Sunday, October 11, 2009

Nobel is same old

Although the award itself was bizarre and self destructive, the debate following Obama's Nobel Day is of a piece with what we've been seeing for quite some time.

First, there is still the effort - diminishing but still breathing - to hang on to the Transcendent Obama - the figure who is salvific by virtue of who he is rather than what he does. The DNC trotted that out, repeating the tired notion that opposition to the President is opposition to the nation. We have to feel pride in the President's honor or be accused of "throwing our lot in" with the Taliban and placing politics above patriotism.

We have to take pride in an award that everyone agrees (and the Nobel Committee concedes) was given to the President not for his accomplishments, but because the Norwegian leftists who hand it out want to encourage what they understand to be his policies. Whether or not we believe that the policies that the Committee sought to endorse would be disastrous for the nation and the world, we have to celebrate the award.

We have to - at the risk of suggestions of treason - because ... why? We have to celebrate Obama and his policies (for there is nothing to be "proud of" here but the policies)because Obama is America? Geez, if you don't want to encourage over the top Hitler references, that's not a good approach to take.*

The second theme is ... see ... the world loves us now. No, they don't. We are the same as we always were. What they would love is an America that does not use its power in support of its interests. What they would love is an America that, if it offers its power in support of world peace, does so at the direction of and in service to a mythical international community.

Maybe that would be a better America but whether it would or would not has nothing to do with whether European socialists think so.

The third - advanced by conservatives - is that this shows that Obame is headed in precisely the wrong direction. Think of it as the mirror image of the second theme. When Scandanavian socialist internationalists love us, something is very wrong. Again, the truth of the matter is or is not in its substance and not in the company it keeps.

Finally, it advances the current political theme that Obama is a joke. It isn't merely that he has not accomplished anything. There is, after all, still a long way to go. The theme has power because he became President without really accomplishing anything of Presidential stature and (this is critical) he and his supporters repeatedly act like he is ready for Mount Rushmore. Never has so much been claimed by so many for so little.

And this brings me to a point of speculation. Are the folks in Oslo really that clueless? This prize does not help Obama. Couldn't they see that? Did they really bestow this award without any communication with the White House? Are they that impressed with themselves?

*Die Partei ist Hitler - und Hitler ist Deutschland, gerade da Deutschland Hitler ist! - Rudolph Hess (1934)

21 comments:

John Foust said...

I'm no professor who strictly interprets complex texts for a living, but if I had to guess, Illusory Tenant's reference to treason in "former times" was referring to the squawking of "You're either with us or against us, bring it on, you love the terrrrists" types during the Bush administration.

I quote from the email I received from Michael Steele on Friday: "Now, when challenged to answer the question of what the president has accomplished, Democrats are lashing out calling Republicans terrorists. That type of political rhetoric is shameful." Switch "Democrat" and "Republican" in that sentence and tell me it didn't happen a few short years ago. In your professional opinion, is it significantly different to say "thrown in its lot with the terrorists" and "love the terrorists"? When you say "mythical international community," is that the same community that Bush kept mentioning to assure us and the rest of the world that this wasn't just the US of A killing all those civilians?

Who can forget the same-old of last year's winner, when those traitorous Scandanavian socialist internationalists were loving one of their own.

illusory tenant said...

Nor does a permissive interpretation support my having said anything at all about celebration.

The only celebration I've seen is the right's reveling in its efforts to undermine the legitimacy and authority of an American president at home and overseas.

jp said...

One thing missing from your post is a picture of Obama with the silly looking mustache.

AnotherTosaVoter said...

Rick, just like with fiscal policy, your party has no credibility when it comes to outrage over being called traitorous for disagreeing with the President. You know it, though for partisan reasons you may not admit it on this blog, to be true that your party used patriotism as a political cudgel without giving a second thought from 2001 to, well, now.

I'm glad you've brought this up because I have a serious question about the premise of American exceptionalism, at least as people like you seem to practice it.

I don't get why it is "bad" if European socialists like us. I don't get why it is "bad" to even take into account the desires, thoughts, opinions, and lives of other peoples and cultures as we make our policy decisions. I don't get why Ron Paul (who I don't like otherwise) was booed when he told the truth - that our history of running over others breeds resentment that leads to problems.

I don't get why, if I were to suggest that instead of doing what we want whenever we want is an unethical, immoral way to carry ourselves, whether talking about an individual or a country, I get told by people like you that I don't like my country.

I love my country, and I think it's the best. But the fact is we've done some awful things, we've made a lot of mistakes, we haven't always been right. I'm not religious, but I'm fairly certain your religion says something about being humble and leading by example.

On the other hand, your faith does have something similar to jingoism in its source code - evangelism. I wonder, because you follow a lifestyle that says you have to help convert others who will burn in hell if they don't take heed, does that make it easier for you to appreciate jingoistic foreign policy?

Accept my god or burn in hell; Do what we want or get zapped by a cruise missile. Same thing?

Rick Esenberg said...

"... I get told by people like you that I don't like my country."

Tosa

For someone who likes to portray himself as beyond political labels, you've made an error here. I don't think that I have ever lapsed into calling critics of American foreign policy unpatriotic. I may think that certain criticisms are naive or are bound in a desire to be thought cosmopolitan or internationalist or compassionate, but unpatriotic or un-American requires more than that.

Look, I came to political consciousness during the Vietnam War (I was a little nerd) and I understand the critiques of American policy. But, in general, the US has been a force for good in the world even during the administration of George W. Bush.

I acknowledge that people on my side of the political divide have unfairly criticized opponents as unpatriotic, although I don't know that they have done so as often as you think or in any way like the way it was done during earlier wars (including during the administrations of Wilson, FDR, and LBJ).

At the end of the day, though, it is all I can do to try to be responsible for my own statements.

Evangelization is a term for bringing the good news to others. I hardly live a life style that says "others ... will burn in hell if they don't take heed ..." I have one beautiful daughter-in-law who is Jewish and two beautiful grandsons (I was at a birthday party for one today) who are being raised in that tradition (not to mention my daughter-in-law's wonderful parents, sister and extended family). Do I think they will "burn in hell?" Not before I do.

Your description of Christianity is , in that regard, dated and inaccurate at least as it relates to Roman Catholicism and the best of the Protestant tradition.

AnotherTosaVoter said...

I apologize if I unfairly lumped you in with the more intellectually lazy of your philosophical brethren. Indeed I've never seen you stoop to that level.

And I really don't care much about the similarity to religion. I didn't think you'd feel that way about arguments over foreign policy, but I bet many of the more unhinged on your side do.

Anyway, what I really want to ask is, why is the conservative concept of American exceptionalism so damn arrogant when it comes to foreign policy?

Why, for instance, is the President criticized for weakness when he admits we are not perfect? Do we have credibility in our "fight for freedom and democracy" when we arm autocratic regimes to keep oil flowing

Why was it ok to overthrow a democratically-elected regime to protect the interests of a fruit company? Why is it wrong to point out that one of the reasons we're dealing with a radical Islamic regime today is because we overthrew a democratically-elected regime to protect the interests of an oil company in the 1950s? Wouldn't it enhance our credibility to admit to these past mistakes? It's not like the facts are in dispute, so doesn't it make us look like fools to demand "freedom and democracy" from tyrants we don't like while we're supporting tyrants we do like? I get it may have been necessary when the Soviets were around, but is it so anymore?

Lynne Cheney, who clearly needs psychological help, complained that some people don't want the U.S. to be "dominant". No, I don't want it to be "dominant" militarily, because that costs too much and (for the reasons I noted above) it's likely unethical and immoral. Dominance based only on force breeds the resentment that requires us to put the military all over the world, at great expense. Dominance based on economic power doesn't. Intellectual honesty and consistency breeds a much less expensive respect than does force.

I'm not a Kucinich type. If people mess with us, we fuck them up. I have no problem with that. What I have a problem with is this idea that you folks seem to have that we should get to do whatever the hell we want and we're not responsible for any consequences, and anyone who gets zapped is collateral damage (so much for the sanctity of life for all those tortured and dead from Guatemala to Chile to Iran to Indonesia).

So, please explain to me, why is your opinion of American exceptionalism so arrogant, and more importantly how is it moral?

Anonymous said...

Oops. Godwin's law, Rick. You lose.

Anonymous said...

"Obama has as President created a new climate in international politics. Multilateral diplomacy has regained a central position . . ."

I don't think the Norwegian Nobel Committee concedes what you say it does. They awarded the Nobel to Obama for what he has accomplished. He HAS created a new climate in international politics. He's returned to multilateral diplomacy. The sort of thing that, oh, George H.W. Bush did.

Congratulations, Mr. President!

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