politics

My Dialogue with President Obama

Relax. This is a way of writing. It is imagined. The scene is a room in the White House, setting is informal. The President has asked if I prefer that and I do.

President Obama: OK. What is it.

An Obama Doctrine, sir. You said change the world. That resonated. It still does. You agree with Derrida and countless others who have said that we need a change beyond our spiral repetition of the past. The Obama Doctrine would spell this out.

President Obama: (Smiles)

I know. I know. You’ve already laid out the biggest change. That diplomacy can work. It is no longer just a step. It means to be the last step. Negotiation.

President Obama: Yes.

The most radical element of an Obama Doctrine would be to affirm, and stand by, equivalence in the event of attack.

President Obama: Lex talionis.

Yes, sir.  If we had had an Obama Doctrine after 9/11 we would have saved untold lives on all sides. Though the law is very old, it has never been practiced in conflicts between nations.

President Obama:  What relevance does this have right now?

You would signal an intention to wind down, not up. You would negotiate with the enemy.

President Obama: Is that all?

No, sir. The Obama Doctrine is a call to the evolution of humankind from a war to a peace-footing. You cannot speak of global prosperity without acknowledging our current enslavement to military thinking and military-industrial action.

President Obama: I have that Nobel Speech to make

That is where the Obama Doctrine gets launched.

President Obama: We have an ongoing conflict with an enemy that wills to inflict as much damage as it can on Americans.

If we practice equivalence they will have to acknowledge that the world has changed. You have already set the stage with your Cairo speech. Secretary Clinton conveys a similar intent.

President Obama: Anything else?

Yes. We need to say that the individual is sacrosanct. If we say this, then we must support freedom of movement. We must say that this freedom applies in particular to victims of oppression.  We must work toward freedom of movement as a human right.

President Obama: I am trying to see where this would lead.

McCain and others would see this as the gift that keeps on giving. You would be skewered by the right. You would incur the wrath of your generals. You would risk your Presidency.

President Obama: Your solution?

Argue it out. Who are we fighting? What do they want? We can argue persuasively that in our world we do not support the creation of  nations or regions under one religion — this is what Al Queda wants and will not get. We can argue persuasively that we are not the enemy — but not if we continue to essentially participate in civil wars in other countries. We can argue that this is part of a broad move to begin to accept control over our lives.

President Obama: I’m thinking.

Sir, I believe in my heart that your Presidency will succeed only if you move in this direction. The other way is quicksand.

President Obama:  I know.

People out there are saying you have no gut feeling either way. Then they act as though the only way to go is to keep up the fight. The fight is impossible. You are fighting the people whose allegiance you want to win. Your gut would be truly engaged building a world beyond thousands of years of warfare and the celebration of violence.

President Obama:  OK. I’ll sleep on it. There is a way.

Thank you, sir.

President Obama: Want to look around.

No, sir. I appreciate your time.

President Obama: (Sighs, rises)

(Rises)

President Obama:  I wish everything was that easy.

You know it isn’t easy,  sir. It never has been for anyone who ever changed things.

President Obama: You’re sounding like me.

Yep.

President Obama: Get up and go.

Yes, sir.

President Obama: The time is short.

It is, sir.

President Obama: Good night.

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