FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

What Obama Could Have Said

by FATEMEH KESHAVARZ

Presidential debates are not meant to be in-depth or analytical exchanges. The candidates are unlikely to reveal new information or venture into unexplored and risky territory.  Neither are they encouraged to make bold and original comments. However, as safe and familiar scenarios, carefully polished and tested out by campaign strategists, are dished out to national audiences of these debates, a small doze of reality could be refreshing. The first presidential debate left much to be desired with regard to the candidate’s vision of a foreign policy informed, realistic, and able to deal with changing global conditions.

I am not referring to the fact that Senator McCain would still perpetuate the myth of a world so dangerous it cannot be handled in anyway other than being crashed with military might. We are by now used to the fact that he presents the Iraq war as if a military victory (if it were possible) would justify everything including the faulty intelligence which started war, namely the Iraqi connection with al-Qaeda and the WMDs. Naturally, it is not surprising that in the debate he attributed the recent reduction of violence solely to the troop surge which he supports and ignored completely the 70% or more Iraqi’s who view the U.S. army as occupiers and wish to see us leave immediately.

As an American with multi-cultural background, a person who travels and finds the opportunity to view world politics from a variety of national lenses, one of the saddest parts in the debate was the two candidates’ disregard for other nations’ well-being (almost as an indication of their patriotism.) Senator Obama, for example, was quick to mention the Iraqi surplus and the responsibility of the country to manage its own affairs.  But while citing the calamities of the war, he would only refer to the over 4,000 American causalities and not as much as hint at the few hundred thousand Iraqis dead and millions displaced. It was almost as if such a reference would have made him less American in our eyes. Are we, despite being a superpower, so small that our patriotism would be marred unless it is totally self-centered? I tend to think not.

The biggest fiasco of the evening, however, was Senator McCain’s total and patriotic opposition to unconditional negotiations with Iran. He is, of course, entitled to his views and proposed policies.  Neither am I naïve enough to expect Senator Obama to intervene on behalf of Iran and say something totally unpatriotic such as “Iran is a large, diverse, and young country. Wouldn’t it be wise to think about turning it into an asset for America in the region?”  He would certainly be committing political suicide if he went a step further and cited facts such as “We would have not won our initial war with the Taliban if it were not for Iran’s help through its connections with the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan” or, “Iran is the only country in the region in which al-Qaida does not have a safe haven.”

But when Mr. McCain made fun of his opponent, lampooning his way through an imaginary scenario in which diplomatic contact between the U.S. and Iran was reduced to a silly exchange between the two presidents during which the evil one proclaimed “I want to wipe Israel off the map!” and the good (but weak) one endorsed the evil deed with his presence, he should not have got away with it. Senator Obama didn’t have to do anything risky such as explaining that foreign policy of a nation requires a more solid base than a mistranslated sentence. Neither did he have to point out that Israel is not an ink blot to be wiped off a piece of paper. It is a country equipped to defend itself (not to mention that her Western friends could do things to Iran that would make the Iraqi casualty figure look modest). As fun as it would have been, no one could expect him to suggest that Mr. McCain better stop using Israel as a step in his political dance to the next war.

But Mr. Obama could have done something really cool. He could have pulled out a shocker, a piece of news no one seems to have had access to so far. “John,” he could have said “I have news for you! No American president would be able to negotiate with Mr. Ahmadinejad, no matter how much he would like to. The guy’s term in office is coming to an end in May … and his popularity beats that of Mr. Bush.”

That might have made Mr. McCain turn around and look at him.

FATEMEH KESHAVARZ is Chair of the Department of Asian and Near Eastern Languages and Literature at Washington University and the author of Jasmine and Stars: Reading more than Lolita in Tehran.

 

Your Ad Here
 

 

 

 

More articles by:
May 31, 2016
Miguel A. Cruz-Díaz
Imperial Blues: On Whitewashing Dictatorship in the 21st Century
Vijay Prashad
Stoking the Fires: Trump and His Legions
Patrick Howlett-Martin
Libya: How to Bring Down a Nation
Uri Avnery
What Happened to Netanyahu?
Corey Payne
Reentry Through Resistance: Détente with Cuba was Accomplished Through Resistance and Solidarity, Not Imperial Benevolence
Bill Quigley
From Tehran to Atlanta: Social Justice Lawyer Azadeh Shahshahani’s Fight for Human Rights
Manuel E. Yepe
Trump, Sanders and the Exhaustion of a Political Model
Bruce Lerro
“Network” 40 Years Later: Capitalism in Retrospect and Prospect and Elite Politics Today
Robert Hunziker
Chile’s Robocops
Aidan O'Brien
What’ll It be Folks: Xenophobia or Genocide?
Binoy Kampmark
Emailgate: the Clinton Spin Doctors In Action
Colin Todhunter
The Unique Risks of GM Crops: Science Trumps PR, Fraud and Smear Campaigns
Dave Welsh
Jessica Williams, 29: Another Black Woman Gunned Down By Police
Gary Leupp
Rules for TV News Anchors, on Memorial Day and Every Day
May 30, 2016
Ron Jacobs
The State of the Left: Many Movements, Too Many Goals?
James Abourezk
The Intricacies of Language
Porfirio Quintano
Hillary, Honduras, and the Murder of My Friend Berta
Patrick Cockburn
Airstrikes on ISIS are Reducing Their Cities to Ruins
Uri Avnery
The Center Doesn’t Hold
Raouf Halaby
The Sailors of the USS Liberty: They, Too, Deserve to Be Honored
Rodrigue Tremblay
Barack Obama’s Legacy: What Happened?
Matt Peppe
Just the Facts: The Speech Obama Should Have Given at Hiroshima
Deborah James
Trade Pacts and Deregulation: Latest Leaks Reveal Core Problem with TISA
Michael Donnelly
Still Wavy After All These Years: Flower Geezer Turns 80
Ralph Nader
The Funny Business of Farm Credit
Paul Craig Roberts
Memorial Day and the Glorification of Past Wars
Colin Todhunter
From Albrecht to Monsanto: A System Not Run for the Public Good Can Never Serve the Public Good
Rivera Sun
White Rose Begins Leaflet Campaigns June 1942
Tom H. Hastings
Field Report from the Dick Cheney Hunting Instruction Manual
Weekend Edition
May 27, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
Silencing America as It Prepares for War
Rob Urie
By the Numbers: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are Fringe Candidates
Paul Street
Feel the Hate
Daniel Raventós - Julie Wark
Basic Income Gathers Steam Across Europe
Andrew Levine
Hillary’s Gun Gambit
Jeffrey St. Clair
Hand Jobs: Heidegger, Hitler and Trump
S. Brian Willson
Remembering All the Deaths From All of Our Wars
Dave Lindorff
With Clinton’s Nixonian Email Scandal Deepening, Sanders Must Demand Answers
Pete Dolack
Millions for the Boss, Cuts for You!
Gunnar Westberg
Close Calls: We Were Much Closer to Nuclear Annihilation Than We Ever Knew
Peter Lee
To Hell and Back: Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Karl Grossman
Long Island as a Nuclear Park
Binoy Kampmark
Sweden’s Assange Problem: The District Court Ruling
Robert Fisk
Why the US Dropped Its Demand That Assad Must Go
Martha Rosenberg – Ronnie Cummins
Bayer and Monsanto: a Marriage Made in Hell
Brian Cloughley
Pivoting to War
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail