The US Elections

EDITORIAL, 16 Sep 2008

#27 | Johan Galtung

Should the world have the right to vote in US presidential elections given their importance for world affairs?Formally speaking, a better solution would be a UN Peoples’ Assembly. But the second best would be a US president with the interests of the world, all nations, humans and nature on top of his mind and deep in his heart. Is Barack Obama that person?

Hillary Clinton is not. As Alexander Cockburn pointed out in The Nation; she is, like her husband, the representative of corporate America and the US Empire. She has experience, but in those wrong directions, and she will go where experience paves the way. Bill Clinton became right wing moving into Republican political territory, not calculating that they could move further right into evangelical-neocon-resourcecapitalist lands. Hillary is that middle somewhere.

And John McCain? The media focus on 5 1/2 years in prison with some torture (fortunate for him not the Abu Ghraib type killing the soul if not the body). He was a naval aviator who ran 23 sorties bombing in Vietnam. How many did he kill? Or murdered actually, as it was premeditated. To refer to murder as acts of patriotism to defend one’s country gives a twisted mind a loud voice. The same applies to Al Gore.How many?

Enters theObama phenomenon. If the world ever constructs a World Person, Obama would be ahead. He has two skin colors blended into one, African, Asian and Hawaiian imprints, exposure to Protestant and Catholic Christianity and Islam, and a broad range of US lives. Charismatic, handsome,attractive, super-bright he leaps onto the podium. Electrifies. Obamania all over.

He keeps his cards very close to his chest, except: Change. And Hope. And the hope for change. He is in favor of all that.

Most of the world hopes, and bets on Obama’s change Card, knowing that the other candidates stand for more of the same. How realistic is that bet, with four obstacles on the horizon?

First, he must win against Hillary, with super-delegates designed to protect the party machine, but with freedom to use their best judgment.Strange system? Yes, but the USA is far above most countries where party machines alone pick candidates.

Second, he must win against McCain, and he probably will, given the difficulty McCain has distancing himself from Bush.

Third, as President he has to act and enact change and may not reveal his cards before the inauguration. He gets enormities of votes because the unknown harbors change. The known not.

Some cards have been lifted a little. He is against the war in Iraq and in favor of the War on Terrorism, and the former takes resources away from the latter. Problematic, as the broader war may be even less winnable, more likely to produce just the opposite, and more devastating, including for the USA. And his view on the Middle East sounds just like mainstream USA.

But doesn’t he have to say that lest he becomes a Ron Paul or a Kucinich with splendid views but in the single digit range?

As President he will be the top executive of an Empire that

  • has killed 13-17 million in 73 interventions after WWII;
  • runs a hyper-capitalism condemning people to deep misery;
  • manipulates the whole world, including the UN, politically;
  • imposes its own approach, unfit for, and refuses, dialogue.

What the world would like to hear would be the policy to

  • stop killing all over, withdraw 700 bases in 130 countries;
  • stop spreading misery for many along with wealth for the few;
  • stop manipulating, arms-twisting, spying, coercion; and
  • enter into dialogue as an equal party, also in the UN.

Joining the world, stepping down from that platform above Planet Earth,”under God”, as Chosen People with a Promised Land and Manifest Destiny. And the country that would benefit most? The USA itself, from the end of that killing, strangling, manipulating, autistic albatross around the neck. To be anti-US Empire is a highly pro-, not anti-American, stand.

Can Obama deliver anything in that direction? Yes, he can. Because he has one more positive, even open card: willingness to sit down and talk. Being so open to the world, with so many antennae, he might learn and bring about change, with the hope of getting the US polity on his side. Dialogues may quickly have political, economic and military impacts. The leverage is in the ability to convert the gains from a more peaceful US foreign policy into gains for the USA domestically,for the US people at large; for the, say, 70% who have not benefitted from US growth.

But,fourth, in doing so he will encounter two formidable forces deep down in the crevices: a deep, hyper-capitalist structure celebrating the USA as No. 1, a world leader, not one among many; and a deep culture with force as the ultimate judge.

And backed up by a force that is not so subtle: a bullet, putting an end to him. And to change. And hope. We pray not.

This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 16 Sep 2008.

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