Editorial: Barrack room blues

IssueOctober 2008
Comment by Emily Johns , Milan Rai

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama has sparked enormous enthusiasm throughout the world – and a fair amount back home in the United States – as a symbol of change. Many progressive-minded people are hoping that he will bring about genuine reform in domestic and foreign affairs.

Our opinion, to be blunt, is that Barack Obama is another Tony Blair.

It is difficult to remember at this point – steeped as we are in the blood and lies of the Iraq war – the excitement that accompanied Labour’s election in 1997.

Tony Blair was brilliant at presentation. He presented himself as modern, honest, fair and radical – without actually committing himself to doing more than the minimum in the way of modernity (timid reform of the House of Lords), honesty (a compromised and much-delayed Freedom of Information Act), justice (income inequality reached a record high in 2001, and returned there in 2006) or radicalism (apart from radically right-wing policies such as the privatisation-by-stealth of the Private Finance Initiatives).

Barack Obama is seeking the most powerful position in the world. Quite apart from his regrettable changes of position in recent months, it is a general fact that whoever holds the office of president is tightly restricted in what they can do – by the financial markets and other major corporate entities.

In any western country, government policies that do not meet with the wishes of rich investors lead to the withdrawal of investment, the decline of the currency, and economic pain felt by millions. Barack Obama cannot deliver a just peace, even if he wanted to, because if he attempted to implement domestic or foreign policies that went against the interests of corporate power, he would be quickly ejected from his office (probably by his own party).

Nothing that Barack Obama has said or done in the last year indicates that he truly seeks a transformation in US society. He has even edged away from his mild, if ground-breaking, pledge to meet all US enemies at the negotiating table without preconditions.

Obama talks about “economic justice” (invoking Martin Luther King), but his choice of Reagan-, Clinton- and Bush-era advisors demonstrates his over-riding commitment to corporate interests. Economic justice is, indeed, fundamental to building peace, as we saw in our discussion of Martin Luther King’s evolution towards a class-based politics in PN 2497. Peace News will continue to argue for economic justice and industrial democracy as the only real basis for a peaceful economy and society.

Topics: Foreign policy
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