President Barack Obama’s address to the United Nations General Assembly today marking the 70th Anniversary of the founding of this great instrument for peace and cooperation took that fork in the road less traveled, decisively, yet again, even as Vladimir Putin, the bellicose and prideful tyrant leading Russia took that so traveled road in human history to nothing but real politick via large power diplomacy and war.
The contrast on this day could not be more stark. Is the United States and its democratic experiment launched on behalf of the American people in 1776, and affirmed in our Constitution, and re-affirmed in a bloody civil war that permitted the experiment of people governing themselves to go on to continue or would we take the most traveled road in direct contravention of our professed ideals– those self-evident truths Jefferson so ably wrote of?
Was Obama going to essentially take the easiest path, and most emotionally and immediately gratifying road of exerting overwhelming American military power on the land, sea, and in the air? Where Americans might watch on their HD television systems U.S. Marines in the honorable and noble best traditions of the Corps kill tens of thousands of ISIS fighters?
Where we would make common cause with Putin to preserve and expand the influence of the Assad regime to permit our troops to succeed better. It is, after all, what Putin most wants us to do after his bold moves in the Middle East in the great power chess game we have lost and are losing so badly.
Obama’s largely, nay hugely successful world diplomacy, in Libya and Syria at least, are nothing but dismal failures. Yet who has succeeded in bringing peace that is stable, reasonably benevolent, and protecting of human rights in those countries? No one yet.
Putin’s peace demands Assad return to full power, and as necessary by killing still more hundreds of thousands of his own people, the majority having left for Europe and elsewhere burdening the world with their tears for justice and safety, and the unsettling need to settle these people in new lands. Putin’s solution is Assad’s solution.
The entire range of Republican candidates for President in this country, their party, and so many Americans with traditional notions of the use of American power in the Cold War context, are out for blood. It is what they depend upon to bolster American prestige, and influence over our world. Conservatives overwhelmingly turn to fear, hate, ignorance, and factional division backed by a level of military might that has not even been equaled in the history of humankind as their foreign policy default setting.
Should Republicans and their ilk be successful in 2016, I say to Americans prepare for war, and prepare for war on many fronts, in many lands, and for a rate of American deaths and war casualties in numbers that will dwarf what we have seen to date in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria.
The logic is overpowering. When you base your diplomatic efforts upon sabre rattling, military might, and fear and anger you will have to satiate its demands. This monster you will have built, but you will lose control of it in the end at such great cost to American citizens, and any shred of democracy and free government that is left.
Political pundits all over the media are tearing apart the President’s legacy, and demanding bold super-power like action, while labeling and defining President Obama’s foreign policy as a total failure– weak American leadership worldwide.There are already calls for explanations as to how Putin could so outmaneuver us on foreign policy grounds we thought we were at least his equals. They want Obama’s political head on a stick.
Let me tell you truly, Obama is playing chess on a much more advanced level then either Putin, Republican opponents at home, and most of the leaders representing some 170 nations plus in the UN.
He is playing it in the great halls of human justice, peace, loving concern for one another, amidst the challenges of a multitude of world conflicts, any one of them with the prospect of obliterating humankind He is playing chess on a board that is so much more spatially complex as to confound opponents and friends alike, who are so accustomed to how we have responded to conflicts and challenges since World War II.
To use real world examples:
Do we favor Nixon’s bombing during Christmas of innocent civilians during the Vietnam War? It certainly was fully successful in finally bringing the North Vietnamese to the bargaining table, and for a time, ending the conflict. But was this success a lasting one? No, it was not. Americans saw our troops and embassy staff airlifted out of Saigon just before North Vietnamese Army units took the South’s capital and imposed a dictatorial regime within a few years of that exertion of raw military force.
Consider this? What about just one human being, with a vision for a world of peace, justice, communal cooperation, and yet the use of the force of moral authority, coupled with the desire of a whole people to govern themselves and not be under the heel of an empire, however celebrated. Mahatma Gandhi’s long walk on his Salt campaign so humbly, non-violently, and passively resisting the exercise of tyranny won out over that empire. Though not Gandhi, President Obama is tapping into this vision for human society.
Will we exalt leaders like Putin in ages to come? Or will free peoples look instead to Gandhi, Mandela, King, and yes even Churchill and Roosevelt, and most of all, Lincoln, when that last extremity for national self-preservation does threaten people directly.
On this point the President of the United States unequivocally told the world body that the United States will exert all of its military might, and if necessary, unilaterally, to protect the American people. He made no apology for acting in that way should he be forced to in future. He could say no less as our Constitution specifically charges him with that task as Commander-In-Chief. Lest we think Obama is truly lacking in nerve, perseverance, and decisive bold leadership, we look of course to his unilateral destruction of Osama Bin Laden as he had promised even prior to becoming our Chief Executive, and his leadership in getting health care for sixteen million more American citizens.
President Obama today enunciated more forcefully and clearly than ever before what the policy of the United States is in relation to the world and the United Nations in particular on this anniversary of its founding, largely via the efforts of the United States of America in 1945 and beyond.
He chose to lift up the words of Jefferson in our founding document, and it’s self-evident truths before an even as yet disbelieving world, attuned to big power politics, more war, killing, and bloodshed for the sake of power and nothing else.
Do we as Americans yet place our ultimate hope in free government, where the consent of those governed is a guiding principle, along with the essential equal value of every citizen despite color, religion, creed, and economic or family structure and station in life?
Obama’s central message or proposition was that Jefferson is right. That democracy itself is the ultimate antidote to social strife, war, and a host of human conflicts and ills. For this American, I was so proud of his statement of such a policy so aligned with what is and remains our most essential self-evident truths as to who we are as a nation and people, and what hope we ourselves still hold for our common destiny.
In contrast, the President’s opponents and lukewarm defenders alike have so undermined his foreign policy to date, and what seems certain will be his entire presidency, that no president other than Abraham Lincoln, has been so disrespected,
vilified and condemned, for so many reasons, almost all of them totally unjustified.
Successful and unsuccessful presidencies alike have had at least some measure of common support from the Congress and both parties, if for nothing else not to totally tie the hands of the president then serving all of us. Are we as a people now mature enough to see beyond the petty politics, and the almost naked lusting for power, and not service to the American people?
Do we have the maturity and raw courage to actually live out the nation’s creed as Martin Luther King Jr. so forcefully said in Washington that hot day in August 1963? Thus far in this current Presidency too many do not. I’m horribly ashamed so many of them lack that maturity and raw courage.
It is easy to call for war, to call for the demonization of an enemy, to ruthlessly sweep away via hate and fear your enemies. Super or hyper patriotic flag waving is the way of cowards. A mature human being, as a nation, and a world, requires that we accept the fundamental propositions our nation was founded upon. For if we have any claim to being its true heirs, we too have to take that road less traveled, the hard road where the bumps and discomforts are many, and the immediate rewards are few.
President Obama today in the United Nations, displayed that courage, and called upon the world community to look up to those higher things, Lincoln’s better angels of our nature—to lift up and support democracy and all its attendant rights and freedoms collectively as a world community, and not just a multitude of squabbling tribes and religions.
Will he be there at that much rarer last extremity to lead us in war? Will he be able to issue that last call once more into the breach, where the threat to peace from a violent foe will be met with the fury of a free people forced into war? Could it ultimately be ISIS or Putin moving into the Ukraine?
Abraham Lincoln had both kinds of courage outlined here. Barrack Hussein Obama damn sure has it in abundance, but an abundance of good judgment. Mark that. Our enemies and friends alike should know he will act as necessary to protect the peace of the world in cooperation with other nations, and where our military power is directly harnessed to those great principles of human freedom that are self-evident.