Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Why America seems unable to mount a serious opposition

Joseph Samaha wrote yesterday in Al-Akhbar about the American political process, and among the points he makes is that prominent Democrats including Hillary Clinton and John Edwards, while they criticize Bush on Iraq, seem to stand to the right of him on Iran. What this highlights, says Samaha, is that although there is a movement in the US to extricate the country from a bad situation in Iraq, there has been no critical examination or reflection on the underlying policies that got them into that predicament, and certainly not on ways to avoid the same and worse in the future.

This is one version of a general point that has been highlighted in a number of opinion pieces about America summarized here, including this one by Ami Bishara in November, and this one where the Syrian vice-president Sharaa made the same points about the superficiality of the Democratic opposition, if you recall:
Sharaa said, "We hope there will be fundamental change in the American policy with the advent of the Democrats, but if one wants to be realistic--and we are--any change will be very small, and in the worst case superficial, and in the worst of the worst cases [merely] tactical. And he added, "This whole approach of dealing with pressure by pretending it isn't really pressure, suggests that American policy is likely going to remain just as it is.

And Sharaa warned that although the majority of the American people are against the occupation project, still there is a sector "that is influential and that thinks that having spent $450 billion it isn't possible to leave with empty hands. There will come someone after Bush that will undertake to put that investment to profitable use"...
Not to mention Samaha himself, for instance in this piece in early December.

The theme recurs as the American policy establishment hurtles toward its next catastrophe. Yesterday Samaha noted that the Congressional discussions represent the first such so-called challenge to Bush in lo these six years, and he concedes there are constitutional limits to what congress can do in a case like this. But he says that isn't the point. The point is that the Bush-criticism is fundamentally about the administration of the war, not about underlying policies. American society, says Samaha, hasn't undertaken the kind of self-examination that characterized the Vietnam era.
People continue to believe in the idea of America as a "beacon unto the nations", and there certainly has been no sign of the culture of root-opposition to the basic values that this administration has been promoting. Naturally people reject the Iraq adventure, but it is an adventure in a far-away land, without the kind of domestic reverberations that might have been expected. And certainly it has not produced any solid protest aiming at blocking the road to [the continuation of] this and other [similar adventures to come]....

Take Hillary Clinton for example. She has come around to a position critical of the war in Iraq, but on Iran she stands almost to the right of the president. John Edwards, who was always against the war, is a hawk among hawks when it comes to Iran. And you can find many examples of this not only among senators and representatives, but also among writers and journalists, media organizations, research organizations, and so on. This in itself constitutes a good indication of the limitations of any reflection or examination that has taken place in America.

Samaha's point is that the failure to take meaningful action to either block the President from continuing the Iraq adventure, or to block him from his new Iran adventure--this failure is not just the technical result of procedural difficulties: it is the result of a failure by the American society as a whole to develop an adequate critique.

Samaha doesn't deny there are some in the US who are trying to prevent a new war, using the current lessons and those of Vietnam, but, he concludes:
[These efforts] seem powerless to confront the continuing political and military preparations for a broadened aggression, or the international preparations, and in reference to the latter we note the partial success in winning over certain non-Israel states to that camp.


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