Saturday, December 26, 2009

M. Á. Basenier on the Obama year

Columnist M. Á. Basenier gives his summary of Obama's first year as President in El año que se llamó Obama El País 23/12/2009.

He begins by saying that Obama took office with the greatest general expectations of him as President than for any President since Franklin Roosevelt. While he benefitted from general relief at the departure of Bush and Cheney, he also had to simultaneously engender confidence that his economic policies would begin to pull the country out of recession, while facing conditions that made it effectively impossible to achieve fast relief from the worst effects of the recession.

Basenier lists some of the big foreign policy messes that Cheney and Bush left for their successor, first of all the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Asserting American power while arrogantly overestimating what the US could accomplish in the so-called "unipolar" world in which the US is the lone superpower, they didn't bother coming up with a "Plan B" for anything if something went wrong. And it was normal for anything Dick Cheney was involved in for it to go wrong, usually badly wrong.

In describing Obama's international achievements, it's notable that he speaks mostly about possible accomplishments. I can't help thinking in reading this that a sound public option for health care reform was also a very possible accomplishment. He mentions the climate agreement with China, a likely new nuclear arms control treaty with Russia, and the possible approval of health care reform. Basenier notes that the latter could be without a public option and that many Democratic partisans may wind up upset over the outcome.

Then, as Basenier writes, Obama faces the serious risk of an impasse in the Afghanistan-Paksitan conflict. And he accurately observes that Obama appears to have "thrown in the towel" on trying to stop new illegal settlements by Israel in the occupied West Bank. He ends on a skeptical note on whether Obama's international initiaves as they now stand are likely to produce positive results. And though he gives Obama credit for understanding that US foreign policy - Basenier matter-of-factly describes it as an imperial policy - his basic judgment on American foreign policy still applies:

Estados Unidos, como anteriormente otros imperios, Inglaterra o la corona de Castilla, no se ha especializado en la comprensión del mundo, sus políticos no hablan lenguas, ni creen necesario comprender otras realidades, pero esa ignorancia, con la globalización y el desarrollo de los medios de conocimiento, tiene hoy mucho más delito que en el siglo XVI.

[The United States, like other empires previously, England or the Crown of Castille, didn't specialize in understanding the world: it's politicians don't speak langauges, nor do they consider it necessary to understand other realities. But this ignorance, with globalization and the development of the means of commication, is much more of a crime {delito} today than in the 16th century.]
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"It is the logic of our times
No subject for immortal verse
That we who lived by honest dreams
Defend the bad against the worse."

-- Cecil Day-Lewis from Where Are The War Poets?


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