Reprinted from Consortium News
President Barack Obama returning to the White House on Jan. 17, 2013.
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New York Times columnist Paul Krugman marvels at the right-wing extremism prevalent in the Republican presidential race not just from the "outsider" candidates but from the "establishment" favorites as well, doubling down on President George W. Bush's economic prescriptions and foreign policies despite their record of disaster.
The media's obsession with Donald Trump's off-the-cuff candidacy "has in one way worked to the G.O.P. establishment's advantage: it has distracted pundits and the press from the hard right turn even conventional Republican candidates have taken, a turn whose radicalism would have seemed implausible not long ago," Krugman wrote on Monday.
It would be fair to say that the Democrats are suffering from a similar disconnect from the lessons of the last quarter century, with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton bristling with hawkish rhetoric toward Syria and Russia while sending fawning salutations to Israel despite its contribution to the Mideast crisis by repressing the Palestinian people.
Even Clinton's chief rival, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, can't formulate a rational policy toward the Middle East, although -- to his credit -- he did oppose Bush's bogus case for invading Iraq and favors prioritizing cooperation with Russia in defeating the Islamic State over demanding another "regime change" in Syria.
But Sanders simply wants to postpone the U.S. removal of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and he encourages Saudi Arabia to throw its military weight around more across the region, not noticing that the Saudis are backing many of the Sunni jihadists who have helped turn the Middle East into a killing field. Nor does Sanders explain why one would expect the Saudis to turn away from their obsession with fighting Shiites as they are currently doing in pulverizing Yemen because a Shiite rebel group, the Houthis, gained power in that impoverished nation.
In a rational world, Saudi Arabia would be viewed as a major part of the problem, not part of any solution.
On domestic policy, Sanders -- like Trump -- does seem to have touched a populist political nerve in their recognition that neo-liberalism (as preached since Bill Clinton's presidency) has failed to protect America's middle class. Though Sanders's and Trump's brands of populism offer sharply divergent remedies, they both speak to Main Street's fear that it is being left behind by the high-tech globalized world that has diverted vast wealth to Wall Street and Silicon Valley.
The more traditional candidates -- whether Hillary Clinton or the establishment Republicans -- don't address the heart of this problem. Instead, they choose to play it safe on the edges while embracing the "free market" orthodoxies that created the crisis.
A Propagandized People
But is it really possible to expect that the American people (as propagandized and misinformed as they are) could effect significant change through the electoral process, which is itself deeply compromised by vast sums of dark money from American oligarchs, while other super-rich Americans own the major media companies.
So, while there may be some logical responses to this combination of crises, the media/political system prevents them from being considered in any coherent way.
For instance, a rational approach to the Middle East would shift American alliances away from the reactionary Persian Gulf monarchies and Turkey and toward a more balanced approach that would invite greater involvement of Shiite-ruled Iran, which the Sunni-led monarchies view as their chief regional rival. There is little reason for the United States to take one side of a sectarian split within Islam that dates back to the Seventh Century.
By shedding its current pro-Saudi bias, the United States could finally get serious about resolving the Syrian crisis by shutting down the money and weapons going from Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey to the extremists not just in the Islamic State but also in Al Qaeda's Nusra Front and its various jihadist allies.
Since summer 2014, President Barack Obama and his "coalition" have been fighting a half-hearted war that has failed to face down the U.S. "allies" aiding the Sunni jihadists in Syria. Only when shamed by Russia in fall 2015 did the U.S. coalition join in bombing trucks carrying the Islamic State's oil from Syria through Turkey's open borders for resale in the black market. [See Consortiumnews.com's "A Blind Eye Toward Turkey's Crimes."]
As for Syria's political future, a reasonable approach would be to leave the selection of national leaders up to the Syrian people through internationally organized democratic elections. The voters would be the ones to decide Assad's fate, not outsiders.