Counterculture Con HQ

June 1, 2010

Obama, the Unilateral

We’re the only ones who believe them’

A delicate diplomatic maneuver by President Barack Obama to smooth frayed relations with Israel without alienating America’s Arab allies may have been blown out of the water Monday morning by Israel’s botched attempt to enforce the Gaza blockade — and by the lack of condemnation from Washington that followed it.

“The situation is that they’re so isolated right now that it’s not only that we’re the only ones who will stick up for them,” said an American official. “We’re the only ones who believe them — and what they’re saying is true.”

The official was referring to Israeli protestations — backed by Israel Defense Forces video — that their solders were attacked by passengers on a ship headed for Gaza with humanitarian aid, when they boarded the ship in what the Israelis concede were international waters.

The timing of the incident had to be viewed with rueful irony among the administration’s Middle East hands. Obama spent this spring damping down concern among American friends of Israel that his seeming feud with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had brought the administration to the verge of fundamentally altering the historic U.S. alliance with the Jewish state. Obama met personally with Jewish members of Congress and dispatched top officials to Jewish groups to stress the point, as the “anti-Bibi” rhetoric was simultaneously dialed back precipitously.

The charm offensive appears to have worked. But an administration that itself has expressed its own fury toward Netanyahu and his government in the past now finds itself close to sharing Israel’s isolation at the moment — a dynamic that could complicate Obama’s outreach to the rest of the region.

Israel’s traditional critics denounced the raid — the chief Palestinian peace negotiator, Saeb Erakat, called it a “war crime” — but so did some of the countries Jerusalem counts as friendly. Turkey’s prime minister described the incident as an act of “inhuman state terror,” Ankara withdrew its ambassador to Israel and the Conservative British foreign secretary took the occasion to call the Gaza blockade “unacceptable and counterproductive.”

The White House, in sharp contrast, avoided any hint of criticism of the Israeli action in its public statements, and American officials appeared sympathetic to Israeli explanations that their soldiers were attacked by flotilla participants.

The U.S. “deeply regrets the loss of life and injuries sustained” in the Israeli raid, deputy White House press secretary Bill Burton said in the first of three carefully modulated statements Monday, The administration, he said, is “working to understand the circumstances surrounding this tragedy.”

The White House rendition of a call between Obama and Netanyahu also strained to avoid condemnation, and went out of the way to note that many of those wounded in the incident “are being treated in Israeli hospitals.”

Six hours later, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley issued a third statement, adding that the U.S. expects that the Israeli government — the unstated emphasis was not the United Nations — “will conduct a free and credible investigation.”

How the wheel turns.  President Obama is now doing his best impersonation of George W. Bush, and going it alone on the world stage. Kudos to the President (so far) in his handling of the incident.  He has (so far) not grabbed his ankles to mollify the world at the expense of our allies.  Credit where credit is due.

And yet, I must admit to a certain degree of gloating and schadenfreud about this new unilateralist version of Obama.  Because in the post-modern era, in case you haven’t noticed, there is no such thing as “truth”, only consensus and multilateralism.  Isn’t that what we’ve been told?  Recall how the term “unilateral”– being the opposite of consensus, and therefore “untruth”– was so often leveled as some kind of vile insult towards George W. Bush because he had a sense of what was right, and he pursued it without apologies.  You know, like all great leaders in the history of man have done, for better or for worse.  But that only served as proof that he wasn’t only wrong, but evil.

The world ganging up on Israel through the U.N., too, is proof that unilateral little Israel is not only wrong, but fascist.   If measured solely by the consensus, Israel is the worst country in the world.  Worse even than China, North Korea, Sudan, Burma, Saudi Arabia, et al.  You get the picture.  If more people than not shout it from the rooftops that Israel killed– without cause–all those innocent, unarmed civilians aboard that blockade running ship, then it is simply true.  In the post-modern era, the “truth” is democratic.  In an international community populated by thugocracies, truth is multilateral.  It is by consensus.  Isn’t that what we’ve been led to believe these last 8-9 years?  Truth by popular acclaim.   But the condemnation of unilateralism has never been more than just lazy shorthand by those with the numerical upper hand as a substitute for any real argument on the merits.  A modern day thumbs up or thumbs down, but this time decided by the mob, not the emperor.

Isn’t it ironic, therefore, that one of the great levelers of that intellectually slothful insult– unilateral– now finds himself alone on the world stage?  A unilateral Barack Obama.  I kinda like the sound of that!  As a dogged defender of President Bush, I find it, well, delicious!  lol.  How’s that “unclenched fist” working out for you now, Barack?  How’s that “consensus” coming along?  lol.  It’s moments like these that take the edge off being the political dissident.  Has Barack learned his lesson?  It doesn’t matter.  They smell blood in the water.  The world, and by that I mean the worst scum he’s been trying to woo but to no avail, have already taken measure of the man, and he’s been found wanting.  And that I do not celebrate.  Get ready for a hella bumpy ride.

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