Black America and Obama’s Foreign Policy
In the face of the deployment of 100 US troops to Uganda and the assassination of unindicted accused Al Qaeda operative and US citizen Anwar al-Awlaki by the Obama administration, and a clear pattern of increased militarization of U.S. policy toward Africa there is a serious question to be posed to Black America: where is the outcry?
It is no rhetorical flourish to say that the foreign policy of the Obama administration, far from representing a qualitative break with that of the Bush administration, has proven in most spheres to be continuity. This in no way means that the same verbal belligerence is at play. In fact, the policy is more akin to that followed by former President Bill Clinton in that there is more of an effort to collaborate with other imperial allies in our aggression rather than the unilateralism that was very characteristic of President George W. Bush. Nevertheless, what we are not seeing is anything approaching a transformation of relations between the USA and the rest of the world, making the 2009 awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to President Obama premature at best.
Instead we have seen the escalation of war in Afghanistan to the point that one can correctly describe it as the Afpak War (Afghanistan/Pakistan) with the regular drone attacks taking place in both countries and the increase in terrorist activity within Pakistan itself, a phenomenon that truly represents the chickens coming home to roost for US policy. While we applaud the announced withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, there is continued saber-rattling towards Iran. Of course there was the US/NATO intervention in the Libyan civil war with the hypocritical claim to human rights while at the same time casting a blind eye to atrocities in the close US allies like Bahrain. And in the Western Hemisphere, minute changes in US policy towards Cuba, along with on-going hostility towards Venezuela and de facto (if not de jure) support of the 2009 coup in Honduras that overthrew a democratically elected government. Of course, to this list we must add Haiti and US efforts that were undertaken to block the return of deposed President Aristide, not to mention the abject failure of reconstruction efforts since the massive earthquake.
Well, this is a partial list, but the point here is that there is something very wrong in Obama’s foreign policy, yet you would not know that from Black America’s response. Foreign policy is not being debated on most African American talk radio programs and very rarely do we hear African American commentators in the mainstream media address the limitations of US foreign policy under Obama. While the Congressional Black Caucus has increasingly criticized the President around domestic policies, particularly the need by the administration to address the economic depression-like conditions of Black America, there is relative silence on foreign policy.
This relative silence appears to be rooted in the same general problem that has afflicted Black America since the election of Obama: a belief that criticism and pressure is somehow destructive and disloyal. One can only conclude this in light of the fact that on most foreign policy matters Black America has shown an historic identification with the struggles for liberation and independence, especially in Asia, Africa and Latin America. African Americans were the most critical demographic segment of the USA when it came to the US invasion of Iraq, for instance, and we regularly criticize and openly oppose interventionist activities by the USA…except when they are carried out by the Obama Administration.
We are not waving our fingers at anyone. Rather we are suggesting that this is a dangerous course of action because it represents a failure to recognize that the Obama administration is not about one individual named Barack Obama. It is an administration overseeing policies, many historically rooted, in the objective of building and sustaining global domination. In other words, this goes way beyond a question of Obama’s personal views and beliefs and speaks to the sort of administration that he constructed, including who were named top officials and who were excluded.
By remaining silent in the face of US aggression (and law violations, such as the murder of Awlaki and drone attacks that take the lives of many civilian noncombatants) we are making several mistakes. For one, we are ignoring the precedent that is being set. Kill one US citizen without even an indictment (let alone a trial) and where does it end? Wave our swords at Iran and promote destabilization, and does this result in an all-out war? Send troops to Uganda, and does this become another Vietnam? Cajole military forces in one African country to invade another? None of this benefits Black America—not to mention the rest of the world—in the slightest and under other circumstances many African Americans would be protesting.
Paradoxically, it is probably time for us to rethink Obama’s remarks at the Congressional Black Caucus banquet in September. When he said African Americans needed to stop complaining and put on our marching boots, many people became upset and felt insulted. But let’s think about this for a moment. Too many of us have been content to complain—sometimes bitterly—in private about what we fail to see from the Obama administration. So, maybe it is time to put on those marching boots, indeed, and march in protest not only against the demonic activities of the Republicans but as well against US aggression carried out by the first African American President of the United States of America?
If not now, when? If not you (us), who?
Carl Bloice is a BlackCommentator.com Editorial Board member, writer and senior activist in San Francisco, a member of the National Coordinating Committee of the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism, a moderator at portside.org and formerly worked for a healthcare union.
Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a long-time racial justice, labor and international activist and writer. He is a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies and the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum. He is the co-author of Solidarity Divided.
Jamala is a long-time organizer and writer. She is a 2011 Alston-Bannerman Fellow and author of The Best of The Way I See It & Other Political Writings. She is the co-founder of the Organization for Black Struggle.