Weekly Letter to President Obama
Copyright © 2010
ofthisandthat.org. All rights
INAUGURATION, January 20, 2009
Drunk in its stale air
For two hundred years.
Fettered in mind and body,
The soul, the safe escape
To let me breathe the cries
Of my heart singing
Tears of mel-an-choly.
The tears flow free today
Washing the stains of blood
And sweat in brotherhood.
Raise the curtain then an'
Let the world look in
On this promised land --
We breathe free today.... almost.
--- Arshad M. Khan
We will be known forever by the tracks we leave.
--- Native American proverb
May 30, 2014
Mr. President: Your foreign policy address was interesting in that you advocate a
judicious use of military force. But proxies can be just as devastating and proxies of
proxies uncontrollable. Thousands upon thousands are dead in Libya and we now
have the general (Khalifa Haftar) who found shelter and further training in Langley
(1990 onwards after a betrayal by Gaddafi) rampaging across the country while
marines wait offshore. The blowback has already led to a well-armed Boko Haram
causing chaos in Nigeria.
In Syria, hundreds of thousands have been killed and millions are homeless to no
avail. One wonders if that is not muscular enough. Those who continue to claim a
red line was crossed there (despite contrary evidence the chemical incident was a
false flag attack) seem to ignore the expected Russian response at that time to any
bombing -- anti-aircraft missiles, as reported today in the downing of a helicopter in
Slavyansk killing fourteen including a general.
One cannot think of more dysfunctional goals than replacing or attempting to replace
regimes that were fellow combatants against al-Qaeda and the fundamentalists -- I am
thinking of Iraq, Libya and Syria. And if history is any guide, democracy is no
protection from vengeful disciplinarians: witness Mossedegh's Iran, Allende's Chile,
Guatemala, Ukraine, even Syria where informed observers believe Assad would win a
Worse still, the hammer of your foreign policy metaphor seldom works in the long run
-- long-term suffering and unexpected consequences are often most likely. Amnesty
International's reporting of cursory trials and indiscriminate and prolific use of the
death penalty in Iraq now is just one example. Hundreds have been killed in Ukraine
and everyone knows the horrors perpetrated by the installed regimes in the other
And what has been gained? In Ukraine, Mr. Putin employed a strategy that any chess
player knows instinctively: the threat of force can often be more effective than its
actual use. He seems to have gotten what he wanted and has also clearly
established a boundary NATO will be loathe to cross.
Moreover, he has seized the moment. The general discomfort at our muscle-flexing
facilitated his sealing two deals, which had been under discussion for quite a while:
that is on a Eurasian economic network starting with Belarus and vast-resource-rich
Kazakhstan, as well as the huge 30-year $400 billion gas deal with China which had
been balking on price. In an exception for oil and gas contracts, the latter does not
use the dollar threatening its role as a reserve currency -- our saving grace
preventing its collapse.
Stationing the military or special forces in 124 countries of the world, and the
enormous cost of maintaining and purchasing increasingly sophisticated equipment
comes at a price -- education, social programs, even services for veterans (as
Secretary Eric Shinseki's resignation this week and the veterans hospital scandal
caused no doubt by a shortage of funds exemplified).
In the foreign policy address, the two extremes laid out within which you positioned
yourself was a gap so wide, it provides a broad avenue for muscle-flexing as well as a
rhetoric of peace.
My only question is, whatever happened to what another Nobel Peace Laureate,
Albert Schweitzer, (who built leper colonies in Africa to help the afflicted) referred to
as "the reverence for life"? To him it meant having the compunction not to harm or