That our Noble Peace Prize winning President and the Congress needed a rational lecture on the need for a little common sense in foreign policy, from a graduate of the KGB, says a lot about about the degraded nature of domestic politics in the United States.
Domestic politics do not end at the water’s edge, as the foreign policy elite would like us to believe. On the contrary, any nation’s foreign policy is always a reflection of its domestic politics. (see for example, Robert Dallek’s insightful history, The American Style of Foreign Policy: Cultural Politics and Foreign Affairs.) The political soap opera surrounding Obama’s quest to bomb Syria is a case in point. Two thirds of the American people opposed the war, yet elites have been debating how to ignore the will of the people. These domestic politics are the real subject of Putin’s lecture. Implicitly, his lecture is also about the democratic duty of American citizens to reign in the elites claiming falsely to be acting in their name.
Should a former KGB agent be giving advice to the people of a constitutional democracy?
Think about the pathway that ‘democracy’ has travelled on over the last twelve years: On September 11, 2001, the entire world was on the side of the United States. In fact one of the largest, if not the largest, of the world wide demonstrations in support of the United States was a mass vigil in Tehran, Iran — a country we promptly denounced as being part of an axis of evil. Twelve years later, America is increasingly isolated, its leadership elites having used 9-11 as a pretext to fabricate rationales for invading Afghanistan and Iraq and for bombing Libya, Yemen, Pakistan, and Somalia. Now Syria is in the crosshairs for reasons that are questionable, to put it charitably, and once again, the elites are fabricating stories to get their way.
America is in a state of perpetual war with large parts of the Muslim world. America is viewed by more and more people around the world, including some of its non-Muslim allies, as a self-righteous, narcissistic super power that believes its exceptional status gives it the right to bomb and bully anyone it deems to be a ‘threat’ to its interests or moral values.
Putin’s subliminal message may well be: Look, we ended the Cold War; now, at long last, is it not time for America to undergo a national introspection of its own and end its state of perpetual war, before it further destabilizes even larger swathes of the world?
Perhaps we, as the owners of our government, should be asking ourselves questions like —
How did our country land itself in a state of perpetual war?
Is our President, a man who exited the world, including Syria,* with promises to change in America’s behaviour, the cause of the problem evoking Putin’s lecture? Or is Mr. Obama merely a front man presiding over a deeper, more profound set of domestic political distortions? Is he a protector of an increasingly dysfunctional, distinctly un-American status quo domestic political apparat that benefits the richest one percent at the expense of the masses?
How and why did the American people allow their elites and political representatives — Republicans and Democrats alike — to exploit 9-11 in an arbitrary way to place our nation on a grotesque moral pathway into a shameful state of mismatches between the (1) values we profess to uphold and others expect us to uphold, (2) those values we actually hold dear as demonstrated by our actions, and (3) the conditions in the world we have to contend with?
But most importantly, with respect to domestic politics of America’s state of perpetual war, Cui Bono?
*I was in Levantine, Syria in the summer of 2008, and the excitement on the street over Obama’s possible election and the promise it held for the Middle East was palpable and infectious.
Franklin “Chuck” Spinney is a former military analyst for the Pentagon and a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, published by AK Press. He be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org