Comments: The Obama Philosophy

No, it still makes no sense. Why work so hard to be president if you still have to eat sh*t from all your "subordinates"? Better to stay in the Senate and not humiliate yourself so openly.

Posted by Carl at June 22, 2010 06:41 PM

NO SWEAT, Stan's gonna quit, more money at Blackwater.

Posted by Mike Meyer at June 22, 2010 07:09 PM

I wonder if the General has any political ambitions.

Posted by Donald Johnson at June 22, 2010 07:33 PM

I'll give big odds that we aren't going to be hearing anything from the Prez about General McChrystal's "wisdom," and I doubt we'll hear much about our budding Macarthur's "leadership," either, given how freely he seems to have encouraged his staff to openly mock Obama to a reporter for quite a while. (Note that McChrystal and Hillary get along great.)

I am curious what McChrystal was thinking. Maybe he and his are so macho they just couldn't help it, but maybe it was calculated. Watch closely and pay attention folks.

Posted by N E at June 22, 2010 08:06 PM

maybe mcChristal & his disciples just couldn't avoid the obvious: how mockable obama really is. the realities of power eventually come into conflict with the formalities masking the realities.

Posted by anonymous at June 22, 2010 08:15 PM

maybe mcChristal & his disciples just couldn't avoid the obvious: how mockable obama really is.

Actually, the mocking in the article is almost all of other people in the Obama administration, not Obama himself. The only one McChrystal & co. like is Hillary.

Posted by Jonathan Schwarz at June 22, 2010 08:25 PM

McChrystal is a liar and a coward. He lied about the fate of Pat Tillman and was afraid to tell his mother the truth. Obama picked McChrystal for the job knowing this, if he cared to know it just as the USA picked Obama knowing exactly what he was, if they cared to.

Posted by drip at June 22, 2010 09:18 PM


Donald Johnson

Although I compared McChrystal to Macarthur, I don't think McChrystal could stand being a politician. That's Petraeus's gig. McChrystal is quite the Rambo, too manly for politics. Probably even for his own show.

I hope people don't believe everything they read in Rolling Stone. I chuckled when it said McChrystal voted for Obama. Sure he did. But worse is all that crap about COIN, which mostly just means we plan on staying for a while. More BS military doctrine. The article glamorizes the badass warrior cult.

Posted by N E at June 22, 2010 09:48 PM

I agree, We can't have the help badmouthing the Administration, even if they do have a point. But really, isn't THAT what EMPIRE is all about? Sucking it up when YOU have to. The next general WILL end up thinking the same thing. ALL he would have to do is toss down a coupla of shots AND WE're back to square one.

Posted by Mike Meyer at June 23, 2010 03:19 AM


drip

From Pat Tillman's Wikipedia entry:

"The September 25, 2005, edition of the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper reported that Tillman held views which were critical of the Iraq war. According to Tillman's mother, a friend of Tillman had arranged a meeting with author Noam Chomsky, a prominent critic of American foreign and military policy, to take place after his return from Afghanistan. Chomsky has confirmed this.[9]"

The footnote is to this eye-opening Nation article, which I remember reading at the time:

http://www.thenation.com/article/pat-tillman-our-hero

When the poster boy of military recruiting is about to OPENLY become an anti-war activist and ruin everything, and he is still on active duty in a war zone, nobody should be terribly surprised that he has an accident. And, of course, maybe it really was an accident, but it certainly was an accident that headed off a big problem for General McChrystal and Team Rambo.

Not that the macho, right-wing special forces superpatriots who kill people daily, often probably without knowing why, would frag an American hero for a reason like that, like he was just another arab. We can't think that, can we?

Posted by N E at June 23, 2010 09:28 AM

Yep, when I read that passage back before the election, I thought to myself, "That's a tell, if ever there were". Combining this with the FISA vote, you would have known exactly what was coming.

So, drip, your observation was spot-on. Unfortunately, it's hard work being a citizen, and our media help to keep our low-information electorate uninformed, as Jonathan trenchantly observed vis a vis NPR's Talk of the Nation about a week ago.

Ran across this link to a speech from Edward R. Murrow concerning the responsibility of the electronic media, and the ominous trends observable even then. Long, but worth the read.

http://mikeswritingworkshop.blogspot.com/2009/02/edward-r-murrows-famous-1958-speech-on.html

Posted by JerseyJeffersonian at June 23, 2010 09:54 AM

Regardless of whether he has political ambitions, I imagine McChrystal wants out. Otherwise people might blame him for losing Afghanistan. Hence, the interview "slip-up."

Posted by Jonathan Versen at June 23, 2010 10:53 AM

"lthough I compared McChrystal to Macarthur, I don't think McChrystal could stand being a politician. That's Petraeus's gig. '

Yeah, I had Petraeus mixed up with McChrystal when I typed that.

Posted by Donald Johnson at June 23, 2010 12:07 PM

There is no way McChrystal wants out because he doesn't want to be blamed for losing. That is not how our Rambos think.

Ponder this possibility: If Obama fires McChrystal now, it will be more difficult for him to gain political control over the military situation in Afghanistan, because there will be (and already have been) outcries that it would be a bad military decision made for political reasons. A lack of statesmanship and the thick skin needed to lead.

On the other hand, if Obama doesn't fire McChrystal now, it will be more difficult for him to gain political control over the military situation in Afghanistan, because he will have had to deliberately look the other way while McChrystal pissed on his shoes, which will make it easier to portray any steps toward withdrawal as weakness. It's never good to look weaker, and the weaker you look the worse it is.

But maybe McChrystal and his crew are just full of themselves and not stratetic thinkers at all.

Posted by N E at June 23, 2010 12:56 PM

McChrystal out, Petraeus in. I didn't see that coming. This is quite a chess match. I guess Petraeus probably won't be running against Obama in 2012.

Posted by N E at June 23, 2010 02:01 PM

Obama might have hit two birds with one stone here. Petraeus has been getting VERY aggressive as Centcom commander, which he is apparently giving up to replace McChrystal. Obama might not have liked some of Petraeus's orders, one of which significantly broadened US military activity in a host of places, though secretly, unaccountably, and possibly without even asking. I think the latter question is an open question, though Robert Dreyfuss noted in the Nation only matters if you need to choose which bad thing to think about Obama. It was and is up to him to do something about these things.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/25/world/25military.html

Posted by N E at June 23, 2010 02:36 PM

Chess match? In whose mind?

Obama has a weakness for Bush-era military appointments, so Petraeus makes perfect sense. If you're committed to extended death, destruction and misery, you go with the experts, the ones with cred. More like bouncing a ball off a wall than chess.

Posted by Dennis Perrin at June 23, 2010 02:41 PM

Dennis Perrin

Sickening as it is, EVERYBODY involved in decision-making at the top of the US government is committed to extended death, destruction, and misery as a practical reality. But there are still differences among them, and I'm pretty sure both McChrystal and Petraeus want more of it than Obama. But even if they're basically about the same as Obama there, they're still definitely his adversaries. And I like to keep my eye on them.

Maybe unlike me and Robert Dreyfuss, you know that Obama signed off on Petraeus's Sept 2009 Order that was reported last month in the NY TImes in the link above. But Petraeus and those Generals are much more powerful than the average ATR reader likes to think. You might notice in Obama's remarks when announcing the firing of McChrystal, he specifically mentioned the importance of civilian control of the military, which was once a fine American aspiration, but about which there has been a whole lot of denial for a long while now. Those Generals aren't just implements used by politicians. They have their own agendas and goals, and the politicans have to recognize it and react, or they end up as the implements being used by the Generals.

Ponder this possibility. IF Obama wanted to show the Generals that they aren't untouchable and to specifically punish McChrystal's insubordination, he certainly did it by firing McChrystal, and he also immunized himself against criticism by putting the much-glorified Petraeus in his chair. Nice move that.

And IF Obama wanted to stop Petraeus from running wild with his control of Centcom by issuing orders like the reported Sept 2009 Order that vastly expanded US military operations outside of Iraq and Afghanistan, reassigning Petraeus may have accomplished that, but Obama immunized himself against criticism there by putting Petraeus in charge of the Afghanistan war. And, as a bonus for himself, he also made it harder for Petraeus to use the handling of the Afghan war against him politically. Nice moves that too.

So if you ask me, that's some mighty fine chess, not just stupid ball bouncing, and Obama has played this well. Of course, it is pretty disgusting that our politics now amount to nothing but the administration of theft and violence in one form or another, so I'm not saying Obama should win the Nobel Peace Prize or anything. Still, I prefer that he play this sickening game well than badly, because those guys you call "Bush Generals" as though everything is always a Presidential creation, those Generals won't ever want to stop playing this game until the earth is a little lifeless rock.

So that civilian control idea really might matter one of these days, if it ever really exists in any meaningful way. Of course, maybe I'm a silly dreamer full of hopey change or something dumb like that and I should just go bounce a ball off my head instead of worrying about the next really big war so much. Que sera sera.

Posted by N E at June 23, 2010 04:16 PM

Hey Perrin! Are you questioning my metaphors? Don't get me all riled up! Watch it or I'll use some big words and quote some prof from Cornell!

Posted by some guy at June 23, 2010 05:22 PM

NE:

I can't fully respond to your claims since many of them seem to be faith-based. And coming from a family of religious right wingers, I know it's a waste of time trying to sway the faithful from their beliefs.

You seem to know how Obama thinks, based on what I've no clue. Maybe you're psychic. Anything's possible. All I have to go on is the public record, shabby and compromised though it is. The Terror Wars continue. Obama is fueling the wars on many fronts, including surrounding himself with militarist reactionaries. You suggest he's playing them like Fisher played Spassky. Maybe he is. I have no direct line to Obama's brain, so I cannot say. You have more confidence than me. Well, hope comes in many sizes.

I was in the military, worked with the officer corps, foreign officers included. I was offered a bonus by my CO to re-enlist, go to OCS and earn my Lieutenant bar. So I have some idea how the military operates. Indeed, it was the Army that first radicalized me, which is why I politely refused the offer and returned to civilian life. Hate to be the one to tell you this, but we live in a corporate police state that receives and earns billions. Endless war is part of the program. The concept of civilian control over the military, while quaint, is perhaps best left to 6th grade civics teachers. We passed through that veil long ago. Obama ain't gonna reverse it, even if he wants to.

Then again, maybe Obama's different. Maybe, like Neo, he's The One and the Machines are nervous. I only hope he wraps it up in the first installment. Those two sequels sucked.

Posted by Dennis Perrin at June 23, 2010 06:17 PM

Dennis Perrin

I didn't make (or say I made) any claims. I posited a possibility that might be true as far as I know, and it sounds like it might be true as far as you know too. So that's a possibility to consider, and why politically what he did seemed smart to me. Unfortunately, everything is so secret that we can't be sure of too much until years later. Maybe McChrystal really did vote for Obama, and maybe Petraeus and Obama see eye to eye on all this stuff, but that doesn't make any sense to me, and it conflicts with everything I think I understand after trying to figure out how this crappy system works.

My method is basically to consider possibilities by presuming that current behavior in these areas is similar to past behavior from decades ago, as to which much more information is known. That isn't necessarily right, and it runs the risk that something I haven't accounted for has changed, but it's my best shot at a method for trying to understand the inner workings of the government in these areas where almost EVERYTHING is classified unless it is leaked for an ulterior purpose. It'd be great if we had a better way to know what's really going on since these are enormously important issues, but that's what we've got.

I think agree with nearly everything you said, so it seems we both recognize that there's plenty beyond Obama that's worthy of contempt. Not that he isn't contemptible, objectively speaking, but how much compared to guys like McChrystal and Petraeus is hard for me to say. And what's in his heart of hearts I couldn't begin to guess.

One thing I don't get is this: If you know there really isn't civilian control of the military, why focus on how immoral the President is? And why presume he's the cause of everything just because you were told over and over how that moron Harry Truman said "The Buck Stops Here." Certainly Obama is at a minimum a compromiser and rationalizer and unreliable and not so brave, but that's just about every politician. We have a rotten political system. Politicians need to be loved and are full of fear. It's what they are.

I also realy don't understand the view that he surrounded himself with military reactionaries like McChrystal or Petraeus. Just exactly what peace-loving Generals should he have surrounded himself with? Guys like that are what he had to work with. The Pentagon isn't easy to micromanage, not even for someone like Gates (whose position in that job suggests Obama made his compromise with Power very early on). If you expected Obama to clean house, you seem to be relapsing into that view that the civilians are really calling all the shots. In fact, that was never a real possibility.

All that being said, just because the guy is in a fundamental way a compromising, rationalizing, lackey for powerful corporate and military interests doesn't mean he is the worst of the worst, and some of these towering moral mediocrities who end up President in the past figured out how to work the system to find some power in their position and use it to make things a little better. I was never expecting Obama to be transformative, because "We the People" have let things go for too long, and WE need to fix that.

As of yet, Obama hasn't yet shown anything to suggest he'd even try to do anything brave, but if he can find his balls down there in his pants, the guy seems very politically smart to me. I know the Generals will take us in the wrong direction unless somebody is able to stop them, and whoever that is will first of all have to want to do it, but he'll also need to have the political skill to get it done. In my view, Obama has only one of those things so far.

Posted by N E at June 23, 2010 07:17 PM

OPIUM IS THE OPIATE OF THE MASSES and Stan just lost control of the world's supply, pretty much willingly it seems. Maybe he's just plain ready to retire.

Posted by Mike Meyer at June 23, 2010 07:43 PM

NE:

I have contempt for all who lord over me. I'm like that. The prez is pitched as the National Dad, which is irritating enough, but what really confounds me is how many supposedly intelligent people buy into the Father Leader concept. I suppose it shouldn't, given human history, but it does. I'm like that too.

The sole expectation I had for Obama is what he's already doing. Nothing surprises me about him. I think he's a smart hustler who cashed in on a ripe opportunity -- eight ruinous years of Bush/Cheney. Shit, I bet Mondale or Dukakis could've won in '08. It was there for the taking. Now he's in the manager's seat, performing his systemic function. Personalities differ, but at that level, everyone's pretty much on the same page. They have to be, 'else the system suffers. We can't have that.

There are officers who aren't completely nuts. As much as I disagreed with Colin Powell, he was not Curtis LeMay. I worked with officers who were relatively sane, apart from wanting to re-invade North Korea, as a few I knew desired. A war economy owned by corporations will and has bent many minds, so it's no wonder there are lunatics bearing stars. Obama's not exempt from this -- how can he be? Yet many libs hold out hope that somehow he's untainted by a process in which he is soaked. Given their lack of political power, I guess that's better than nothing.

Posted by Dennis Perrin at June 23, 2010 10:40 PM

I guess a lack of a college degree prevents me from over-analyzing these things. I just see some sociopaths in a slap fight.

Posted by Happy Jack at June 24, 2010 12:05 AM

That's not a nice thing to say about NE and Dennis, Happy Jack.

Just kidding, fellas. Good to see NE has a new sparring partner.

I'm surprised you underestimated the O-bomb's vanity, JS. He bows to those who write him checks. Generals don't have real power until they are on the board of directors of Boeing.

Posted by Marcus at June 24, 2010 02:34 AM

Happy Jack:

I never went to college. High school to garbage truck to installing gutters to the Army. A sociopath? Depends on what I'm wearing.

I'm guessing you're not old but you are a man. I see you living in sand. Close?

Posted by Dennis Perrin at June 24, 2010 09:19 AM

Dennis

I don't like the National Dad thing either, or how we're all force fed everything, and I can certainly understand your thinking Obama is a con artist. That's how I feel about Powell. He is sane, and better than LeMay, but he's always been an opportunist with a slick marketing campaign behind him but underneath pretty willing to do anything. That could well be Obama too. One definitely has to be careful about believing the marketing.

I actually think the way our politics are managed is important. Neither Dukakis nor Mondale could have won in 08, though Hillary certainly could have and was expected to. She had already made her deals with her supposed enemies. But Obama quickly became acceptable to some key sectors too (Wall Street and its wholly-owned subsidiary Langley), provided he made the right assurances. He did, and our Secretary Gates is testament to that. You're right that anybody could have won against McCain and the GOP in 08 in a truly fair election, but we don't have those types of elections that aren't dominated by money, and Obama could NOT have won without his deal with Wall Street and Langley. Once you make a deal with the devil like that, it's hard to get out of it. It's sad how the only part of our political spectrum that matters for deciding who gets to be President has been reduced to a battle between the more cosmopolitan finance guys and intelligence guys on the one hand and the more American Big Oil guys and the crazy bible-thumping admirals and generals on the other.

I think Happy Jack just meant that you and I were overanalyzing, and the Generala and the Big O are the sociopaths having the slap fight. That's not wordy and confusing enough for me, so I must dissent. I'm sorry that I dragged you into the overanalyzing and ruined your rep. That's my vice, not yours. Here you were just being funny and happy and now you find yourself with dogshit all over your clothes!

By the way, I would never be able to guess that either you or Happy Jack didn't go to college. Then again, that's true of lots of phenomenally smart people. Abraham Lincoln and Malcolm X pop into my mind. And my late mom, God bless her if He happens to come around.

Posted by N E at June 24, 2010 10:13 AM

Dennis - Judging by your site, I'm not sure you've even hit fifty yet. Get off my lawn, kid!

NE - You're correct. History is replete with examples of palace intrigues. The personalities and motivations of the actors don't interest me very much.

While I might have a preference for Curly, whether he is replaced with Shemp or Curly Joe, hijinks will still ensue. It's the nature of the business.

Posted by Happy Jack at June 24, 2010 12:34 PM

Langley, Langley, Langley

NE, your wife should get a big jar and make you put a quarter in it every time you say Langley. Maybe you could save up and buy a fancy propane bar-b-q or something.

Posted by some guy at June 24, 2010 03:32 PM

N E to DP: "I posited a possibility that might be true as far as I know, and it sounds like it might be true as far as you know too."

Well, as Bertrand Russell said, postulating has all the advantages of theft over honest toil. Positing is basically the same practice. All kinds of things might be true as far as you or I know, but unless there is some good reason to believe them, I don't have to grant what you posit, nor does anyone else. As Dennis wrote, many of your claims (or posits, if you prefer) are faith-based. The trouble is that you tend to jump from what you posit to treating it as if it were established fact, and jeering at those who won't make that leap.

I've pointed out before that the fact that much of what goes on in our government is secret is true, but not all that important. Much of what is secret is only secret to Americans who read nothing but the corporate media, but well-known to people in the rest of the world. I asked you before, if I recall correctly, what you thought we should do in the meantime, while waiting for the secret documents to be leaked and declassified and released with manifold redactions under the FOIA. As I recall, you threw a small hissyfit, but didn't answer the question. My own answer is that we actually know quite a lot, more than the government and its apologists like to think; and it seems to me (not positing, just inferring from your remarks here) that you prefer to exaggerate the extent of our ignorance, while at the same time hinting that thanks to your diligent researchers you know more than others. You also posit such secret knowledge when defending Obama, as here: he has secret knowledge, he's playing twelve-dimensional chess! You never extend that sympathy to Bush or Cheney or Rumsfeld or Rove, even though they must have the same excuse. "One definitely has to be careful about believing the marketing," you wrote, but where Obama is concerned you're ahead of the marketing, hastening to make up excuse for him out of whole cloth, purely on faith the possibility that it might be true.

Meanwhile, there is a lot of action we can take, on the basis of the knowledge we do have. Because of what Obama and Bush openly avow, we know enough to impeach them, convict them, put them in prison, and throw away the key, along with many of their underlings, collaborators, and toadies. It doesn't matter what secret reasons Bush or Obama have -- they are still war criminals.

"If you expected Obama to clean house, you seem to be relapsing into that view that the civilians are really calling all the shots. In fact, that was never a real possibility," you wrote. Is this based on what Dennis "might" have expected? You should read his blog posts from the period before the 2008 elections. However, it is worth pointing out that cleaning house was exactly what Obama promised to do. It can be a useful tactic to hold the promises of the powerful against them, as the Soviet dissidents appealed to the provisions of the Soviet Constitution.

"All that being said, just because the guy is in a fundamental way a compromising, rationalizing, lackey for powerful corporate and military interests doesn't mean he is the worst of the worst ..." Straw man, again, and irrelevant besides. It's the old "America may not be perfect but her virtues outweigh her defects" line First, did Dennis (or I, or any number of other people who post here) say that Obama is the worst of the worst? You need to provide evidence, and don't worry, I won't accuse you of playing "gotcha." Second, even if he's the best of a bad lot, he's a war criminal with a lot of innocent blood on his hands. That alone is reason to condemn him. And it's only really necessary to point out these things to people like you (granted, there are many of you), who get all squirmy when Obama's real malfeasances are pointed out.

"I was never expecting Obama to be transformative, because 'We the People' have let things go for too long, and WE need to fix that." And how do you propose WE do that? Do you think you're in a movie like Running Man, where it is only necessary to expose the government's secrets to bring it crashing down and the true Democracy that America was built on will prevail? You've occasionally made some suggestions in the past, but they've been laughable, like being sure to vote in elections and not to neglect the legislative branch. (The invocation of "We the People" almost always annoys me, not least because in the Constitution it meant "We rich property-owning white males." When teabaggers ask rhetorically, "Whatever happened to We the People?" I know they're blowing smoke. So are you.

Posted by Duncan at June 24, 2010 04:10 PM

I realize that like the boy who cried wolf I may seem suspect when I try to be serious because of my general smart-aleckiness, but I want to commend the above comment by Duncan at 4:10pm. Very wise and well argued.

(And to be fair, lots of people on the internets assert something then behave as if others are foolish if they disagree, even if it's just an assertion. Undoubtedly I've done this once in a while.)

Posted by some guy at June 24, 2010 07:53 PM

Duncan

Let me preface this by saying that I am a bit 'happy' tonight, so I might not be as horrifically boring and dry as usual. Then again. . .

First, I must say that "some guy" makes me chuckle. I love grilling! But his ass has been grilled whether he knows it or not. I don't care whether people like my conclusions, cuz i'm not running for office. People can laugh about Langley all they want, but they have been played for fools anyway. They basically own you whether or not you know it. They've stolen everything from you, even what you never had.

Second, it's important to understand the MICFiC. If we don't understand how it works, there's no hope. There probably isn't anyway, on an aggregate basis, but what the hell, I'd rather go down with the ship. Fuck them. Sorry about the language, but that's the conviction that changed my course from the prospect of fabulous riches to this ridiculious crap. I'd rather that my eyes be gouged out and my legs cut off than acquiesce any longer in this ongoing gang rape of humanity.

Third, you suggest that we put Obama AND Bush in prison along with their underlings and toadies. Just exactly how are we going to do that? That just makes me sigh. You haven't got a prayer of accomplishing that--not even the whiff of a plan. That's just a psychosis. Political action has to be based on reality. Even in my present condition I know that.

Fourth, you should read Bertrand Russell a bit more closely before you start to claim he's on your side here. He's one of my heroes, smartwise.
War Crimes in Vietnam is an instructive book. I'd love nothing more to be able to ask Mr. Russell what he thinks of this mess and what the hell to do about it.

Fifth, you may find it hard to believe that someone can be disappointing but not be the worst of the worst, but if that's really so, I'm betting that you don't know who Gustav Streseman was.

Finally, don't pretend to be so authoritative about what 'we the people' meant in the Constitution, and quite being such a hardass about what I say just because I use common terms that remind you of assholes. Unless you're an idiot, you know damn well I wasn't invoking teabagger rhetoric, and you must know that I'm not much of a fellow traveler with them unless you're in a coma. I think you can understand what I mean well enough when you try, even if my language 'annoys' you. It's fine if you don't agree, but don't just give me a load of crap without even the effort of fairness.

I hope my 'happiness' has not had an excessive effect on this comment. Enjoy the rest of your vacation. I'd love to go to Asia sometime.

You seem to have a good heart, so peace. But if I'm wrong and you don't have a good heart, go to hell. (That's the key to my rules about civility.)

Posted by N E at June 25, 2010 12:58 AM

When the poster boy of military recruiting is about to OPENLY become an anti-war activist and ruin everything, and he is still on active duty in a war zone, nobody should be terribly surprised that he has an accident.

Yes, one football star was going to singlehandedly bring it all to a halt with his charisma, so he had to be assassinated. Jesus H. To paraphrase something our host once wrote, NE, I think the pattern-recognition software in your brain has gone haywire. I haven't heard the "Tillman was MURDERED!!1!" theory since probably back in 2003 on Democratic Underground.

Posted by . at June 25, 2010 09:24 AM

Well, blank space, we all know that things in the past that people stop talking about didn't happen, so you must be right.

And every fool knows that if it can't be proved, it certainly didn't happen either.

So you can go back to what you were doing now. Sorry to disturb your sense of peace and tranquility.

Posted by N E at June 25, 2010 11:57 AM