Sunday, July 8, 2012

Partisan Blinders

There's a school of thought that says we, meaning the U.S., should tend to our own affairs, as we have many socioeconomic issues that need to be addressed.  Adherents of this viewpoint say we shouldn't intervene in conflicts and political crises throughout the world.  We have enough problems of our own!  Why should we act like the Roman Empire and send our proconsuls and armies into strange lands abroad, getting into other people’s business, when we suffer from unemployment, a huge deficit, and social injustice within our own borders?  So be it.  One could argue that, while this is certainly a valid position, it sometimes depends on one's political view and who's sitting in the White House.  For example, those on the left, whether mainstream Democrats or far-lefties, were highly critical of the Bush administration.  (Keep in mind, I'm not saying whether they were right or wrong to do so.)  They saw the Bush administration as an "Imperial Presidency."  On the other hand, President Obama has taken a similarly strident approach in foreign affairs, launching for example more Predator drone missiles than the Bush administration ever dreamed of and killing people in the area between Afghanistan and Pakistansome bad people, yes, but also "collateral damage" (read: innocent bystanders).  Yet Democrats are not so interested in this.  And to stay balanced here, Republicans say that Obama doesn't know what he's doing and that he's making a mess of our foreign policy, by for example creating hostility with Pakistan.  But they fail to acknowledge that Obama, in many respects, is carrying on with Bush-type policies, and one of the main reasons that our relationship with Pakistan has soured under Obama is that the president sent in Navy Seals to take out Osama bin Laden and didn't tell the Pakistanis ahead of time.  (Frankly, had we observed diplomatic courtesy and told the Pakistanis we had intelligence on Osama's whereabouts and were planning to take him out, Osama would still be alive today).  And if Bush or any other Republican president had strained the relationship between us and Pakistan for this reason, Republicans would be saying Pakistani  condemnation of the U.S. is a badge of honor.

To be clear, I'm not in the business of supporting or bashing Clinton, Bush or Obama.  On the other hand, some of my Facebook friends and academic colleagues are free to espouse their partisan viewpoints as if half the nation doesn't disagree with them.  People live in bubbles.  At the end of the day, what you think about President X or President Y is largely based on your upbringing and political sensibility and less about their actual policies or decisions.  (True enough, some are simply rebelling against their upbringing by taking a view that differs either from parents, church, etc.)  As I've written elsewhere, politics is more of a visceral reaction to the Other than an analytical endeavor based on sound reasoning, whatever intellectual arguments we might use as window dressing for our deeper convictions.  I think that, generally speaking, these presidents have had good intentions.   They're flawed human beings, and sometimes they make controversial decisions.  Still, at the end of the day, they made decisions with U.S. nationalist interest foremost in mind and tried to merge these interests as much as possible with the "right thing to do."  No, I'm not a blind believer in authority.  We should always question our leaders' decisions, but remember: we live in a democratic nation, and these leaders are beholden to the American people for their actions, especially in an election year!  I only ask that if things don't go the way you want in terms of presidential and congressional elections, don't act as if we live in the Democratic Republic of Congo or something.  The U.S. is not an oppressive, one-party dictatorial state, so don’t threaten to move to Canada.  (Besides, you know you won’t do it anyway.)  Please.  Bridle your bitter partisanship in the name of intellectual honesty, if nothing else.