Thursday, April 08, 2010

Playground bully: Sarah Palin's America and the conservative attack on Obama's new nuclear weapons policy

You know, Sarah Palin really is incredibly stupid -- and an incredibly ignorant partisan mouthpiece who has clearly not a clue in the world what she's talking about. Appearing on Hannity's smearfest yesterday evening -- and you know that's a combo that scrapes the bottom of the mental barrel -- she launched into an attack on President Obama's new policy restricting the conditions for the use of nuclear weapons:

It's unbelievable. Unbelievable. No administration in America's history would, I think, ever have considered such a step that we just found out President Obama is supporting today. It's kinda like getting out there on a playground, a bunch of kids, getting ready to fight, and one of the kids saying, "Go ahead, punch me in the face and I'm not going to retaliate. Go ahead and do what you want to with me."

This sort of propagandistic misrepresentation hardly justifies a response, but let's humour ourselves anyway.

As I wrote the other day, Obama's decision reflects a genuinely civilized understanding of the world and of America's place in it. You see, it's conservatives who think the world is a Hobbesian playground full of moral toddlers in which all that matters is brute force and the imposition of brute force on others, the use and abuse of those who are weaker. In this world, what you want to do, apparently, is strut around with your weapons on full display, smacking down, if not totally annihilating, anyone who gets in your way. This, of course, is the conservative view not just of international relations but of capitalism as well. It's Hobbesian and Darwinian in reductio ad absurdum senses, an anti-morality of might makes right.

For his part, Obama isn't saying that the U.S. will never retaliate, never use force at all. This is Palin's lie, and a vicious one that conservatives are spreading. Indeed, it is ridiculous to suggest that Obama is a pacifist who would let himself get punched in the face. This is the man who has escalated the war in Afghanistan and who continues to direct the use of military force against terrorist targets. Moreover, his new policy allows for exceptions for rogue states like Iran and North Korea. And I suspect that if a terrorist organization, like al Qaeda, attacked the U.S., he would respond with overwhelming force. And if a state were behind the attack, he would launch a determined counter-attack that would severely cripple it.

Among other things, what conservatives like Palin don't get is nuance, the many shades of gray between their extremes of black and white. They also can't understand change, and so they remain stuck in a world that not just no longer exists but never existed the way they imagine. In this case, they remain stuck in the very depths of the Cold War, or more specifically of the Cold War of their delusional partisan imaginings, when what was important was how many nukes you had and whether you had a crazy plan to win a nuclear war. Remember, they never accepted MAD, mutual assured destruction. That was merely a deterrent (that proved successful). What they wanted was to rule the playground, and, to do that, to kick some ass.

What the likes of Sarah Palin and the far more intellectually formidable neocons are all about in military policy terms, with the bravery of being well out of range, is bloodthirsty warmongering. What they clearly want is an America that does the punching, that preemptively strikes and that, when struck, strikes back with thoughtless and unnecessarily disproportionate aggression, an America that does not enter into nuclear weapons reduction treaties with Russia.

This, to me, is not just uncivilized but profoundly un-American, if we consider America to be something other than a big bully on the world stage. It wasn't, under George W. Bush, but Obama has since changed course, preserving American might and defending American national security while also pursuing genuine engagement with the rest of the world and using tools other than brute force to advance America's interests. This will lead to a deeper and more sustained peace, as well as to a capacity to respond to threats, and to attacks, with the credibility and moral authority that comes with being a responsible world power.

This is all way beyond Sarah Palin, of course, as is the hope for, and possibility of, a more civilized world in which nuclear weapons are obsolete and right is no longer simply might. America still won't take any shit, to be sure, and Obama is anything but a pushover, but at least there is now wise and responsible leadership in the White House.


UPDATE: Great response from Obama: "I really have no response to that. The last I checked, Sarah Palin is not much of an expert on nuclear issues," he reminded ABC News. As for his Republican critics, "[w]hat I would say to them is, is that if the secretary of defense and the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff are comfortable with it, I'm probably going to take my advice from them and not from Sarah Palin."

Labels: , , ,

Bookmark and Share


Post a Comment

<< Home