Wednesday, March 30, 2011

His Eye Is on the Cruise Missile

Glenn Greenwald, who's been posing some good questions about Obama's Libya speech as a revelation of his (that is, Obama's) belief in American exceptionalism, linked today to a recent post by Andrew Sullivan, calling it "long and thoughtful." Well, he was half-right. It's about as thoughtful as most of Sullivan's writing, which is not very.

Sullivan is sure that the US-led attack on Libya is a good thing:
In this, especially with this Libya clusterfuck, Obama reverted to embracing the forces he was elected to resist and restrain. One appreciates the difficulty of this and the horrible moral dilemma of Benghazi; and I still hope for success - because I see no sane alternative to Obama anywhere and no one can hope that the monster Qaddafi stays in power.
"The monster Qaddafi." Well, yes, Qaddafi is a very bad man. That's been well-known for a long time, which raises the question of why the US, England, and other European countries decided to rehabilitate him. That began during the Bush administration, but did the Obama administration do anything to stop it? Before now, I mean? Nope: several people have pointed out John McCain's junket to Libya in 2009, which McCain himself has conveniently forgotten:
In August 2009 he led a delegation of senators, including fellow hawks Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman, on a trip to visit the Libyan leader in Tripoli. Discussed during the visit was delivery of — get this — American military equipment to Gadhafi (a man with American blood on his hands no less).
“We discussed the possibility of moving ahead with the provision of non-lethal defense equipment to the government of Libya,” the AP quoted McCain as saying at a press conference. McCain also noted that “ties between the United States and Libya have taken a remarkable and positive turn in recent years.”
One can also ask whether firing cruise missiles into Libya is the best or only way to protect civilians. And have you heard that Secretary of State Clinton told Congress that Obama would ignore any Congressional war resolutions restraining US military action in Libya as "an unconstitutional encroachment on executive power"? Well, now you have.

But back to Sullivan and American exceptionalism. First he admits:
But, of course, that [i.e., this] land mass was available so easily because of the intended and unintended genocide of those who already lived there - which takes the edge off the divine bit, don't you think? Call me crazy (and they do) but my concept of God does not allow for God's blessing of genocide as a means for one country's hegemony over the earth.
I'm not going to call him crazy, just ignorant. The Roman Catholic Sullivan's concept of God doesn't square with Biblical conceptions, which show "God's blessing of genocide" in the conquest of the Promised Land by his Chosen People. And "that land mass" became available to the US not only through the elimination of the indigenous people, but through conquest of other countries established by rival European powers, especially Spain. Much of the southwestern US was simply taken from Mexico by war.

He goes on (and on):
This is not to say that America doesn't remain, by virtue of its astonishing Constitution, a unique sanctuary for human freedom. We are freer here in terms of speech than in most other advanced countries, cowed by p.c. laws and restrictions. We are freer here in labor and capital than most other countries. To feel pride in this is natural. It is why I love this place and yearn to be one of its citizens. And the vast wealth of an entire continent, unleashed by freedom's flourishing, gave this land of liberty real and awesome global power, which it used to vanquish the two great evils of the last century - Nazism and Communism. This is the noble legacy so many now seek to perpetuate, with good intentions and benign hearts, despite the disastrous and costly interventions of the last decade.
"The vast wealth of an entire continent" was not "unleashed by freedom's flourishing" -- as Sullivan admits, it was unleashed by stealing it from the people who already lived here. The history of American capitalism isn't pretty, and it's ill-timed of Sullivan to prattle about US "freedom in labor and capital" on the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, and as anti-labor forces are rampant. Even granting that World War II was "noble", and not everyone would, it was the exception rather than the rule. Before that war, the US had a nasty record in the Western hemisphere and elsewhere. After the war, the US usually fought Communism by stomping on liberty, replacing elected governments with brutal dictatorships, which our propaganda called "the Free World." Even where the repression we supported was not quite as harsh, we demanded economic policies that took a heavy toll in human life and health.

But Sullivan has always been patriotically ill-informed, like so much of the Right, and ready to vilify anyone else who criticizes US foreign policy. He can bitch about Sarah Palin all he wants, but he helped pave the way for her, Michelle Bachmann, and other professional ignoramuses.