Thursday, October 3, 2013
IS OBAMA A STEALTH PEACENIK?
Today's blog is by Karl Eysenbach, who posts as Old New Lefty in Open Salon. The opinions expressed are those of the author. This blog may be reproduced, unedited and with attribution, without prior permission.
Conservatives rightly sneered when Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize. After all, it was pretty much equivalent to a freshman college football player winning the Heisman Trophy for suiting up for his first game. And as we all know, there've been plenty of reasons during the Obama administration where it was pretty obvious that he might not have been as worthy a recipient as Mother Theresa.
Failure to close Guantanamo, drones, the surge in Afghanistan and Iraq...
No need to list them all.
But now it's time to play the game of "Let's Pretend."
First, let's think of Barack Obama who's actually just a regular human being. If you were in the position that he's in (winning the Nobel Prize) -- wouldn't you feel just a teeny bit guilty about the crap that you've had to ladle because of the demands that the American Empire has put on you? We can get into psychoanalyzing the man in the Oval Office, but believe me. 99.9% of the time when you're Prez -- you better jump when the Defense Department tells you what to do.
We can get all liberal and whiny about Obama's lack of leadership and everything, but let me tell you. A stronger, better person than Barack Obama as POTUS would have only a 5% chance to do anything different than what Obama has done. And sure, I wish that he'd never appointed Timmy Geithner or Eric Holder, but a lot of crap is baked into the cake in DC. And there's nothing that anybody can do about it.
Needless to say, President Obama was and is no doubt trying to figure out how to justify winning the Nobel Peace Prize for himself, but he is in many respects just a creature of circumstance. But once, in a great while (a real blue moon), opportunity reveals itself. And in this case, opportunity came from Syria.
I have no secret knowledge of the inner workings of the Obama White House. However, I do know that power does have its privilege. And princes do talk only to princes. So let's just pretend that we have 100% access to all of Barack Obama's phone calls.
First, let's go back in time to the middle of 2012 or thereabouts. The Syrian conflict had been boiling over for a couple of years, and the Defense Intelligence Agency has a better handle on the day to day situation on the ground in Syria than the CIA. Monitoring military developments is the exclusive job of the DIA. The CIA, unfortunately, is sometimes capable of allowing ideological zealots to color its analyses.
Most people pay more attention to what the CIA says. During the fall campaign, I had a brief conversation with Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, and I expressed serious concerns about the way DC appeared to be handling Syria. I told Wyden that the Russians should definitely be the lead sled dogs with regards to Syria, and Wyden's first impulse was to spout off some 'Merkan BS about how we'll show those Russkies because 'Merka is exceptional. Yadda yadda yadda, or something like that.
Checkmate to ONL? No, my last words to him were, "Please get a briefing from the DIA."
Wyden (self-satisfied) said, "They're under my committee!" End of conversation, but I put odds that the Senator actually did what I told him to do.
I make this point not for self-aggrandizement about my psychic powers in foreign policy. But I want to make a point that anyone with even a modicum of understanding about the situation on the ground knew that a real path to peace in Syria might actually start with Russian intervention. Unfortunately, this common sense proposal couldn't possibly fly in Washington, DC!
Imagine Barack Obama going on television and saying, "My friends -- the only way to solve the problem of peace in Syria is to allow the Russians to be the lead sled dog. We will follow." Can you IMAGINE the shit storm that would set loose, not only from the Republicans, but from the lame stream media? Politically, as they say, this approach by Obama would be a non-starter, and I think that is a severe understatement.
So what's a Prez to do? The first rule for any elected is to do nothing when you're bollixed. Obama mouthed words about freedom fighters, evil Assad, etc. etc. for a year. And oh yeah, there was that "red line" remark somewhere. So fast forward to what I still think was a false flag operation on the part of rogue elements of the Syrian Army that had gone over to the other side from the chemical weapons corps.
And here, the president was put into a major dilemna. The way policy works in any White House is that the President's words are sacred, and that any development that goes counter to the President's words must be retaliated against. In the case of Syria, there was the ever present lobbying power of the Saudis, Big Oil, and the Israelis. And any president's administration is larded with clowns who pretend to advocate for the national interest. But in fact, they're captured national security advisors whose hearts are with Bandar Bush or AIPAC. That's just the cost of doing business to get into the Oval Office.
What's an Obama to do????
As I explained too briefly in an extended remark in my previous blog, it was necessary to appear to be an idiot to get the job done. And it was necessary to pick up the telephone and talk with other world leaders. For our purposes, Barack Obama only had to talk to two. #1 was of course, Vladimir Putin. I'm thinking Obama and Putin had many a heart to heart chats about the Syrian situation. And no doubt, Obama mentioned more than once in different ways how important it was for Russia to be the lead sled dog, but there were political problems at home getting in the way of implementing this very sensible strategy.
Here's where phone call #2 comes in. That was the call to London. Someone, somewhere (I don't know who) said that George Osborne, Prime Minister of Great Britain could do the trick. So Barack picks up and dials. And the fix is in.
Washington has been going around all over the world looking for the usual suspects to be a coalition of the willing to bomb the shit out of Syria, but no action is to be found. George Osborne is more than willing to be thrown into the tank for Barack. There is a remarkable vote in the House of Parliament where the majority of back benchers express a vote of no confidence in the proposed policies of the British government and there's no cabinet shake-up, dissolution of Parliament, or call for an election? And you think Worldwide Wrestling is a put up job?????
This little action gives Obama all the excuse he needs to go to Congress to ask for an authorization of the War Powers Act. Mind you, this was never a problem for Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, or Iraq, not to mention those hundreds of little military incursions to places like Grenada, Panama, etc. etc. But surprise, surprise! It turns out to be a problem for Barack Obama! Now how could that just happen?
Of course, the chattering classes go all nuclear. That Barack Obama is so inept and foolish! What's wrong with that boy? Yadda yadda yadda. And we can see the results. John Kerry's supposed off the cuff remarks lead to a remarkable chain reaction where peace appears to be breaking out all over the Middle East.
Not only does Basher Assad have no problems in giving up his stockpile of chemical weapons, but elements of the Free Syrian Army are now attempting to negotiate with the Assad government to guarantee the safety of Syrian government employees in contested territory if the more liberal elements of the FSA can work with Assad's forces to fight the Islamists who've been bought and paid for by our freedom-loving allies, the Saudis.
We haven't heard the end of the Syrian peace process by a long shot. But you will note that a surgical American air strike against Syria is now totally unthinkable.
Meanwhile, we have the developments in Iran. The election of Hassan Rouhani to be the President of Iran in August is a "BFD," to paraphrase Joe Biden. I will not spend too much time on the horrible, twisted relations between the USA and that country. However, it's worth noting that Rouhani is closely related not only to the Ayatollah Rasfanjani (and more importantly) President Khatami, both very much good guys in comparson to Nutjob Ahmadinejad.
Khatami, in case you didn't know was a true liberal, serving from 1997 up to 2005. President Khatami went so far as to offer the United States assistance in hunting down the terrorists who were responsible for 9/11. And of course, what did George Bush do? "Iran is part of the axis of evil...."
Say no more.... No need to talk about the non-existant Iranian atomic bomb. But that alligator in the sewer has been the Great White Whale of Captain Netanyahu & Co. for a long time, and it's been driving our foreign policy machinery. I mix my metaphors, but you get the drift.
And so, Rouhani and Obama can't shake hands in public because both are afraid of their domestic reprecussions. But John Kerry can meet privately with Hassan Rouhani for a half hour and come out with both guys grinning and basically saying, "We can do business!" And Barack Obama can call Rouhani on the telephone and wish him well in Persian, while Rouhani thanks him in English.
It's a long way from now to Point Z in the case of both Syria and Iran. But I think that President Obama is close to actually deserving that Nobel Peace Prize.
Regular readers of this blog will recall that I also argued that there is good evidence that the President has shown a pattern of deliberately undermining his own arguments for war in Syria that is consistent with his resistance to hawks who have been pushing for war with Iraq since before his election.
Former senior CIA analyst Ray McGovern recently wrote a column which gave evidence to back up the belief that Obama, a Presidential history buff, is fully aware of why and how Kennedy was killed and wants to avoid the same fate.
To those who would call him a coward for not more directly challenging the power of the military-industrial complex: consider whether you would be willing to give your life and leave your daughters fatherless in a futile symbol of resistance. That is all it would mean if he were to die for a country whose people are so focused on their hatred for one another that they cannot come together to save the nation and the world. To quote President Obama himself, we "have to be the change that will make (him) do the right thing."