Monday, 4 February 2008

Obama's Right - The US Should Lose its Militaristic Mindset

"I don't want to just end the war. I want to change the mindset that got us into this war in the first place."

Breathtaking words. Spoken by Barack Obama. I think I said before that Barack Obama doesn't need "detail" when he talks about change. His vision is so broad, so far ahead of the rest of the field, he has the potential to transform the US and the world. Details can be worked out in time. But if you don't have vision, your mastery of detail qualifies you to be nothing more than an accountant, certainly not the next President of the US.

Of course, talk about changing the American militaristic mindset probably resonates so well because it just hasn't delivered. A superpower, and every time it goes to war on its own against a small country, it gets its nose bloodied. Most embarrassing. Yes, time to change that mindset. It's making the US the laughing stock of the world. To paraphrase Pyrrhus, one more Vietnam or Iraq and the US will be finished as a world power, with smaller countries going into convulsions of laughter whenever the Seventh Fleet sails into view. ("Hit me, hit me! Ha, ha, ha!")

Less dramatically than Vietnam or Iraq, has aggressive US support for pliant military dictators won it anything?

They supported Batista in Cuba. It's been staunchly communist ever since.
They supported Somoza in Nicaragua. Nicaragua went on to elect a communist government.
They supported the Shah of Iran. Iran is now part of the 'Axis of Evil', seemingly lost to the US forever.
They supported dictator after dictator in Pakistan. Pakistan is now a "front-line state in the war on terror", but it's not very clear on which side of that line it sits.
They supported Marcos in the Philippines. They lost Clark airbase and Subic Bay naval base when a more independent government came to power.

You can surround yourself with weapons, but that won't buy you security. You will be far more secure if you just surround yourself with friends. That holds just as true at the level of the individual American (who doesn't realise that the Second Amendment has probably caused more deaths than all their wars combined) as it does at the level of the US vis-à-vis other countries.

My word of advice to US policy makers: Stop thinking that countries that disagree with you are your enemies. France, for instance, will disagree with you at every turn, but will never do you harm. Your dictatorship friends, on the other hand, will never say a word to displease you, but when the dictator inevitably goes, you will find a bitter enemy in his place.

Super Tuesday is nigh, and it remains to be seen if Obama's latest visionary gem will win him the votes required to clinch the Democratic nomination. And if he wins in November and carries through on his promises, the world may finally drop the 'hate' part of its love-hate relationship with the US.

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