Thursday 21 February 2019

There are reasons to vote Obama -- just not good ones

Now there are just two reasons why Barack Obama should become president of the USA. One is that it would be nice to see a coloured man in the White House -- though whatever he is, he's not black: he is actually what used to be called "mulatto". Nor is he African-American, since he lacks all of the cultural artefacts that make up that identity. He was raised as an American, and that's what he is.

The second reason is that it's about time that the White House had another occupant whose surname did not originate in the old United Kingdom. Of the 43 presidents of the USA, 39 of them had British or Irish surnames. Only four -- Van Buren (Dutch in origin) the two Roosevelts (Dutch also) and Eisenhower (German) -- had names from outside these islands. That is an extraordinary testimony to the enduring power of the old settler/new Irish establishment. To have an African surname in the list would add a certain exotic frisson.

But that's it. That's where the arguments in favour of Obama start and end, even as the ones against him jostle to get into line. The most telling clue about what Obama actually means in US political culture came with the endorsement by Senator Edward Kennedy. Here should be the kiss of death. For Kennedy is not merely the fine lad who left a girl to die in the car he'd crashed, but he is also the man who helped bring about communist victory in Vietnam in 1974-75.

It was he in the Senate who successfully led the campaign to block funding for the South Vietnamese government, while aid from the USSR was pouring into North Vietnam. Guided by the great US General Abrams, the South Vietnamese army had stabilised its position against the North Vietnamese army; but without aid, it couldn't fight.

The Kennedy veto came to glorious fruition a few yards seaward of the roof of the US embassy in Saigon, as despairing loyal Vietnamese fell from the skids of departing helicopters.

Americans who get nostalgic for those happy days can have their own modernised version if Barack has his way, to judge from his own website: "Obama will immediately begin to remove our troops from Iraq. He will remove one to two combat brigades each month, and have all of our combat brigades out of Iraq within 16 months. Obama will make it clear that we will not build any permanent bases in Iraq. He will keep some troops in Iraq to protect our embassy and diplomats; if al-Qa'ida attempts to build a base within Iraq, he will keep troops in Iraq or elsewhere in the region to carry out targeted strikes on al-Qa'ida."

Never mind that the final sentence contradicts both existing reality ("if al-Qa'ida attempts ... "?) and the general sentiment expressed before it, the essential thrust is as reassuring to al-Qa'ida as the US peace movement was to North Vietnam's General Giap.

Moreover, a further website boast bellows that the man is both a prig and a fool. It declares that last year, Obama sought a programme to withdraw all US troops from Iraq by this March. In other words, no surge, no sweeping victories against al-Qa'ida in Anbar province, no Iraqi National Council of Reawakening; but instead, a timetable of capitulation, defeat and withdrawal, followed by regional catastrophe, starting some time around now.

So, as the US stares into the jaws of victory, he has promised instead to turn it into defeat, and to abandon the successful Iraqi policy of General Petraeus. Instead, he will start immediate troop withdrawals. Sound familiar? Of course it does. This is a policy which was previously spelt with a V and an I and an E and a T and an N and an A and which ends in an M -- as in Moloch, the Canaanite god of murder.

Which is a fairly accurate summation of al-Qa'ida's theology; and when you're fighting an enemy such as that, the only timetable you can observe is that dictated by your victories. That's it. The US can no more set itself abstract but binding targets for troop withdrawals from Iraq than Eisenhower could have done against the Nazis in 1944. Victory must be won: no choice.

And victory is being won. The Marine Corps and the US Army are now fielding the best and most combat-experienced soldiers in the history of their country. Only Chappquiddery of the most demeaning kind could turn their daily triumphs in Iraq into a gain for the enemies of the US. Yet, as we've seen, such idiocy has happened before. It can happen again; and the best guarantee that it won't is the election of the warrior-hero John McCain as US president.

Curiously, if McCain is successful, he will be the fourth navy veteran to be elected president since World War II, following Presidents Kennedy, Ford and Carter. The unofficial motto of the USN is Non sibi sed patriae: "Not self, but country"; and I don't think Obama has the faintest idea what those words mean.

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