No doubt 2013 will go down as Barack Obama’s annus horribilis. The President of the United States (POTUS) currently faces a 55 percent disapproval rating on “the way he is handling his job,” according to the latest Washington Post-ABC poll.
Not exactly a train wreck, considering POTUS has been presiding over the unforgiving destruction of the American middle class, with a whopping 76 percent of working Americans living paycheck-to-paycheck. Moreover, in his year-end press conference, POTUS still insisted his administration has struck the right balance between spying and privacy, although admitting, “there may be other ways of skinning the cat.”
In foreign policy, “other ways of skinning the cat” has been largely interpreted by frightened US puppets – of the House of Saud kind – as the hyperpower dangerously receding. Not really; the strategy of team POTUS is rather an attempt at re-jigging the game while trying to stay in the lead.
If it looks awkward, that’s because it is; after all, for the past decades, US foreign policy moves almost always contribute to crystallize non-stop instability in the fault lines. So no wonder 2013 has been a succession of spectacular new lows, although culminating with a possible new high.
Lockdown or else
This February, in his State of the Union address, Obama promised to “help” Libya, Yemen and Somalia, not to mention Mali; failure on all fronts. He promised to “engage” Russia (in fact Russia ended up engaging him). He promised to seduce Asia with the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) – a collection of ultra-dodgy corporate-friendly free-trade scams (Asia was not seduced). He promised to “stand” with those who want freedom in the Middle East (that does not include people from Bahrain).
As this was Capitol Hill, Obama had to recite the Hail Mary; “preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons”; putting more “pressure” on Syria – whose “regime kills its own people”; and remaining “steadfast” with Israel.
Then came the Boston bombing, whose chief consequence was a monster dry run for urban martial law – euphemized as “lockdown” – in a very near American future. As total militarization of civilian life goes – featuring Homeland Security running amok with hundreds of armored vehicles – this beat any Hollywood blockbuster.
The intersection of Baltimore Parkway and Maryland Route 32 also danced with the stars; that business park a mile away from the NSA, known as the largest concentration of cyber power on the planet, all about the gung-ho privatization of spying – call it “Digital Blackwater” – was at the heart of the Snowden scandal.
Piling up on Obama’s infamous kill lists, the Snowden leaks revealed details of how the NSA black hole lords over all as the ultimate Panopticon. And how PRISM – as expressed in its Dark Side of the Moon-ish logo – is no less than a graphic expression of the ultimate Pentagon/neo-con wet dream; the Full Spectrum Dominance doctrine. After all the NSA – also known as No Such Agency – is part of the Pentagon.
The Obama administration could not possibly dismiss Full Spectrum Dominance, which was conceptualized way back in the Pentagon’s 2002 Joint Vision 2020. And Snowden did not expose anything that was not already known – or at least suspected – since 2002.
So Obama and the US government had nothing to spin, except that PRISM is benign; PRISM is legal; it only targets non-US citizens outside of the US; and well, it “may” sweep US citizens’ digital information. That’s also legal but we can’t tell you how.
Snowden made Obama look like a clown, surfing the PR tsunami as a master – and controlling it all the way (yes, you do learn a thing or two at the CIA). The timing of his disclosure was a beauty; it handed China the ultimate gift just as Obama was harassing President Xi Jinping about cyber war at a California summit.
Humiliation by a private contractor was followed with severe rhetorical spanking by the Russian President. At the G8 summit in Northern Ireland, Putin went for the jugular, addressing Obama face to face:
“Your country sent its army to Afghanistan in the year 2001 on the excuse that you are fighting the Taliban and the Al-Qaeda organization and other fundamentalist terrorists whom your government accused of carrying out the 11 September attacks on New York and Washington. And here you are today making an alliance with them in Syria. And you and your allies are declaring your desire to send them weapons. And here you have Qatar in which you [the US] have your biggest base in the region and in the territory of that country the Taliban are opening a representative office.”
That was just a prelude for the real action. POTUS screamed and shouted because he wanted his spy back. Snowden, following Russian laws, was granted temporary asylum. The White House was “disappointed.” And a sullen POTUS snubbed the bilateral summit with Putin in Moscow coinciding with the G-20 in St Petersburg. The Kremlin was equally “disappointed.”
POTUS by now was morphing from “Yes, We Can” to “Yes, We Scan” and finally “Yes, We Scorn”. This might have frightened assorted poodles of the Euroland kind, but it didn’t stick to Vlad the Hammer, who quickly evaluated how the Obama administration turned its already shaky “credibility” to ashes on two simultaneous fronts; because of the scale of the Orwellian/Panopticon complex detailed by Snowden’s leaks, and because of the way he was being mercilessly hunted.
Feel free to bask in my credibility
Then POTUS outdid himself, creating a – what else – “credibility” problem when, recklessly, he pronounced the use of chemical weapons in Syria a “red line.”
So the US government urgently needed to punish the transgressor – to hell with evidence – to maintain its “credibility.” But this time it would be “limited.” “Tailored.” Only “a few days.” A “shot across the bow” – as POTUS qualified it. Still, some – but not all – “high-value targets,” including command and control facilities and delivery systems in Syria would have to welcome a barrage of 384 Tomahawk cruise missiles already positioned in the eastern Mediterranean. I called it, at the time, Operation Tomahawk With Cheese.
So in the week marking the 12th anniversary of 9/11, POTUS was fighting for his bombing ”credibility,” trying to seduce Republican hawks in the US Congress while most of the warmongers du jour happened to be Democrats.
Call it surrealism from the barrel of a gun; the US must start yet another war in the Middle East to punish a “evil dictator” – once again, as bad as Hitler – for gassing children. The evidence? It’s “indisputable.” Talk about hitting a new low with a bang.
Putin in the end saved POTUS. The Russian plan of having Damascus surrender its chemical weapons arsenal worked because of its inbuilt Chinese wisdom; nobody lost face – from POTUS and the US Congress to the European Union, the UN and the farcical “Arab” League, essentially a Saudi Arabian colony.
Then, after so much sorrow, some forgiveness. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani made a spectacular entrance at the UN surfing no less than a WAVE, as in World Against Violence and Extremism. Not in Farsi, which would be lost in translation; in English. He invited the whole planet to join the WAVE. How come no “coalition of the willing” leader ever thought about that?
POTUS, to his credit, rose to the occasion. Sure, it took massive 60 years for an American president to finally admit Washington had a hand in overthrowing the democratically elected Mossadegh government in Iran in 1953. POTUS officially recognized the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei’s fatwa against nuclear weapons (imagine the George W Bush administration doing it). And he said on the record that Washington is not seeking regime change in Tehran – thus speeding up former vice president Dick Cheney’s next heart attack. POTUS even mentioned the key words “mutual respect.”
By this time the Chinese were busy proclaiming the birth of the“de-Americanized” world.
Still it was exhilarating to watch the 34-year Wall of Mistrust between the US and Iran starting to tumble down on a Sunday at 3 am in Geneva.
It was only a mutually acknowledged “first step” – a deal between the P5+1 and Iran to start negotiating a real deal. But the temptation is great to sideline cynicism and coldly weigh in the Obama administration’s own calculations; if everything of consequence in Southwest Asia revolves around Iran, there can’t possibly be an Obama-announced “pivoting to Asia” without, first, a pivot to Persia.
So after so many lows and one certified high, this is the big question for 2014; will the 0.0001 percent, the Western financial Masters of the Universe, allow a sovereign, independent Iran in the same league of Russia and China, thus further solidifying Asian integration in the New Great Game in Eurasia?
Because that’s what really the endgame is all about. One wonders whether POTUS the peacemaker will have the balls to bet it all, especially when one considers the (White) House not always wins.
Pepe Escobar is the roving correspondent for Asia Times/Hong Kong, an analyst for RT and TomDispatch, and a frequent contributor to websites and radio shows ranging from the US to East Asia.