Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Hope for Change

I must admit that I haven't really listened to very many of Barack Obama's speeches but from the parts that I have heard it can only be said that the man is inspiring. Does this mean that he'll really be able to change the way that Washington works? Maybe yes, maybe no. One thing I think that can be said is that he is probably the most likely to try out of any of the current contenders.
Now, that being said we should look at what sort of change Obama is talking about. As a Canadian, living in Thailand I must say that I'm probably more concerned about what any presidential candidate has to say about foreign policy than most Americans would be. I do care about what happens in the U.S but it is the matters of foreign policy that would effect me the most, and since I'm writing this blog I'm the only one that matters...that was a joke, dear reader.

What does Obama really believe when it comes to foreign policy? Will he lead the U.S out of it's current Bush Doctrine of rapid preemptive strikes, and the long held U.S policy of "democracy promotion"? Could he do that even if he wanted to? Is he really different?

These are all legitimate questions, and as the immortal Kim Campbell reportedly said during her own disastrous election campaign, elections are no time to be talking about serious issues. Well what are the serious foreign policy issues?

Certainly, top on every one's mind is the war in Iraq. Can it be won? What will change? I don't think anyone seriously believes that any president could really make the "victory" process happen any faster, and that is ignoring the definition of what victory would look like.

What about the issue of Israel and Palestine? U.S.A today's March 11 2007 edition quoted Obama as stating: " "Nobody is suffering more than the Palestinian people." So, he recognizes that there is a problem. Does he offer a solution, or rather can he offer a solution? His idea seems to be that the Palestinians must take the lead role on the matter, as he stated on CNN last summer.

Obama stated that "resolution [to the conflict] and a better life for all people" "is something that can be achieved, but it's going to require some soul-searching on the Palestinian side. They have to recognize Israel's right to exist; they have to renounce violence and terrorism as a tool to achieve their political ends; they have to abide by agreements. In that context, I think the Israelis will gladly say, 'Let's move forward negotiations that would allow them to live side by side with the Palestinians in peace and security."

Indeed, a hopeful sentiment but it is also one that assumes that the bulk of the blame lays squarely at the feet of the Palestinians. I tend to disagree with Obama's reading of the situation. Israel is in no way prepared to recognize Palestine, regardless of anything they might be saying to the Americans, the U.N or anyone else, rather they are systematically destroying Palestine by dividing it into poor, unsustainable sections of territory that are entirely disconnected from one another. I'll get into this more later, but let me just say that I am not anti-Israel. Of course Israel has a right to exist and it's people have a right to live in peace and security but the people of Palestine also have a right and it is a rather sad statement on the world that the voice of the Palestinians is almost entirely ignored, and by everyone.

When I think of change, real change I think of the issue of what is happening in Palestine by a U.S ally. I think of the chaos that has engulfed Iraq after the toppling of a dictator that was partly in power due to American support for him in the early days. I think of the democratic governments that have been overthrown around the world and the often brutal dictatorships set up in their place. I think of Iran, Honduras, Guatemala, Brazil, Chile and Haiti, countries that have all been victims of the U.S version of democracy promotion.

There is also the matter of domestic change. There is the issue of semi-automatic weapons; which most Americans believe should be illegal but yet the ban on them was allowed to expire by a Congress held at gun point by an overactive NRA. There is also the fact that a majority of Americans, since at least the late 80's believe that "it's a good idea to guarantee health care for all U.S. citizens..." (Business Week 16 May 2005) even going so far as to support tax increases to support healthcare ( Pew Research Center, public divided on Origins of Life, 30 August 2005). Many other studies show other, shocking lack of will for change on issues where there exists majority support.

Now, with healthcare being an issue of rising importance, perhaps we will see change on that. Perhaps Obama, Clinton or even McCain would attempt to change things, perhaps they even will. Here's hoping.

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