Unique strengths?

Excerpts from President Obama’s final State of the Union speech.

Our unique strengths as a nation — our optimism and work ethic, our spirit of discovery, our diversity, our commitment to rule of law — these things give us everything we need to ensure prosperity and security for generations to come.

What’s unique about those strengths? It reminds me of a joke:

What’s the difference between the USA and England?
England invites other countries to world championships.

That might be a bit unfair, in recent years the US has ‘invited’ other countries to join it in stirring up the hornets’ nest in the Middle East.

So let’s talk about the future, and four big questions that I believe we as a country have to answer — regardless of who the next President is, or who controls the next Congress.

First, how do we give everyone a fair shot at opportunity and security in this new economy?

A major challenge for every developed country.

Second, how do we make technology work for us, and not against us — especially when it comes to solving urgent challenges like climate change? 

Another major world challenge, although as a leader in technology and in pollution the US has a significant role to play.

“We’ve protected an open Internet” has a degree of irony given US efforts to monitor and control what everyone else does on the Internet.

Third, how do we keep America safe and lead the world without becoming its policeman?

Perhaps they could start by becoming a much better example. ‘Do as I say, not as I do’ is a bit outdated.

“We have to take them out.”

“We just need to call them what they are — killers and fanatics who have to be rooted out, hunted down, and destroyed.”

“With nearly 10,000 air strikes…”

“If this Congress is serious about winning this war, and wants to send a message to our troops and the world, authorize the use of military force against ISIL.”

We also can’t try to take over and rebuild every country that falls into crisis, even if it’s done with the best of intentions. That’s not leadership; that’s a recipe for quagmire, spilling American blood and treasure that ultimately will weaken us. It’s the lesson of Vietnam; it’s the lesson of Iraq — and we should have learned it by now

“When you come after Americans, we go after you. And it may take time, but we have long memories, and our reach has no limits.”

Standing up and fighting is sometimes necessary, but ultimately to win against warmongers you have to show there are better ways than waging war.

The US should have learned from Vietnam, where they used brute force and overwhelming arms superiority to try and annihilate their enemy and destroy large parts of the country. That failed.

That’s American strength. That’s American leadership. And that kind of leadership depends on the power of our example. That’s why I will keep working to shut down the prison at Guantanamo.

Eight years of keeping on working to shut down Guantanamo is hardly a sign of strength of leadership or power of example. Guantanamo remains a major embarrassment for the US.

And that’s why we need to reject any politics — any politics — that targets people because of race or religion. Let me just say this. This is not a matter of political correctness. This is a matter of understanding just what it is that makes us strong.

That will be controversial, but it’s quite right.

The world respects us not just for our arsenal; it respects us for our diversity, and our openness, and the way we respect every faith.

Blind to reality – a major problem is that many in the world do not respect the US, and sometimes for very good reason.

When politicians insult Muslims, whether abroad or our fellow citizens, when a mosque is vandalized, or a kid is called names, that doesn’t make us safer. That’s not telling it like it is. It’s just wrong. It diminishes us in the eyes of the world. It makes it harder to achieve our goals. It betrays who we are as a country.

But things like 10,000 air strikes against Muslim targets diminishes the US in the eyes of parts of the world. Does Obama or his speech writers fail to see that? Or deliberately ignore it?

And finally, how can we make our politics reflect what’s best in us, and not what’s worst?

That’s worth a separate post. See Obama on the worst and best of politics.

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18 Comments

  1. Iceberg

     /  14th January 2016

    Come on PG, that’s an anti US rant worthy of TDB. What’s unique about these strengths? Well for a start, what technology advance hasn’t come from the US in the last 100 years?

    Pax Americana has had some pitfalls, but let’s not forget what the alternatives could have been.

    Reply
    • Most of it is Obama ranting on (pointing out) US issues. Have you got any arguments against anything he said?

      Reply
      • Iceberg

         /  14th January 2016

        No, I can’t get past my tribal disgust for him to form a coherent argument.

        Reply
        • “my tribal disgust for him”

          If you read his speech you well see that he refers to things like this quite critically. Tribal disgust is toxic in politics.

          Reply
    • Blazer

       /  14th January 2016

      you can only speculate as to what the alternatives to the influence of the U.S military industrial complex might have been.What it has done,however is there to see…mass killings,destruction and mayhem and interference in spheres far removed from their own nation.

      Reply
      • Iceberg

         /  14th January 2016

        And the most peaceful and prosperous period in history.

        Reply
        • Blazer

           /  14th January 2016

          tell that to the inhabitants of the 37 countries they have invaded since WW2.

          Reply
      • Iceberg

         /  14th January 2016

        We don’t need to speculate, the alternatives have been obvious in China, USSR, Asia, Africa, and South America and others since WW11. Despots, poverty, genocide, were all on offer.

        Reply
        • Blazer

           /  14th January 2016

          as opposed to the current state of bankruptcy in the West. and the legacies of Vietnam,Cambodia,Iraq,Afghanistan,Rwanda, and now Syria.Take those rose coloured glasses off.

          Reply
          • Iceberg

             /  14th January 2016

            I know, terrible state of affairs! Don’t even start me on fluoride and vaccines, right?

            Reply
      • Orhhh, Blazer, they’ve created a global neoliberal economy! Come on matey, give them some credit? A lot of those things you mention are just the “collateral damage” so we can have the wonderful “free” life we enjoy today. The “free market” life.

        Point by point or question by question –

        “First, how do we give everyone a fair shot at opportunity and security in this new economy?”

        Simple, you head back in the other direction some ways. Note “some”. Create a post-new-economy which resembles the “old” economy somewhat more – and incorporates all sorts of new technologies and innovations.

        “Second, how do we make technology work for us, and not against us — especially when it comes to solving urgent challenges like climate change?”

        Two subjects in one question successfully avoiding either? 1) Technology – Encourage new technologies. Re-envigorate some old technologies, perhaps with new components, eg Solar Railway. Encourage “made in the USA” technologies. Encourage “home made” non-commodified technologies. Encourage “commundified” (new word) technologies, being “community commodified” technologies. 2) Climate Change – not going there today …

        “Third, how do we keep America safe and lead the world without becoming its policeman?”

        It is WAY TOO LATE for that pal. Some sensible ‘isolationism’ might not go amiss?
        Seriously though, the answer is – encourage EVERYONE to become the world’s policeman. Lead the world by giving the UN Security Council real global-security and Peace Keeping powers. Give up your Veto and negotiate the other veto nations to do so. It’ll mean more troops on the ground, for a while, maybe a generation or two, but at least they’ll have White Uniforms on!

        “And finally, how can we make our politics reflect what’s best in us, and not what’s worst?”

        The real, peaceful revolution: Change the very nature of democracy. e.g. The coalition, cooperation or investigative model – interrogate the issue – rather than the adversarial, competitive, “play the man” one.

        Ψ

        Reply
  2. Blazer

     /  14th January 2016

    the U.S as the worlds policeman’ …is just more nonsense/propaganda ,like ‘trickle down theory’ and other worn out dogma.The U.S looks after No.1,end of.The business of America is…business’…your choice U.S dollars….or….bombs!

    Reply
  3. Iceberg

     /  14th January 2016

    You know this blog is hosted in the US, don’t you Blazer? You know Microsoft, Apple, Intel, the internet, are from the US? Everything in your comments here is facilitated by and reliant on the US. If you go to hospital, need an operation, an MRI scan, the latest cancer drug? I wouldn’t advise turning down the stuff from the US. They seem to be looking after you pretty well also, not just No.1. Next time you’re driving your car to the anti drilling protest at the beach…you’ll probably be listening to an MP3 song..wait!

    Reply
    • Blazer

       /  14th January 2016

      The U.S people as a whole are great.US POLITICIANS and Wall St financiers,not so …great.Scientific and technological innovation is not and has never been the sole domain of the U.S.

      Reply
      • Iceberg

         /  14th January 2016

        The reason “The US people as a whole are great” is because US POLITICIANS (almost every public official is elected) and Wall St financiers have (on balance) promoted and protected democracy, property rights and personal freedom like in no other country, ever. It’s easy to wear a Che Guevara T Shirt and shout leftist slogans at the US, they’re a target rich environment for that.

        Reply
        • Blazer

           /  14th January 2016

          also easy to digest the fiction that ‘promoted and protected democracy, property rights and personal freedom ‘.This simply does not withstand scrutiny.U.S politicians have been bought and paid for,for decades…still remember the Merrill Lynch handlers ordering U.S President Reagan to …’speed it up’ when he was on the podium.

          Reply
          • At his second Inaugural Address I believe –

            runs into this, an interview with Michael Moore about “Capitalism, A Love Story”

            Reply
      • Indeed, technological development has been ‘global’ for quite a long time and modern progress considerably dependent on colonial resources, Botswana’s Diamonds and Nickel, Lithium from whatever African nation it comes from et al ad infinitum …

        One can even reliably say the US itself is a product of colonialism.

        But it isn’t just raw ingredients, is it? The “human resource” component in developments, even those seemingly domiciled in the US, often come from all over the world. Rutherford, members of the Manhattan Project, the Space program … et al … Wasn’t Jobs the son of a Syrian refugee or something?

        So arguably, had not the West been so materialistic, acquisitive, corporative and war-like, Blazer may not need to drive a petrol engined automobile at all? There might exist some other form of transport undreamed of or presently suppressed? There may be no need to protest about drilling because drilling might be a thing of the distant past?

        I appreciate the benefits of modern technology.
        The “You can talk!” defensive position, which isn’t an argument, is irrelevant I reckon.

        Reply

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