Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Reality Wedge

This is a cartoon from today's edition of the left wing Spanish daily, Público.

In it two GIs are taking to an Afghan peasant. They say, "President Obama has a plan to end the Afghan war." The peasant replies, "I'm going to give you an idea, we would really appreciate it if you just stopped bombing us and went home and took the money you saved and shared it out among us. In four days it would eliminate poverty, terrorism and the common cold. Everybody would be happy except for the people who manufacture bombs".

Neat, huh?
David Seaton's News Links
I am nothing if not a promiscuous reader. I cover the waterfront from left to right and I take special trouble to read carefully and extensively those with whom I agree very little, if at all. I am especially intrigued whenever I find myself agreeing with them on the facts stated, even if I disagree strongly with their reading of those facts. I am even more fascinated when I agree with both facts and reading. This narrow area of mutual agreement I call "the reality wedge".

One of those I read regularly and with whom I agree on practically nothing is Caroline Glick a Chicago-born, dual-national, American-Israeli journalist and the deputy managing editor of The Jerusalem Post. She is also a "Fellow" of the neocon organ called the "Center for Security Policy".

Ms. Glick is a sort of "by Tennessee Williams out of
Bud Schulberg" character, her columns often have a borderline hysteria of the paranoiac, Chicken Little, "sky is falling" variety. A sort of Daniel Pipes with hot flashes: a type of lady my Victorian granny would have called "high strung".

After eight years of Bush, I'm sure that few of my readers need to be brought up to speed on who neoconservatives are and what their agenda is. Suffice to say, it appears obvious that for Ms. Glick the USA, its people, their lives and their treasure are mere instruments whose sole purpose is to eternally pull Israel's chestnuts out of the fire.

The other day she wrote a column titled,
"Surviving in a post-American World". Here is an excerpt:
Like it or not, the United States of America is no longer the world's policeman. This was the message of Barack Obama's presidential journey to Britain, France, the Czech Republic, Turkey and Iraq this past week. Somewhere between apologizing for American history - both distant and recent; genuflecting before the unelected, bigoted king of Saudi Arabia; announcing that he will slash the US's nuclear arsenal, scrap much of America's missile defense programs and emasculate the US Navy; leaving Japan to face North Korea and China alone; telling the Czechs, Poles and their fellow former Soviet colonies, "Don't worry, be happy," as he leaves them to Moscow's tender mercies; humiliating Iraq's leaders while kowtowing to Iran; preparing for an open confrontation with Israel; and thanking Islam for its great contribution to American history, President Obama made clear to the world's aggressors that America will not be confronting them for the foreseeable future.
If Ms. Glick continues in this vein a few weeks longer I will find myself converting to high church Obamism. Anybody that draws this kind of fire from Caroline Glick must be doing something right.

I am of the opinion that instead of changing or creating "reality" what president Obama is doing is putting a "seal of approval" on reality. The reality we know as "Bush" is by now inescapable. I say "the reality we know as 'Bush'", because I believe that Bush is more a product of that reality than the primary cause of it. A more realistic term might be "moldy Reaganism". If we have to blame anybody for the straits that America and all who sail in her find themselves, I'd blame it on the Gipper. Following my reading, compared to Reagan, as a harmful influence, George W. Bush is just something that a 'right to life' fanatic fished out of a waste basket.

So Barack Obama is just making the best out of a bad job,
putting lipstick, false eyelashes and autologous fat transplants on a pig.

Here a distinguished voice of the left, sociologist, historical social scientist, and world-systems analyst Immanuel Wallerstein gives a reading of the G-20 parallel to Caroline Glick's:
(Obama's) interlocutors all said he took them seriously, listened to them attentively, admitted U.S. past errors and limitations, and seemed open to compromise solutions of diplomatic disputes - nothing of which they might have accused George W. Bush. But did this make any difference in achieving U.S. diplomatic objectives? It is hard to see in what way.(...) The French and the Germans seemed to use the London meeting more to demonstrate that the geopolitical commitments they refused to make for Bush they would continue to refuse to make for Obama. The German newspaper, Der Spiegel, was harsh in its judgment. It said the cause of the financial disaster is that George W. Bush had been a "poppy farmer" who had "flooded the entire world [with cheap dollars],...creating sham growth and causing a speculative bubble...." Worse still, "the change in government in Washington has not brought a return to self-restraint and solidity. On the contrary, it has led to further abandon." Its conclusion: "German Chancellor Angela Merkel is right. The West may very well be giving itself a fatal overdose." In the geopolitical arena, the Franco-German approach to Afghanistan is unchanged - verbal support for U.S. objectives but no more troops. Would they receive prisoners released from Guantanamo? Germany continues to say absolutely not. France magnanimously agreed to receive one - yes, one. Obama gave a major speech in Prague outlining a call for nuclear disarmament - presumably a big change from the Bush position. The French conservative newspaper, Le Figaro, reports that the diplomatic cell in Sarkozy's inner circle took a very "abrasive" view of the speech. Just public relations, they said, masking the fact that the negotiations of the United States with Russia on this question were getting nowhere. Furthermore, France was not about to take moral lectures from the Americans. So much for Obama's new diplomatic style appeasing the West Europeans. Elsewhere, it didn't seem to work too much better with the East-Central Europeans, where the outgoing conservative Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek of the Czech Republic denounced Obama's stimulus proposals as "a way to hell." Obama's speech to the Turkish parliament did get him great applause from all factions (except the proto-fascist right) for its concrete and modulated approach to Turkish questions. But observers noted that the language on Middle Eastern questions was both traditional and vague.
And yet all of this has given Caroline Glick a case of the shivering fits.

Where I think that Glick has a point (strictly from her point of view)
is that American power is greatly diminished and that this is going to
eventually leave Israel hanging out to dry. The role that the neocons and AIPAC have had in damaging US power seems, however, to escape Ms. Glick.

It is always interesting to remind people of the difference between a neoconservative and the paleoconservative variety. To round off our little tour of "the reality wedge" let us read from one of the most paleo of them all, Pat Buchanan, and see if you don't shock yourself by nodding affirmatively at some of his rant... at least this part:
Europeans had us figured out a long time ago.

They sense that we need them more than they need us.

While NATO provides Europe with a security blanket, it provides America with what she cannot live without: a mission, a cause, a meaning to life.

Were the United States, in exasperation, to tell Europe, "We are pulling out of NATO, shutting down our bases and bringing our troops home because we are weary of doing all the heavy lifting, all the fighting and dying for freedom," what would we do after we had departed and come home?

What would our foreign policy be?

What would be the need for our vaunted military-industrial complex, all those carriers, subs, tanks, and thousands of fighter planes and scores of bombers? What would happen to all the transatlantic conferences on NATO, all the think tanks here and in Europe devoted to allied security issues?

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the withdrawal of the Red Army from Eastern Europe and the breakup of the Soviet Union, NATO's mission was accomplished. As Sen. Richard Lugar said, NATO must "go out of area or out of business."

NATO desperately did not want to go out of business. So, NATO went out of area, into Afghanistan. Now, with victory nowhere in sight, NATO is heading home. Will it go out of business?

Not likely. Too many rice bowls depend on keeping NATO alive.

You don't give up the March of Dimes headquarters and fund-raising machinery just because Drs. Salk and Sabin found a cure for polio.

Again, one recalls, in those old World War II movies, the invariable scene where two G.I.s are smoking and talking.

"What are you gonna do, Joe, when this is all over?" one would ask.

Years ago, we had the answer.

Joe stayed in the Army. He couldn't give it up. Soldiering is all he knew. Just like Uncle Sam. We can't give up NATO because, if we do, we would no longer be the "indispensable nation," the leader of the Free World.

And, if we're not that, then who are we? And what would we do?
To the extent that you recognize yourself in such widely different commentators as the left wing Spanish cartoonist Ferreres, or the left wing sociologist, professor Wallerstein or in paleoconservative Buchanan's text, to that extent the reality wedge exists and Caroline Glick's hysteria is justified and her instinct that the jig is up is correct. DS

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