Saturday, September 27, 2008

What don’t I like about my guy?

I am an Obama supporter. I think his election would go far to disrupt the sclerotic system of international relations that the U.S. has come to symbolize in the minds of much of the third world. It would give us a chance to undo the huge damage that the current administration has caused to our standing, both in the world and, for many of us, in our own minds.

I also believe that, where McCain and his party have come to view military action and the “might is right” world view that accompanies it as the most important lever when confronting a potential threat, Obama might have the moral authority to pull his party away from the Madeline “what good’s a fancy military if you can’t use it once in a while?” Albright wing of muscular foreign policy Democrats. [Note, concerning Albright, Bill Safire once wrote, while discussing Presidential succession, that she “was born in Europe, she thinks.” A classic, funny dig.]

More importantly, I think Obama’s domestic policies are much more likely than those of McCain to advance the project most dear to me: achieving a more just and more equal society here in the U.S. I really believe that our economy is in the hands of a plutocracy; that our health care system is a disgrace, that the benefits of citizenship are improperly distributed, and that the result has been the degradation of the U.S. to the point that we now have a lower standard of living, by many measures, than we did a generation ago, and that we are falling farther behind the rest of the industrialized world in the quality of life we can provide to the majority of our citizens.

Oddly, many of our citizens who enjoy a living standard well above the average seem to be among the angriest, out of all proportion to their lot in life, because they perceive themselves to be the victims of wrongs that often come to little more than not being adequately appreciated or respected. Many of those who have the most seem truly aggrieved at the prospect of giving some of it (via taxes) to those who have little, in spite of the demonstrable fact that our social welfare system provides much, much less than those of the countries with whom we otherwise compare ourselves.

I think Obama’s election would provide much greater opportunity than any alternative to fix these problems that I perceive. But reasonable people really can disagree; and in any case the arguments for my guy are almost always, in our current political discourse, ignored in favor of arguments (and slanders) against the other guy. So I thought I owe it to myself to think about what I don’t like about Obama’s policies. After all, no candidate is perfect, and in choosing one over another I am merely acknowledging the truth of a college roommate’s assertion (during the Humphrey/Nixon/Wallace election of a certain year) that presidential campaigns are not exercises in moral absolutes. I have to choose the best available alternative; and although I have voted the Socialist ticket before, I think I have probably grown out of that particular self-deception (I mean that voting Socialist will have an impact, not that Socialism itself is a worthy cause, which I still believe).

So here is one policy of Obama with which I disagree.

Afghanistan. We do not need more soldiers there. We need fewer, that is, no, soldiers there. Anyone who has read the histories of “the great game” or the Soviet experience there knows that the prize (assuming you can define it) is not possibly worth the expenditure. What are we trying to accomplish, anyway? I have a separate plan for that benighted country, and here it is (obviously it needs nuance and elaboration):

  • Convene a meeting of all the tribal leaders, warlords, provincial governors, etc. Be generous in who you include. And if they won’t all come, no matter; the meeting is just to reassure them all that they are all getting the same deal. You can do it one or two at a time, if you have to.
  • Determine who represents whom, at the meeting. This can be only approximate: the goal is to figure out very roughly what percentage of the population is represented by each person or group.
  • Announce that the US government will provide (say) a total of $10 billion or $20 billion or some such amount, per year, every year for the indefinite future. Payments will be made to the people in the room, in rough proportion to the percentage of the population they are going to assume responsibility for –but the payments will be made to the individuals themselves.
  • They can do anything they want with the money (exceptions below). But future payments will depend on:
    i. Our assessment of whether there has been progress in the condition of the people in their area (or for whom they are responsible). We can define this in lots of ways: literacy, health, paved roads, potable water, electricity, etc, or we can get cute and worry about whether women are bought & sold, and so forth (although I wouldn’t bother with these kinds of things). We don't care how they govern themselves: they can have a President, a Grand Mufti, a King, a Generalissimo, or whatever they want;
    ii. The extent to which inter-tribal violence, civil war, and so forth are controlled and suppressed, and foreign wars are avoided (they get to appeal to the U.N if they are victims of aggression, etc);
    iii. The degree to which the kind of unpleasantness we experienced in 2001 from their corner ceases –any problems here and they would lose a lot more than their dole.

Every January 1, if we are happy, they get the next installment.
Anyone who takes any of the money and buys a villa in Switzerland, etc. will be killed. You can certainly go to Switzerland, etc if you have the money and you want to retire; but you better inform us first, and let us know who your successor recipient is. And you better not do it for any reason during, say, the first 5 years.

This will be cheaper, in dollars and in lives, than the current policy or Obama’s plan. It is unlikely to yield worse results. We will still have the Strategic Air Command if we need it; but it is notoriously impervious to roadside bombs. Best of all, we stop doing things we are bad at (trying to manage little wars in far away places, deciding the merits of all sorts of arcane claims by opposing forces in cultures we have no clue about, etc) and start doing the thing we are best at: writing checks.

1 comment:

  1. But how are we to tell them about the love of jesus christ if we can't kill them?


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