Monday, July 14, 2008


The most significant thing about Barack Obama’s interview with Fareed Zacharia yesterday on CNN, was his serenity. Obama’s detractors have called his noble demeanor a suit. But nobility is a manifestation of inner strength, and as was plain to see yesterday, strength brings serenity. American’s yearn for an end to the shrill hype that has characterized the political stage, and Zacharia’s Sunday GPS brings discussions and interviews to a new level. Yesterday, his firmness delineated a space where Obama’s equanimity could flower.

During the first world war, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes used the phrase “clear and present danger” to designate circumstances that would justify government regulation of free speech. The expression later was given a different meaning. Courtesy of Jaideep Singh, writing on B-Net in 2004:

“The first Committee on the Present Danger was formed in 1950 by Cold War liberals who favored a policy of containment vis-a-vis the Soviet Union; the second installment came after Vietnam, launched by hawkish Democrats who felt their party had gone soft on the Reds, and who during the Reagan years had become active in Republican foreign-policy circles. The latter group, known as neo-conservatives... has relaunched the committee to ‘educate free people everywhere about the threat posed by global radical Islamist and fascist terrorist movements; to counsel against appeasement of terrorists; and build support for a strategy of victory against this menace to freedom.’"

The term clear and present danger - code for alarm - has driven American foreign policy for half a century, and the result has been a country whose infrastructures are crumbling, which is hated even by many we call our allies, and where to become president a candidate cannot back the single payer health care that exists in virtually all other advanced countries.

In February 2007 I wrote a blog entitled: “Obama’s breath of fresh air, Hillary's blast from the past and Putin’s credo”. A year and a half later, everything it said is broadly recognized. I’m saying today that if Obama reaches the White House, his serenity will power the replacement of alarm bells with cooperation.

A good place to start would be to let the just signed treaty with the Czech Republic to place missile tracking devices on its soil die quietly. The Poles have not agreed to the corresponding installation of interceptor missiles on their territory, and neither population wants to be so defended from attack by Iran. Under this guise, the plan adds up to merely moving the Oder/Neisse line that divided Europe in half for forty years slightly eastward, reviving the threat to Russia, to which Putin has responded accordingly.

As long as different levels of development and different - sometimes tortuous - roads to development are perceived as threats, there will be money in military hardware, but not in government sponsored health care.

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