Quo Vadis, Barack Obama...?

Obama is coming home after two difficult summits, Russia and the G-8, to a domestic agenda not likely to yield better results. If our pessimistic selves paint a world which is economically poisoned and environmentally doomed, Air Force One’s landing at Andrews AFB will bring back this president to the epicenter of it all; for both disasters – economic and environmental – had their start right here, in the good old US of A.

This American president is unquestionably not as big a barker as the previous one, but to most Russians – and not just Vladimir Putin – he is probably another smiling, soft tone messenger of the same unrelenting American empire. And the world of détente remains just that; a compromise held by pins of mutually-assured destruction in the hands of self-appointed, loyal guardians of tribes, nations, ideologies and the rest.

Many in America appear totally surprised at the cool – uneventful at least – reception that President Obama received in Moscow. Duh! What did we really expect... an exuberant welcome to our charismatic leader just like those our copycats Euro-cousins give him? Not in a thousand years! Russians have had it with post-cold war America and its berating behavior as if the victor in a hot-war never fought.

Barack Obama took to the Russians the very same message that George W. Bush did; new messenger, same old message from the very powerful “AMIC” (American Military Industrial Complex)… you know, the mythical-yet-real organization President Dwight Eisenhower warned all Americans about half century ago.

While signing a face-saving agreement which reduced the number of missiles aimed at each other – yet not changing in the least how either or both nations might be reduced to smithereens – the Russians also consented, gleefully one suspects, to allow flights over their territory carryings troops and weapons en route to Afghanistan. Obviously, the Russians vividly remember US involvement two decades ago helping the Taliban that cost them so many dead… an indirect way of paying us back for “our contribution” to their decade-long conflict in Afghanistan; a prelude to a possible second Vietnam for the US. A Pyrrhic victory for Obama at the Kremlin… and on to Italy for the POTUS!

L’Aquila was a fitting locale, ‘though coincidentally, as the meeting place for the G-8. Abruzzo, a region devastated three months earlier by earthquakes, was now hosting the discussions on the two major issues – both with catastrophic implications – that confront the world: the deep recession affecting the economy of most nations, and the ominous environmental implications facing the entire planet, usually linked to economic growth. But Obama’s opportunity to have a tête-à-tête with China’s Hu Jintao while at L’Aquila did not materialize, as the president of the world’s most populous nation had to abruptly depart to tend to domestic affairs – disturbances of the ethnic variety – at Xinjiang.

Perhaps it was just as well that Jintao and Obama did not meet. One gets the feeling that Mr. Obama is not prepared to answer the two trillion dollar question that the leader of the soon to be second largest economy in the world would have for him. America’s economy and our people’s pseudo standard of living have been subsidized in the past 10 years by the Chinese masses through a government that purposely, and smartly so, kept “forced savings” (non-consumption) in the national coffers while still permitting a noticeable increase in the citizens’ standard of living. Chinese savings that kept the US economy propped up instead of being declared insolvent. Now, after observing the workings of US capitalism, and the resulting debacle which has occurred, the seemingly obsequious Chinese are getting weary, jittery and concerned of what games the US might play in the valuation, or devaluation (!), of its dollar… and whether they might end up partially paying for our economic sins of the past. But a major confrontation remains in the wings, Obama’s visit to China planned for later this year; and with an economy likely to get worse by then, things for Mr. Obama do not bode well. As with Russia, a wide Barack smile won’t substitute as response to legitimate questions these leaders have and which require straightforward answers, not just diplomatically-treated bullshit.

Like Obama’s trip to mend fences in the Middle East, these summits in Moscow and L’Aquila will be little else than a political show, not much different from those Bush Jr. attended. Our policies remain in effect, only the packaging has changed. Israel may have completed its withdrawal from Gaza as Obama was sworn into office, but in almost six months since then, the four-year embargo of Gaza by Israel continues… and misery in the little, overpopulated strip of land reigns supreme. Now, a Palestinian peer tells me, they (leaders in Gaza) are starting to look at the EU for help in getting Israel to face not just juridical issues but humanitarian as well. “Obama,” he says, “is all words and no action; but what can you expect when his Chief of Staff is Rahm Emanuel.” Last week a delegation from the European Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza (ECESG) met with Javier Solana, EU Foreign Policy Coordinator, to discuss pertinent details and try to have Israel abide by international laws, and respect the rights of Palestinians.

Now President Obama returns to face a Congress that for the most part answers to its preferred corporate constituents, through their lobbies, and not its true constituents: the people they represent. So look for legislation in such critical issue as healthcare to be watered down to a level that will keep Americans at the healthcare tail end of that provided in most industrialized countries, or even some socially-enlightened developing nations such as Cuba. And count not on legislation, or investigation by the Department of Justice, on criminality that occurred during the Bush-Cheney years; no matter what additional discoveries are made, such as the surveillance program started under the old regime and now surfacing. However, on this latter issue, Obama is personally to blame after his incredulous remark “that we must look forward.” As if any kind of crime that is perpetrated under the political mantle has a statute of limitations that takes effect the moment a new administration takes the reins. This… from a constitutional scholar!

Quo vadis, Barack Obama? Can you tell us the path you have chosen to take?

There are some progressives in the nation who claim that Obama is a chess player when it comes to politics… that he is four moves ahead in the game; and that eventually Obama’s true progressive colors will triumphantly emerge. As much as I would want that to be true, it is wishful thinking at best… and comedic treatment of reality at worst.

It has painfully taken me almost six months to realize that Barack Obama is not the agent of change this nation needs; an agent we are unlikely to get through political evolution in a corrupt two-party system. Nonetheless, better Obama at the helm than one of the many Republican nuts itching to deliver us to Armageddon.