I’ve been willing to forgive Barack Obama for a lot in the past two years. But his abandonment of Libyan rebels is something I can’t let go.
There are definitely positive aspects to his administration. He has signed law improving income equity among genders, allowed homosexuals to join the army and die for their country in useless wars, and made their money back from the auto industry bailouts, giving the anemic manufacturing sector of his country another chance to recover. That they will likely fail is the fault of manufacturing business leaders who seek better profits from more exploitive working conditions in Asia. The health care reform that he fought for, while compromised, is a genuine improvement on the almost entirely private and piratical system the United States had until 2010. His candidacy, with its rhetoric and imagery of a generational shift in the tenor of American politics, inspired so many people around the world with its romanticized vision of America that he won the Nobel Prize. For the strength of that inspiration alone, he deserved it.
But aside from his rhetoric, he has been utterly tepid. The health care reform plan will likely be revoked by conservative court action, and validated by conservative legislatures. The anger that the ideologues of the Tea Party rode to the House of Representatives began with public outrage over health care reform. If Obama had advocated strongly for his health care program with the same inspirational power and ethical idealism that he summoned in the campaign, he could have stopped this movement in its tracks. All he needed was an information program that made sure Medicare reform (which first provoked the backlash’s first rage among the elderly) was a streamlining, and not a cut. Instead, he held back, and let the conservative movement take control of the national agenda.
When the Green Revolution failed in Tehran, I considered it a tragedy, but there was nothing Obama could really do to help them. Military action in Iran would have required a force as powerful as that which invaded Iraq, an invasion which left the American military limping out. Libya is a different case. All the rebels needed was weapons and a no-fly zone to prevent Libyan planes from taking off from their airbases. And that no-fly zone could have been enforced with sea power! One or two destroyers from the American navy, patrolling off the Libyan coast, could shell every Gaddafi-controlled air force base into dust. A steady stream of weapons could have been smuggled to the rebels with the help of the Egyptian army (who had just helped overthrow their own dictator, and would be glad to see the Gaddafi family out of their backyard). Even the Canadian military could probably carry out an operation like this – actually, why don’t we? Instead, the rebels are bombed into submission, and outgunned by government ground forces. The Libyan army will kill tens of thousands of people, if not hundreds of thousands, in its inevitable destruction of Benghazi.
Obama has sat on his hands, afraid of offending the sensibilities of anyone (if they even exist) who would be opposed to American action to overthrow a dictator. Perhaps he is afraid of sounding like George W Bush, endorsing American military action in Arab lands in the name of freedom. It’s the same reason that Bill Clinton refused to sanction military force against Bagosora in Rwanda in 1994: having been burned in peacekeeping in Somalia, Clinton was unwilling to commit another military action in an obscure African country. Having been steadily burned in Iraq and Afghanistan, Obama will not commit to yet another military action in a Muslim country. This true believer in democracy will let thousands die at the hands of a dictator, when they are crying out for help to overthrow that tyrant.
I hope that he’s re-elected president for a second term, if only because his most likely Republican competitors would sell off every publicly held asset in the country for the benefit of big business interests. Conservative ideology in the United States today is based on the rollback of the last hundred years to the era of robber baron capitalism, reducing the country to utter poverty. He needs to stay in power at least to provide a bulwark against the free market über alles ideology that will transform the United States into an oligarchy.
As an alleged democrat, Barack Obama is worthy only of my contempt. The ‘Hope’ poster is finally coming down.