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News & analysis from Proletarian Internationalist Notes—news, reviews and analysis from a global perspective
Many anti-Trump Amerikans ignore the real foreign policy legacy of Obama as MLK Jr. Day and inauguration near
January 15, 2017
Martin Luther King Jr. Day is approaching in amerika. Martin Luther King isn’t around to give eir opinion of Barack Obama’s drone strikes, bombings, assassinations, international spying, coups, gunboat diplomacy, killing children in countries from Afghanistan and Syria to Mali and Somalia, and (other) war crimes. King isn’t here to oppose or discuss the wars Obama continued and expanded, and the invasions Obama led. King didn’t live to see Obama hamper pro-Palestine struggle and give I$rael a $38 billion military aid package because it was in amerikans’ oppressor/exploiter interests, instead of supporting the release of Palestinian “Mandela” Marwan Barghouti or recognizing the State of Palestine at any point during eight years.
But that hasn’t stopped many AmeriKKKans, both white and non-white, from using the MLK Jr. Day weekend as an occasion to fret about protecting Obama’s “legacy” and needing to defend Obama’s achievements from both criticism and dismantlement. Others were slightly less obvious and talked about preserving equality and rights gains, or needing to be resolute in the pursuit of progress, without expressing their favorable view of Obama so clearly. According to Gallup’s weekly Obama job approval poll, as of January 2-8 more than 90% of Democrats and liberal Democrats, and more than 85% of liberals (Democratic or not, “leftist” or not, “radical” or not), in the United $tates still think Obama is doing a good job.(1)
Obama did do many things, claimed to be in need of defending or part of Obama’s legacy to varying extents. Of course, some things – the various assassinations and killing of many people in Libya, Pakistan, and other countries – can’t be undone. There’s nothing to worry about there in terms of a reversal.
As for the so-called Iraq troop withdrawal, which could have happened under any U.$. president eventually regardless of party affiliation and McCain and Romney’s views: that so-called accomplishment was reversed by Obama emself in a slow rollout. There are now thousands of u.$. military personnel in Iraq, involved in the combat there directly or indirectly despite Obama’s effort to downplay this. Had the law been changed and Obama elected for a third term, we would have been able to observe even more troops in Iraq under Obama.
In 2017 people no longer talk so much about killing “Somali pirates” (and related amerikan involvement and collaboration in the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean area) as an Obama accomplishment, but one still hears about how Obama improved amerika’s global image. Yes, Obama did that and did it tremendously. Hopefully, Donald Trump can undo that without killing or torturing too many people or making Democrats look much better than Republicans. The united $tates and u.$. leaders don’t deserve the high favorable ratings they got from non-amerikans under Obama. Dead Somalis can’t be un-killed, but u.$. global image can tank.
Unfortunately, even if u.$. image were to sink, most of what Obama has done in international affairs, facilitated by u.$. favorability, either can’t be reversed or has already cost the world significantly – such as bullying and weakening Iran with tightened sanctions (sometimes claimed as an Obama accomplishment) prior to reaching an agreement restricting Iran’s nuclear program, an agreement the amerikans have already violated and now threaten to tear up at a time of their choosing. Here’s the thing about many of the amerikans objecting to Trump in particular while defending Obama’s legacy: many of them just didn’t care about what Obama was doing internationally outside the country, or they prioritized domestic issues more, and now they perceive even some of Obama’s achievements in domestic affairs to be in danger of disappearing. That is, some of the excuses made for supporting Obama are in danger of being ruined – an unstated reason for opposing Trump so specifically and energetically. As long as they got more jobs, higher wages, cheaper college education, health insurance, weed, appointments of certain people to positions in government, tax relief, more benefits, or equality or consideration in some area, many were willing to tolerate or support various things in u.$. foreign policy. Nevermind that some of the domestic change could be reversed quickly. Maybe it would be too hard to somehow negate the Obama economic stimulus of 2009 and the auto industry bailout, but parts of Obamacare – considered one of Obama’s biggest accomplishments, yet in danger of being repealed – could easily be changed.
Internationally, it may be more the case that the united $tates has offered leadership on global environmental issues or fighting terrorism if countries submit to it in economic, diplomacy and war matters. That would be a different bargain from what amerikans do internally. In the u.$., the emphasis is more on uniting on jobs and the economy – despite amerikans’ interest in environmental issues, much of it limited. Democrats and Republicans try to compete in that area and differentiate in other areas to try to cobble together 51% in elections. Countries in the Third World generally care more about climate change than about any additional abortion and contraceptive rights they could get under u.$. hegemony. Although, some Westerners have shamelessly tried to sell Western-type fertility regulation as a way to deal with climate change. For various reasons, trusting in the amerikans as climate change policy leaders was never a good idea. There are too many ways for them to take advantage or dilute things.
Besides talking about what Trump will do with things like stem cell research, media such as Bloomberg News are discussing which parts of Obama’s financial industry reform Trump will oppose, or support, to make amerika “great again” while maintaining populist appeal. Some seem to think Trump is willing to risk global crisis to strengthen the united $tates’ status as a financial center and advance amerikans’ interests in the short term. Whether what Trump may do would actually help some banks, or not, overall is being debated. Tension is seen between supporting consumers and supporting u.$. financial industry growth. Trump claims to be both pro- “little guy” and pro-growth, and claims to support government streamlining as Obama has.
Trump’s deregulatory appearance has led to renewed concern and rhetoric about capitalism and inequality. That is the case though the Obama administration’s Wall Street reform initiative had as much to do with stabilizing capitalism as with limiting inequality anywhere. There was and is no chance of the united $tates’ going socialist in the early 21st century, partly and importantly because of the united $tates’ generally highly privileged social structure. Capitalism was never endangered that way despite some people’s fantasizing about advancing socialism globally through some kind of socialist u.$. hegemony. But the global financial crisis related to amerikan and u.$. dollar dominance, which impacted many countries more than it did the united $tates, threatened to weaken u.$. hegemony and partly clear the way for some countries (not particularly the rich countries whose economies had negative growth) to proceed toward a heightened struggle for socialism.
It seems there could not be a topic more broad than capitalism. However, rhetoric focusing on capitalism and domestic issues in the u.$. context is part of what has led to many amerikans’ exchanging cooperation or neutrality in foreign policy matters, for benefits and privileges of u.$. citizenship or residency. There were already whole countries serving as examples of how “socialist” rhetoric and leadership can in the same bodies coexist with supporting drone strikes.
Much of the coming protest in Washington is being characterized as anti-capitalist accurately or inaccurately. The reason for focusing on capitalism now, if there is one, should be to say there is no difference between Trump and Obama, or between Trump and Clinton. So a more general anti-capitalist emphasis could be better than promoting illusions about the Democratic Party being an obstacle or counterweight to fascism. Unfortunately, much rhetoric in the u.$. that is supposedly about opposing either fascism or capitalism is actually part of a problem.
For some it will be too difficult to see how aspects of the WTO protests in Seattle almost two decades ago led to Trump, but they did. It should be clear now the problem with too much rhetoric tolerating those who could put amerikan workers first in trade, bash migrant workers who didn’t care that much about waving the amerikkkan flag, bash other countries, and even be pro-war. Much of the trade-related rhetoric that is now part of the mainstream in Democratic and Republican politics in fact originated in fascist and pseudo-leftist movements.
Some in 2008, including Bill Clinton, called Obama an establishment candidate to contrast em unfavorably with Hillary Clinton. Obama ended up both claiming to save the u.$. auto industry and claiming to oppose the foreign policy establishment. U.$. president-elect Trump claims to be doing the same things without being in office yet. Both have said some words against Wall Street while flattering less-rich amerikans. Of course Trump will be the next president of the #1 exploiter, oppressor and aggressor on the planet and will rightfully be opposed globally as the u.$. president, but in the u.$. the same rhetoric can lead to two outcomes that seem very different but are very similar or related.
If outcomes were progressively worse, it could be because that is the only direction the u.$. can go in now. The rhetoric activists themselves choose to use may not be able to stop that, but could make it harder or easier for the u.$. to conduct wars and carry out war plans. With a Republican set to be the u.$. commander-in-chief, liberals and so-called leftists have fewer poor excuses to not be more anti-war. Unfortunately, some seem to not understand what day it is and persist with rhetoric focusing on “the establishment,” the extremely rich, elites, relationships with elites in other countries, financiers, big money in politics, and how Trump will supposedly actually hurt amerikan workers, while saying much less against militarism and wars except for certain wars allegedly involving Jewish donors or Arab leaders. Thus one can come across articles in the media now, even some critical of Obama, managing to be both antisemitic and anti-Arab, promoting chauvinism, and externalizing threats.
Aiming for the lowest common denominator in amerikan politics isn’t going to advance the anti-war movement in the united $tates. In this regard, New Afrikan (u.$. Black nation) nationalism that is not wedded to the u.$. has the potential to have a greater positive influence on the anti-war struggle. Integrationism seeking equality with the white master within the global plantation house leads to nothing good. ◊
• “Ignoring Trump’s skepticism, Davos elite bets on climate change,” 2017 January 14. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-01-15/ignoring-trump-s-skepticism-davos-elite-bets-on-climate-change
• “U.S. favorability needs to go lower: Kaepernick, nationhood, and rethinking the intersection of New Afrikan and Palestinian struggles,” 2016 September. https://github.com/pinotes/pinotes.github.io/blob/master/_posts/2017-01-12-news-American-Palestinian-conflict-Paris-conference-approaches.md
• “Climate for anti-Americanism versus anti-fascism: Only 2% of Americans named environment as most important issue, right before election,” 2016 November. https://github.com/pinotes/pinotes.github.io/blob/master/_posts/2016-11-21-news-climate-change-Saudi-Arabia.md
• “Obama uses UN abstention to bolster reputation while the longstanding American-Palestinian conflict comes into focus for some,” 2016 December. https://github.com/pinotes/pinotes.github.io/blob/master/_posts/2016-12-31-news-American-Palestinian-conflict.md