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Brilliant diary, Jerome.  I've been thinking of doing a meta-analysis of Obama's first 2 years for some time, but your diary more or less does the trick with magisterial simplicity and directness.  You take the wind out of many people's sails by listing the alternate world-views, and most (on the broadly progressive side) will find their POV represented somewhere on the spectrum of alternate views you list.

It generally boils down to two world-views or paradigms:

  1. The system was badly broken by the Reagan/bush era but can be fixed and we are in the process of doing so. This is a broadly conservative world-view which views the Reagan Bush failures as down to incompetence and extremism.  Put good moderate people in charge and most will be well.

  2. The system is no longer capable of being fixed or fit for purpose:  Global corporatism has run amok and broken the state based political system.  Financial behemoths are far more powerful than Governments and are governed by the interests of their owners/managers, and not by popular will. Global resource constraints and warming mean we are moving rapidly towards a global ecological disaster - a mass extinction event - which will gradually also effect huge human populations.  Today's conflicts - with millions of deaths, will soon be replaced by 100's of millions.

In the first world view, Obama is the supremely capable technocrat.  Soon it will be business as usual, and the USA will once again rule the world for the common good.  In the second world-view, it is arguable that fixing the current system will actually make things worse, by delaying the implementation of the really radical solutions that are really needed - Global financial regulation, global Tobin taxes, global carbon taxes, reassertion of political (democratic) rather than corporate (class based) rule, global policing of human rights violations etc.

It is doubtful whether even Obama's progressive critics in the US have a clearly articulated alternative programme - beyond saying that he isn't going far enough in response to forlorn attempts at bipartisanship.  Withdrawing from Afghanistan and Iraq to eliminate the stranglehold that the MIC and Zionist lobby have on US foreign policy.  Regulating the worst excesses of financial engineering doesn't address basic income inequalities.

What I find remarkable about DKOS is the degree to which the interests of the USA - however defined - are the absolute frame of reference for almost all discourse.  There is almost no appreciation of the larger global challenges facing the entire world - most of which the USA is actually making worse in practice even under Obama - if less so in intent.

From that perspective, Obama is destined to be a transitional figure.  Whether he will transform the USA to be a much more functional player within the globe, or whether he will simply provoke a white supremacist corporatist backlash is to early to say.  But the frame of reference hasn't changed, and that is maximising US interests at the expense of everyone else.  I know I risk implementing Godwin's law, but the comparisons with other imperial mindsets seem overwhelming - think Nazi Germany, Imperial Britain pre-apartheid South Africa - an overweening arrogance that we know what's best, and moreover have the power to do it regardless of what anyone else might think.

Only a defeat for the USA could break that mindset - and I don't mean a regional defeat like Vietnam or Afghanistan.  Perhaps the growth of China, India the EU will impose a certain humility without gross bloodshed.  More likely an ever more cut-throat competition for diminishing resources.  It is very hard to paint an optimistic scenario.

You end by claiming neutrality and saying that we don't know the outcome of current near-term trends.  But the longer term objective constraints are ever more menacing.  Obama will ultimately be judged not by the frameworks of today - how well he managed to circumnavigate current political constraints - but by how well he prepared the USA for a very different future.  As Mig has observed - Chamberlain was viewed as a most competent reformer within the context of the dominant narrative of his time.  The problem is his time came to a very abrupt end.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Aug 17th, 2010 at 07:09:34 AM EST

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