Perry Anderson's analysis of Obama's foreign policy was first published in New Left Review in September 2013 and forms a part of American Foreign Policy and Its Thinkers.
Democratic takeover of the White House in 2009 brought little alteration in American imperial policy. Continuity was signalled from the start by the retention or promotion of key personnel in the Republican war on terror: Gates, Brennan, Petraeus, McChrystal. Before entering the Senate, Obama had opposed the war in Iraq; in the Senate, he voted $360 billion for it. Campaigning for the presidency, he criticized the war in the name of another one. Not Iraq, but Afghanistan was where US firepower should be concentrated. Within a year of taking office, US troops had been doubled to 100,000 and Special Forces operations increased sixfold, in a bid to repeat the military success in Iraq, where Obama had merely to stick to his predecessor’s schedule for a subsequent withdrawal.
As Barack Obama winds down the final days of his presidency, we revisit the assessment made by Tariq Ali in The Obama Syndrome, first published in September 2010 and revised in 2011. The excerpt below is drawn from the first portion of the "Surrender at Home" chapter, which examines Obama's domestic policy.
In Aeschylus’ Prometheus Bound, the pathetic figure of Hermes, the messenger-servant of the gods, appeals to the dissident Prometheus to make his peace with the supreme beings of the time. The response from the chained figure, punished for betraying the secret of fire to humans, is exemplary: “Be sure of this, I would not change my evil plight for your servility. It is better to be slave to the rock than to serve Father Zeus as his faithful messenger.”
On Friday 23rd December the UN passed a resolution demanding a stop to Israeli settlement in the occupied territories as, in a shock move, the US refused to veto the resolution. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu exploded, calling it a 'declaration of war' (having recently been granted a $38 billion military aid package by the US), and Secretary of State John Kerry criticised Israel's approach to the peace process. But with Trump tweeting that Israel should 'stay strong' until his inauguration, progress still seems unlikely.
Verso presents a list of books from Israeli, Palestinian, and anti-imperialist authors, to explain the conflict and provide some perspectives on the future.
Donald Trump’s proposal to create a registry of immigrants from Muslim-majority countries, along with previous statements promising to forcefully catalogue all Muslims in the United States, while unnerving, are entirely inherited ventures. While national outrage is sharpened in the direction of Trump and his projected administration, which looks like a macabre cast of arch-villains, mechanisms already in place thanks to previous administrations have long isolated Muslim-Americans — flagging them as hostile targets whose very lives are at the mercy of the state. This capitalist national security apparatus, made up of registries and countless monitoring agencies, has bled through the judicial system while riding on the back of national tragedy. This draconian apparatus is now securely wrapped around the Muslim-American community like a cage.