Sunday, December 20, 2009

The end of American exceptionalism

Mark LeVine says:
The awarding of the Peace Prize to Obama reads like a desperate attempt to resuscitate the discredited idea of a "Great Man" of history ushering in a new era. It is an understandable fantasy, given the magnitude of the problems the world confronts.

But it distracts from the reality that it will be movements from below, however imperfect and irrational they can be, that will create, in Obama's words, "the world that ought to be," not leaders from above, however audacious their rhetoric.

In that regard, perhaps the most historically significant aspect of Obama's speech is its irrelevance on the ground.

Around the world people who once looked to the US for inspiration or support are taking matters into their own hands. No one is waiting for the US to save or even support them anymore.

More here.

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Friday, December 11, 2009

Obama's Nobel Speech and Just War theory

Matthew Gabriele at Virginia Tech, who knows a thing or two about Crusading ideology, has a great analysis of Obama's Nobel Prize acceptance speech:

It's a fascinating speech in many ways. Agree or disagree on its merits, it's a learned speech -- one that understands its subject and that subject's history. All in all, it's a speech that some might say is positively medieval. I don't throw that term around lightly.

President Obama: just another post-WWII president, late antique Roman bishop, or the new Pope Urban II? If those were the choices, which would you opt for?

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

More on the war

Yes, there's a war on -- more than one!

Juan Cole at his most optimistic has an article in Salon,
Obama's foreign policy report card.

Matthew Hoh, an American official and ex-Marine with extensive experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, resigns. Why? The war in Afghanistan makes no sense. See
his letter of resignation and the Washington Post article describing his background.

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Saturday, October 10, 2009

Obama's Nobel

When something big (or at least noisy) like this happens, I don't feel obliged to add an opinion that has already been expressed, more or less.

However, if anyone actually cares what I as an individual think, here are two posts that are close to my take:

Juan Cole, Obama as Nobelist, Obama as game-changer.

Nashville fan at Daily Kos, Nobel Shock shows America oblivious to its reign of terror.

Image: The Nobel Peace Center in Oslo.

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Saturday, May 02, 2009

How can you tell that Barack Obama has been a university professor?

From a New York Times interview:

I want to emphasize, though, that part of the challenge is making sure that folks are getting in high school what they need as well. You know, I use my grandmother as an example for a lot of things, but I think this is telling. My grandmother never got a college degree. She went to high school. Unlike my grandfather, she didn’t benefit from the G.I. Bill, even though she worked on a bomber assembly line. She went to work as a secretary. But she was able to become a vice president at a bank partly because her high-school education was rigorous enough that she could communicate and analyze information in a way that, frankly, a bunch of college kids in many parts of the country can’t. She could write —

Interviewer: Today, you mean?

Today. She could write a better letter than many of my — I won’t say “many,” but a number of my former students at the University of Chicago Law School.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Pessimistic? Optomistic?

If you want to feed your nightmares about where the United States of America is going, you can do no better than to read two recent posts by Driftglass, this one and this one. I keep coming back to Driftglass because he sees American reality with a terrifying clearness; he recently summed up the lessons of the last eight years in a phrase so pungent -- not crude but horrifying in its accuracy -- that I have yet to quote it in print. The posts linked to above will be quite enough for most readers.

Then on the hopeful side there is a recent diary posted to the DailyKos site by Billmon, who at the beginning of this seemingly endless American crisis, became famous on the Internet (sorry about that, billmon) for his analysis and alarm expressed in admirable prose. His blog has been closed for a while, but recently he has been posting on other people's blogs, perhaps because he feels that things aren't completely hopeless now. Here's what he had to say today.

I have been pretty pessimistic myself, and there's still lots to be pessimistic about. But the one sign that makes me think that you can't count the Americans out yet, no matter how much they ask for it, is just this: Barack Obama. Not the man, but the name.

Who could think that seven years after a man named Osama bin Laden destroyed the World Trade Center that someone with a name like Barack Obama could make any impact on the American consciousness at all?

Not to mention that he's black.

I don't know what I think of Obama, but I think the fact that he has been enthusiastically nominated by a major American political party says something quite amazing about the United States and its continuing flexibility.

Image: From Driftglass; read the post.

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