Saturday, August 9, 2014

Obama: The Right Man for These Troubled Times

Some well-meaning folks are bemoaning the fact that all hell seems to be breaking loose on Obama's watch.  "Poor man," they say, "he just can't catch a break.  All this trouble and his hair getting so gray."

Stop it.  This is exactly the time for Obama to be where he is and doing what he does so well.  Namely, keeping a cool head.  Yes, a lot of stuff is happening, from Putin acting badly to ISIS starving 40,000 people on a mountaintop.  But Barack Obama was made for bad times such as these.  He figures out what to do, calmly and thoroughly.  He's not always exactly right but he's always in the ballpark.  He's never on the moon side like GW was about invading Iraq or Clinton was about Rwanda and about not killing Bin Laden when the monster was in his sites and hadn't yet done 9/11.

Obama is doing just fine in a world that is still working its way out of the aftermath of WWI.  Indeed, it's ironically suitable that all this bad stuff is happening on the 100th anniversary of the beginning of that senseless and stupid war.  From that war sprang Communist Russia and Putin.  From that war came the Europeans carving up the former Ottoman/Turkish empire without regard to tribes but only with regard to what was most advantageous economically for the Big Powers that would now control those Muslim "nations".  Go see "Lawrence of Arabia" again.  Yesterday explains today, and art explains them both.

If you perceive the Middle East and some other troubled places as in a process of evolving, then the current troubles seem endurable.  I say "endurable" advisedly.  We had almost 200 years to evolve from our earliest beginnings as collection of colonies in the early 1600s to a viable democratic country by almost 1800, and even after viability we had a horrible Civil War. The Middle East has had only a fraction of the time we had.  And look how slowly India has gone even though it had the advantage of a lot of self-governing under Britain and training by the Brits of cadres of native bureaucrats.  We mustn't get sucked into the GW Bush silliness of expecting overnight nation-building.  Outsiders don't build a nation.  The people of a land decide to do it and then they get on with the job.  That's why Obama got us out of Iraq.  We have to get out of people's way.  They sometimes keep killing each other until they decide to stop.  To make them stop earlier than that, there has to be a "strong man".  You want to put those guys back in charge?

This nation-building thing can be very messy.  Ours sure was.  We get a sanitized version of it in our "history", mainly several dozen good-natured but passionate wigged "fathers" battling over the wording of the Constitution.  We forget that the first "Articles of Confderation" hadn't work out and we had to scrap that whole first damn effort.

We also conveniently forget that almost half our people had to run for their lives.  They were the forty per cent who had remained loyal to King George.  Fleeing to Canada, they lost everything.  Some never made it to Canada. We caught them and killed them after first tarring and feathering them. It was as brutal as almost everything ISIS is now doing to its rivals.

We also wreaked vengeance on the Native American tribes which had sided with the British.  We burned their orchards and fields of corn to guarantee their starvation and, not completely satisfied with that, we also slaughtered their women and children when we found them.  The blacks also suffered.  The English had promised freedom to any slaves who fought against us rebels. Some blacks took them up on it and then watched the English sail away after surrendering.  You can imagine what happened to those blacks.

So the birth of America was as bloody as births usually are.  But the idea of people governing themselves and settling their internal disputes peacefully has endured that bloody birth.  The idea lives, even now when we Americans are not living up to it very well.  Hopefully we will pull our socks up and start acting like Americans again soon.  Hopefully the people everywhere who now are free of the Europeans' control will make their way forward to that remarkable dream we created and take so for granted.

Obama is said to take the long view.  Well, my darlings, in nation building, it is not just his view.  It's the way things actually work.

Obama, the realist, isn't worried about how he looks right now. He's worried abut those 40,000 people on that mountaintop. Though he often takes the long view, sometimes he takes the immediate view and this is one of those times.  Time is running out to save those people by air drops of food and water.

Yes, Mr. President, save those people.  And let's hope that over time the new Muslim nations will save themselves.  Like we finally did.  Sort of.

No comments:

Post a Comment