Last night’s debate was ostensibly about foreign policy, but was really a zinger-fest, a game of darts with the candidates using each other as targets. Obama scored more bull’s-eyes and therefore carried the night. “Obama Stuns With More Sharp, Snarky Zingers,” trumpeted HuffPo, quite correctly.
What did the foreigners about whom the policy debate was supposed to be about think of the debate? Apparently not a great deal, according to the much-ballyhooed live blog by Glenn Greenwald in The Guardian:
10.34pm: That was just a wretched debate, with almost no redeeming qualities. It was substance-free, boring, and suffuse with empty platitudes.
In the heavily polarized U.S., we were so focused on our candidate of choice winning the third round of this verbal darts championship that we seem to ignore the that there was little actual disagreement on the subject of the debate. This often fuels the rather facile claim that there is no difference between a Republican and a Democratic president. Ideologically speaking, nothing could be further from the truth, especially in this campaign. But our foreign policy must by necessity be above ideology and partisanship, something that seems to elude foreign journalists.
Britain is not just our closest ally, it is the motherland of our culture; even if you are Latino, over generations in the U.S. you are going to become anglicized. Our conservative-and-liberal two-party system is based on theirs, although the ideological differences between the Tories and the Republicans, and the Labourites and Democrats, have never been more subtly profound.
Take for instance The Guardian itself. Our nearest approximation to that news outlet should be The New York Times, but the Grey Lady is far more circumspect and conservative. To create The Guardian, you’d have to combine the NYT with The Village Voice and edit it with Tina Brown’s flair for design and provocative content, or the flair she had when at the helm of Vanity Fair and The New Yorker.
The same goes for politics. The American equivalent of the Labourites is no longer the Democrats; Obama is closer in practice, if not ideology, to Tory leader David Cameron than he is to his ostensible counterpart Ed Milliband, who is a true socialist by American standards. Our modern GOP, with its strong infusion of right-wing Tea Party radicals, is more akin to the British National Party, a fringe group that is disdainfully looked down upon in the U.K. as being completely meshugana, and rightly so.
The last time British and American conservative and liberal parties were closely aligned was during the Thatcher and Reagan years, when those two were as thick as thieves. Clinton broke that sameness by moving the Democrats so close to the right that he successfully usurped any hold the northeastern Republican establishment had on the more rational and balanced center, and pushed the GOP into that hinterland of tribal wackiness anyone who is rational and balanced so deplores today.
I am fairly typical of the educated, reasonable modern American. By no means a complete liberal, I am forced to support Obama and the Democratic platform simply because I cannot abide by what the GOP stands for, especially as a gay man. Despite Romney’s transparently false dash to the center during these last months leading up to the election, the true rhetoric from the right remains the same. They have forced the country into what I am calling a Cold Civil War, with the Republicans as the enslaving Confederates, and Obama as our Abe Lincoln leading the Union.
My British friends on Facebook are to a man and woman liberal, but from my standpoint much of what they post is as radical as anything our Tea Party can come up with. Again, it is socialism of a kind we would never conceive of in U.S. politics and culture, so it pays to keep that in mind when reading pieces like Greenwald’s in The Guardian; he might be an American, but his readership is primarily British.
The great majority of Europeans view our foreign policy as being out of step, as being representative of who we are: warmongering xenophobes who deserve what we get for our utter disregard for the rights of other nations and peoples, specifically the Muslim world. We do this for some amorphous imperial gain nobody can quite put his finger on because… well, it’s not there to begin with.
Specifically, what seems to irk the average Guardian reader is our blinkered support of Israel, and our seemingly callous disregard for the plight of the Palestinian people. As Greenwald derisively pointed out:
Romney and Obama just had a very stirring debate over who loves Israel most… I think it’s fair to say that they both love Israel very, very, very much.
I don’t condone for one instant what has happened to the Palestinians over the past sixty-odd years since Israel was founded, but what needs to be taken into account is that the U.S. sees this not as Israel v. Palestinians, but as Israel v. The Muslim World; there is a broader issue at stake than property snatching, settlement building, localized embargos and punitive incursions into the Gaza Strip.
No NATO country has suffered as much for its support of Israel than the U.S., but even after 9/11 we remain more resolute that ever in our support, despite the regrettable collateral damage on the Palestinian population. Not that this in any way eases what has happened to them, but, please, enough with the hypocrisy: Arabs in general have no more respect for the Palestinians than they do for Israelis. And Iranians despise the lot of them.
The bottom line is it’s all anti-America/anti-NATO, which is why an attack on Israel is an attack on us. Make no mistake: we have done horrendous things to the Islamic world, over the past century in particular, just as they have to us. That’s what makes the whole situation such a sticky morass that nobody can seem to get us out of, no matter which political party holds office.
Israel is one of those projects we entertainment folk know well: Great in concept, a disaster upon release. It’s not a disaster in terms of its execution—it’s a success in that respect—but as a popular success. The thinking back in the late 40s, when Truman backed the whole enterprise, was to create a beachhead of democracy in the Middle East, in a region that had us by the balls because of the oil, an area that was (and still is) stuck in the middle ages, but a middle ages that would have scared the shit out of our middle ages.
A common misconception among the fifty-five-and-younger crowd who haven’t studied post-1945 history is that Israel was created by a sort of invasion by the Jews of Europe after World War II. A hundred thousand marched in where none had existed before and took it over form the Palestinians. Why didn’t we just spare ourselves all this agony and give them Florida? They have much of it already. That’s not quite how it went.
Yes, the Holocaust was used by Truman in particular as the reason for the creation of a Jewish homeland, and this is what rightly irks the modern European liberal, who is by and large atheistic: A nation founded on religion is ridiculous and wrong; even if God existed, surely he isn’t a real estate broker. But the reality is the Holocaust was only part of the reason, the emotional PR spin for what was an immensely risky venture. As Ayn Rand will tell you, we are an entirely mercantile nation, and make no bones about it. What’s wrong with that, anyway? At least it’s honest: Better to pursue the almighty dollar than an Almighty that doesn’t exist.
The notion that Israel has no right to exist misses a reality that isn’t lost on the U.S. government or its NATO allies: both Jews and Muslims have co-existed for many centuries in the former Mandatory Palestine. Islam isn’t anti-Judaism; on the contrary, it acknowledges it as the religion of its forbearers. Moses and Abraham are considered prophets on a par with, if not senior to, Mohammed himself; they play a greater role in Islamic culture than they do in Christianity, which deified Jesus and put him above his Biblical predecessors. Mohammed, ostensibly wishing to avoid Jesus’ fate as a demiurge, left specific instructions that he not be promoted above the rank of prophet.
Indeed, Arabs see themselves as the descendants of Abraham’s son Ishmael, and the Jews as the descendants of Isaac. What the whole conflict today boils down to is sibling rivalry, a tribal turf war that has reinvented itself in the modern era as the Middle East Crisis, and there is no easy solution to it because, yes, the Jewish religion was there first, but the Palestinians and other Arabs have a right to be there as well, regardless of their later conversion to Islam. The Muslims give as good as they get, they are far more numerous, and frankly there are plenty of other issues to be had with that violent, beheading, homosexual-hanging, women-shrouding culture. And history has shown that Jews need to be protected whether God exists or not.
Regarding Iran. As far as this homo is concerned, the ayatollahs and the entire Iranian government can fuck right off, faster and harder than the Republicans. If they would hang me for how I was born, then let hem be bombed for choosing to support such egregious doctrines and practices. And, no, they should never, ever be allowed to have nukes. The argument that if the West and Israel have them, they should, too, is specious; when they learn to behave and join the Western world a modern, civilized discussion, then they will be treated accordingly. Nuclear weapons are a deterrent used by those with the sophistication and cultural advancement to invent them, not something to empower those whom the nukes are meant to deter in the first place.
If Greenwald, the Guardian readers, and other Europeans are dismayed that there was no real difference in foreign policy approach between Obama and Romney, that is because both men know it is beyond the mandate and purview of any president to dramatically alter the position of the U.S. government and its allies for political purposes; again, this is a matter of national security, not ideology. And, yes, ya’ll are covered under the blanket of our national security through NATO.
As to my liberal readers who are worried that Romney might win, you can relax. He is as unlikely to be our next president as he is to have won the recent game of darts masquerading as debates.