The Second Year of the Obama Administration: Facts, Opinions and Discussions

Discussion in 'Archive: The Senate Floor' started by Jedi Merkurian, Jan 20, 2010.

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  1. GrandAdmiralPelleaon Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 28, 2000
    star 6
    I'd just like to point out that the U.S. didn't just 'create' the Panama canal, they created Panama. As in, the U.S. navy played an active role in supporting the independence movement in Panama (after blocking it of a couple of times, before that, only supporting it after it became clear this was the way the U.S. would get control over the canal). Panama only became an "independent" state in 1903 for a reason & the American presence there was as much a colonial effort as most British colonisations. Just sayin'.
  2. Gonk Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 8, 1998
    star 6
    My point here is that the American experience in what we refer to as "colonialism" is a significant alternative to the European experience -- just as you could say the Cold War was a significant alternative to previous conflicts in the past which tended to feature much more open aggression.

    That America delved into other areas of the colonial experience is not something I'm trying to debate, and the responses here seem to imply that I'm rendering a value judgement on the people implementing the polcies, or the country that implemented them. This is not so. I am not saying America is inherently more moral than Britian for taking one route instead of another: it's that they stumbled upon a different means of attaining global dominance. That the American route may have, in the long run, been more humane and along the lines of "live and let live" values is incidental to thier behavior, not causal.

    But I think my example holds. Others have given examples I had not thought of in terms of American colonialism, but I don't think they're particularly representative. Yes, Americans have in fact used force in the past to project thier interests prior to 1945. However:

    1) Compared to European states, this projection was very infrequent, even when you take into acount the sphere of influence America was trying to assert: American involvement in Central and South America is proportionally smaller than British, French, Spanish, Portrogese, Belgian or even brief German involvement in Africa, India, SE Asia, South America, and other areas of the globe.

    2) What presence America DID have in directly asserting force was, with the notable exceptions of the Mexican-American war and Native progroms (since these included significant territorial gains that were later a large part of the infastructure needed to create itself into a superpower), unrelated to its rise to global dominance. The British presence in the aformentioned parts of the globe is a DIRECT and causal link to the formation of the Empire and their status on the world stage. Same too with the French. That America had colonial presence in the Philippenes and had at times intervened in Central America was not a significant factor in the place it found itself in post-WWII.

  3. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    The whole point of colonialism was to extract commodity resources as cheaply as possible from less developed countries to feed the industrial machine, value added export and domestic consumption of more developed countries. Whether this goal was achieved by territorial conquest or by supporting corrupt dictatorial regimes through a combination of overt and covert military and financial support, the end result was more or less always going to be the same. In any case, the world is in the endgame of resource imperialism.
  4. Gonk Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 8, 1998
    star 6
    The whole point of colonialism was to extract commodity resources as cheaply as possible from less developed countries to feed the industrial machine, value added export and domestic consumption of more developed countries. Whether this goal was achieved by territorial conquest or by supporting corrupt dictatorial regimes through a combination of overt and covert military and financial support, the end result was more or less always going to be the same. In any case, the world is in the endgame of resource imperialism.

    I don't know that I agree. I mean, in the former analysis, not the final statement. I believe territorial conquest to be a far more problematic enterprise given to the actual abuse of human rights, and the cause of more deaths on the whole. It is also given to complicate later foreign relations a lot more.

    Perhaps it is just me but from where I sit, if colonialism is going to happen in some respect, better for all involved it be as indirect as possible.

    And again, in America's achievment of Global supremacy, this owed in part only to two 19th Century expansion moves. The actual moves into colonialsism it made to countries that the US itself did not border didn't really hold a lot of bearing on the US's entry as a major world power -- whereas in they heyday of Spain, Britain and France these colonial holdings were vital. Had the US made no moves whatsoever into Niceragua, the Phillipenes or Panama, the US's stature in 1945 would have been likely the same.
  5. Jabba-wocky Chosen One

    Member Since:
    May 4, 2003
    star 8
    Gonk, this discussion started with your rejection of Zakaria's notion that India will probably show far less enthusiasm for interventionism than does/did the US. The basis of your rejection was essentially that the US isn't really very interventionist, given that it doesn't often engage in full scale occupations. You can, if you'd like, try to make an argument about how "humane" each particular manifestation of imperialist sentiment was. But that doesn't escape our fundamental question which was: Is the US interventionist or not?

    America does not often use foreign military occupation. Fine. But it's silly to pretend that's the only way to interject yourself into the affairs of other nations. Or to assume that India will show any more inclination towards this approach to foreign policy than to one that made balder use of hard power. How do you answer those, more pertinent questions?
  6. kingthlayer Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 7, 2003
    star 4
    I wasn't even talking about colonialism per se in my original post about Zakaria. I was just talking about the Western belief in the universality of its values, for example that everyone around the world would be much happier being governed under a free, fair and democratic government as opposed to an authoritarian dictatorship. It may be the case for wealthier countries, but in most parts of the world people care first and foremost about whether they can feed and clothe themselves rather than having democratic government.

    Gonk, you are correct that European powers didn't declare war on America, but you are wrong if you think that is the only way they could threaten its security. America was dependent on Europe for trade in the early decades of its history, and European powers were all too keen to play this dependency to their own advantages.

    You raise some interesting points, yet there are still big differences between the West and India The past two hundreds years or so of its history are a mask over its non-Western cultural origins. Less than 2% of the population in India is Christian, so the two cultures have entirely different religious beliefs. That creates mistrust. The USA and India don't share the same language: less than 10% of Indians speak English. It works well as a unifying language at the administrative level, but most Indians grew up speaking another non-Western language first, and with that other language will come different rationalization and thought process.

    Following up with Zakaria's "live and let live" summation, lets look at India's history of alliances. Tthe last time India could have formed a meaningful geopolitical alliance with the USA, it started the Non-Aligned movement. It seems to like going its own course.

    Again, I'm not saying that India is a terrible country for the USA to be pursuing better relations with, as everyone benefits from good relations. I just don't see it as a long-term reliable partner the same way Europe was in the twentieth century. Brazil, on the other hand, is another cultural offshoot of the Western world, and is also becoming a major world player.

  7. shanerjedi Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Mar 17, 2010
    star 4
    That's a good observation. And even in the Americas, it wasn't until the colonies had advanced to a certain level of literacy and material wealth that revolution took hold. The poorest nations are too busy surviving to be concerned about abstract ideas that require a certain level of contemplation, reflection, and leisure.

    We've always taken for granted the world would love the "American Ideal" if they just had a taste of it. The interesting part of that is though is many of the people who argue the U.S. is an exceptional nation are the same ones who then argue we can export democracy and its values across the board.
  8. Gonk Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 8, 1998
    star 6
    Gonk, this discussion started with your rejection of Zakaria's notion that India will probably show far less enthusiasm for interventionism than does/did the US. The basis of your rejection was essentially that the US isn't really very interventionist, given that it doesn't often engage in full scale occupations. You can, if you'd like, try to make an argument about how "humane" each particular manifestation of imperialist sentiment was. But that doesn't escape our fundamental question which was: Is the US interventionist or not?

    This discussion started from my assertion that the US, historically, was not particularly interventionist until it became an acknowledged superpower around 1945. I did this to combat the assertion that the described "live and let live" differences between Indian and American are all that pronounced.

    Your question is also not quite what I was saying either. Here, I'll break it down for you:

    A) WAS the US interventionist before 1945

    - Militarily: Very rarely, comparative to European powers. Much more frequent along its borders.
    - Economically: More pronounced than militarily

    B) IS the US interventionist (today)
    - Yes


    America does not often use foreign military occupation. Fine. But it's silly to pretend that's the only way to interject yourself into the affairs of other nations. Or to assume that India will show any more inclination towards this approach to foreign policy than to one that made balder use of hard power. How do you answer those, more pertinent questions?

    Actually I was asserting more that America HAD NOT often used military occupation. After 1945 I'm not making one particular claim or another about it -- it's still less than the Colonial Powers that came before it, but since that time I wouldn't argue American use of military force has been more pronounced.

    I'm also not saying India will or won't show any further willingness to use more hard power. What I'm saying is that the 'cultural' differences of India and America are unlikely to be the deciding factor, because I don't see how, once upon a time, Indian and American values were really all that different on this account.


    EDIT: At first I had thought the Zarakia comments were from something else I was not addressing -- double-checking shows they were the genesis of the "live and let live" comment.
  9. Jabba-wocky Chosen One

    Member Since:
    May 4, 2003
    star 8
    Yes, yes. But what I'm trying to say is this. You are arguing stridently that the US pre-1945 was not militarily interventionist, but economically. I don't see where India has a history of or inclination towards either form of interventionism. So wouldn't Zakaria's comment about divergent cultural impulses still stand. "Live and let live" is a pretty blanket rejection of all interventionism, after all, not just military.
  10. Ghost Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Oct 13, 2003
    star 6
    India may have non-Western cultural origins, but is has interacted with "the West" (which is hard to define to begin with) throughout history.

    Less than 2% may be Christian, but out of over a billion people it is still a lot.

    Also, one or two of the original 12 Apostles travelled and spent their last years living among Indians. Christianity has had an influential presence in India as long as its had one in Europe.

    It's also important to know that Hinduism is an organic religion: it has survived expansions of Buddhism, Jainism, Christianity, Islam, Sikhism not by winning a war for the hearts and minds of Indians, but incorporating those religions into its own. Each new religious expansion in India has revitalized and shaped Hinduism. I wouldn't say Christianity is the most defining characteristic of the West, anyways, classical or modern.

    Also, I need to point out that Hinduism is not that different from Christianity. Even if just a minority of the Indian population is Christian, it does not mean that there are vast differences between Indian Hindus and Indian Christians and Western Christians.

    I would even say that Christianity is closer theologically/philosophically to Hinduism than it is to Islam and Judaism, and I say that fully knowing how closely tied the origins and beliefs of the Abrahamic faiths are.

    Religious diversity does not create mistrust in India, it has a long history of diversity and tolerance, going back to Asoka the Great and probably even before him. There have been occassional unpopular tyrants like Aurangzeb, and I won't dismiss there was violence leading up to Partition that were influenced by religious factors, but overall India has always been a place of religious multiculturalism.

    Even in the neighborhoods at the center of Partition violence, before the political factors the Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims, Christians, and Parsis were integrated and would freely interact with one another.

    Even Hinduism itself is not an easily-defined religion, more like the umbrella term for all of India's astika religions.

    Where does the number that less than 10% speak English come from? It may not be all Indians' primary or native language, but a clear majority of Indians understand and speak English. Almost every Indian is multi-lingual, speaking anywhere from 3 to 8 or more languages, they're similar to Europe in that respect. And I'm not sure how lingual differences will make them have a vastly different thought process or rationalization?


    India may have received more help from the Soviet Union during the Cold War, and started the Non-Aligned Movement, but Indian leaders have almost always had warm relations with the United States (especially personal relationshi
  11. LtNOWIS Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 19, 2005
    star 4
    As GAP says, we created the Panama canal and the nation it lies in. The canal was extremely important for US power projection from its completion through World War II, because it allowed the easy transfer of warships from one ocean to the other.

    Our control of the Philippines was also quite important, as it's what motivated Japan to attack us in World War II. They weren't trying to take our oil; they were going for the oil in the Dutch East Indies, and the Philippines were on their flank.

    Again, I'm sure the Haitians, Dominicans, and Nicaraguans, would disagree. Maybe it wasn't as much as the Europeans, but it was a fairly significant projection of power for decades and decades.
  12. GrandAdmiralPelleaon Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 28, 2000
    star 6
    Could you qualify this statement for me, please? Why does Brasil not have what is needed to become an international power broker?

    Also, I'll just add in for fun, like our trade commissioner said yesterday, we're still the biggest economy in the world, so, uh, yea.
  13. Ghost Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Oct 13, 2003
    star 6
    Brazil is an emerging power, and will likely gain greater prominence over the century, but it doesn't really have what it takes to go to the level of the United States, China, or India. It just doesn't have the same potential for growth, in human resources or natural resources, to even consider being an equal of the United States in power. It's like those saying Russia or the European Union will re-emerge as superpowers, they just don't have the same potential. Though I admit I know a lot less about Brazil than I do about China and India.

    Yeah, the United States of 2010 is still the biggest economy in the world (if you don't include the EU). Nobody was disputing that? Just that China and India have the potential to equal us in the 21st Century, and the best strategy to contain China's global ambitions would be a strategy that has an alliance and trade partnership between the United States and the Republic of India at its core. Which the current and previous administrations have been pursuing, as can be seen by President Obama's recent trip to India.
  14. GrandAdmiralPelleaon Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 28, 2000
    star 6
    Why would it not have the same human resources? It's a country of almost 200 million people with a rapid growth rate & an ever increasing educated population. It has quite some natural resources & on top of that, Brazilian business is rapidly establishing itself as one of the more dominant forces. AB Inbev may be referred to as Belgian, it's the Brazilians that made it the biggest brewery in the world. China & India both have unique problems - aging population in China for one & India is socially a lot less stable than you might think. Just a hint, look up where the Maoist rebellion is situated in India.

    Also, I think it's very unwise to underestimate the recent development in South America, particularly around UNASUR. South America has quite some potential to become a world player in it's own right, right there. As for the EU, it's a difficult situation, but I think the pessimistic view might have been taken too far recently. On the other hand, China is consistently over-estimated as far as growth potential & superpower potential goes. It's not just going to be India-China-USA, it's probably going to be far more equilibrated between EU-USA-South America-India-China (& I see potentials in Asia for a larger integration as well).

    EDIT:

    Btw, I'm European ;) so when I say we, I mean the EU. With "our trade commissioner" I meant Karel de Gucht who said yesterday: "The EU is the biggest economy in the world, time we started acting like it" & talked about some "measures" vis a vis China.
  15. kingthlayer Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 7, 2003
    star 4
    I agree with GAP.

    Brazil's democracy is actually more stable than India's because it is not subjected to the same local-regionalist forces that India's has been, and Brazil on average comes from a much better neighborhood than India does. Looking at India's immediate borders, there are Maoists in Nepal, territorial disputes with China and the looming problem of a fragile Pakistan. South America hasn't exactly been a bastion of peace and reliable governance, but there is nothing near Brazil that is going to handicap its ability to project itself beyond its own region.

    Economically speaking, Brazil has a very strong hand to play. Its the second largest economy in the Western hemisphere and as of 2009 its competitiveness, or ability to sell and supply goods and/or services in a given market, surpassed Russia and started closing the gap with India and China. It is pioneering ethanol production and is also blessed with massive oil reserves. Two of its cities, Sao Paolo and Rio de Janeiro, are in the top 20 biggest cities worldwide. Sao Paolo is already the biggest city in the Western hemisphere, will be the 6th richest by 2025 and is developing into a major financial center.

    Brazil is also blessed with a young population. Ghost, you are absolutely correct that China is going to get old before it gets rich. But looking at this chart here, you can see that Brazil won't be having that problem for a while yet:

    [image=http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/09/Brazil_population_pyramid_2005.png]

    Brazil - the dark horse of the 21st century!
  16. New_York_Jedi Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Mar 16, 2002
    star 6
    Brazil is also 50% richer than China on a per capita basis, and 3 times as wealthy as India on a per capita basis. Goodfellas point about ethanol is good, because Brazil actually makes useful, efficient sugarcane ethanol, not that corn based crap. They are totally energy independent, and that is before the Tupi oil fields come online in 10 years. They are in a really good place moving forward, especially if Rousseff continues like Lula has.
  17. Ghost Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Oct 13, 2003
    star 6
    I know about the Maoist rebellion, as well as other social problems in India, but they are not major problems and won't restrain India's rise. I'm not turning a blind eye to their problems, every country has weaknesses (especially developing ones), but its growth and potential is just so much stronger.

    I never disgreed about Brazil becoming a greater power, and I don't deny their strengths (such as energy independence), I just think Brazil won't be in the competition for The Superpower of the 21st Century. Like I said, it will probably be more like Canada, France, Turkey, Germany, Japan UK... which is very powerful. But it won't be "The Century of Brazil."

    And I thought you were European! :p Your post just threw me off a bit by saying "we're still tbe biggest economy in the world," since most Europeans still put national identity before "European identity."

    India has been surprisingly stable, given its di
  18. kingthlayer Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 7, 2003
    star 4
    Great article, but it poses one major question:

    If all of these smaller Asian countries are wary of China and looking to America for security guarantees, what happens if China makes a move on Taiwan and we don't come to their assistance? Wouldn't it essentially call our bluff?

    I understand that China is unlikely to do so, especially while we have President Ma in power, because economic ties are certain to bring China and Taiwan closer than military strength. But in light of China's belligerence which has set its diplomacy back by a decade or so, we have to assume that countries won't always act in their rational self-interest. Especially when we're dealing with nationalism issues.

    So, is war weary-America going to go to help Taiwan if it is attacked? What is that going to mean for our position and security alliances in Asia if we don't?
  19. Ben_Skywalker Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 20, 2001
    star 5
    If China makes a move on Taiwan, I highly doubt the U.S will respond militarily for many many obvious reasons. We'd move to enact economic sanctions of some sort, naturally. But with China being a veto wielding member, I doubt it'll be a UN mandated sanction.

    If the U.S doesn't respond by force, and allows the Chinese to forcibly take Taiwan, it'll look a lot like 1938. Obviously the global economy wasn't as intertwined back then but who knows? Substitute Nazi Germany and their annexation of Austria and the Sudetenland for China who wants to actively pursue its "One China" policy. They won't do it because it's risky but if they take Taiwan without any serious reprecussions, they might get tempted to take more. Then replace the appeasing Britain and France in 1938 with the United States and the European Union. There are enough disputed territories in and around Asia that if China were to forcibly take them, it could somehow escalate to war.

    Now this is all based on the idea that the Chinese even take Taiwan by force. Perosnnally, I believe they'll keep the status quo. Unless Taiwan actively seeks independence (which they won't barring some fanatical leader), there's no point in risking everything.
  20. Jabba-wocky Chosen One

    Member Since:
    May 4, 2003
    star 8
    I agree with your conclusion that ultimately Chian is unlikely to do anything, but I think you're way off base here. The German annexations prior to World War II had pretty thin historical justification, and were part of a deliberate plan of expansionism by Hitler's government. They didn't really get "tempted" into taking more. By contrast, Taiwan is an island that has always been considered a part of China for the lion's share of its political existence and has only recently been seized by a "government in exile" that no one would have ever really considered legitimate had they not disliked the People's Republic so much.

    I don't mean to say that dislike was unjustified, or that Taiwan should stop existing. But just in terms of assessing the validity of the territorial claim, China is on some of the most solid ground imaginable. I'd even venture to say that this is perhaps a better claim than Taiwan. At least there, a separate kingdom is being claimed. Whereas, since the ROC is also claiming to be "China" what we're dealing with is something much closer to secession.
  21. Alpha-Red Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Apr 25, 2004
    star 5
    I don't see how China has any solid ground whatsoever. The Chinese Civil War was never fought to a conclusion, and I would say that technically they're still at war much like how South and North Korea are. And since it's a conflict that's been put on deep freeze throughout the past 60 years, we may as well consider the two resulting territories to be different countries....so the successor state theory doesn't apply. By the time that whole mess of a territory called "China" coalesced into anything resembling government, you already had two Chinas.
  22. Hayche Jedi Padawan

    Member Since:
    Nov 18, 2010
    I'd like to get a good counterargument to the "Obama didn't do anything" attack that's been floating around. The idea goes that he didn't do a big enough stimulus, the health care bill was watered down, cap and trade was defeated, etc. But during the first several months of his term, people were talking about how much was getting done. I'm frustrated because I'd like to make a cogent response to people who think Obama was sitting on his hands for two years when this obviously isn't true.
  23. Ghost Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Oct 13, 2003
    star 6
    Obama is doing just what he said he would do



    True To His Word
    Note to critics: Read (or reread) his books. Obama is doing just what he said he would do.



    Every old-fashioned American amusement park had a fun house with mirrors that exaggerated your features. One mirror lengthened your legs, another widened your middle, a third made your face a wavy mask. If you stood in the right place, you vanished into endless distorting reflections. Nowadays, the political stage has become America?s communal fun house, and nobody looks stranger than Barack Obama.

    The president?s critics on the right deride him as a radical socialist seething with anti-American rage. To them, he?s a frightening success who has transformed the federal government, ruined the economy, and undermined national security. To the left, Obama is a tragic failure who squandered his chance for dramatic change: no single-payer health-care plan, no heated battle against Wall Street, and endless war in Afghanistan. If the president is struggling these days, the critics say, it?s perhaps because he?s out of touch with Americans, and even at odds with his own principles.

    Yet Obama is doing exactly what he said he would do. Perhaps the critics should read?or reread?the president?s own books. Dreams From My Father (1995) and The Audacity of Hope (2006) are the most substantial works written by anyone elected president since Woodrow Wilson (who wrote several books before he won election in 1912). In laying out his philosophy, Obama contrasts the GOP?s excessive individualism with the ideal of ?ordered liberty? and the rich traditions of civic engagement typical of America in the 18th and 19th centuries. He also criticizes orthodox Democrats for too quickly dismissing market solutions and too often defending failed government programs. Above all, he criticizes the hyperpartisan atmosphere of contemporary public life.

    Almost everything you need to know about Obama is there on the printed page. In contrast to the charges coming now from right and left, Obama is neither a rigid ideologue nor a spineless wimp. The Obama who wrote Dreams and Audacity stands in a long tradition of American reform, wary of absolutes and universals, and committed to a Christian tradition that prizes humility and social service over dogmatic statements of unbending principle. A child of the philosophical pragmatists William James and John Dewey, Obama distrusts pat formulas and prefers experimentation.

    Throughout his career, Obama has refused to demonize his opponents. Instead, he has sought them out and listened to them. He has tried to understand how they think and why they see the world as they do. His mother encouraged this sense of empathy, and it?s a lesson Obama learned well. Since January 2009, Obama has watched his efforts at reconciliation, experimentation, and -consensus--building bounce off the hard surfaces of political self-interest and entrenched partisanship, but there is no reason to think he will abandon that strategy now. He knows that disagreement is a vital part of the American fabric, and that our differences are neither shallow nor trivial.

    Although Obama?s reform agenda echoes aspects of those advanced by many Democrats over the last century, he has admitted?and this is the decisive point in understanding his outlook?that his opponents hold principles rooted as deeply in American history as his own. ?I am obligated to try to see the world through George Bush?s eyes, no matter how much I may disagree with him,? he wrote in Audacity. ?That?s what empathy does?it calls us all to task, the conservative and the liberal ? We are all shaken out of our complacency.? Obama rejects dogma, embraces uncertainty, and dismisses the fables that often pass for history among partisans on both sides who need heroes and villains, and who resist more-nuanced understandings of the past and the present.

    The shrill tone of Obama?s critics makes readi
  24. Alpha-Red Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Apr 25, 2004
    star 5
    And that's why I voted for Obama.
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