Friday, October 09, 2009

Schmeace Prize

This would make a sick joke of the Nobel Peace prize, if the committee hadn't already done so long ago by awarding one to Henry Kissinger and Le Duc Tho (who at least had the decency to refuse it).



At 3:02 PM, October 09, 2009, Anonymous Ovid said...

Arafat, Begin, Robert Cecil, Teddy Roosevelt, Frank Kellogg, I'm sure others: Kissinger isn't alone among the recipients who make clear that the prize isn't always about exemplary pacifism or humanitarianism.

The Nobel Committee was foolish to pick Obama now. His receipt of the award will probably just make it harder for him to disagree with the Generals when he wants to. I can imagine the jokes that must have been told about this already over at the Pentagon.

At 3:55 PM, October 09, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

He is promoting international diplomacy by, say, letting the Honduran dictatorship set up a sniper platform at the Brazilian embassy?

Preventing the consideration, at least for now, of the Goldstone report?

Obama is the vessel of so many hopes and expectations. Too many.


At 5:33 PM, October 09, 2009, Anonymous Ovid said...

Charles, I agree that he is the vessel of too many hopes and expectations, and people need to quit thinking Presidents are going to change everything. Alas, they only seem able to change things dramatically for the worse.

I think it was stupid to give Obama the Nobel Peace Prize, but I have a little trouble understanding how he could prevent the Honduran dictatorship from setting up a sniper platform. Still, I agree that his administration clearly has decided not to fight much for democracy in Honduras.

At 5:59 PM, October 09, 2009, Blogger Nell said...

have a little trouble understanding how he could prevent the Honduran dictatorship from setting up a sniper platform.

He could start by pointing out that they are doing so, and how that is a hostile military action against a friendly government.

He could denounce it along with the regime's many other dictatorship-related activities -- something he hasn't troubled himself to do even once, despite 15murders, hundreds of beatings, mass jailings, and the military shutdown of TV and radio stations (with more to come).

He could have his UN ambassador call for an immediate UN security council meeting, this time to do something real to respond to the continued violations of diplomatic immunity around and at the Brazilian embassy (I suggest blue helmets).

By having his Secretary of State formally declare a military coup, with the attendant consequences for U.S. aid and U.S. military at Soto Cano.

He could have his Secretary of the Treasury pull himself away from phone chats with bankers long enough to freeze the U.S. accounts of Gen. Vasquez, the rest of the joint chiefs, Micheletti, Lopez, the Canahuatis, the Facusses, and Amilcar Bulnes.

He could have his Secretary of State fly to Tegucigalpa to visit with Pres. Zelaya in the embassy, express her support for his restoration to office, and her outrage at the militarization of the embassy and environs.

He could thank the government of Brazil for its part in making it possible for the rightful president of Honduras to stay in the country.

At 10:07 PM, October 09, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ovid asks, "...I have a little trouble understanding how he [Obama] could prevent the Honduran dictatorship from setting up a sniper platform."

You know, Ovid, I don't.

If Obama had sent just one US Marine or one junior consular official to stay as a guest in the embassy, or if he had daily sent Hugo Llorens with the newspapers to inquire as to President Zelaya's conditions, the regime would have gotten the message that he was serious about enforcing the Vienna accord of 1961.

There are ways to do diplomacy. Sending Lew Amselem to represent your government, having your Assistant Secretary of State smirk about the coup to the point that the press corps asks him if the United States supports the coup, having your Secretary of State scold Zelaya for daring (daring!) to want to go home to be with his wife and kids and the people who are depending on him-- these are not them.

There's only one coin of the realm when it comes to diplomacy: credibility. That's usually a code word for willingness to use violence. But that's not what it means. It means having a message consistent with your actions. Obama has failed that test in the Israel-Palestine dispute, failed it with torture, failed it with withdrawal from Iraq, and failed it in Honduras. He says one thing and does something different, but different in a way that the press gives him a pass.

I don't object to him receiving the Peace Prize. I only hope that three years from now, that's not the punchline for late night humor.

At 10:11 PM, October 09, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nell says, "He could thank the government of Brazil for its part in making it possible for the rightful president of Honduras to stay in the country."

Amen to that, Nell. Of all the failings of this Administration, the worst is that they don't acknowledge the constructive leadership of Latin America. Even that little weasel running Mexico, the guy we called FeCal during the 2006 election aftermath, shines compared to our State Department.

(this post, and post above)

At 9:12 AM, October 10, 2009, Anonymous Ovid said...

I can understand all that anger and frustration, but the Honduran military could set up the sniper platform anyway. And they could do plenty more damage than that too, and the US military could help them, and there really isn't that much Obama could effectively do about it. It's not like this sort of thing has never happened before. Presidents have frequently run into this problem with the military; it just doesn't make it into the media, or even academic writing.

I don't want to demoralize you guys, but Obama cannot snap his fingers and make everyone in the military and at State and elsewhere else in the government fall into line and immediately get with his program and work to achieve his ends. There are ways to do things to get around a disliked chosen course of Executive action, and the political opposition with its allies and PR campaign has its tentacles in the bureaucracy and military. Hell, they almost ARE the military. And the public just loves them, because NOBODY ever challenges their nonpartisanship and patriotism and they have a huge PR machines and a virtual lock on the media. So it's always politically dangerous for a President to get on the wrong side of the Pentagon.

If Obama wants to get anything done, a statement or two here and there won't do it. Cutting off aid could do more, of course, though not as fast as we might like, and that conginency may have been addressed by the coup planners. But that's only part of the problem. As I've explained before, Obama can't really responsibly go part way in support of Zelaya. The opposition very well might call his bet and raise him, and if Obama were bluffing, the results would be tragic and bloody. He can't embolden Zelaya's supporters and then not follow through all the way if the Honduran military cracks down hard. It could even be that this Honduran coup was supported precisely to tempt Obama into the wrong political fight at the wrong time for him. Obama really is surrounded by vipers, so he has to be careful. So I don't conclude from what I've seen that he is supportive or indifferent to the coup. I assume he is thinking about the political landscape and what he can and can't do.

Obama obviously isn't willing to fight a real battle with his own military and NGOs and State Department for democracy in Honduras right now. You can blame him for that, and I fault him for that too. It's a mark against him and his administration. I just don't assume that it means that he doesn't care at all about democracy in Honduras, or that he likes what is going on there. I think our military and the GOP, and maybe even Clinton beacuse she has become so tight with the evangelicals and NGOs, are the real bad guys on this. I don't even know enough to know whether Obama has made the wrong political decision. I'm not confident that he would win the political fight he would need to have to help Zelaya, because simultaneously fighting the military and the media and the political opposition and even elements of your own Administration for a Honduran politician who has been rejected by his own Supreme Court and his own military, but has the support of Chavez and Castro among others, would make for a very tough political battle for Obama. The Nobel Peace Prize doesn't help, either.

You guys are doing yeoman's work, and I support it entirely. There was a time after my brief exposure to the dinnery party politics of the Latin American elite when I did a little bit of low-level human rights work down in El Salvador and Guatemala, and more here domestically, and our treatment of the region disgusts me, and I know it's frustrating to have the damn government not do a damn thing when people are getting killed. There is a lot to be angry about.

I just don't think Obama is the problem, or even the bad guy on this.

At 9:30 AM, October 10, 2009, Anonymous Ovid said...

Here's a personal story of some relevance that affects my outlook about the real power of Presidential rhetoric. I once attended a dinner, one of my few such glimpses into elite life, where an oil executive, two ambassadors to Colombia, and the richest guy I have probably ever met sat around smoking cigars in tuxes badmouthing Belisario Betancur, then President of Colombia, and chortling about how he was trying to do this and that, like keep workers from being laid off, but with no success because no one was doing what he said. Hahahahaha! They really got a good laugh out of that fool President thinking he could tell them what to do. Typical liberal left-wing populist socialist fool!

Now, I haven't run that much with the wealthy or powerful, so I never forgot that evening, just as I have never forgot hunting with some very racist DEA agents down there where our seven new bases are now going. My hunting companions were extremely large white guys who were as redneck as the worst sort I ever met out in the Heartland, as big and countrified as many of my own relatives, but not quite so nice. They had been in Vietnam as Special Forces and then worked in LA on the swat team. I kid you not, one of those guys was bearded, very big, silent, and wore a seed corn hat that said "the way to a man's heart is through his fly," and the other, a talker with a sadistic bully's personality, told stories about African-Americans in LA with altogether different descriptors that were obviously intended to provoke me. You know, typical bullying talk prompted in part by his irritation that I, a young educated liberal punk who he could eat for breakfast, was with, and therefore under the protection of, The Big Dog. That galled him. Rednecks like that HATE guys like me who they can't smack around, (and tough as I am in my own mind, I have to admit that it would't have taken him more than about ten seconds to kill me). Someone like Barack Obama they hate on a whole other level, and I'll leave it to you to guess why.

Neither the elites who implement Obama Administration policy out there in the Empire nor the foot soldiers out there carrying out the policies that are actually implemented, as opposed to issued or decreed, are on the same page as the rhetoric of Barack Obama, and he can do all the fine speaking he wants, and it will undoubtedly continue to thrill the Nobel Norwegians, but those people out there throughout the Empire still translate HIS words into THEIR actions. Needless to say, more than a little gets lost in the translation.

At 1:03 PM, October 10, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You raise a fair point, Ovid. What you describe is the consequence of 60 years of presidents not leading (of misleading, in the case of Republicans), of not explaining to Americans the importance of humility and frugality and goodwill and the rest of the virtues that strengthen a nation. We have created an empire rather than an alliance, and in consequence many Americans have become centurions rather than missionaries of national friendship. No man can undo the mess, much less in a few months.

There's no question that if Obama had engaged in a frontal attack on the Honduran oligarchy, the right would have used it against him. By everything the United States claims to espouse, he should seize bank accounts, should shut down trade, should openly declare it a military coup; the US did something similar with Iran over the nuclear issue, even though international law actually favors Iran. But there would be a political cost, whereas verbal attacks on Iran are politically cost-free. Personally, I think that Democrats encourage Republicans in their extremism by not calling them on it, but since I haven't carried the duties of the presidency, I'm willing to admit that there may be things I don't know.

I'm not sure that disloyalty in the military or the diplomatic corps, with some notable exceptions like Amselem and the Liberty University burrow-ins, is a problem. A lack of leadership from people like PJ Crowley and Hillary Clinton... that could be a problem. The greater problem is with the Honduran elite. The attitudes among them are so toxic that even with the US effort fully aligned, this would be a difficult struggle.

And to Obama's credit, he called it right from the beginning. He may have said nothing since then, but what he said in the very beginning was correct.

My doubts about Obama actually go back to before when he was a presidential candidate. I had supported him on his Senate run. Just small change, but in that campaign, early money mattered. (That and the implosion of his opponent). The bankruptcy bill came up, and he voted tactically rather than in the interests of the nation. The telecomm amnesty bill: he abruptly changed sides and voted to protect the telecommunications companies from liability for what they knew were illegal actions. And then he made a pronouncement that made me doubt his fitness for the presidency. He announced that the war in Afghanistan should be extended into Pakistan. Not with the caveat that we ought to get the permission of the Pakistani government first. Just fire away. That statement, much less the actualization of it by George Bush, who wasn't gonna be out-yahooed, destabilized Pakistan and could have led to the very weak government falling. It was irresponsible. All of this happened well before he won the nomination. I am appalled by so many of his actions after taking office. Is this America, where the liberals continue to hold people without charges, wiretap without warrants, permit torture as long as it's out of sight, suppress dissent with weapons just like the Honduran military use?

Maybe he will surprise me. Maybe all of this tactical positioning will be used for great good as the crown sits steadier on his head. But at this point, Obama seems clever but not wise, adept but not constant in his vision.


At 2:41 PM, October 10, 2009, Anonymous Ovid said...


I can't really disagree with any of that. You know more about Obama's Senate career than I do. I don't mean to suggest that I'm a huge fan of his, because unlike the Nobel Committee, I don't think it's wise to get too impressed by someone just starting out. I like his smarts, and I perhaps studidly tend to think he wouldn't want to disappoint his mother too much, but of course he is also hugely ambitious and a professional politician, and that subspecies of homo sapiens doesn't take enormous political risks--they just don't, not even the best of them. Expecting them to do that is like expecting cats to bark and dogs to meow. What they do, across the board, depends on the balance of political forces around them. But some are obviously better than others, especially when a lot is at stake.

I like Obama much better than Bush and Cheney by a mile, and better than the military and the Right for the same reasons. The military and the National Security State is the problem. Obama hasn't greatly disappointed me because I see the balance of power tipping so decidedly in favor of corporate power and the military right now. That's what needs to change, but politicans don't ever get too far out in front of movements.

My prediction is that Obama won't be able to get all that much done in his first term, and if it looks like he will serve two terms and can really change things, he better get his own security and make sure they're good. For now, if he gets some kind of health care reform passed and keeps the military from escalating in Afghanistan, I'll be impressed.

Longer term, there's more to worry about. I don't want the Hondurans to get shafted, of course, just as I didn't want them or the El Salvadorans and Nicaraguans and Guatemalans to get shafted back in the 80s. And I really worry about those seven bases going into Colombia. Iran may not get attacked, because they are right next to the Gulf and it involves great risk for those Pentagon planners. But Venezuela is in this hemisphere and has oil.

As for partisanship and disloyalty in the military, read Andrew Bacevich's books. Each and every one of them is worth it.

At 10:10 PM, October 10, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been meaning to read Bacevich.

And, yeah, as long as he doesn't launch World War III or repeal the Bill of Rights, I would never take back my vote for Obama. His opponent all but promised to bomb Iran, after all. Offered crazy and not-crazy, the choice was easy.


At 4:13 PM, October 13, 2009, Anonymous Ovid said...

Zelaya handles questions quite well.

At 7:10 AM, December 29, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Obama, dear people, is part of the problem. Period. Get some eye rinse. Give your heads a shake. Whatever. You'll never be a part of the solution, the fight-back, while you believe in and support Republicrats.

I weep for Honduras (and appreciate voices, such as this blog's author, who speak about the unspeakable crime committed against her). Obama doesn't even bother to notice.



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