Something occurred to me while I was thinking about that silly website put out by the Democratic National Committee. They give out handy scripts for various Republican presidential candidates and five issues that someone might argue about with their Republican uncle. These issues are the ACA (Obamacare), climate, economy, immigrants and refugees, and equality. This last one dealing with voter ID and gay marriage. I didn’t think about it at first, but notice anything missing from this short list of subjects? There is nothing said about defense or foreign policy.
There is not much good that can be said for the President’s foreign policy, but his actions in fighting our enemies can perhaps be defended, maybe with an imaginary conversation like this.
That Barack Obama is a weakling. He doesn’t know how to keep us safe from the terrorists.
Actually, Barack Obama has launched more attacks with drones than Bush. He has been systematically killing leaders of terrorist organizations including Osama bin Laden, the man responsible for 9/11.
This is actually true and Obama’s drone war is probably the only thing he is doing that I thoroughly approved of. Of course killing terrorists with drones is not enough by itself. It is like trying to kill the hydra one head at a time. It would be better if it were followed up by actual smart diplomacy and resolute leadership, two qualities Obama completely lacks, but I’ll give him credit where it is warranted.
So why wasn’t there a section like this? It may be that when the website was first put together foreign policy and defense did not seem to be important issues, but in the wake of the Paris attacks and other events, surely something could be added. Why isn’t more said about Obama’s war efforts in the media? They go out of their way to praise him and cover for his mistakes on every other issue. Not much ever seems to be said about his drone war, even when conservatives condemn Obama for not fighting terrorism. I wouldn’t expect to see the president of a civilized nation gloat about how many people have been killed during his watch, but surely there is something they could say. And, have the Democratic candidates, Hilary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, said anything about continuing or extending Obama’s anti-terrorist policies.
Part of this reticence might be because of the need for secrecy in matters of national security. It wouldn’t be a good idea to let the targets of these drone attacks to know too much about the drone’s capabilities and weaknesses. It may be useful for there to be some uncertainty whether a given target had been killed or is in hiding.
I think, though, that if the purpose of Your Republican Uncle is not really to teach the reader to win arguments with any Republican relatives but to help mobilize and energize the base for upcoming elections, than the topics selected must be those which the Democratic base, particularly the young, educated progressive must care the most about. This base may not be very concerned about the War on Terror and on foreign policy generally. At best, such concerns are a distraction from the more important project of fundamentally transforming this racist, intolerant, and just plain mean country into something better. At worst, they may believe that a oppressive, flawed country like the United States has no business leading the world in any sort of fight against terrorism, since we ourselves have bloody hands and are responsible for much of the evil in the world, including Islamic terrorism, which is, after all, only a response to US aggression in the Middle East and our support for the apartheid state Israel. They perhaps are not very concerned with protecting America and the West because the West is not worth fighting for. Our values are not superior to the terrorists and are likely even worse.
The problem with President Obama is not that he doesn’t particularly like the country he rules. The problem is that there are millions of voters willing to elect a man who shows a disdain for his country twice because they agree with him. If Obama has not been entirely successful in changing America, than America doesn’t deserve a man like Obama. How long can a nation survive if a large number of its population do not think it is worth preserving? What proportion of a nation’s population can be apathetic or even hostile to its ideals before the nation loses the will to live? Perhaps we are going to find out.