No Fundamental Change Under Obama

One of the things that characterized the recently held United States elections is the depth of the American people’s dissatisfaction with the Bush administration on account of its grave mismanagement of the economy and the unjust and brutal invasion of Iraq. The high voter turnout and the overwhelming victory of Barrack Obama reflect this sentiment.

At the same time, people around the world followed the campaign with excitement. Many hope that the election of Obama would bring a significant shift in US policies. The corporate media has been hammering this line aggressively.

“It’s been a long time coming, but tonight… change has come to America,” said the president-elect. Indeed, the election results proved that the US has significantly surmounted its racist past. This in itself is significant.

On the other hand, the naive hope that an Obama administration would bring change is an illusion that will be shattered in the days to come. While Obama may be the first elected black president, he will be expected to defend the interest of big business. As Mong Palatino stressed in his blog:

Bush, McCain and the Republican Party are supported by neo-conservatives, reactionaries and other unfunny elements in society. Obama and the Democrats belong to the same ruling class. Different factions of the same party. Party of Big Business. The two presidentiables have been criticizing Wall Street banks these past weeks. But after the elections, it is expected that they will be good friends again with Wall Street. These politicians will never forget the Wall Street executives who gave generous campaign contributions.

With the US economic standing shaken by the greatest economic crisis since the 1930s, the next administration will increasingly resort to military force to buttress the declining US global position.

The Democratic Party landslide will not translate to the ending of the Bush-initiated “war on terror” – a euphemism for the present US wars of aggression around the world. Obama’s downplaying of his opposition to the Iraq war and calls for intensified US military actions in Afghanistan and Pakistan even during the campaign highlight this prospect.

The same old policies will be “repackaged” to win the sympathy of the world. As The Economist points out in its October 30 editorial, an Obama presidency is useful in winning back the trust of “a world that too quickly associates American capitalism with Lehman Brothers and American justice with Guantánamo Bay.”

“[R]egardless of who wins the United States presidential election next week, US-Philippine relations will remain as strong as ever,” the Malacanang announced Saturday.

Veteran political analyst Mon Casiple adds: “US elections or its results will not lead to any fundamental change of US Philippine policy. This policy–anchored in the historically close ties as allies, bipartisan party consensus, and a lower radar profile in US foreign affairs concerns–is relatively stable…” ■

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6 Comments

  1. Mong Palatino provides a interesting Gramscian analysis of the “Obama Effect” in his blog:

    This is how many progressives view U.S. president-elect Barack Obama: Despite his African-American heritage, he belongs to the ruling elite of the United States.

    Obama went to the finest U.S. schools, where future global leaders are educated. His membership in the Democratic Party means his values, lifestyle, and worldview are acceptable to the ruling class.

    Obama can articulate a forceful platform for change without provoking antagonism from conservative and reactionary forces. Obama is not a threat to the establishment, so he was allowed to win. This is an objective assessment of Obama, the politician.

    There is another way to analyze Obama’s victory, however. Italian philosopher Antonio Gramsci said that when a state suffers from a crisis of hegemony, the situation becomes “delicate and dangerous” and opens the field for “charismatic men of destiny.”

    He added: “When the crisis does not find an organic solution, but that of the charismatic leader, it means that a static equilibrium exists; it means that no group, neither the conservatives nor the progressives, has the strength for victory, and that even the conservative group needs a master.”

    More importantly, Gramsci pointed out that the rise of a charismatic leader is a symptom of the “immaturity of progressive forces.”

    This analysis is applicable to the political situation in the United States. Obama emerged victorious because he was the leader who somehow offered a solution to the crisis of hegemony that is threatening the dominant social relations in the United States. Also, the political mass movement has yet to gain considerable strength in the United States, which allowed popular bourgeois leaders like Obama to become successful.

    Obama, Palatino adds, “has energized young people to believe in their idealism and their readiness to shake the foundations of political institutions. Obama has this effect on global politics. This should be welcomed.”

    But as can be gathered from this blog entry, I take the view that Obama’s “role in history [i]s to appease the restless masses during these troubled times and distract the working people from mounting bolder political actions which could have brought down the ruling order.”

    I believe it is only a matter of time before the disparity between the high hopes and expectations aroused by the elections and the new administration’s course of actions will become clear.

  2. While no fundamental changes are projected with regards RP-US relations with the election of Obama, several analysts point to shifts in “certain nuances concerning that relationship.” Liberal commentator Manuel Quezon III tackles these nuances in his piece for the Philippine Daily Inquirer, “New era of intervention ”:

    …the essentially live-and-let-live Republican attitude toward our government—that it can do what it pleases, as long as the façade of democracy is retained—will be gone by Jan. 20, when the Obama presidency is inaugurated and the Bush White House’s blessings for the Arroyo administration to undertake Charter change expires.

    This narrows Ms Arroyo’s window of political opportunity from now to January.

    Together with human rights, we can also expect renewed official American support for family planning. This will dismay the Philippine hierarchy, just as it has worried the American and Vatican hierarchies who expressed support for the Republicans. Washington is poised to shift from a Crusader to a Secular perspective.

    There is great trepidation in the Philippine BPO industry. But if a spokesperson from the Democratic Party is to be believed, Obama’s vow to bring jobs back to America refers more to blue-collar manufacturing jobs than the essentially white-collar BPO jobs increasingly crucial to our economy.

    Which means that the economic impact of an Obama victory will depend more on his policies toward China, through which we export to America, than to any actual policies concerning us.

  3. It’s become pretty clear that no end of the Iraq war will come under Obama. From Louis Proyect:

    Dreyfuss, an expert on the Middle East, also worries about whether Obama will deliver on the promise to get out of Iraq. In fact, he debunks a portion of an Obama speech dealing with Iraq that even had me bamboozled:

    In his most recent speech, yesterday in Sarasota, Florida, Obama didn’t mention at all his plan to end the war in Iraq. He said nothing — yes, nothing — about withdrawing US forces. Here is the full text of what he said about Iraq in that speech:

    When it comes to keeping this country safe, we don’t have to choose between retreating from the world and fighting a war without end in Iraq. It’s time to stop spending $10 billion a month in Iraq while the Iraqi government sits on a huge surplus. As President, I will end this war by asking the Iraqi government to step up, and I will finally finish the fight against bin Laden and the al Qaeda terrorists who attacked us on 9/11. I will never hesitate to defend this nation. From day one of this campaign, I have made clear that we will increase our ground troops and our investments in the finest fighting force the world has ever known. Watching our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines fight in Iraq and Afghanistan has only deepened my commitment to invest in 21st century technologies so that our men and women have the best training and equipment when they deploy into combat and the care and benefits they have earned when they come home.

    I won’t stand here and pretend that any of this will be easy – especially now. The cost of this economic crisis, and the cost of the war in Iraq, means that Washington will have to tighten its belt and put off spending on things we don’t need.

    Let’s analyze that.

    First, he doesn’t reiterate that he is pulling US forces out. Instead, he appears to say that the key is to get Iraq to pay for the war, to get the Iraqis to use their surplus. That may appeal to budget-conscious US voters, but — especially with the price of oil dropping fast — Iraq, which is a poor, Third World nation with a devastated economy, isn’t going to pay for the war.

    Second, he says that he wants “the Iraqi government to step up,” meaning, presumably, to fight its own war. That, of course, is exactly what President Bush can been saying, namely, that the US will “stand down” when the Iraqis “stand up.” Problem is, the Iraqis need to be handed an unconditional timetable that doesn’t depend on what they do or don’t do. Iraq doesn’t need President Obama to “asking” it to step up.

    Third, and most troubling, Obama says that Americans will have to tighten their belts because of the “cost of the war in Iraq.” Doesn’t that mean that the war will continue?

  4. There’s no more doubt about it. The Wall Street Journal writes of Obama’s new cabinet:

    “These are the Administration posts most critical to the successful conduct of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and to possible entanglements with Iran, North Korea and who knows who else. With these personnel picks, Mr. Obama reveals a bias for competence, experience and continuity.”

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