Bush’s policy was to capture (and torture) suspects, while Obama simply assassinates them
While longstanding US policies remain stable, with tactical adjustments, under Obama there have been some significant changes. Military analyst Yochi Dreazen observes in the Atlantic that Bush’s policy was to capture (and torture) suspects, while Obama simply assassinates them, with a rapid increase in terror weapons (drones) and the use of Special Forces, many of them assassination teams. Special Forces are scheduled to operate in 120 countries. Now as large as Canada’s entire military, these forces are, in effect, a private army of the president, a matter discussed in detail by American investigative journalist Nick Turse on the website Tomdispatch. The team that Obama dispatched to assassinate Osama bin Laden had already carried out perhaps a dozen similar missions in Pakistan.
As these and many other developments illustrate, though America’s hegemony has declined, its ambition has not.
Another common theme, at least among those who are not willfully blind, is that American decline is in no small measure self-inflicted. The comic opera in Washington this summer, which disgusts the country (a large majority think that Congress should just be disbanded) and bewilders the world, has few analogues in the annals of parliamentary democracy. The spectacle is even coming to frighten the sponsors of the charade. Corporate power is now concerned that the extremists they helped put in office in Congress may choose to bring down the edifice on which their own wealth and privilege relies, the powerful nanny state that caters to their interests.
The eminent American philosopher John Dewey once described politics as “the shadow cast on society by big business,” warning that “attenuation of the shadow will not change the substance.” Since the 1970s, the shadow has become a dark cloud enveloping society and the political system. Corporate power, by now largely financial capital, has reached the point that both political organizations, which now barely resemble traditional parties, are far to the right of the population on the major issues under debate.
The deficit crisis is largely manufactured as a weapon to destroy hated social programs on which a large part of the population relies. Economics correspondent Martin Wolf of the London Financial Times writes that “it is not that tackling the US fiscal position is urgent…. The US is able to borrow on easy terms, with yields on 10-year bonds close to 3 percent, as the few non-hysterics predicted. The fiscal challenge is long term, not immediate.” Very significantly, he adds: “The astonishing feature of the federal fiscal position is that revenues are forecast to be a mere 14.4 percent of GDP in 2011, far below their postwar average of close to 18 percent. Individual income tax is forecast to be a mere 6.3 percent of GDP in 2011. This non-American cannot understand what the fuss is about: in 1988, at the end of Ronald Reagan’s term, receipts were 18.2 percent of GDP. Tax revenue has to rise substantially if the deficit is to close.” Astonishing indeed, but it is the demand of the financial institutions and the super-rich, and in a rapidly declining democracy, that’s what counts.
Though the deficit crisis is manufactured for reasons of savage class war, the long-term debt crisis is serious, and has been ever since Ronald Reagan’s fiscal irresponsibility turned the US from the world’s leading creditor to the world’s leading debtor, tripling national debt and raising threats to the economy that were rapidly escalated by George W. Bush. But for now, it is the crisis of unemployment that is the gravest concern.
In the past 30 years, the “masters of mankind,” as Smith called them, have abandoned any sentimental concern for the welfare of their own society, concentrating instead on short-term gain and huge bonuses, the country be damned – as long as the powerful nanny state remains intact to serve their interests.
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