In These New Times

A new paradigm for a post-imperial world

2015: year of peace?

Posted by seumasach on December 19, 2014

Cailean Bochanan

19th December, 2014

Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow

T.S.Elliot

Those who have been following the analysis put forward in these columns may be stunned but will not be surprised by Obama’s announcement ending the US standoff with Cuba. As I wrote almost two years ago:

“You don’t have to regard Barack Obama as the the embodiment of ultimate virtue to support the recent shift towards a certain realism in Washington. He has declared an end to “war without end”. It doesn’t matter that this is only an accommodation to new realities and not the reflection of some inherent goodness in the US leader. What matters is that he is aware of reality and is accommodating to it: this is what leadership is about. He has recognised that the policy options chosen by his administration have not worked. They could have worked perhaps but they didn’t . The government of Bashar-al Assad has not collapsed in the face of Western sponsored Islamist movements and is not going to. The eurozone is not going to collapse to accommodate the US dollar. America is not going to dictate the course of world events over the coming years. The New World Order, at least not the one envisaged by Washington, London and Tel Aviv, will not come into being.Let us then applaud Barack Obama for providing us with change we might even believe in: a shift in Washington towards an acceptance of the facts, of a return to planet earth.”

It was certainly not to apologize for five decades of illegal interference in Cuba that Obama went to the podium on Wednesday. Of course, he continues to defend American “values” promising “to continue to shine a light of freedom.” How he managed to keep a straight face as he said the following I don’t know:
“The United States believes that no Cubans should face harassment or arrest or beatings simply because they’re exercising a universal right to have their voices heard”.
Clearly, I exaggerated a bit when I spoke of “a return to planet earth”. The key note , however, was  realism:
“I do not believe we can keep doing the same thing for over five decades and expect a different result. Moreover, it does not serve America’s interests, or the Cuban people, to try to push Cuba toward collapse. Even if that worked -– and it hasn’t for 50 years –- we know from hard-earned experience that countries are more likely to enjoy lasting transformation if their people are not subjected to chaos.”
The empire couldn’t overthrow Castro any more than they can overthrow Maduro or Assad or Putin. Those are the facts and its from there that policy must begin.
Obama’s latest bombshell has ,above all, enormous symbolic significance. It marks the burying of old, Cold War conflicts which are the last barriers to the emerging multipolar world order. Implicitly, those barriers can be removed elsewhere most notably the sanctions against Russia and Iran. With the words “Somos todos americanos” he has announced his pivot to the Americas; the recognition that the USA can join the integration process already underway in South America and do so, as she must, as one amongst equals.
Obama has done this because he can and because he has approached the issue secretly, presenting the conclusion as a fait accompli. But there is still a long way to go.  He also broached the Iran issue via secret talks in order to make some progress before hitting the wave of opposition from Congress, the lobbies and the intelligence state. Now the same forces will emerge to scupper the lifting of sanctions against Cuba as the reset with Russia was also scuppered via the activation of the CIA’s Bandera brigades in Kiev.

A clear conflict, perhaps deadlock, has emerged between Obama and persisting elements of the imperial project, those in the shadows for whom peace is the ultimate horror, the kiss of death. And so we have “Shape without form, shade without color, Paralysed force, gesture without motion”. And as the right attack Obama as a whimp and a sell-out merchant and the left attack him as a warmonger,the reincarnation of Bush, it becomes clear that something is missing. A vacuum has formed where those should be who want to work towards peace.
Where are the millions who marched for peace over the last decades? What kind of peace movement stands itself down at just the moment when the goal is in sight? Do we not support Obama “engaging Congress in an honest and serious debate about lifting the embargo”?
Certainly, Obama appears to be far from consistent and many of his statements are far from statesmanlike: one minute he sounds like a dove, the next like a hawk. This reflects the pressures he is subject too. It should not be that hard to look beyond the smoke and mirrors to see what in essence he has undertaken.
The problem is an absence of political sophistication in the West. Everything is black and white, left and right, slave and patriarch, democrat and authoritarian. We have endless categories and signifiers of conflict but few of reconciliation and we hold our loyalty to ideologies and shibboleths, the idols of the tribe, before the attainment of the attainable.
And peace is not only attainable but a historical imperative and so let’s try to make 2015 a year in which we can really speak of a peace process. Let us take to the streets to demand that Congress drop the sanctions against Cuba. Let’s follow Madame Wagenknecht’s glorious lead and demonstrate against sanctions against Russia and end the new Cold War. Let make sure that an Iran deal goes through that ensures Iran’s rights as defined under international law. And let us see the aspirations of the Palestinian people for their own state, as clearly recognized within international law, are realized.

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