Thursday, October 30, 2008

And If He Doesn't Win?

If Barack Obama doesn't win next Tuesday, I'll be okay with that. I'll take it for what it is and, to me, that's at least another eight to twelve years in darkness. America and the world will have a president who's lost his marbles and a veep who was never very heavy on that score to begin with.

We, as in all of us, haven't got an awful lot of time left to see some traction on the really pressing issues of the day and you can be damned sure that the "drill, baby, drill" camp isn't going to make anything happen. Whatever cojones McCain had going into this campaign are now neatly preserved in the same jar as the cojones of the pre-Palin mayor of Wassila and the pre-Palin governor of Alaska, both of whom learned the hard way the lesson about keeping your friends close and your enemies closer.

I believe that our planet absolutely needs progressive leadership in Washington of a very high order. We, the world, need America fully engaged in the pressing issues of the day, all of them, not one here and one there. We face critical security issues. We face critical environmental issues, a lot of them and not limited to just global warming. We face critical energy issues. We face critical population issues and critical food supply issues. We face critical economic and social issues.

We face such an array of issues, all of them critical, all demanding effective response, that it would make any leader's head spin if they were tackled individually. But they're all to some degree, often to a remarkably large degree, interrelated and in that may just lie the answer.

Precisely because there's so much overlap, such a degree of commonality and interrelation in these problems, it may be possible to define a set of core principles to guide the resolution of each in a manner that is coherent, complimentary and even synergistic to all the others. In other words, if we have a solution to problem "A", the answer to problem "B" may be sufficiently similar in principle as to be mutually reinforcing with the "A" answer. The operative word there is, of course, "principle."

One of the main reasons we've landed ourselves in this mess is our reluctance during the "greed is good" era to accept principles of broad, even mass application to guide us not just for a year or two but for decades, generations even. That's precisely how we now find ourselves beset on all sides by generational problems, challenges for which effective responses will have to be generational in scope.

Let me explain. In much of the world we've fished out the oceans. We have so overfished as to bring stocks to exhaustion, in some cases to the verge of extinction. It's a problem of enormous proportions that impacts adversely on other problems we're facing and it admits of just two responses. One option is to do nothing which will pretty much complete the devastation now so far advanced. The other option is to enact policies to sharply limit our predation of endangered stocks and permit their recovery. That just doesn't happen in a few years or even in a decade. It's a generational challenge that's chock full of problems and pitfalls that will have to be overcome.

We need policies that acknowledge the problem and identify the resolution, the objective to be achieved. From that can flow a series of principles that will, for generations, shape policy and the inevitable changes in policy that occur over time. Principles that encompass both adaptive and remedial measures.

We might prefer a steak or chicken, but large swathes of the world are utterly dependent on fish as their source of protein. Unless you want them camping in your backyard, you have to recognize their needs, their reality and make it part of your own. We have to find ways to get more fish to these people and there's a lot we can do right now. We can stop enormously destructive bottom trawls. We can begin to tackle the by-catch problem. It's no longer acceptable to rely on fishery techniques that waste a ton of fish in order to catch a hundred pounds of an allowable species.

Look at the arms races underway right now - in China, in India, Russia and America. Do we really think that China and India can't find a better use for the resources they're pouring into new submarines, aircraft carriers, combat aircraft, nuclear weaponry and missiles? Do we really think that advancing our interests by setting countries up as strategic, military rivals is somehow going to enhance our ability to get the essential cooperation we need from them on challenges such as overpopulation and global warming? Are we mad? Did we learn nothing from the past half century about the risks, dangers and profligate waste of resources inevitable in arms races and cold wars?

What about Islamist extremism? Is it better to just keep swatting away at something we're not going to defeat or, instead, to find out what's driving moderate Muslims to give the extremists the support without which they cannot function? Why do we support oppressive, undemocratic regimes like Mubarak's in Egypt that drive moderates in frustration into the arms of their only alternative, the Islamists? Are we stupid? Do we not want to solve this problem or at least shrink it where we can? What do we get out of it by not yanking the rug out from beneath the feet of terrorists? Believe it or not, there is an answer to that.

It's pretty clear to me that we have to resuscitate some of the values our great grandparents understood, values that somehow got discarded as quaint and ridiculous. Foremost among them is posterity, shaping the world today for the benefit of generations to follow. We've done an astonishing job at making the future worse, wouldn't it be grand (my long-departed granny's favourite word) if we focused instead on making the future better, of at least undoing some of the damage we've bequeathed to those generations to come?

I sure hope Obama wins on Tuesday and I sure hope that he is the leader that America, and the world, so badly need right now.


Anonymous said...

"to find out what's driving moderate Muslims to give the extremists the support without which they cannot function?"

You know the answer.

The Mound of Sound said...

I think I have a pretty good idea, Anon, and it's not "radical Islam." I believe that a population has to be radicalized and that it takes an awful lot of oppression and frustration to get there. I believe our leaders truly fear a democratic Middle East, just as I believe those fears are misplaced.

LeDaro said...

I have my doubts that America will ever challenge Mubarak or for that matter Sheiks of Saudi Arabia. These are the 'good' dictators according to American official policy.

So far American leaders have embraced that policy and I hope Obama will question it.

The Mound of Sound said...

Washington has backed dictators but only out of perceived self-interest. The electoral wins by Hamas and Hezbollah in Lebanon seem to have made the White House turn its back on democratic reform in the Muslim world. Unfortunately that's not in America's long term interests.

Hishighness said...

If McCain wins I'm might just become a hermit.

And as for Saudi Arabia, I think it would be foolish to mess with them before the U.S. (and us for that matter although we're not going to with our current government) attain energy independence. To do otherwise would be foolish.

Mike said...

I hate to be over the top, but if McCain wins, I would expect unrest and rioting that make the OJ trial and 1968 look like a bar fight. Dare I say possible civil war and insurrection.

The reason being that right now the only way Obama won't win, apart from the "dead girl live boy" scenario, is because of massive, blatant vote fraud and Republican dirty tricks.

In other words, pure Republican and Red State malfeasance. There is no way Democratic voters - especially Black voters - will put up with that again for at least the 2nd if not the 3rd time in 8 years.

Its going to be very interesting Tuesday...

The Mound of Sound said...

I share your concern, Mike. The Republicans are so aggressively working to purge voters lists and employ their usual bag of dirty tricks that I think another rigged election will have a previously unseen blowback and not just from America's visible minorities.

Your Highness - I like Gwynne Dyer's take on fears about democracy in the Middle East. He accepts it might usher in one or two radical governments but his point is that the ME is so dependent on oil revenues that no matter how radical the government they'll still have no option but to sell us every drop of oil they can get us to pay for. I think he's right.

LeDaro said...

Hishighness, I hear you what you’re saying. However, there is a serious problem with supporting dictators. So-called terrorists not only resent dictators but also resent the governments who prop them up such as US. Resentment builds up and hence you have terrorists coming from Egypt and Saudi Arabia. It also demonstrates that US only cares about self-interest and gives a hoot to democracy. The farce of bringing democracy to Iraq and Afghanistan becomes even more obvious. If we seek our self-interest in a more judicious ways then we may have less terrorism.

Remember terrorism is not a religion, hobby or ideology. It is lashing out in a state of helplessness. Then over time it builds a momentum of its own.