Friday, October 16, 2015

The Failure of the "Real" Obama Doctrine Is America's Opportunity

One thing seems clear about Barack Obama. He lied.

He lied in his 2004 convention speech waffle about red states and blue states. He lied about being a racial healer. And he lied about foreign policy. The Obama doctrine was not merely to correct the Bush errors and ease back from a forward policy in the Middle East; it was much more. Richard Fernandez peels back the layers.
Obama was not out to merely repudiate Bush, but to deliberately undo Ronald Reagan, indeed dismantle the entire postwar edifice from Harry Truman onward. He had a vision of restoring the world to its paradisal state before Western meddling: “to create the international coalition and atmosphere in which people across sectarian lines are willing to compromise and are willing to work together in order to provide the next generation a fighting chance for a better future.” 
 You can see that this is the real foreign policy of every Democrat since Gene McCarthy in 1968. It is inspired by the Lenin accusation of "imperialism" and the subsequent leftist agenda of "anti-colonialism." On this view the last 500 years have been a ghastly western rape of the world. Karl Polanyi in The Great Transformation makes the point better than most. It all comes down to the establishment of a labor market rather than traditional work outside the market system.
To separate labor from other activities of life and to subject it to the laws of the market was to annihilate all organic forms of existence... [as] is conspicuously apparent in colonial regions today. The natives are to be forced to make a living by selling their labor.
On this view the Western adventurers and capitalists of the last 500 years marched across the globe to annihilate old forms of life and make everything subordinate to the market. And this was wrong.

The problem is, as Marx puts it, that the "need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the entire surface of the globe." It was not mere greed and ambition of individual adventurers that conquered the world, but the internal logic of the market system.

The left lives on the hope of stuffing the market system back into the bottle of expert knowledge and administrative system. But its efforts have consistently failed, for an obvious reason. The market revolution of the last 500 years is an order of magnitude bigger than the petty manipulations of thinkers, politicians and bureaucrats. You may not like it, but the market system is here to stay.

And now we can see what the blundering Bush was saving us from. Under seven years of Obama's foreign policy the Middle East has blown up into a gigantic human tragedy as petty tyrants and piratical brigands turn the whole region into a riot of loot and plunder, forcing millions to abandon the land of their fathers. Not surprisingly, they have attempted to move to the peaceful lands of Europe.

Only, of course, the Europeans fear that the migrants will bring war and mayhem to their peaceful land, and are right now in the middle of sending the migrants back where they came from.

"Everybody" is now citing the exchange between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama in the 2012 presidential debates, where Romney fingered Vladimir Putin as our new adversary.
The 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back,” [Obama] jeered, “because the Cold War’s been over for 20 years.”
In fact, of course, the 1980s are back, and more. And Vladimir Putin is taking advantage of the "Real" Obama Doctrine to restore a flicker of the past glories of Mother Russia.

Let us return to Karl Polanyi. The unspoken point of his book is that, whenever and wherever it appears, the market revolution is an ideological force that  attempts to totally transform society at a brutal cost in human misery as it lashes the masses to the mast of the market economy.

It is true. First the Brits had their society turned upside down by the agricultural revolution that began a centuries-long transformation of the food economy from a world of self-feeding agriculturalists to wage workers that got food from the store. Then the revolution spread to Europe and went global when the North American plains got connected to the world with railroads and steamships and starved peasants all over the world with their cheap wheat and corn. The 20th century saw the revolution spread to India and China. They resisted for a while with socialism in India and communism in China, but by 2000 both had capitulated to the revolution.

Now the market revolution is spreading to the backward areas of the world: the Middle East and Africa. I suppose it doesn't really matter whether we have Bumbling Bush or Oafish Obama in charge. The revolution, like any revolution, will be a human tragedy and hundreds of millions will have their lives disrupted and suffer humiliating misery.

The market, it must be admitted, is a terrifying task-master. If it does not leave welts from the cowskin whip on the backs of the people, it certainly requires utter submission to its rule.

The problem for conservatives like me is that progressives like Obama are making things worse, by encouraging them to resist the market economy with promises of safe spaces from the macroaggressions of the marketplace. There is no substitute for the market economy, because there is nothing that can replicate the record of the Great Enrichment that has increased per-capita income in the market lands by 3000 percent in 200 years. The policy of the left, that leads people into liberal plantations and neo-serfdom, is a cruel hoax and a lie.

The Good Thing about the Obama years is that the monstrous failures, both at home and abroad, will by January 2017 have demoralized liberals enough to have cleared the decks for action. It will permit the development of a new global strategy for US foreign policy and a new agenda of market-based reform in domestic policy.

So the failure of the "Real" Obama Doctrine really just creates an opportunity for America.

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