Nearly 20 years ago, actually January 18, 1993, I wrote the words in italics, below, in my journal of the time. Evidently I was writing a ‘to do’ list for our new President (Bill Clinton who would take office in January 20, just two days later) telling him, perhaps, what I would do in his place regarding some of country’s most talked about and pressing problems.
Encourage strongly if not compel our “allies” to start carrying their own weight.
Withdraw support from:
—Israel until that country agrees to sit down with the PLO and negotiate a real sharing of power based on the relative sizes of the Israeli and Palestinian populations—
—Kuwait until that country sets about establishing an open and democratic society—
—Egypt until that country starts addressing the plight of their large poor and jobless populations—
—the Serbian leaders, and their Russian supporters to the U.S.
—the leaders of the fundamentalist Islamic parties and countries to a conference in N.Y.
Put himself up on the “bully pulpit” and talk about all we have in common with our “enemies,” our
—being of the same species,
—living on the same earth,
—adhering to, although not the same, quite similar family, community and religious values.
Finally, negotiate directly with Saddam Hussein and all the other “evil” rulers in the world, and while doing so try to influence them by bringing to light all the advantages that would come from cooperation between our countries and peoples.
What would I want to say now, if the “now” were January of 2013, just prior to Barack Obama’s second inaugural. I am assuming his re-election because I can’t believe that our country, in spite of the high number of the mindless among us, would ever choose either Mitt Romney, who can’t make up his own mind if in fact he has a mind of his own, or Rick Santorum, whose mind has been made up for far too long and is clearly not touched, let alone changed, by the contacts it can’t avoid having with reality.
Well, now, just as then some 20 years ago, our allies, Western Europe and Japan, are not “pulling their own weight.” And now as then there is the Palestinian-Israeli conundrum, maybe now even further removed than then from any possible solution.
Regarding Kuwait, Saddam, and the ‘bullying” Serbs they are now mostly history, but Egypt, fundamentalist Islam, and “evil” rulers, mostly in Africa and the Middle East, are still very much with us, still problems for us.
And there’s the new bad, things that weren’t on our radar then. At the present time we are experiencing the near collapse of three countries, Pakistan, Iraq, and Afghanistan, all hanging on to nation status by a thread, and into all of which we have made irresponsibly huge and irredeemable investments of our own people and material resources and have little if anything to show for it in the way of profit, to these three nations or to us.
And in regard to the Israeli-Palestinian impasse, we have an even more complicated equation now with the addition of a new variable, Iran, this country threatening to become nuclear and thereby threatening the fragile “peace” of the Middle East.
Also, in that same Middle East, there is the still active movement we call the Arab spring. But it is not at all clear if this is a spring or new beginning, or simply a return of the old in new clothes (Egyptian generals as the new Mubarak, President Assad as the new President Assad). In regard to all that we are still awaiting, as it were, the fall of that second shoe.
However, the principal problem we are confronting today is the economy. Then the Recession of 1990-91 was over, and joblessness was falling. We are also just out of recession, but the economy has not yet fully rebounded, is not yet providing jobs and homes for more and more Americans, including all the new Americans from Mexico and Latin America, awaiting their turn to take their legitimate place in the life of the nation.
If President Obama is not elected to a second term it will certainly be because of a sputtering economy, an economy that refuses to rebound strongly, and a still high jobless rate.
So what would I say now to the new President? Well in important respects pretty much the same thing I said 20 years ago. I would advise the President to withdraw support from both Egypt and Israel until they agreed to address the crisis concerns and needs of their own populations, in Israel the millions of Palestinians without fundamental freedoms and a land of their own, in Egypt the millions of young men and women who also are without fundamental freedoms and rights and unencumbered paths to education and jobs.
I would advise him, as I did President Clinton, and President Bush to no avail, not to confront our enemies directly, with threats and certainly not armed conflict. I would even have him ask our enemies “over.” Over here, and often, to the United States, to New York and Washington, to talk. Especially those who are most different from us, many of these representing a militant form of Islam. Hamas and Hezbollah in the White House? Why not?
In any case our enemies are no longer those who could destroy us militarily. They know this as well as we do. We need to communicate with them other by with threats, make them see that they have much more to gain by cooperation, the Palestinians with the Israelis, the Arabs of Egypt, the Arabian peninsula, and the Maghreb with the Europeans, the Iranians with the Israelis and with us.
For among our enemies, even those now in power in Iran and North Korea, there will be those others who will in good time reject the absolute negativity to all things Western of those presently in power. Think China.
Of course I wasn’t listened to 20 years ago. And what was then done by the new President Clinton, and later by the second President Bush, while doing little or nothing to solve any of our problems, did do a lot to create new ones.
Especially President Bush who while ignoring the deficit continued to grow substantially our unfunded obligations, and at the same time, absolutely, mindlessly, lead us into un-winnable wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the terrible waste of which is still very much with us, and makes me want to cry and never stop crying.
So again, what would I advise now? Regarding the “evil” men in power in Iran and elsewhere, the President ought to invite these men to the United States for direct talks, unending talks if necessary, all in the attempt to work directly with them, our enemies now but not necessarily forever, to lessen, turn down the heat on whatever they and we found threatening, the one to the other.
And, in fact, why haven’t the leaders of the Muslim nations of the world, the leaders of Turkey, Pakistan, Nigeria, Indonesia, Muslim India, Egypt, Bangladesh, the countries of the Maghreb (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, and Mauritania), and the Arabian peninsula, et al., why haven’t they been to Washington to talk with President Obama? Perhaps arm wrestling, table tennis, or chess in the Oval Office, to replace yet another, a 14th., aircraft carrier?
All my advice so far is mostly about the unfriendly forces, enemies if you like, evil men if you prefer, confronting us in the world today. What about the other big item on anyone’s list of the nation’s problems, — the economy’s slow growth, the high level of unemployment, especially among our young men?
Here I probably have nothing to say that hasn’t already been said by those much more knowledgeable than I. In a later Blog I’ll try to summarize what has been said, and is still being said, that which these others would certainly say if they could to the new President Obama, about the things that he would need to do as President if he would do his part to get the economy moving again.