That President Obama inherited a perfect storm of economic catastrophes is without question. The collapse of the stock market, the evaporation of the housing market and the evisceration of over 8 million jobs from the American workplace has all been sadly documented.
It is not without value to point out that the witless and venal policies of the prior administration of President George W. Bush contributed greatly to this catastrophe.
The fact that the Obama Administration has begun to stem the damning tide of disaster is a testament to the ability to think strategically and plan for success rather than simply react with empty rhetoric.
Every president of the United States inherits the results of prior policies. They take credit for the successes and are roundly criticized for the failures. Fairness is never part of the political equation and we should give President Obama credit for adhering to the “never complain” part of Benjamin Disraeli’s famous quote.
And now there is Egypt – and Tunisia – and Yemen – and……..? The cause of the turmoil that swallowed up the decades-old regime in Tunisia didn’t begin overnight or during the Obama administration (or the Bush Administration, for that matter).
The fuel for the civil conflagration in Cairo has been gathering in Egypt for over thirty years. The regime in Yemen is tottering only now, but its foundation has always been hollow.
The common thread in these countries is a record of American financial and military support for the ruling regimes. The support has been forthcoming to the tune of billions of dollars – in exchange for “strategic alliances”.
The American policies in support of Israel, against terrorism and in support of the wars against Iraq and in Afghanistan have been buttressed by these and other dubious alliances. But there is a problem.
In signing over blank check after blank check to oppressive regimes (sometimes with only fig leaves of fake democracy), the United States has gained strategic partners but has lost credibility with the people who have had to suffer under the dictator’s boot.
Instead, this country has supported bloated and sclerotic regimes. Like gangsters from any era, they have drained national treasuries of money and depleted the national reserves of hope. And all the while they have done far too little to provide for a better way of life for their people.
This has been a bipartisan global disaster as Republican and Democratic presidents have followed this bizarre and benighted policy over the years and around the world. It didn’t work in Cuba, Vietnam, Haiti or Chile, and it isn’t working in Egypt, Yemen or Afghanistan.
It is truly ironic that a country projecting itself as a beacon of freedom has paid for the extinguishing of freedom’s flames in too many countries. In Cairo and Alexandria these flames are now consuming the rickety and aged structures of a regime that has outlived its time. The bearers of these torches may not be so inclined to forgive and forget American complicity in their misery.
The Obama Administration must now work on parallel tracks. There are the immediate infernos in Egypt that must be attended. The United States cannot sit by. It is a daunting task to be sure.
But it is also important for President Obama to get it right going forward. The policy of paying for strategic support and turning a blind eye to injustice was doomed from the start.
At some point people who are denied progress and change through peaceful means will resort to violent means. And in many instances that violence will be directed not only against the oppressor but also against the paymaster.
To make sure that Americans do not continue to reap the bitter harvest that comes from supporting dictators, plutocrats and oppressors the Obama Administration must find a new way of going forward.
Just like the economy, the old ways just won’t work anymore.