Obama's Historic Victory
by Howard Zinn
Those of us on the Left who have criticized Obama, as I have, for his failure to take bold positions on the war and on the economy, must join the exultation of those Americans, black and white, who shouted and wept Tuesday night as they were informed that Barack Obama had won the presidential election. It is truly a historic moment, that a black man will lead our country. The enthusiasm of the young, black and white, the hopes of their elders, cannot simply be ignored.
There was a similar moment a century and a half ago, in the year 1860, when Abraham Lincoln was elected president. Lincoln had been criticized harshly by the abolitionists, the anti-slavery movement, for his failure to take a clear, bold stand against slavery, for acting as a shrewd politician rather than a moral force. But when he was elected, the abolitionist leader Wendell Phillips, who had been an angry critic of Lincoln's cautiousness, recognized the possibility in his election.
Phillips wrote that for the first time in the nation's history "the slave has chosen a President of the United States." Lincoln, he said, was not an abolitionist, but he in some way "consents to represent an antislavery position." Like a pawn on the chessboard, Lincoln had the potential, if the American people acted vigorously, to be moved across the board, converted into a queen, and, as Phillips said, "sweep the board."
Obama, like Lincoln, tends to look first at his political fortunes instead of making his decisions on moral grounds. But, as the first African American in the White House, elected by an enthusiastic citizenry which expects a decisive move towards peace and social justice, he presents a possibility for important change.
Obama becomes president in a situation which cries out for such change. The nation has been engaged in two futile and immoral wars, in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the American people have turned decisively against those wars. The economy is shaken by tremendous blows, and is in danger of collapsing, as families lose their homes and working people, including those in the middle class, lose their jobs, So the population is ready for change, indeed, desperate for change, and "change" was the word most used by Obama in his campaign.
What kind of change is needed? First, to announce the withdrawal of our troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, and to renounce the Bush doctrine of preventive war as well as the Carter doctrine of military action to control Mideast oil. He needs to radically change the direction of U.S. foreign policy, declare that the U.S. is a peace loving country which will not intervene militarily in other parts of the world, and start dismantling the military bases we have in over a hundred countries. Also he must begin meeting with Medvedev, the Russian leader, to reach agreement on the dismantling of the nuclear arsenals, in keeping with the Nuclear Anti-Proliferation Treaty.
This turn-around from militarism will free hundreds of billions of dollars. A tax program which will sharply increase taxes on the richest 1% of the nation, and will tax their wealth as well as their income, will yield more hundreds of billions of dollars.
With all that saved money, the government will be able to give free health care to everyone, put millions of people to work (which the so-called free market has not been able to do. In short, emulate the New Deal program, in which millions were given jobs by the government. This is just an outline of a program which could transform the United States and make it a good neighbor to the world
The other point of contention is with the idea of closing all our foreign military bases. Closing some, hell yeah, Guantanamo comes to mind quick like a bunny. But I disagree with this on two counts. First off I don't think its a good idea. Second Obama is not going to do it, period. There is nothing the left can do to get Obama to close a significant portion of our oversees bases. It's political suicide for one, and as Zinn likes to point out, Obama for all his good is still a politician first. More importantly in Audacity of Hope Obama talks about growing up in Indonesia where despite being half-way around the world he still felt the long arm of American military influence. Someone planning to commit a crime is going to think a little harder before they target an American because America might just decide to fuck some shit up. It's like having a Schizophrenic pit bull with you at all times. Sometimes you can punch the guy in the face and the dog will lick ya, think USS Liberty. The next time though that same dog might rip your arm off, Afghanistan, then maul an entire neighborhood for no apparent reason other than it's developed a taste for blood, Iraq. So now you're that criminal, looking for a target, you see an American, but in the back of your mind you see that crazy ass pit bull and have no idea how its going to react but you know if its bad its going to be really bad. Maybe I'll wait for a Canadian or something.
Thats my early morning, not fully away take on our military. That all being said that still leaves many billions of dollars worth of waste in the military, my favorite example was in Time magazine talking about cost overruns. The Osprey was on the list some other stuff and a new series of nuclear subs that cost some outrageous price, but ended up costing even more. But tell me this real quick, what the fuck do we need nuclear subs for? when was the last time we fought a country with a real navy? WWII I'm thinkin. Oh sure if we want to keep some of our subs around for intimidation fine, but do we really need to spend billions on new ones that have no real purpose? The work on new weapons that make sense for the modern battle field isn't a bad thing, but lets make sure we aren't wasting our money on weapons that only make sense in a bygone era.
But lets not take this lightly, there is a reason there won't be a traditional war anymore. The US Military has become sort of like the alien from "The Day The Earth Stood Still" anyone wants to fight a real war and we will wipe them off the face of the earth. Thats a role we can fill, but lately we've slipped. Russia and Georgia can get a bit frisky without fear of American backlash because we're chained to Iraq. And cause realistically we still want to avoid a war with Russia. Willing to bet they want to avoid our wrath too.