Comments: The Impossibly High Bar Jump

Business as usual, its how WE kick it. 26 years of the Shah and the SOB got old and sick, go figure. Good times while it rolled though, WE were even going to give them their very own missile farm to hold back the Soviet Hoard. Too bad they got religion, WE could of had something there.

Posted by Mike Meyer at March 22, 2009 02:04 PM

Hmm, I think you are both right. I think the key to his post is the paragraph that starts with "It's easy to dismiss and mock..." I think he clearly states that this is bound to be unpopular with the shreaking harpies in the west, symbolic, and only counts as a first step but necessary to begin changing how we behave.

Posted by Justin at March 22, 2009 04:14 PM

"but necessary to begin changing how we behave"

An event that as never happened ever before on a scale larger than municipal, and that's probably pushing it anyway.

I can't wait.

Posted by Salty at March 22, 2009 06:03 PM

Yeah, the "terror or arms" thing really makes it sound like a mockery. World's bully lecturing others on their "rightful place" in the community of nations. Smacks of a mafia boss talking, as usual.

Posted by abb1 at March 22, 2009 06:42 PM

So it's uncool to like Greenwald now? I mean, I disagree about his take on the Israeli lobby theory(Even Chomsky doesn't buy it: http://www.chomsky.info/articles/20060328.htm), but I hope Obama can acknowledge Iran's response. In fact, let's encoruage that by going here: http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/

Posted by Jenny at March 22, 2009 07:49 PM

"So it's uncool to like Greenwald now? "

I don't think that's the message, but John can speak for himself. I generally like Greenwald, but once in a while think he's wrong. He might or might not be wrong here. Obama's message is couched in the usual arrogant hypocritical terms of American diplomacy (we're the good guys and if you behave we'll treat you as worthy of our company), but maybe it also means Obama doesn't want to bomb them.

Posted by Donald Johnson at March 22, 2009 08:33 PM

As usual, both Obama's and Khamenei's reamrks should be seen in the context of the usual function of public pronouncements on foreign policy: pandering to domestic "constituents". There are practical reasons both sides would like to move to a rapprochement, but Obama doesn't need AIPAC's foam-flecked fangs clamped to his ankle for the next four years, and Khamenei can't get too cuddly with the Great Satan however much he'd like to end the sanctions and so on(particularly considering the kick in the teeth the Iranians received the last time they got all accommodating - which they remember, even if the US media doesn't). Amusingly, amping up the bellicose rhetoric hurts each in the longer term because it only aids the war party on the other side and thus teh war party on their own, as C. Wright Mills pointed out all those years ago.

None of the above contradicts John's remarks about the hypocrisy of Obama's pronouncements, taken at face value, or the pathological delusions demonstrated by the media reactions to the issue.

Posted by RobWeaver at March 22, 2009 09:21 PM

Greenwald's come a long way, Jenny, but he's still got a ways to go. One must properly distinguish, for present actions, between

  1. "some improvement over past U.S. policy," and
  2. "genuinely good."

Similarly, for the future one must distinguish

  1. "what it is reasonable to assume will happen, given present behavior," and
  2. "what I hope will happen."

The longer you keep your eye on the ball, the better you are at distinguishing (1) from (2). Or perhaps I've just gotten more jaded over time.

Posted by Save the Oocytes at March 22, 2009 09:35 PM

Well color me cynical about both Obama's paternalistic statement and Greenwald's take on it. Although more towards the former than the latter. I think Bernhard posed a good question about the message over at Moon of Alabama: what was Dennis Ross's hand in it? If substantial, it points to manipulation of domestic opinion in preparation for renewed (but not necessarily military) hostility. "See, we offered them our open hand, but they slapped it away! Those crazy mullahs, they can't be reasoned with!"

In terms of Greenwald, I think it represents a historical blindness to American imperialism, particularly as it's understood by its victims. I think Greenwald's actually been marginally improving in this respect, but he's got a long way to go and, frankly, I doubt he'll ever get to where I'd like him to be.

Posted by Rojo at March 22, 2009 10:12 PM

Is it really a problem that Greenwald never really embraces Chomsky? Wouldn't it be better for the far left to have an ally in the mainstream? Now that Obama's in office, let's actually campaign for improvement in his tactics of foreign affairs.

Posted by Jenny at March 22, 2009 10:31 PM

Jenny @10:31PM: EXACTLY!!!

Posted by Mike Meyer at March 22, 2009 11:12 PM

Really? You're not being sarcastic? Excellent. I personally voted for Obama in November because I liked his stance on social issues,but now I see that he has problems with foreign policy and have all ready sent the white house a message about torture renditions, but I am willing to do the same in this situation.

Posted by Jenny at March 22, 2009 11:47 PM

Jenny: I personally believe WE must guide President Obama in ALL matters. As far as Greenwald and Chomsky I basically know little or nothing of either.

Posted by Mike Meyer at March 22, 2009 11:59 PM

OOcytes:

You implied that Greenwald doesn't see your 2 distinctions, but you provided no argument for that. In fact, he makes those distinctions all the time, and it's pretty obvious that he perceives them here, even if he didn't spell them out.

That said, Jon's response is valid. Obama's message was chock full of dogwhistle imperialist saber-rattling. (Choke on THAT mixed metaphor.) And Khameini's response was far too lucid to be comprehended by anyone inside the Beltway.

Posted by Baldie McEagle at March 23, 2009 09:08 AM

Being the President of the U.S., or the leader of any country really, requires an embrace of hypocrisy.

However, as I've postulated elsewhere, Obama, as President, isn't the supreme commander of our armed forces, maybe not the commander at all, and maybe it's the opposite.

As an example from history, at the end of his Presidency when Eisenhower was about to meet with Krushchev in Paris to defuse the Cold War he gave instructions to the CIA to halt overflights of the U-2 over the Soviet Union to avoid the possibility of incidents that could derail the meeting. Voila! Francis Gary Powers was "shot down" even though the U-2 flew higher than any weapon then in the Soviet arsenal could reach. Powers, who was supposed to fly without any ID to provide deniability in case of a crash, had his military ID card on him. With Powers' crash came the end of the Paris peace talks. And the Cold War went on and its investors were happy.

You may find a similarity with the collision in the Straits of Hormuz. No better way of encouraging the Iranians to work on their own nuclear program (or more accurately, restart one) than to have a nuclear sub announce itself so ungracefully so nearby the Iranian coastline.

And a President admitting that the CIA is up to no good? Please, dear sir, you are looking at the wrong schematics. You have the false impression that the President actually runs the CIA.

Posted by Bob In Pacifica at March 23, 2009 10:26 AM

Jenny, the "far left" does not have an ally in the White House. Obama is a center-right politician who isn't interested in what the left has to say. Instead he just repeats Bush-regime lies. I'm not surprised at all by what he's saying now, it's of a piece with what he said during the campaign. And his domestic policies aren't all that hot either. The AIG mess is an indication that he doesn't know what to do, and is panicking.

I found this bit this morning. It shows that our American right doesn't pay attention to what Obama is saying either; they hear the exact opposite of whatever he says, while Obama's fans also ignore what he says. And isn't "infantile leftist" an old Communist epithet?

Posted by Duncan at March 23, 2009 10:28 AM

Jenny, Obama's current problem with foreign policy is that he has no real say over it. That he does is a delusion suffered by many, and this delusion is maintained by those in power on purpose.

Posted by Bob In Pacifica at March 23, 2009 10:49 AM

My initial assumption; and I see no reason to change it, was that this propaganda is purely to enable the US to say that it was "reaching out" to Iran when the false flag operation that serves as the pretext for the war takes place.

Posted by bilejones at March 23, 2009 12:04 PM

Bob:Who is the commander then?

Posted by Jenny at March 23, 2009 01:49 PM

I'm pleasantly surprised by some of Obamas policies -- they're a lot more lefty-ish than I would have expected it. So far; so good; mostly. (Not a fan of the corporatism that continues, but hey -- it's the Democrats - the party of big business...)

Every modern president needed to show his cojones by attacking some poor unfortunate slobs, somewhere out beyond the horizon. I don't think that Iraq or Afghanistan are Obama's war and his piling troops into Afghanistan, doesn't show machismo -- he's just stewarding the things already in place.

I wait with baited breath for the day that he bombs some shepherds somewhere to demonstrate his insensitivities to those that demand it. Maybe he'll be the president that doesn't do that -- if there was one in recent history, he may be the guy. He's a lot more articulate and thoughtful, and hasn't be paid and bought for like most of his predecessors, so maybe that'll make a difference.

Posted by Angryman@24:40 at March 23, 2009 01:55 PM

duncan:But by your argument, that author of the left field post is deluded

Posted by Jenny at March 23, 2009 02:03 PM

Jenny: Yes, and ...? I am not sure "deluded" is too strong a word for people of any party who think that Obama is a flaming liberal who wants to make the US a force for peace in the Middle East, let alone a left winger. Maybe it's not delusion, though; maybe they just stick their fingers in their ears whenever he speaks.

Bob in Pacifica, of course we're all just Kennedy-smearing CIA shills here. But it would seem that on your logic, it's pointless to talk about whether Kennedy wanted and planned to end the US invasion of Vietnam, since he didn't have any real say over it or any other foreign-policy issue. My take on Obama, however, is that I see no reason to believe that he has any interest in changing US foreign policy in the first place.

Posted by Duncan at March 23, 2009 02:32 PM

Left-anarchy is an "infantile disorder" according to Lenin.

Posted by Seth at March 23, 2009 03:06 PM
I wait with baited breath for the day that he bombs some shepherds somewhere to demonstrate his insensitivities to those that demand it.

He did that on the fourth day in office. Killed three children in the process, the youngest a five year old girl. Now that shows some major cojones.

Posted by empty at March 23, 2009 06:43 PM

I like Obama's statement because his inclusion of the phrase "Eid-eh Shoma Mobarak" at the end must have caused at least a few wingnut heads to explode. "OMIGAWD! HE'S TALKIN' MUSLIM-TALK!"

I don't think the tone of Obama's address or of Khamenei's response have so much to do with Obama or Khamenei as individuals as they have to do with the fact that Iran is a rising regional power that feels confident about its ability to withstand anything the US and Israel throw at it, while the US is a declining superpower which doesn't feel confident about much of anything these days.

Last week, I went to a talk by Phil Wilayto, author of a new book, "In defense of Iran," about a trip to Iran that he took in 2008. At the time of his visit, there was a lot of talk about a possible US attack on Iran, and one of the Iranians he spoke to told him, "Don't talk to us about 'carrots and sticks.' We don't need your carrots, and we're not afraid of your sticks." I think that sums up Khamenei's response pretty well.

Posted by SteveB at March 23, 2009 06:51 PM
He did that on the fourth day in office. Killed three children in the process, the youngest a five year old girl. Now that shows some major cojones.

Where was this? If it was in Iraq, Afghanistan or Pakistan, it clearly didn't matter -- it takes weeks to stop something in motion once the machinery is well greased.

I was talking about the posturing that precedes it; the threats, and obligatory fist waving that build up to the crescendo of smearing some shoeless shepherd kid. If it happens without preceding political fanfare, it's just routine field incompetence....

...the youngest a five year old girl.

I've often wondered how one places value on collateral loss of life relative to age.

If one is young, they clearly hadn't accomplished much of significance, and if they're old, they've clearly done with accomplishing much and were on the downswing anyway. Diminished market value in each case. The bell curve is probably fattest around 20-40 year olds being fairly productive, and having others dependent on them for their wellbeing.

But I have a feeling that what happens beyond the horizon doesn't warrant much introspection or analysis anyway; these life-value equivalences are overthinking the issue.

Posted by Angryman@24:40 at March 23, 2009 08:08 PM

Here, read it and weep: http://empty-emptycorner.blogspot.com/2009/02/crime-for-thee-but-not-for-me.html

Posted by Jenny at March 23, 2009 08:19 PM

Baldie, I did not mean to say that Greenwald never makes such distinctions. I meant to say that his seem to need improved calibration. In this case, according to the citation above, it would seem that he sees Obama's saber-rattling dog-whistle video as more progress than it really is.

Posted by Save the Oocytes at March 23, 2009 09:18 PM

Jenny: So it's uncool to like Greenwald now?

Liking Greenwald or anyone else for their political writing is uncool by definition, actually. But to respond to what I assume you're getting at, I have a lot of respect for Greenwald and I'm glad to see him writing much of what he writes, but that doesn't mean I always agree with him.

bilejones: I wouldn't be surprised. At the least I suspect Obama was intentionally sending a bifurcated message intended to curry favor with the Iranian public while simultaneously insulting the Iranian leadership.

Posted by John Caruso at March 24, 2009 02:44 AM

Well,I'm glad we're on the same page greenwald wise.

Posted by Jenny at March 24, 2009 03:53 AM

...it takes weeks to stop something in motion once the machinery is well greased.

Bull FUCKING shit. Missile strikes have to be signed off on by the president. In this case your God-Emperor Hopey McChange decided to wack a few insignificant Pakistanis to make himself look good to you murderous pwoggie-bloggie pwogwessive fucktards.

I've often wondered how one places value on collateral loss of life relative to age.

Tell ya what, you faux-liberal imperialist wad of demotard suck, let's take your youngest relative, strap him or her to a fucking cluster bomb and fucking smear him or her across the fucking horizon. How about that, you fucking smug democrat apologist?

Posted by AlanSmithee at March 24, 2009 01:35 PM

It seemed to me from the jump that this message was meant for internal--domestic, USer--consumption far more than for the Iranians...

Posted by Woody at March 24, 2009 01:46 PM
...let's take your youngest relative, strap him or her to a fucking cluster bomb and fucking smear him or her across the fucking horizon.

Him or her?

Alan, I missed you. :-)

Posted by pwoggie-bloggie pwogwessive at March 24, 2009 03:10 PM

(Smirk Smirk Snear Snear) :-))

Posted by pwoggie-bloggie pwogwessive at March 24, 2009 04:59 PM

John -

I agree with much of your overall reaction to Obama's statement. When I first heard it my immediate reaction was a bitter laugh at the idea of the US presuming to instruct other nations in the idea of civilized conduct.

But I think you ask/expect too much of a message that, as others have noted, has multiple audiences - including a domestic one - and so has to be regarded as possibly being a first, politically cautious, step toward a changed policy. (Yes, it would have been nice if he'd at least mentioned Mossadegh but with the statement as it stood already being denounced by voices on the right as "appeasement" and "surrender," I'm hardly surprised he declined to give them that opening to amplify their predictable attacks.)

So for the moment I'm going to refrain from being too harsh and see what happens now. If it's followed up by some kind of "well, we tried" line, I'll agree it was a fake designed to justify continued belligerence. If it's followed up by some, even if small, step in the right direction, I think you'll have to agree that this was not just "the slogan of change" devoid of potential.

Posted by LarryE at March 24, 2009 05:13 PM

Jenny's rocking the same themes she rocked for Chip Berlet.

Love that gatekeeper stuff, Jenny.

Love it.

Please, let's dispense with facts, logic, reasoning. Let's just talk about the hopey changefulness of His Barackness, our Obamessiah.

As to Greenwald -- naive, naive, naive. His legal reasoning isn't even that good. His popularity has more to do with his pandering, than his honesty.

Posted by micah pyre at March 24, 2009 10:24 PM

Aren't you the condescending bastard who looked down on Obama supporters just because they didn't follow your dogma?

Posted by Jenny at March 24, 2009 10:48 PM

LarryE: If it's followed up by some, even if small, step in the right direction, I think you'll have to agree that this was not just "the slogan of change" devoid of potential.

I didn't say it was devoid of potential; in fact, that's all it's got. But it's unlikely that a small step in the right direction would constitute meaningful change for me on this issue (any more than this small step did). We'll see what happens.

Regarding this:

...I'm hardly surprised he declined to give them that opening to amplify their predictable attacks.

You seem to be assuming that he would have liked to have mentioned some of the relevant history, but I don't see any reason to give him that benefit of the doubt—and I think it's generally a bad idea to do so. No good can come from assuming the best rather than the worst about Obama, and the evidence (of history, and of his administration thus far) strongly argues that we should fill the void of our ignorance with skepticism rather than faith.

Posted by John Caruso at March 24, 2009 11:35 PM

On other thing, Jenny: although I do respect Greenwald, there are a few things about him that regularly bug me, both of which are operative in this case. First, he makes it a frequent habit to caricature those to his left (as in this article, where he described them as a "vocal group mocking [Obama's message] as an empty gesture from America's bloodthirsty and war-craving emperor"), and second, I think his background as a lawyer sometimes undercuts him in his role as an analyst. I'm specifically thinking here about his "[Obama] never once mentions Iran's nuclear program" claim; how did someone with Greenwald's famous level of attention to detail manage to miss two fairly clear references to Iran's nuclear program—and that in a message which he parsed closely enough to state that Obama "repeatedly emphasizes 'a promise of a new day'"? I don't know whether this was a major oversight, Clintonian disingenuousness (the statement is literally true, after all, if entirely misleading), or something in between, but I do think that Greenwald's background as an advocate inclines him even more so than the average human being to ignore, minimize, or miss information that contradicts his premise.

And I also think he has a blind spot the size of Montana when it comes to evaluating U.S. policy—namely, a belief that the U.S. is, underneath it all, a force for good. It's to his credit that he writes so much that's worthwhile despite this handicap.

Posted by John Caruso at March 24, 2009 11:48 PM

I see,I think Obama's done a few good things so far:legalizing stem cell research and allowing women to sue for pay discrimination,but yes: there are a lot of problems. Personally however,we should strive to make this country better. not bemoan how fucked up it is. You seem to have a rather fatalistic streak in you: do you want to improve what you have or rip the U.S. Society up and start again?

Posted by Jenny at March 25, 2009 12:51 AM

Personally however,we should strive to make this country better. not bemoan how fucked up it is.

There's no contradiction between the two, and in fact the usual point of "bemoaning" in instances like this is to call attention to those things that need to be changed.

Posted by John Caruso at March 25, 2009 02:05 AM

Yes,but what are your suggestions for changing it?

Posted by Jenny at March 25, 2009 02:21 AM

John -

it's unlikely that a small step in the right direction would constitute meaningful change for me

Meaningful change of the kind we are talking about here is not going to come like Evel Knievel jumping a canyon - it's going to come like inching across a rope bridge. And I have to say that I did not come away from your post thinking that you saw any potential in Obama's statement.

You seem to be assuming that he would have liked to have mentioned some of the relevant history

I made no such assumption. (What I actually assume is the idea of mentioning Mossedegh never occurred to them at all.) What I was saying, which I thought was clear in context but perhaps wasn't, was that doubtless knowing what kind of reaction from the right the video would (and did) get, even if Obama had wanted to apologize about the overthrow of Mossadegh, he wouldn't have done it in that message. The point being that contrary to you, I was not the least disturbed that there was no such (or related) reference because I never would have expected there to be one.

Finally, before you go further with thinking I need to be lectured about not just giving Obama the benefit of the doubt, you might check this and what follows.

Posted by LarryE at March 25, 2009 04:18 AM

But, Jooooooohn? Voting for Emperor Obama is the very very least we could do and still maintain our mind-fucking-boggling apathy! Whaddawegonnadoooooooooo? What democrat should we vote for nooooooow? Tell us what to do so we don't have to think for ourselves, John!

Posted by A.Pwog at March 25, 2009 01:01 PM

Jenny: Yes,but what are your suggestions for changing it?

Sticking to this topic, I'd like to see Obama carry out any one of Khamenei's suggestions.

LarryE: And I have to say that I did not come away from your post thinking that you saw any potential in Obama's statement.

I don't think it presages some significant change in Obama's Iran policy, no—it's just an expansion of his "we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist" statement—but it also doesn't preclude it, of course. We'll see what happens, but my point is that this message on its own isn't a reason to get excited.

The point being that contrary to you, I was not the least disturbed that there was no such (or related) reference because I never would have expected there to be one.

I'm not sure where you got the notion that I expected such a reference or that I was disturbed by its absence. The point of the part of the posting you're talking about here was just that Obama's message lacks anything that would represent significant change (with Mossadegh being the example of just how low that bar is).

Posted by John Caruso at March 25, 2009 01:25 PM

I'm not sure where you got the notion that I expected such a reference or that I was disturbed by its absence.

Oh for God's sake, John, you said [edited]:

I thought that the least he could have done if he was committed to change was to apologize for (or even just acknowledge) the U.S.-backed overthrow of Mossadegh, which is public knowledge and entirely indefensible. But even such a small symbolic gesture was too much.

Am I really to conclude from that, that you were in no way disturbed by the absence of any "such (or related) reference" - the "or related" clearly indicating I was not referring solely to Mossadegh - even though it was "the least he could have done?" Come on.

Look, I'm not going to pursue this any further because it just isn't important enough for us to spend a lot of time on how "disturbed" you were or weren't. But I still think, as I did at the beginning, that you expected too much of the statement, looked for a dramatic break from past policy and found anything less than that a political fraud. If this doesn't get followed up, I'll agree with you that it was a fake designed to justify belligerence. But if it is followed up, I think you'll have to agree that your initial judgment was too harsh.

Posted by LarryE at March 25, 2009 08:31 PM

Oh for God's sake, John...

Please keep it civil, Larry.

Look: you're misreading what I wrote, and badly. I'm surprised you won't take my word for it (since I obviously have privileged knowledge of my own thoughts), but that's up to you.

To explain it one last time: the point of the paragraph you cite was to say that as I was evaluating Obama's statement, I had in mind one particular example of the least he could do to show that this was a genuine change from past policy. I wasn't "expecting" it to be there, and I was neither surprised nor "disturbed" by its absence (just the opposite—I'd have been dumbfounded if he had said it, or anything like it).

And no, I'm not saying Obama would have had to mention Mossadegh for this message to have represented meaningful change to me; it's just one example.

But if it is followed up, I think you'll have to agree that your initial judgment was too harsh.

No, because I've never said that this message from Obama precludes significant changes in the future (though I don't expect them)—just that it represents no significant change in and of itself.

Posted by John Caruso at March 25, 2009 11:00 PM