Thursday, November 28, 2013

Obama, the Peace President?

I am still working on the second installment of my series on the environmental problems of Florida’s estuaries and Lake Okeechobee. Should be done soon.
But after reading all the criticisms and dire predictions of what will happen because of the tentative, short-term agreement with Iran, I want to add to that discussion.
I happened to be watching TV in August when Obama surprised the world and the Congress by asking them to consider whether Syria should be bombed. It had seemed that the bombs would be dropped any day, and our country embroiled in yet another deadly confrontation.
But when Obama took a different tack, I cheered! (Actually, I also had a few tears in my eyes.) It’s been a very long time since a President didn’t just give in to the militarism that is so strong in our country and go right ahead with another bombing campaign. Instead, he called for discussion of the situation and a vote by the Congress on what should be done. It meant that we, the people, might actually have a voice in what would happen next. And how long has it been since our voices have been heard in Washington?
I was one of the thousands of people who hit the frigid streets of Manhattan just before we started our disastrous invasion of Iraq. Not only was the NYPD hostile to us, penning us in on side streets so we couldn’t reach the rally site near the UN, but it turned out that our opinions didn’t matter. Cheney and the other war mongerers in our government couldn’t care less what we thought.
Now, I’m not giving Obama a pass on the escalation he approved for Afghanistan; the continuation of the prison at Guantanamo; or the drone strikes. The drone strikes are terrorizing civilians in Pakistan, and much of what I have read makes me believe they are counterproductive, turning Pakistanis against us. And, there’s the moral and legal question of having a president decide on assassinations without having to justify them to we, the people.
But his decision to stop and think and wait for diplomacy with Syria, and now with  Iran, just might turn out to be the first steps along a road to peace in the Middle East.
It has taken courage for him to do that in the face of all those who say this “weak” response will encourage our enemies. The commentary on network news, most strongly, of course, Fox, has emphasized the danger to U.S. security in negotiating, and, of course, Israel is absolutely appalled. Rarely are peace advocates allowed to air their viewpoint.
But how else can we have peace except by taking the chance that our “enemies” would really rather not lose any more loved ones, really rather not spend their treasure on bombs and tanks instead of food, education, culture, living long enough to have and enjoy grandchildren?
Those who stand to lose if peace takes hold are the arms merchants, the energy companies, the investors who get to manipulate our priorities and attention through fear and then rob us blind as we huddle, afraid.
When Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009, for being more open to the Muslim world and acting to stop the spread of nuclear weapons, he said he didn't think he deserved it. Events since then have made his remarks ring as more than just modesty.
But his actions regarding Syria and Iran show that he is determined to try to find a way toward peace. If he can keep it up, his legacy will be far more than improved health care for Americans.

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