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The Obama Syndrome: Surrender at Home, War Abroad

A merciless dissection of Obama’s overseas escalation and domestic retreat.
“Our country has borne a special burden in global affairs. We have spilled American blood in many countries on multiple continents ... Our cause is just, our resolve unwavering. We will go forward with the confidence that right makes might.”
      —Barack Obama, West Point, December 1, 2009

What has really changed since Bush left the White House? Very little, argues Tariq Ali, apart from the mood music. The hopes aroused during Obama’s election campaign have rapidly receded—the honeymoon has been short. Following the financial crisis, the “reform” president bailed out Wall Street without getting anything in return. With Democratic Party leaders and representatives mired in the corrupt lobbying system, the plans for reforming the healthcare system lie wrecked on the Senate floor. Abroad, the “war on terror” continues: torture on a daily basis in the horror chamber that is Bagram, Iraq occupied indefinitely, Israel permanently appeased, and more troops to Afghanistan and more drone attacks in Pakistan than under Bush. The fact that Obama has proved incapable of shifting the political terrain even a few inches in a reformist direction will pave the way for a Republican surge and triumph in the not too distant future.

Reviews

  • The Obama Syndrome will be a powerful boost to Obama dissenters on the left.”
  • The Obama Syndrome documents the collapse of the Myth into a thousand pieces”
  • “A comprehensive account.”
  • “Ali ... remains an outlier and intellectual bomb-thrower in his adopted London; an urbane, Oxford-educated polemicist.”
  • “Ali is smart as fire.”
  • “Ali doesn't put all blame on Obama and offers a prescription for the terrible problems confronting us: 'The lack of popular social movements in the United States enabled the elite to impose its own solutions, and these were, unsurprisingly, designed to boost the existing arrangements ... The lesson is an old one: without action from below, there will be no change above.'”

Blog

  • Predator Drone: American Foreign Policy Under Obama

    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.

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  • Capital's Faithful Messenger: Barack Obama at Home

    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.”

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  • The Israel-Palestine Conflict: A Reading List

    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. 

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Other books by Tariq Ali