An Empire Named Charisma?

EDITORIAL, 24 Nov 2008

#37 | Johan Galtung

Change? Or – maybe not, because No, We Cannot? Major foreign policy positions have emerged as Obama had to make some concrete positions known: Jerusalem, united for Israel forever; a surge in Afghanistan and Pakistan to get rid of terrorism once and for all; Georgia and Ukraine members of NATO; a League of Democracies to replace the United Nations. On his unconditional support for Israel, as if Palestinians do not exist, Obama goes beyond Bush: for Bush the Middle East was never a priority–as opposed to the Democrats–and Condi Rice repeatedly deplored the Israeli settlements blocking her (mistaken) Annapolis approach. We do not know for sure the cabinet members and White House Chief of Staff yet, but the rumors are such that enormous inner metamorphosis would be needed for any major change.

One of the sharpest pens in the USA, Alexander Cockburn of The Nation and CounterPunch fame searches in vain for positive reasons to go in for Obama, as opposed to voting against McCain. 47 percent voted for him, close to an even split, which means steering a middle course. And the law professor at the University of Chicago Law School Obama seems to have been a pragmatist, not a liberal. Aim low and get that; aim high and get nothing.

So, if No We Cannot is stronger than Yes We Can, then what?

Obama, and then what? A grossly improved US image, of course. And, people around the world love to love the USA for giving people a new beginning, its generous universalism, much equality and even more creativity. Only that under Bush love was close to impossible. Blind love for the USA was needed to survive Bush. The problem was not his autism and “the economy, stupid” as much as “the stupidity, stupid”. And much of it. And yet NATO, based on much servility, survived even that.

Obama certainly does not deal in stupidity. People in and outside the USA will rekindle their love for the USA–empire, other warts and all–through the love for that miracle. He will be pushed up front by a Powell and a Dershowitz, an interesting reincarnation of the lunch-counter desegregation Black-Jewish American alliance–both marginalized, both Democrats–of the 1960s and beyond. Till it collapsed. Malcolm X? One factor, no doubt. Race? Another factor. Those Blacks did not pay the price for cooperation: unconditional support for Israel. Obama seems to do, and escaped brutalization by Jewish-controlled media. In the process his black color may wash off, however.

As Israel can be trusted to work for its own oil supply, its own arms-for-export-industry and against secessionist moves like in Georgia and Ukraine–solid Russian Orthodox minorities in both–lest they might encourage the 18 percent Arabs in Israel, Obama’s support for their NATO membership fits with Israel’s massive support. So does his all-out effort to get rid of “terrorism”. Dear Obama, have a one minute look at what the West has done to Islam from Morocco to Mindanao, say from 1898, and ask yourself whether terrorism could not be a sad, but highly predictable reaction, a “blowback” as CIA says?

And so does his effort to bypass an UN defied mainly by two countries: the USA and Israel. Change, yes, to the right.

Unless Obama escapes from the nets spun around him, also by himself, he is caught. More of the same? Not quite. Imperialism wrapped in charm differs from imperialism wrapped in autism; and brilliant rhetoric is not the same as babble from a Bush bubble.

But change in a regime of non-change may become as unachievable as the Bush mantras freedom and market in that cemetery paraded as peace called Iraq, and in an economy of major collapse.

The end of the Soviet Empire comes to mind. True believers in the Soviet system were deeply challenged, and they developed ways of handling the disconnects between myths and facts:

Phase 0: totally pro-Soviet, everything is perfect, hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil.

Phase 1: reports of something not being according to the model reach ears and eyes and are rejected as anti-Sovietism.

Phase 2: there may be something to the reports, but due to external circumstances–like bad weather, interventionist wars and the Great Patriotic war–it will disappear.

Phase 3: yes, there is even much truth to the reports, but it is all due to one man, Stalin, and will disappear with him.

Phase 4: yes, and it is systemic, structural, rooted in mistakes like top-down party political rule and state planning.

Phase 5: yes, and it is systemic, cultural, ideological; the marxist capitalism-socialism-communism sequence is wrong.

Phase 6: totally anti-Soviet, everything is wrong, hear no good, see no good, speak no good.

Some elements were untouchable like the two structural elements, let alone the key cultural-ideological elements. But as data pile up, a tactical withdrawal permits acknowledging rumors and some truth if only circumstantial, landing safely on one person. But then the systemic bastions start crumbling, structural first, then culture. And it ends up as immature, as anti-yin/yang, as it started, with no positive lessons learnt.

Bush plays well the Stalin role as catch-all escape from deeper explanations. And Obama the redeemer role of Gorbachev? Well, mind you, Obama, Gorbachev pulled out of Afghanistan, that graveyard of empires. And he went in for real change, voice to opposition, glasnost’ and to structural change, perestroika.

The empire, by stupidity or by charm, is doomed, by strong processes beyond PR. On the way down somebody will be blamed, like the Jewish lobby AIPAC, as a focus of deep anti-semitism.  And Obama, the hope, may go down that drain. Hopefully not.

This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 24 Nov 2008.

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