Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Obama must abandon the change that we can no longer believe in.

Obama won easily in 2008, on the "change we can believe in" mantra. During the 2008 campaign and for a while after, we did believe. Obama can change D.C.; he can make it less partisan and a far more effective legislative body. Come 2011, unless he stops trying to change Washington, he is unlikely to be re elected.

By the "change we can believe in" Obama was attempting to portray a more bipartisan presidency. Presidents can be above the partisan, warfare like nature of Capitol Hill. The electorate must have thought this was ambitious, but also must have believed he was capable or he would not have been elected. Little did he and they realize how deeply the "beltway mentality" was engraved in each congressman’s head.

A positive and righteous message, so why abandon it? Remember the debt debacle barely one month ago. Obama, playing the role of the bipartisan mediator, insisting on compromises from both sides, did not portray a confident national leader. Bipartisanship was morally correct, but in reality he didn’t achieve much; and not achieving much is what he will be judged on in November next year

Obama shouldn't throw his morals out the window just yet, but definitely needs some "umph" as they say. Be decisive, commanding and ensure congress know that the childlike bickering over the debt ceiling is not acceptable behaviour for a national legislative body. The country needs significant action from a confident, convincing leader. Obama needs to take the country by the scruff of the neck and drag it away from its current anxiety. To achieve progress Obama must first challenge congress, as he is with his current jobs plan.

He should abandon the idea of "change” being bipartisan. Obama must show that he has a legislative agenda, and he can make congress pass it; irrelevant of whether far right GOP congressmen disapprove. Americans will want to see their president act like a leader they can trust and not give more speeches about what’s possible."Fine words butter no parsnips", Obama must prove he can butter the parsnips and rescue the country and its stagnant economy.

Friday, 9 September 2011

America should have acted like the bigger man

9/11 (2011) approaches and I am rather hopeful that our actions after this 11th September are significantly different to the last time that we had a year that ending in a "1".  

I am hoping they are different because I believe our actions were disproportionate, arguably wrong and unethical. Why so?

It would be disrespectful of me not to say that 9/11 was probably the worst crime, certainly of my generation and it should have been dealt with accordingly. The terrorists responsible should be prosecuted accordingly and if that means locking them up for a long time, then so be it. But ask yourself this, did the actions of that day really deserve two international wars, trillions of dollars spent on fighting an increasing number of insurgents, thousands of allied soldiers dead and far too many innocent Muslims dead or tortured. We not only over reacted, but the reaction was wrong.

I am going to explain why it was wrong or disproportionate, using a well known playground analogy, I hope you follow. In this analogy, I am the terrorists attacking the west, you are America/western world being attacked and the teacher is the peacekeeping UN. So metaphorically speaking, if I (the terrorists) approached you looking for attention, looking for a fight, so let’s say I poke you in the arm - in the real world, Al-Qaeda did this to the west in the form of 9/11. Under Bin Laden's vision of "Jihad", they attacked America's heartland, proclaiming that we want to be Holy warriors in Bin Laden's Holy War. They showed their frustrations that western forces are in so many of our Muslim countries, commonly killing innocent family or propping up corrupt regimes. 

You (America and the west) are now faced with two choices - in the form of human psychology or rational choice, what would you pick (hopefully rational choice)? Human psychology would be to fight back; nobody wants to be embarrassed in front of the rest of the playground (in this case the rest of the world). Or, more rationally and as we get told to do by parents and teachers, walk away and don't retaliate. Don't give me (the terrorists) what I am so clearly crave, attention and then a fight.

Sadly, and I think wrongly, America and rest of the west went on instinct or human psychology, and did what I would hope you or I would not. America retaliated on a massive scale, with what now looks like a rush of blood to the head. Within a month, America and the west had declared war on Afghanistan, fast forward two years and America and the west had declared another war, Iraq.  By declaring war, America has given Al-Qaeda a fight in the form of a Holy war and given them ten years of attention. It seems as though they didn't think to walk away and think about the next steps, not giving the terrorists a fight. They didn't listen to the teacher (UN), and walk away, refusing to be provoked. They didn't act like the bigger man.

However there are a couple of things to note. Firstly, Afghanistan and Iraq did continually provoke the west and it would have been very hard not to go to war. Afghanistan admitted to hiding Bin Laden but refused to hand him over. It could be argued that this forced America to go and find him. Did they have to declare war though; could they not have found him like they did in may? Iraq also provoked America to an extent. Saddam Hussein refused to let UN inspectors in and continued to ignore UN sanctions. Again though, he always maintained he never had nuclear weapons and to our current knowledge, he never did. The only evidence that ever said he did have weapons was found to be fake - see earlier post on Valerie Plame affair - Secondly, in my opinion the UN is not carrying out its role, if a country, even of America's stature, can declare war without approval. As a collective decision making body, the UN has a responsibility to stop countries retaliating irresponsibly. They should question the decision, like a responsible adult questions a child's decisions. Are you really sure you want to do this? Do you really want to get yourself in a very expensive, bloody fight that the opposition wants? The UN did do this for Libya, and the result was a so far, successful Arab spring.

To summarize, the reaction to 9/11 was always going to be difficult. 9/11 was so shocking and awful, that is was bound to cause a shocking reaction. No one likes to be attacked in their own backyard. But I think we over reacted (declared war. Our actions were irresponsible and reckless for countries claiming to be the world’s leading democratic nations