Saturday, November 28, 2009
EMPIRE IN TWILIGHT
Obama wants to appear careful, prudent; and in a couple of days he will enlighten the public about "the job" that he will be careful to get done there. There will be an increase in US combat troops of something like 35,000. On a recent Bill Moyer's Journal, the actual recorded conversations between President Lyndon Johnson and Defense Secretary McNamara and conversation between House Speaker Mansfield and the President shows beneath LBJ's surface the age old fear of being out-hawked by the right-wing. The President understood, or seemed to understand, that it was a mistake to give in to military escalation; but he did so anyway, knowing on some level the wrongness of it.
Obama is a smart man and is always projecting some kind of cool rationality; but he would seem to be doing the same thing LBJ did. Our new president however doesn't reveal that much in the way of the agony of such a decision.
It is a bloody absurdity for Obama to speak so eloquently and proclaim political principles so lucidly, only to backtrack on those principles and then proceed in the opposite direction. Weakness or dancing to the strings of puppet masters? We don't know. Today's President Karzai, while perhaps not as murderous as President Diem once was, is saturated in the same kind of corruption. Obama falls, as Lyndon Johnson did, into the same kind of political snare; and it seems perhaps reasonable to question his powers of reason.
Every remaining illusion will be stripped away and deconstructed; and after Obama comes a kind of deluge; but meanwhile during his tenure of office is this eerie twilight when things seem very surreal here in the belly of the beast.
I like the way Arthur Silber opens his essay, with the words of Horace:
The mountains will be in labour; an absurd mouse will be born.
This article is cross-posted at le speakeasy