Conversations with Abdul Aziz 8

AA: I told you Obama is a hawk. Look at his security team. No wonder the left can’t figure out what is happening. That’s why they are calling him an Uncle Tom.

KH: Well, I can see that some could be worried that this is a recycling of the same old Washington elite. Who speaks for the little people in this lot? I guess the answer is Obama himself. He does keep stressing that they are there to do the job he was elected for. He means to change things alright.

AA: Are you telling me he is a revolutionary?

KH: There have been four phases of the American revolution, if not four revolutions: Washington, Lincoln, Roosevelt and Obama. Obama thinks he is Lincoln on a world-scale, not just for the US. That means the modern equivalent of the civil war, a lot of bodies. His ‘security team’ reflects what he learnt from LBJ about pissing from inside and outside the tent. The criticism he is getting from the left reminds me of a hot argument I had with an American student after seeing Forrest Gump together. I liked it, she thought it was dissing everything she believed in. Obama really intends to get beyond the culture wars of the 60s that spawned his mother…and him.

AA: So he’s not a liberal in the standard American sense, despite his voting record as ‘the most liberal’ senator…

KH: I doubt if most American liberals are interested in much beyond what is between their own ears. I was in LA mid-September. The Hollywood liberals were in a panic about how ‘they’ (the Republicans and ‘small town Americans’) were going to steal the prize from them again. I said it was going to be a landslide because I don’t share their class prejudice. The same people are now banging on about how Obama has lost the plot and betrayed them. If he had listened to them instead of sticking to his strategy, he would have lost. They don’t understand about governing from the centre right in order to implement a progressive agenda.

AA: Whatever. The war in Afghanistan/Pakistan/Kashmir is getting a lot hotter after the Mumbai massacre. It’s not quite “the gunshot heard around the world”, but I wonder if the next world war will be traced to this event. You can see the sides lining up already. Obama will go with India, abandoning Pakistan, but to whom? China and Russia? The Chinese are already feeling the economic pinch big time. The Japanese are worried that they may be the target of a nationalist distraction. But the Chinese can’t stay out of a Himalayas conflict, given their commitment to holding on to Tibet. So how about the US (with Britain as bag-carrier), a few Europeans, India and Japan as an Alliance for Democracy against the revived threat of the two Evil Empires and Muslim terror (that is, all of us, especially the Saudis who bankroll this stuff)?

KH: It’s hard to know about the Europeans. I see that they are going cool on getting Ukraine into NATO, forcing the Ukrainians to cosy up to the Russians again. One minute they are talking about reducing energy dependence on Russia, the next they are trying to make a deal. Putin doesn’t have a lot of room for manoeuvre with low commodity prices and an antiquated army. It’s fun to watch the oligarchs feeling the pinch. Abramovich is cutting costs at Chelsea, the poor dears. The world is turning upside down so quickly. I find it interesting how the different European countries are reverting to national type in this crisis. Angela Merkel refuses to have anything to do with the ‘financial stimulus’ packages being promoted in the US, France and Britain, preferring to stick with thrift and the traditional virtue of belt-tightening. The British Tories the same. The battle lines are hardening between what Krugman calls the advocates for ‘fiscal expansion’ and the ‘deficit hawks’. The line goes right down the middle of Europe.

AA: Time for another Orwell. Do you remember the lineup in 1984? Three power blocs: Eurasia (the Soviet Union and Europe), Eastasia (China and Japan) and Oceania (the Americas, Britain, Southern Africa and Australasia) fighting over a quadrilateral stretching from the Mediterranean and West-Central Africa through the Middle East to South Asia?

KH: Yes. It would be interesting to update that sketch. The main difference would be the weakening of Greater Europe and the rise of India. But then it has always been hard for the West to treat India seriously. I suppose British propaganda made them out to be pathetic, not to mention the original home of inequality. I have been watching the shift of power from Britain back to India for some time. The leadership of the Commonwealth, for instance. But the most glaring example is cricket, the Victorian symbol of how to reconcile democracy with empire. Suddenly the Indians are calling the shots worldwide. And what could be more pathetic than the England team running home for safety after losing all their games? Whether they go back again for the remaining test matches seems to be a matter of personal choice for each cricketer. Thomas Arnold’s team spirit it certainly ain’t.

AA: Remind me to look up ‘cricket’ in Wikipedia some time. I’m more concerned about them blaming us for financing the jihadists.

KH: Well, don’t you? OK, we’ll leave it for now. Another cup of tea?

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Category: Abdul Aziz