(FinalCall.com – President Barack Obama’s use of America’s military-driven foreign policy, including highlighting his killing of Osama bin Laden, the ever increasing drone attacks and sponsoring the NATO summit–only the third to be held in the U.S.–in his Chicago hometown, during election season, helps steer the American public away from his less than successful domestic policies and to ward off his Republican critics, is a strategy fraught with dangerous consequences.
Obama, who in 2008, campaigned on change and offered the American public hope for a better future, has settled into a presidency that could boast of the biggest war budget since World War II. (Military outlays in the U.S. now approximate those of all other nations, friendly as well as foes, combined. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have now passed the $1 trillion mark, with Congress recently approving an additional $37 billion in war funding). And in terms of military increase and selling the American public, a false bill of goods, Obama is to President George W. Bush what John F. Kennedy was to President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Let me digress. Back in the 1980s a much used reference by Nation of Islam Leader Minister Louis Farrakhan, directed at U.S. presidents, is how after becoming somewhat comfortable in their limited domestic policy bubble, presidents are exposed to past, present and future horrific geo-political imperialist military/government policies.
According to former House intelligence committee Chairman Pete Hoeskstra, Obama’s past views of U.S. foreign policy are obsolete. “These people run on an agenda of domestic affairs because that’s what they know that people care about,” he told the online Capital Hill publication Politico. “And then they get into office,” Hoeskstra said. “The twist of events forces them to do things that they probably never comprehended they would have to be facing.”
Like the events that led to the new president increasing his predecessor’s war in Afghanistan by 20,000 troops. During Obama’s first year in office, according to published reports, while looking into his administration’s policy on Afghanistan, he asked for a range of policy alternatives. He obviously wanted choices. Washington Post columnist Bob Woodward revealed that the Pentagon offered no such thing, in fact they offered Obama a single path–a “surge” of additional troops. The president complained, according to Woodward’s book “Obama Wars,” of being given only one option, but that was all the military was going to give.
In a recent Atlantic Magazine, in a piece entitled, “Eisenhower-The Tyranny of Defense Inc,” Andrew J. Bacevich writes, that even though Eisenhower departs the presidency warning of the dangers of the “military industrial complex,” Kennedy in campaign mode “had promised higher defense spending, enhanced nuclear capabilities, and a reinvigorated confrontation with Communism. Once in office, he proved as good as his word.”
Many saw Kennedy as “some sort of mythic figure,” said Dierdra Henderson in 1999. Henderson, a member of his Senate staff and later part of his presidential transition team said, “Part of that is because I believe people have not immersed themselves in the substance of the man.”
That can be said of political pundit and MSNBC Hard Ball host Chris Matthews. Kennedy has come center stage in Matthews recent book, “Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero.” Its not just Kennedy that’s worth noting but Matthews fascination with the president, who, in his book, he fails to explain the reasons behind “the special hold that this able and accomplished but hardly monumental leader still exerts on the American public,” according to a review by professor of history and journalism and media studies at Rutgers University David Greenburg.
Obama has engendered in many a similar mythic but less than monumental leadership quality. Not only does he exude the intelligence of Kennedy and a vivacious family who projects a sense of warmth and vitality, as a Black American he brings to the presidency a similar outside the norm quality as did the Catholic president.
Matthew’s ties to America’s 35th president include similar Irish heritage and Catholic background, and what appears to be admiration for his privileged status as a member of the Kennedy clan. Matthew’s blue-collar roots could remind you of the humble beginnings of many Blacks, who have looked to the 44th president as a source of uplift and inspiration.
During the Eisenhower years, Bacevich explains that even though the president understood the threat of a militaristic economy, “military outlays served as a seemingly inexhaustible engine of economic well-being.” According to Bacevich, with “every ominous advance in Russian capabilities offered a renewed rationale for opening the military-spending spigot. Whether the edge attributed to the Soviets was real or invented mattered little.”
Today the “excessive military outlays … over the national interest, the calculated manipulation of public opinion (in the way the media seems to have become a mouthpiece for the military),” unlike during the Eisenhower years, with its low unemployment, means an economy in shambles, with no resources for a decaying infrastructure, no funds for a dying public educational system and manufacturing jobs being transported overseas. According to a 2007 report by the Center for Economic & Policy Research, “high military spending raises interest rates, which reduces net exports, housing construction … thereby slowing the economy and job creation.”
In the past building up the nation’s defenses was thought to serve as a “sort of permanent economic stimulus program.” Today Eisenhower’s nightmare of the consequences of a military industrial complex has become a reality.
Early in his presidency he declared the consequences of a military driven economic stimulus program. “Every gun that is made,” he told his listeners, “every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.” Any government that dumps taxpayer dollars into the purchase of armaments, he declared, is spending more than just money. “It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientist, the hopes of its children.”
America’s chickens have finally come home to roost.
(Jehron Muhammad who writes from Philadelphia can be reached at [email protected])