Monday, March 03, 2008

A "revolution of rising expectations"

[Posted a month ago, February 11, this sounds better now than it did then.]

In the late Fifties and early Sixties a phrase was coined describing the social, political and economic changes manifest in what we now call developing or third world countries. That phrase, revolution of rising expectations, was a polite way to describe what became for some countries a future of economic progress and relative political growth and stability, but to others a future of grinding poverty, political oppression and chaos.

I thought of that phrase this morning as I came across this.

Someone got Barak Obama to comment on Lebanon. While he spoke against Syrian and Iranian meddling, and urged the disarming of Hizbullah, he also gave us this gem:

“Washington musts rectify the wrong policy of President George Bush in Lebanon and resort to an efficient and permanent diplomacy, rather than empty slogans,” he added. He also said that the US must cooperate with its European and Arab allies to sponsor an inter-Lebanese consensus on a stable and democratic Lebanon. (Now Lebanon)
Readers of this blog will find this painfully hilarious, and possibly indicative of Obama's ignorance of the situation in Lebanon. I don't expect the presidential hopeful to read Lebanese news every day, but really, the situation has gotten so repetitive that it should be clear that the above statement is at best moronic.

The writer goes on to conclude...

The only "change" I see from a Barack administration, as far as foreign policy is concerned, is the change that will befall the naïve president, and that will hit his supporters like a slap in the face.

Our moment is indeed now, not when Obama learns the ropes.

My comment here is not about Lebanon. Nor is it an indictment of Barack Obama. It is about what a reasonable person can expect to start happening if and when this man becomes president. And his chances are getting better and better.

I have the luxury of reading and studying all I want in my spare time and I know that the writer is not being extreme when he says that Obama's comment comes across as "hilarious." It's not the first time something like that has been said, and it won't be the last. Anyone new to the Oval Office is sure to confront tough, unexpected and in many cases insoluble challenges. Domestic issues are problematical, but foreign policy is about as messy and uncontrollable as natural disasters. Sometimes the best we can hope for is the least disgusting of several ugly options.

Barack Obama knows this. I think he isn't being specific deliberately. He knows that in order to get elected he must have the support of people he will later have to betray. It won't be a deliberate betrayal because it is in the nature of hope that even he believes, really believes, that with the right approach he can achieve the best for the most with the least sacrifice.

Obama is riding the waves of another revolution of rising expectations. It isn't a revolution of foreign countries this time. It is instead a subset of disillusioned, alienated Americans who for too long have had to settle for second-best or none at work and play and in their political options. They can be found in both political parties, and outside politics altogether. Obama represents an alternative for those who feel left out. His message is saying Come back...come in and join the me make us better. Jack Nicholson's line in As Good as it Gets comes to mind: "You make me want to be a better man."

I hope he's right. But when I allow myself to think clearly I know better. As we get older we realize that the way to hell is paved with good intentions. But at the moment I don't see anyone else with better intentions or fewer shackles than Barack Obama.

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