Countries:
Lebanon, Palestine
Candidates:
Barack Obama
Issues:
Terrorism and Security, International Relations, War & Conflict
 

Dear Mr Obama:

Tell me we haven’t been bamboozled. We need the change you promise, but something just doesn’t seem right. After eight years under a Bush administration that engendered misery at home and around the world, the United States had found itself distrusted, scorned and despised. And so it seems—correct me if I’m wrong here, please—the US did what the US does best: sell.

Public relations. Imagine with me, if you will, a room of men, probably old white men, with a problem. How do we, they ask themselves, hold onto our place as the world superpower, yet at the same time get rid of the all the bad PR, those annoying threats and censures? How do we, they ask themselves, appease the voices that dare to suggest we’ve gone too far? Without, of course, conceding anything. Epiphany! Change our image, not our style. Ah, the art of American business. Substance is irrelevant, just package it and sell it. They grabbed onto the marketing ploy that has sold many a dubious product: “New and improved.”

Change? Those old white men found the packaging solution. How about the biggest change in American history, colour in the white house? Appearance is all that matters. It would have pushed their luck to choose an African American whose ancestors had struggled to rise from having been degraded as slaves. Such a man may have been too empathetic to the oppressed of the world. No, your past and your appearance was enough; their front man need only carry the pretence of change.

Mr Obama, look in the mirror. You don’t look like them, those old white men. Marketing ploy extraordinaire: product aside, a different image is new and exciting. “Change,” you advised the world, to an America “where all things are possible.” And we the consumers dared to hope. Maybe he really is, we dreamed, new and improved.

The marketers knew the American voters were hungry for talk. Just look at the phenomenal success of YouTube, internet blogging, endless streams of reader-comments, editorial columns, talk shows of every variety. Voters were frustrated—fighting for oil, fighting to make a living—and frustration is vented in talk. With your charming smile you promised dialogue, diplomacy without preconditions; you said “we are nice, you see, we like to talk too.”

While the magicians distracted us with your youthful dark appearance, however, while we focused on our newfound open-mindedness, you selected Joe Biden as your vice-presidential candidate. Were you off your game? Or just hoping we wouldn’t dare burst our bubble of self-righteousness by pointing out that this old white man gleefully announced he was a Zionist?

US domestic welfare has been irrevocably intertwined with its foreign policy in the Middle East. And the Middle East is hurting. Now you are an intelligent man, Mr Obama. Did you not think that bringing an unabashed Zionist with you to the White House might tend to dump salt into the wound? Your statement on foreign policy is clearly dominated by Middle Eastern issues. You promise change. You promise dialogue and diplomacy without preconditions to resolve these issues. Yet a truly significant portion of your statement is spent on swearing in the most absolute terms your unmitigated, incontrovertible and permanent allegiance to Israeli interests. And then Biden. Talk about preconditions.

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