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27 January 2009

Obama: Regime Rotation, by Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed

Excellent analysis. Key quote:

After the Bush administration’s record of essentially trampling on any semblance of half-decent PR, leading to the very concept of US world leadership being vehemently opposed or incredulously ridiculed around the world, the arrival of Obama is set to rehabilitate American hegemony and restore some sense of credibility and even respectability to US military and financial power. After Obama's powerful inauguration speech, enough to make even a grown non-American man such as myself (nearly) weep (ok I'm exaggerating, but you get the drift...), Americans and even the entire world, can for the first time in perhaps a decade feel proud and satisfied that all is going to be taken care of.

Yet this sense of jubiliation is symptomatic of the fact that the Obama administration will pursue (and has already pursued) policies of hegemony rehabilitation and systemic stabilization. This will not involve a meaningful change of course, but rather a perpetuation of existing structures in the global political economy. In other words, not changing the system, but protecting it – violently if necessary, but this time with greater attention to PR.

So there will also be sharp ostensible differences with Obama’s predecessors, for instance, greater concern for a multilateralist approach; avowing respect for international law and institutions; reliance on more covert methods of extending influence rather than overt military confrontrations with all those who are "not with us" and therefore de facto "against us"; etc. -thus allowing the US to return to the moral high ground so completely eroded by the Bush administration’s open policies of unilateralism, endorsement of torture, and unabashed violations of international law. In effect, this will involve removing, relabeling or simply concealing practices that have served to undermine US authority in the eyes of its allies, and the world.

The outcome has already been disturbing: while neutralizing and thoroughly confusing progressive social and anti-war movements in and outside the West, the arrival of Obama has allowed the US government to rally unprecedented popular support behind it, for whatever it intends to do.

We will see, in this respect, a marked shift in the language and rhetoric of foreign policy, a return to more diplomatic strategies, as well as military policies couched in the discourse of humanitarian intervention and aid. Unfortunately, for a while, this shift will seem more convincing coming from Obama, as opposed to Bush. More than ever, therefore, progressive movements will need to up their game in understanding and accurately critiquing the new administration’s policies, if they are to prevent processes of imperial militarization from intensifying.

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