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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 6/21/14

Rolling Back the Clock? --Progressive Style?

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by Kevin Stoda (hoping to run as VP with Bernie Sanders in 2016)

According to the author of the blog, The Oligarch, one "Thatcher/Reagan Capitalist paradigm replaced the Post-War paradigm, so at a time when people were most sure that they knew what was right and where they should go in the future, but today we are at the tail end of the paradigm where it is perceived to have failed but we don't know what to replace it with, so even though I do not agree".

What paradigm is referred to here from the Reagan era? As a political scientist and student of history in the early 1980s, the one that dominant paradigm of the Reagan era that led to the destruction of the America of my childhood and teenage years was known as the "roll-back-the-clock" paradigm.

Roll-back-the-clock as both a neo-liberal and neo-con vision of America is the paradigm, which constantly needs to be replaced if justice, sustainability and progress are to reign again in the USA--an its relationships with others around the world.

Roll-Back-The-Clock approach Policy

In 1981, my first professor in political science, the late Dr. Charles Benjamin, explained that roll-back-the-clock was the plan of the new Ronald Reagan administration in terms of American foreign policy. We had just come out of the Carter era--the only time that USA presidential leadership had sincerely tried to put the CIA and NSA leadership in their societal places (subservient to the executive branch and constitution) and had unveiled a practicing Human-Rights policy that would support popular people's rebellions against dictators around the globe. During the Carter term, from Central America to the Middle East, the USA foreign policy had allowed people's movements to have their day in the sun.

However, with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the toppling of the Shah's regime in Iran, and the end of the Somoza dynasty of Nicaragua, by the early 1980s the newest white-house ideologues had invoked their vision or roll-back-the-clock approach in USA foreign affairs. Money, training, weapons, and propaganda would be waged to return to the (Truman to Nixon) Pax Americana to its 1950s and early 1960s realities, whereby a few powerfully connected men in smoke-filled rooms could calmly make decisions to overturn popularly elected governments in Latin America, the Caribbean, the Middle East, and Asia--i.e. with full knowledge that they had backing from the executive branch in Washington. Quickly, Saddam Hussein would be supported in a proxy war with Iran. The Contras and their ragtag allies would be funded in Honduras and Costa Rica to try and overthrow the Sandinistas. Resistance in Poland and Afghanistan against the Soviets was firmly but quietly supported.

In the 1980s, then again in the 1990s, and up through our present day, on the domestic front, these same roll-back-the-clock approaches were utilized by the misguided Christian right in attacking a great many of the Great Society and New Deal projects of the past century. In addition, they pushed through neo-con and neo-liberal economic and social plans for the USA on all fronts. These projects included the welfare-reform legislation of 1997, liberalization of banking and finance, draconian laws against bankruptcy (especially in terms of student debt), and attacks on the more liberal Supreme Court decisions of the past decade, such as the Roe/Wade decision to permit abortion. The states-rights movements of the Nixon era was pushed through still harder in this neo-con and neo-liberal era--first under Reagan and then again in the 1990s during the Clinton and elder Bush administrations.

Meanwhile back in the international arena, the United States was bailing out of one international treaty and commitment after another. When the USA was about to be found guilty of war crimes against the peoples of Nicaragua in 1980s for mining that country's harbors, the roll-back-the-clockers became isolationists and unilateralists by abandoning the World Court. Later, when George W. Bush became president in 2001, the USA not only rejected his predecessors' efforts to join the new international court of justice regime in the Hague but, in an unprecedented mover, he rescinded Clinton's signature of that same treaty. W. Bush went on to force a renegotiation of the Kyoto Global Warming Treaty and then worked to derail that treaty before it got started. In the preceding years, the USA had refused to sign numerous other treaties, including the abolition of land mines one.


In a way, the USA's attack on and avoidance of binding international treaties (related to war, justice and climate) were part and parcel of the roll-back-the-clock paradigm, which has dominated in the USA as both a domestic policy and as a foreign policy for about 3 decades now. Literally, the roll-back-the-clock paradigm hearkens to American national illusions that the good-old-days and good-old-ways of American unilateralism were always better (or at least supposedly more realistic) approaches than being involved in concepts or realities of promoting universal human rights, the United Nations or justice. Moreover, the new so-called neocon form or new realism failed to truly support and nurture democratic movements around the globe. For example, it was the people in the streets of Eastern Germany, Czechoslovakia, Poland, and South Korea who brought democracy to those lands. The USA had very little direct assistance to offer in any of these cases of the 1980s.

In short, around the globe, good democratic movements succeeded in the last few decades often despite the dominance of neo-con or neo-liberal ideas in Washington. Similarly at home, Americans who sought social justice and fairness were told by a national media and the nation's strongest or most connected and well-financed politicians that ten million Americans marching in streets against an invasion of Iraq in 2003 would hold little sway in promoting democracy and justice at home. In other words, by the time of the W. Bush (and then Obama) presidency, the same old faces were to remain in charge of banking, in the federal reserve, in the Senate, in the House, and in executive branch regardless of who was elected.

A few GOP leaders in the Senate can hold new taxes on the wealthy off in 2014, just as the Reagan regime did in the 1980s. Assistance to students and social services remain gutted as they were when roll-back-the-clock was first implemented in 1981. After 3 or more decades, the same media moguls, like Fox news' Murdoch and Bloomberg or Times-Warner, continue to define the status quo in American legislation and in its imperialist nature abroad. Unlike in the mid-1970s, the DOD, CIA, secretive NSA, and homeland security budgets are out of control and little effort, for example as in Iraq from 2010 till 2014) has really been taken to promote democracy and international development which was not in favor with the good-old days and good-old boys neo-con, neo-liberal ways of thinking.


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KEVIN STODA-has been blessed to have either traveled in or worked in nearly 100 countries on five continents over the past two and a half decades.--He sees himself as a peace educator and have been-- a promoter of good economic and social development--making-him an enemy of my homelands humongous DEFENSE SPENDING and its focus on using weapons to try and solve global (more...)

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