-economic progress.
Paradigm Number One, which is the You-do-it-my-way-or-Get-out-of-the-way paradigm, is certainly the first paradigm that Obama needs to toss out when approaching most of the globe and the peoples of sovereign states, like Pakistan, who do not want him their lobbing missiles or flying drones. This paradigm demands that the world do things the American president’s way (and his supporting cast of wealthy interest groups)—or get out of the way. The approach may sound like a W. Bush or Ronald Reagan view of the planet, but Carter, Clinton and apparently Obama were (and are) the types of American leaders who (do and) did continue to emphasize the WTO’s-World Order (and the IMF-Chicago School of Economics) as the primary foreign policy approach to political-economic development abroad.
Carter was the first President to do so after Watergate by claiming the petroleum-filled peninsula of Arabia to be America’s backyard to development in his address, which came to be known as the Carter Doctrine. This doctrine committed the U.S.A. to oppose political development in the region and to promote radical jihadism in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Carter Doctrine approach to the Middle East eventually ruined any chance that the USA would be seen as an honest broker in the region—even though the Soviet Union had begun pulling out of the Middle East around the Israel, Egypt, and Lebanon region by 1972 already.
The second paradigm failure, which Obama appears to have also fully embraced, is to continue to fail to call off the right wing jihadists and to stop supporting the underdevelopment of social welfare seeking societies of citizens who are not on the radical right fringe of society and religion. Instead he, like Bush and Cheney, is not willing to speak truth to Israel and others in the Middle East. Prashed, author of THE DARKER NATIONS: A PEOPLE´S HISTORY OF THE THIRD WORLD (The New Press), properly notes that Hamas, the Taliban, the Muslim Brotherhood, and dozens of other extremist groups have won favor in their societies by fighting for the commonweal. That is, after fighting well in Afghanistan in the 1980s, they went home and joined movements to provide care and insurance, i.e. where the regions poor often have had no one to turn to in an age of Neo-Liberal and Neo-Conservative economics. Prashed points out that the group which bombed and attacked Mumbai last November 2008 (coming out of Pakistan) is Lashkar-al-Taiba, which is a largely popularly supported movement that provides health care for hundreds of thousands—if not millions—of Pakistanis each year.
No wonder Pakistan can’t shut the Lashkar-al-Taiba down!
Recall, according to Pradesh, that until the 1970s, there were many non-sectarian groups operated in Pakistan helping the poor. Following Pakistan’s fuller embrace of World Bank and IMF rules in the 1970s and 1980s, the poorest Pakistanis had to find support in their stricter and traditional religious sects, who had centuries of collateral and connections saved up. A similar story enveloped Algeria and other nation states in the same decades.
Until now, Obama has not even thought of pulling out of Afghanistan and failing to really work on development of social and human potential in Asia—instead of investing in things that go BOOM. A similar, non-military, approach is needed throughout Asia but Obama seems to be blind to the faults in his paradigms and keeps the door open for so-called good jihadists to join or rejoin governance by offering up guns or blind hope—instead of real help of develop. Obama´s group of jihadists includes Likud party members who shoot premiers in Israel or who blindly support the bombing-the-hell-out of Gaza—e.g. breaking every international law on the books—as well as those jihadists who have joined governments in Afghanistan or Saudi Arabia.
When will Obama understand that if he bombs the-hell-out-of Afghanistan and Pakistan, more jihadists will grow out of the walls and caves of the Himalayas? Until we, Americans, are ready to decontaminate a region by really helping a society instead of bombing it (because we can’t control it), American foreign policy will never grow up and we will continue to waste our children’s future on making war today and tomorrow.
The third paradigm of Washington’s last 6 presidents, i.e. a paradigm–which like the other two–needs to be tossed out the window, is described by Vijay Prashed as the American leadership’s instinct to constantly “disregard its own rule(s)” and playing favorites or turning on friends on-the-spur of the moment. In short, it is a world paradigm where often friendships outside America’s small group of favored friends (like the U.K., Germany and Israel) are cheap or not taken seriously.
Prashed explains this American Let´s-pick-and-choose-and-pick-and-choose-again-our friends worldview as follows: Suppose “you have a mass base, suddenly Washington is your pal, Washington wants you to win an election, you’re going to lose the election. Why? Because everybody understands Washington’s structural role in their social mal-development, and we have to recognize that.”
One fact is unclear. When we switch our friends so freely, why do we constantly stand so close to Israel? How have the Israelis built peace in the Middle East lately?
Make them earn our love!
However, picking and choosing friends is perceived otherwise as a random act by non-Americans viewing American foreign behavior over decades. These non-Americans worldwide find that American support is dictated only by what the U.S. feels to be its interest or flavor of the month or year.
The bottom line for Vijay Pradesh and Historians Against War is that making more war in Afghanistan and Pakistan is just the same old line (filled with the same paradigms) we have been getting as rhetoric for three decades.
We need to demand that Obama throw out the weight of bad paradigms and get America out of the war making game. Next we need to get out of the supporting-extremist (and create more jihadists) game. Finally, let our global partners (not only the OECD states)— i.e. some 190-plus nations—grow up and develop economically, democratically, and socially.