Published on Friday, June 4, 2010 by TomDispatch.com
Bitten by History: From the Gulf to
History, or the future (however you want to look at it), has a funny way of rearing up and biting leaders who think they know what they're doing. Take Barack Obama. Only weeks before the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, he made a "pragmatic" decision to give way on the expansion of deep-water drilling off U.S. shores in return for  political support on his energy bill that might never have added up to much. In the process, he said  on camera: "It turns out, by the way, that oil rigs today generally don't cause spills. They are technologically very advanced." His decision, which left the oil industry's key lobbying outfit, the American Petroleum Institute, dancing for joy, doesn't look quite so pragmatic or advantageous now.
The president undoubtedly already rues the day he ever put those words on the historical record. Imagine, however, that, in the same situation, he had done the difficult, unpragmatic thing and said something like: "It turns out, by the way, that oil rigs still cause spills and deep-water drilling is simply too dangerous for our planet, so I've decided, despite the obvious political problems involved, not to open up new, ever deeper, ever more sensitive or climatically extreme  areas off our coasts to the oil industry. And I'm instructing my secretary of the interior to make sure that whatever drilling is already underway is safe." He'd be in a lot better shape right now, though the
Similarly, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his true-believer government thought that a flotilla of peace activists determined to break the blockade of
In the process, the Israelis managed to turn the Mavi MaMara into  the SS Exodus  (the famed ship of Jewish refugees assaulted by the British in 1947), the Palestinians into Jews, Gaza into Israel before its establishment, and themselves into the oppressive, imperial Britons. No small trick in a single night. The Israelis will surely rue the day they ordered an assault on the six-ship flotilla in international waters when, if they had let the ships through, nothing much would have happened. In this case, the path of seemingly least resistance -- to wield  force -- may have profoundly changed  the international equation to
And then, of course, there's the war in
So, on December 1, 2009, he went to
As a result, sooner or later he's likely to find himself in political hell. Things are already going poorly  in
Copyright 2010 Tom Engelhardt
Tom Engelhardt, co-founder of the American Empire Project , runs the Nation Institute's TomDispatch.com . He is the author of The End of Victory Culture , a history of the Cold War and beyond, as well as of a novel, The Last Days of Publishing . His latest book, The American Way of War: How Bush's Wars Became Obama's  (Haymarket Books), will be published in June.
URL to article: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2010/06/04-0
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"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs