I normally wouldn’t like it if a presidential candidate went overseas during the election because, let’s face it; they’re running for president of the United States, not President of the world,and I’m not a big fan of grandstanding.
Of course, 2008 is not a normal election, and we’re not exactly replacing a competent foreign policy president, so all of my preconception are out the window. This year is different. This year, the Obama tour is actually one of the most refreshing things I’ve seen in a long time.
Let’s face it; neocon rule for the last 30 years has been an absolute disaster on every level, but one of the worst and most dangerous aspects of their "leadership" (I gag when I merely think that word as describing the ReaganBushBush era) has been the transformation of the United States from benevolent daddy to recalcitrant bully. Remember the days when we were the "really nice" superpower? Well, under the neocons the last 30 years, we’ve essentially BECOME the Soviet Union. Think about it; Now, WE, the United States of America, now imprison people indefinitely, based on the word of a few "leaders," without benefit of trial, or even legal counsel; WE now torture prisoners in our care; WE have invaded and occupied a country that was not a threat to us, but which our leaders decided was strategically important to occupy; WE have repeatedly thumbed our nose at the rest of the world, and told the United Nations to go to hell. All of this didn’t start with Bush, but his absolute incompetence and disregard for anything the rest of the world considers important, has accelerated the process, and turned us into the least popular and most dangerous nation in the world.
So, I have put aside my usual cynicism on these types of things, and I’m beaming. How refreshing is it to see a potential president who sits and listens and seems comfortable in talking up our country with the rest of the world? Barack Obama is meeting with, speaking to and asking questions of leaders, and a door has been cracked open slightly, so that we are beginning to see a sliver of light shining through, with regard to foreign policy and our place in the world.
Now, I know there are many who have become so cynical over these last eight years, they somehow see foreign leaders’ adulation of Obama as some sort of negative. (Arianna Huffington wrote a brilliant op-ed piece on this yesterday.) But the fact of the matter is, there is nothing negative about this trip whatsoever. The rest of the world thinks we have gone crazy, they have stopped trusting us, and some are even at the point they’d like to see us go down. We’ve become like that big bully in elementary school; the one who terrorized the other kids from kindergarten through fifth grade. But it’s not good being him because, when the other kids were sick of him, they waited for him out on the ball field and beat the snot out of him. We can’t afford to have the rest of the world gang up on us to kill us.
Do you want to know why Iran has a nuclear program? It’s because the United States is now seen as their biggest threat. While our president and his neocon "brain trust" are morons, Ill assume you’re not, so ask yourself this; their revolution happened 30 years ago, and the mullahs have run the show since. We had nukes then, Israel had nukes then… why did they wait more than 20 years to start researching nukes in earnest? Could it be that the United States was not seen as a serious threat until recently?
Don’t you wonder why North Korea, which pretty much abandoned their nuclear program after Bill Clinton talked to them and promised to ship them food and other goods, in return for a shutdown of their program, and regular inspections for compliance, started it up suddenly, in 2001? Could it be because the Bushies headed into the White House, immediately labeled North Korea as part of the "Axis of Evil," and cut off the food program until they bent to our will? Naw, that couldn’t be it, could it?
I remember when I was a teenager back in the 1970s; my high school choir would go to the Capitol every Christmas. We would bound out of the bus, which was parked at the curb, and run up to the stop of the steps and sing Christmas Carols. I could go into the building and sit in the gallery and watch my government work. I could wait for an elevator and go up into the Washington Monument, and then hike down the stairway when I was finished. Do you know there is a monument for every state along that stairway?
Now, all of DC is like an armed camp, and no one actually uses the steps for much of anything anymore. You can’t set foot in a large building without having to practically endure a body cavity search, and metal detectors are everywhere. Now, call me crazy, but this is a sign that we’re LESS free than we used to be. I mean, people could have bombed us before 1980, but they didn’t. What’s changed? Well, more people hate us, and want to do us harm, of course.
They do NOT "hate us for our freedom" at all; they used to ENVY our freedom, remember? That’s why we finally had to cap immigration way back when, remember? They hate us because of our policies, not our freedom. They hate us because we spend more money than every other country in the world combined on "defense," with most of that money spent on extremely offensive weapons, designed to maximize death and destruction if they’re used, and anxiety if they’re not. They hate us because we keep trying to force our version of democracy on them, while we don’t even enforce it on ourselves. And they hate us because we don’t really try to understand them. Our leadership during the neocon era, with the exception of Bill Clinton, has taken the "peace through strength" concept and bastardized it into something like, "show them how big and bad we are, and they’ll submit to our will." The neocon mindset says that, if you threaten someone strongly enough, they’ll bend to your will, and that will bring peace. They don’t understand the concept of "resentment," and how such a concept undermines peace and security, it doesn’t enhance it.
Once again, why are we basically becoming the Soviet Union? We saw what happened to them; why would we imitate that? Why would we think that rolling tanks into a country would make them MORE likely to do what we want? It doesn’t, folks, and you know that. If you have some knowledge about someone that others want to know, who are you more likely to reveal it to; your best friend, or some guy who ties you to a chair and threatens to kill you?
What Barack Obama is doing right now is giving leaders around the world hope, that a new day is dawning in America. A new era, where we start to only go after the bad guys, and not everyone who knows a bad guy. A new era, where our emphasis is on domestic security, and not policing the world. A new era, where everyone talks to everyone else BEFORE any bombs are dropped.
And we need this new era just as much as the rest of the world does. Not only does the rest of the world need a United States that is a benevolent brother, not the world’s bully, but we need to stop spending money stockpiling more and more awesome weapons we will never have to use. We have to spend more money rebuilding the military infrastructure, and we have to become a responsible society, and not leave our kids tens of trillions of dollars worth of debt. But more than that, we have to make ourselves better, before we can even begin to instruct others as to how to behave.
It’s refreshing to see a politician running for president who meets with and honors other nations, and doesn’t treat them as if they should be lucky we even acknowledge their existence. What we have seen this past week is a glimpse of the future, in which we reach out to other countries as a member of the world community as more of a friend, rather than the paranoid insane uncle the neocons have turned us into.