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Just today, forget about the Middle East and vote Obama

It’s true that there isn’t much difference between the two candidates on foreign policy, and it’s true we could use a little less American ambition globally. But if you’re letting foreign affairs discourage you from voting, you’re playing that same old imperial game, and you’re doing it at the expense of much more immediate and crucial issues – especially women’s rights. 

Here’s a nagging feeling I’ve been having all day long: I appreciate many, many people feel badly disappointed by Obama, and especially by his conduct in the Middle East. (If I had any hopes of him when he was elected I’d be in the same place.) His assassination policies are nothing short of horrific, he’s been completely browbeaten by Netanyahu, and he left the Bahraini revolutionaries to rot – and that’s just part of it. I also reckon many of the people disappointed by such policies also feel uncomfortable with the United States’ imperialist role and conduct as a whole. But here’s the rub: If you let Obama’s foreign policy and its practical indistinguishability from Romney’s to push you over to the Green Party or to discourage you from voting altogether, you’re playing the imperialist game. I think I speak for more than just myself here when I say that while we appreciate your concern for our little corner of the world, we feel kinda mortified when you prioritise us over something infinitely more important and closer to home: Women’s rights.

A couple of weeks ago, Noam made a convincing enough case on the lack of substantial difference between the two candidates on the Middle East front:

Shortly after president Obama was elected, he promised not to turn his back on the Palestinian people. It was a brave statement, considering that in some places, even mentioning the word Palestinians is a non-starter. Yet those turned out to be empty words, when it was revealed that the administration couldn’t stand the political price that the Israeli prime minister made it pay at home. After some back and forth between Jerusalem and Washington, the president appointed Dennis Ross – the man most associated with the diplomatic failure of the last couple of decades – to head  Middle East policy, or more accurately, to win favors with the Lobby and the heads of the Jewish communities. The president then blocked a largely symbolic Palestinian statehood bid at the UN, and ended up vetoing a Security Council resolution on the settlements that was a copy of previous State Department declarations.

….I do not expect the United States to pick sides in Israeli politics and I don’t want it to be anti-Israel. I expect it to be anti-occupation. In this particular sense, the Obama administration was much worse than Bush’s, who forced the road map upon both sides, and made Israel abandon its plan to build in the E1 region northeast of Jerusalem. Naturally, Bush was operating in a different environment, but as even former head of Mossad Ephrayim Halevi notes, for some reason Republican administrations are always more effective at keeping Israeli expansionist tendencies at bay. Maybe we should keep this in mind. In terms of policy – and not just rhetoric – I am not that sure anymore that a Romney administration would be that different from Obama’s.

But unlike in Israel-Palestine, where Obama failed miserably to assert even an iota of influence over the state whose military budget he practically owns and where Romney would not behave any differently, on women’s rights Americans are faced with a clear and present danger. Romney wants to overturn Roe v. Wade – this is a certainty, not some hypothetical new war in the Middle East the States are not likely to be able to afford anyway. Can you imagine the scope and depth of influence that would have on the lives of Americans, first and incalculably foremost American women but also their children, their partners and medical professionals of all genders? Can you imagine the return of the backdoor illegal abortion clinic, the dodgy pill, the proverbial coat-hanger, the slow and horrible deaths on makeshift operating tables? Can you imagine the Supreme Court being instilled with the soul of anti-abortionist murderer Scott Roeder? Because this is what a Romney administration would do, and those who vote for Stein today will be left with same feeling Naderites carry since the 2000 elections, only with an extra guilt factor – it was hard to foresee the full scope of malevolent and criminal stupidity indulged in by the Bush Jr. administration, but Romney’s plans for a shock-and-awe war on women are already there for all to see.

If this wasn’t enough, Romney also wants to defund Planned Parenthood and the Affordable Care act; in terms of taking care of its own citizens, the U.S. is already less than an excuse for a modern-day industrialised state, but this would push your heads down decisively into third-world status. By not voting or by voting for the Green Party you’re actually lending a shoulder to the election of a president far to the right of Richard Nixon, who ensured federal funding for PP in the first place, and, yes, quite obviously, you’re slamming the door of the healthcare system into the face of hundreds of millions of compatriots bled white by America’s parasitic health insurance sector.

The American two-party system is deeply and fundamentally flawed. The parties are stagnated, obese and mind-bogglingly unrepresentative; there needs to be not just a third party, but a fourth and a fifth and a sixth, and rubbing this idea into the face of the mainstream candidates is important. But the decentralisation of electoral politics is a generation-long project that needs work throughout the year, not just during election cycles; ticking the Green Party (or any other party) box on the ballot is merely one of the actions you can take and statements you make in its favour. The price for making this particular statement this time could come out far too dear; insisting on making it at the price of the rights, health and very lives of millions of women is not only misguided, it’s plain narcissistic. True, the candidates have taken women’s rights hostage. But no one in their right mind would allow hostages to get shot by way of feeling they made a point to the hostage takers.

Noam ended his argument of non-endorsement with a plain admission: “Luckily, I don’t get to vote.” You’re not so lucky – you have a responsibility. Not towards us in the Middle East and across the world: Towards your near and dear ones, especially, especially, especially towards the women among them. This responsibility is infinitely greater than any and all ideas of America’s role in the world. Just for today, forget about the Middle East and all your other overseas dominions, heave a deep sigh, down a pill or two and go vote for Obama. The rest of us will deal with your foreign policy later.

 Click here for more +972 coverage on the U.S. election

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    1. Bob

      Surely you jest. Voting for drones, military interventions, crackdowns on whistleblowers, expanded domestic surveillance, tolerance for Israel’s occupation, kowtowing to AIPAC and WINEP, and a gutless and reactive foreign policy? I’m voting for the Green Party. Even if it is just a protest. Somebody has to draw the line somewhere.

      Reply to Comment
      • Dimi Reider

        Fair enough. But why here of all places? From out here, the third-party-ballot seems to be one of the least effective of protests. And protest is about efficacy – not just feeling good about oneself, right? The risk to women’s rights simply seems to be too great this time.

        Reply to Comment
    2. XYZ

      Dimi said:
      The American two-party system is deeply and fundamentally flawed. The parties are stagnated, obese and mind-bogglingly unrepresentative; there needs to be not just a third party, but a fourth and a fifth and a sixth, and rubbing this idea into the face of the mainstream candidates is important

      I don’t know how you are going to get this with the American “winner-take-all” system of elections. The relative success of the anti-abortion activists in getting restrictions on abortion is due to a lot of volunteers who spend hour upon hour (at their own expense) contacting people and lobbying politicians. This is how you get things done, and it is more important that having the media on your side. In Israel, almost every “grass-roots” leader who gets a little media exposure ends up running for the Knesset at the first opportunity and dropping the supposedly idealistic cause they claimed they were championing.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Richard Witty

      In virtually every policy stand that I am aware of, Obama is superior, more effective, more studied, kinder, than Romney.

      I prefer Obama’s pragmatism to Stein’s idealism, that in her policy proposals drift to inneffective (a negative).

      To say that Obama’s and Romney’s foreign policies are similar, is laughable, on Israel as well.

      Romney has endorsed the notion that the borders of Israel is what Israel says it is, whenever. He’s endorsed the use of unilateral force on Iran on behalf of Israel and acquiesced to the possibility of unilateral force by Israel alone (with probably US logistic support).

      The difference between measured restraint and endorsed force, is stark.

      Reply to Comment
    4. AYLA

      amen, Dimi.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Jack

      I am not sure why Romney get so discredited on the Middle east yes hes a warmonger but take a look at the middle east for the past 4 years under Obama, has it been good? Has he not been a warmonger himself?

      Reply to Comment
      • Piotr Berman

        Romney did not gain much credit with that story:

        Washington Post. Loop blog:
        The fact-checkers went wild Monday night when GOP challenger Mitt Romney said once again that “Syria is Iran’s . . . route to the sea.” Team Obama doubtless was elated by Romney’s geographical goof.

        But here at the Loop we felt disheartened, even a bit defeated. We had tried ever so hard back in February to get Romney to stop saying that.


        If not Romney personally, his advisors are probably aware of the extend of Iran coastline, which is not only long, but includes the northern shore of Strait of Hormuz, meaning that a war with Iran may cut 50% of oil exports in the world, as Iran elegantly hinted by supplying Hezbollah with one anti-ship missile that was successfully deployed against an Israeli war vessel.

        Yet Romney was repeating the howler.

        Obama is waging wars, but he completed withdrawal from Iraq (not that there was a choice), and probably will do the same in Afghanistan in two years. Now the remaining “big problem” is that Islamic extremist that sound like Al-Qaeda managed to get hold of a big chunk of Sahara. Nobody wants to fight in Sahara except for Saharan tribes.

        Reply to Comment
    6. Klil

      What you — as well as Israelis who push for people to vote “strategically” for moderate parties in Israel so as not to throw out their vote — fail to realize, is that if voting is efficacious at all, it is a long-term efficacy. If a large swath of the population shows that they are willing to vote for Obama just because he’s not as bad as Romney, that they are willing to vote for Democrats over Republicans just because they are slightly better, then that gives them no motivation to change their policies in the period until the next elections.

      For example, had the Green Party candidate received enough votes in enough states to get close to swinging an election, Democrats and Republicans, assuming they wanted to win, would be forced to examine this population of voters and their interests, and perhaps even change their own policies, in order to increase the chance that those voters would vote for them, rather than a 3rd party, next time.

      If all you do is vote for the lesser evil, you only allow it to become a greater evil.

      Reply to Comment
    7. Matan K

      Love you, Dimi, but since you recommended British citizens vote LibDem in their last election, not loving your endorsements so much.

      Reply to Comment