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Eventually, inevitably, Obama

Two variations on a theme relating to Barack Obama – both from the UK and neither of them about the campaign:

1. John Rentoul in the Independent

There was a moment last month – it was when Susan Sarandon, the actress, said she might emigrate to Italy or Canada if McCain won – when it seemed essential to the sanity of America that Obama should lose.

But, no, it is more important that the daydream should be broken. The idea that there is some kind of clean, different, painless, perfect alternative to politics as usual is a distraction from taking difficult, compromised decisions in an imperfect world. If Obama lost, too many people around the world could continue to believe that if only America got out of whatever it is in, everything would be better.

I think McCain is right about Iraq – that the surge has been a success, and that eventual troop withdrawal should depend on that success continuing. But I think it is more important, for America and the world, that Obama should be the one who learns the truth of this the hard way.

In office, he would be forced to use his eloquence and his global popularity to make the case for what is left of the coalition to see its responsibilities to the Iraqis through. Many of his supporters, especially outside the US, would see it as a betrayal. I think it would be a necessary one, by which he could at last heal the suspicion of American power that provides so many around the world with easy excuses.

He’s right – although the harder opponents of the war will of course suggest he has been corrupted by power/bought off by Halliburton/always been a secret neo-con etc – Obama would be the best person to sell a policy of finishing the era of mass, direct US military involvement in Iraq in a responsible and principled manner.

2. David Aaronovitch in The Times says ‘Eventually, we will all hate Obama too’

[T]here isn’t an American president since Eisenhower who hasn’t ended up, at some point or other, being depicted by the world’s cartoonists as a cowboy astride a phallic missile. It happened to Bill Clinton when he bombed Iraq; it will happen to Mr Obama when his reinforced forces in Afghanistan or Pakistan mistake a meeting of tribal elders for an unwise gathering of Taleban and al-Qaeda. Then the new president (or, if McCain, the old president) will be the target of that mandarin Anglo-French conceit that our superior colonialism somehow gives us the standing to critique the Yank’s naive and inferior imperialism.

Yes. If Obama is elected, he will have not only to deal with Iraq in a practical manner (as opposed to the childish electoral rhetoric of ‘end the war’ which worked so well with the easily pleased and naive moveon.org crowd), he will also be Commander in Chief of the struggle against Islamist terrorism and he will need to take it seriously, take expert advice and act responsibly. In other words, he will alienate his base and sorely disillusion those who believe an Obama presidency will result in terrorism just, like, erm, disappearing dude.

There will be those on the left who follow Obama’s lead on these issues and some even who will pause to consider their past positions in the light of new developments. If an Obama ‘betrayal’ can cause friends on the centre-left to get a bit more muscularity back in their liberalism then all the better.

At the same time as bringing some to their senses he will be enraging to the point of dementia those who really do believe that only evil neo-cons can oppose Islamic fascism – which will be hugely entertaining to observe.

So much for the American left. The British left? They will sneer at the sell-out and smugly note that really, at the end of the day, there never has been much difference between Republicans and Democrats anyway? Its like Burger King and McDonalds.

The British anti-Americanism, Aaronovitch argues, will not be swept away by an Obama victory.

In part I think that anti-Americanism is linked to a view of change as decline. The imagination is that dynamic capitalism, associated with the US, is destroying our authentic lives, with our own partly willing connivance. It is a continuing and – at the moment – constant narrative, uniting left and right conservatives, which will usually take in the 19th- century radical journalist William Cobbett (conveniently shorn of his anti-Semitism), and end with an expression of disgust over the Dome, the Olympics or Tesco. Just as bird flu is a disease from out of the East, runaway modernity is a scourge originating to the West.

I’d argue that British anti-Americanism is also British nationalism finding an outlet in an acceptable fashion. Racism and imperialism no longer being acceptable forms, hatred of the Yanks is a way in which the often-denied but frequently present British sense of superiority is expressed. A black man in the White House isn’t going to change that.

Gene adds: As I’ve noted, the early feelings of betrayal are already appearing among elements of the Left. And leading Stopper Sami Ramadani– in some ways more clear-eyed than many of Obama’s supporters or opponents– senses the impending betrayal too.

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