May 26, 2013
Obama’s Mission Accomplished Moment?
Posted on Jan 14, 2012
By Tom Engelhardt, TomDispatch
Now, counterinsurgency is history. The new hot ticket of the moment, that “revolutionary weapon” of our time—the drone or robotic airplane—is to fit the bill instead. Drones are, without a doubt, technologically remarkable and growing more sophisticated by the year. But air power has historically proved a poor choice if you want to accomplish anything political on the ground. It hardly matters whether those planes in the distant heavens have pilots or not, or whether they can see ants crawl from 20,000 feet and blast them away with precision.
Despite hosannas about the air war in Libya, count on one thing: air power will prove predictably inept when it comes to an American version of “revolutionary” counterterror warfare in the twenty-first century. So much for the limits of realism.
Washington-style realism assumes that we made a few mistakes, which can be rectified with the help of advanced technology and without endangering the military-industrial-crony-capitalist way of life. That’s about as radical as Obama’s Washington is likely to get.
When compared to the Republicans (Ron Paul aside again) storming the rhetorical barricades daily, threatening war with Iran nightly, promising to reinvade Iraq, or swearing that a military budget larger than those of the next 10 countries combined is wussiness itself, the Obama administration’s approach does look like shining realism. Up against this planet as it actually is today, its military-first policies look like wishful thinking.
Climate-change advocates sometimes say that we’re on a new planet. (Bill McKibben calls it “Eaarth,” with that ungainly extra “a” to signify an ungainly place that used to be comfy enough for humanity.) It is, they say, a planet under pressure and destabilizing in all sorts of barely imagined ways.
Here’s the strange thing, though. Set aside climate change, and to the passing, modestly apocalyptic eye, this planet still looks as if it were destabilizing. Your three economic powerhouses—the European Union, China, and the United States—are all teetering at the edge of interrelated financial crises. The EU seems to be literally destabilizing. It’s now perfectly reasonable to suggest that the present Eurozone may, within years, be Eurozones (or worse). Who knows when European banks, up to their elbows in bad debt, will start to tumble or whole countries like Greece go down (whatever that may mean)?
At the same time, the Chinese, with the hottest economy on the planet, have a housing bubble, which may already be bursting. (Americans should have at least a few passing memories of just what kinds of troubles a popped housing bubble can bring.) And for all we know, the U.S. economy, despite recent headlines about growing consumer confidence and an unemployment rate dropping to 8.5%, may be on life support.
As for the rest of the world, it looks questionable as well. The powerhouse Indian economy, like the Brazilian one, is slowing down. Whatever the glories of the Arab Spring, the Middle East is now in tumult and shows no signs of righting itself economically or politically any time soon. And don’t forget the Obama administration’s attempt to ratchet up sanctions on Iranian oil. If things go wrong, that might end up sending energy prices right through the roof and blowing back on the global economy in painful ways. With the major economies of the globe balancing on a pin, the possibility of a spike in those prices thanks to any future U.S./Iran/Israeli crisis should be terrifying.
The globalization types of the 1990s used to sing hymns to the way this planet was morphing into a single economic creature. It’s worth keeping in mind that it remains so in bad times. This year could, of course, be another bumble-through year of protest and tumult, or it could be something much worse. And don’t think that I—a non-economist of the first order—am alone in such fears. The new head of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, has been traveling the planet recently making Jeremiah sound like an optimist, suggesting that we could, in fact, be at the edge of another global Great Depression.
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