War is a Farce which Leaves us Moaning.

One of Karl Marx’s most celebrated quotes is a load of complete bollocks. This is the one in “The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte” about how Hegel says that historical events recur “as it were”, twice; “He forgot to add; the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce”. Well, that is not true. (It is a bit of journalism, of course — Marx wasn’t trying to lay down the law here; when he does, he provides a touch more in the way of substance.) The grim truth is that there is no stopping politicians from replaying historical events as often as they please. It is, however, usually true that the replays become more farcical as time goes on. Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky was certainly a shabby joke as compared with John Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe.
This, then, is the context within which we ought to look at President Obama bin Braindead’s foreign policy.
Most recently he has taken up the cudgels with great relish. “Speak softly, and carry a big stick”, suggested Teddy Roosevelt, but in recent decades this has morphed into “Shriek incoherently while waving a club around” (Reagan, late Clinton, early Bush) and then “Mumble inaudibly and gesture with a limp twig” (late Bush, and now God’s anointed Kenyan).
It will be recalled that Obama announced in his State of the Union Address that he was going to get tough with Iran. What this meant is obscure. Iran has since launched an experimental spacecraft using a long-range rocket, and announced that it is prepared to export low-enriched uranium in exchange for high-enriched nuclear fuel (presumably from Russia or China). This doesn’t mean that Iran is going to go Doctor Strangelove any time soon, but it does mean that the Iranians have enough technology, and enough friends abroad, to get them through any sanctions regime. Furthermore, their borders are extremely porous (partly because the Americans have so successfully destroyed almost all the effective governments on their borders). In short, Obama can do very little to control Iran, but he can continue to irritate them, which has been U.S. policy for years.
More recently, Obama has taken a firm line on China, too. He started by having a meeting with the Dalai Lama, which will certainly win Obama the support of Richard Gere. However, it is not going to liberate Tibet, whereas it is going to niggle the Chinese. He went on by selling weapons to Taiwan. This may possibly save Taiwan from Chinese invasion, assuming that a Chinese invasion was going to happen, which is not tremendously likely. Once again, however, it niggles the Chinese, who feel that they would like to have the option of invading Taiwan if they wanted to, since in their opinion Taiwan is actually a part of China (in the same way that Lesotho is actually a part of South Africa, for all that its inhabitants may disagree).
And now Obama has said that he is going to “get tough” with China, demanding that they “open their markets” to “American exports”. Let us pass over the hilarious idea of Obama being able to get tough with the government of the People’s Republic of China, one of the hardest gangs of political thugs ever to get their hands on the levers of absolute power. Instead, let us rather ask ourselves what the Americans can produce that the Chinese cannot produce more cheaply and of generally higher quality. The answer is extremely little. Let us also note that Obama has recently announced his government’s intention to “buy American” whenever possible, which might naturally arouse the Chinese government’s determination to “buy Chinese” even when buying Chinese is not so cheap or desirable (though it usually is).
All these matters considered, Obama’s declaration is no more than flatulence, and the Chinese government has treated it as such, remarking (with masterly understatement) that it does not serve to improve relations between the countries.
An obvious question is what the hell Obama is playing at, ratcheting up conflict with China. As we all know, China enjoys a highly symbiotic relationship with the United States. The Chinese export goods to America, the Americans buy the goods, thus providing the Chinese with money, the Chinese use the money to expand production and spend their spare money buying U.S. Treasury bonds with which the Americans earn money to subsidise their imports. It all works fine, so long as a) China is growing, and b) America is buying. Obama’s proposal is to cut back on buying, and also to demand that China restrict its growth. There is no possibility that this can lead to any improvement in the economic conditions of either country. The only mercy of it is that the United States is actually almost incapable of carrying out Obama’s threat, because it cannot build the factories to produce the goods it buys from China in a hurry, and with its banking system in such a chaotic state it cannot afford to build those factories at all.
However, the Chinese might be annoyed enough by Obama’s combination of rhetoric and pinprick attacks to take a sterner stand against exports to the U.S., thinking that their prospects might be threatened, and also they might be alarmed enough to stop buying so many Treasury bonds, in which case the U.S. economy, already in extremely dire straits, would become completely unsustainable. (The U.S. has had the highest peacetime budget deficits in its history under Obama, combined with some of the highest trade deficits. The only thing protecting them is the relative lowness of their current-account deficit, and that is almost entirely due to money flowing in from China.)
Therefore, President Nothingburger’s goal cannot be to save the U.S. economy; his goal must be political. This is understandable, for he has some serious political problems.
It is difficult for a non-American to understand the political importance of American healthcare reform. Everybody knows that American healthcare is grotesquely costly. As a result of this excessive cost, many Americans cannot afford healthcare. Of course they have their “health management organisations”, but many cannot afford these because the administration of American health insurance is also grotesquely costly. Therefore, all Americans would benefit from having some of these costs removed. A minority of Americans are served by a state-controlled “health management organisation”, known as Medicare; a still tinier minority of ex-service people is served by state-run hospitals (much cheaper than the private hospitals and just as good), the Veterans Administration. So there are precedents for solving the problem.
However, Clinton couldn’t get his healthcare reform through. Now, it appears, Obama can’t get his healthcare reform through either. Basically, this is a struggle between vested interests and the interests of the public, in which the Democratic Party pretends to be supporting the interests of the public. Whereas Clinton was a President elected by a minority of the voters (a third-party candidate stripped the Republicans of victory) and with a limited majority in Congress, Obama was elected by a thumping majority with an equal majority in Congress, and Obama’s reform bill is more modest than Clinton’s. But Obama can’t, it seems, do it. The Democratic Party is not interested in helping the people; it is more concerned with obtaining alms from the corporate sector and with avoiding criticism from sociopathic reactionaries in the media, and Obama does not have the power to override this (even if he wants to, which is far from clear — he is a Harvard lawyer, after all).
So this is a calamitous failure. It could have dynamised the party and the Presidency and possibly even led to a renewal of hope in the capacity of government to solve problems, which was so undermined by the Clinton and Bush administrations. Instead, it seems to show that government can’t even pretend to do anything, let alone actually do it.
Meanwhile, however, it is against this background that Obama finds himself pinned to the wall by the policies of his predecessors, to which he has committed himself. He is fighting several unpopular wars, all of which would be still less popular if the media reported them honestly. He has unpopularly bailed out the American ruling class at huge expense (expense to be paid by the middle and working classes). Now, in order to pretend to support cutting the gigantic deficit which the wars and the bailouts have created for him, he has proclaimed a plan to freeze expenditure for the remainder of his term of office (apart from military expenditure, healthcare expenditure and Social Security, which together take up most of the budget). This won’t cut the deficit, but it will harm the people of the United States on whom a lot of the frozen money would have been spent.
So what Obama badly needs is a distraction. A very convenient distraction is Iran. Look over there — the Great Satan of the Gulf! Ahmedinejad is coming to eat us up! Booga! Booga! Booga! This plays well with most Americans, but there are problems. One is that it plays best of all with conservative Republicans, and next to best with the Israeli government. Both of these are groupings which cooperate and which hate Obama and his party. As a result, focussing attention on Iran energises the base of Obama’s enemies. The Right has virtually trademarked American hostility to Iran. Meanwhile, unsurprisingly, while it plays well with Democrats it doesn’t energise them much. Most Democrats would like to see something done about Iran (whereas Republicans are content, for the most part, to simulate outrage). Obama cannot do anything at all about Iran. Hence Democrats find this focus a little frustrating.
China is a much better distraction. Liberal Democrats dislike China’s human rights record. (Of course, the idea of America, any more, lecturing anyone in the world about human rights, is mildly amusing and mostly nauseating, but Americans are not aware of this.) More to the point, Democrats love to pretend that they care about the unionised working class. The working class has been told that their problems arise out of foreigners stealing their jobs (which is why they are strongly anti-Mexican). Therefore, pretending that, off, over there, across the water, there is a terrible country which we should all unite against in order to save our jobs, is a very satisfactory affair.
It is very reminiscent, of course, of the old campaign against Japan, when (similarly) American workers were told that their manufacturing jobs were being destroyed by the Japanese. This took the heat off the American corporate managers who were actually destroying American manufacturing jobs. However, this campaign was effectual because Japan was a colony of the United States and its Liberal Democrat government was totally under America’s thumb. In other words, there were no dangers of any comebacks from a campaign which had no links with reality. China, on the other hand, is very touchy about being bullied, and is also enormously more independent and more militarily powerful than Japan.
Obama’s farcical repeat of the old campaign against Japan (which also incorporates a farcical attempt to ignite a new Cold War) will almost certainly bite him in his skinny, unappealing backside.

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One Response to War is a Farce which Leaves us Moaning.

  1. […] War is a Farce which Leaves us Moaning.        […]

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