Saturday, September 11, 2010

Understanding the Mind of Obama

Contra the desperate Democratic Party talking points, it is not the color of Obama's skin that has caused him to lose support dramatically among moderate voters in the US. Americans of all political stripes were justifiably proud of their nation in electing its first African-American president in 2008; voters gave him the benefit of the doubt and really wanted him to succeed. Heck, I thought it was great that America could elect a black president; I just wished it had been Condoleezza Rice.

What is worrying Americans and what has caused his approval rating to plummet is his policies and his priorities. From reckless government spending to his bowing to foreign kings and making nice with ruthless dictators to his ceaseless apologies to the world for America's sins to his support for endless tax increases and military expenditure cuts - Obama has disappointed and frustrated Americans who thought he was a moderate. He seems to be unable or unwilling to take the actions that would stimulate the economy and alllow the private sector to create jobs, instead relying on bigger government to solve all problems. Some call him a socialist while others see him as incompetent. Dinish D'Sousa has a different explanation for "How Obama Thinks."

Barack Obama is the most antibusiness president in a generation, perhaps in American history. Thanks to him the era of big government is back. Obama runs up taxpayer debt not in the billions but in the trillions. He has expanded the federal government's control over home mortgages, investment banking, health care, autos and energy. The Weekly Standard summarizes Obama's approach as omnipotence at home, impotence abroad.

The President's actions are so bizarre that they mystify his critics and supporters alike
But D'Sousa has an explanation that makes sense of the overall pattern of his actions.
A good way to discern what motivates Obama is to ask a simple question: What is his dream? Is it the American dream? Is it Martin Luther King's dream? Or something else? . . .

What then is Obama's dream? We don't have to speculate because the President tells us himself in his autobiography, Dreams from My Father. According to Obama, his dream is his father's dream. Notice that his title is not Dreams of My Father but rather Dreams from My Father. Obama isn't writing about his father's dreams; he is writing about the dreams he received from his father. . . .

Obama Sr. grew up during Africa's struggle to be free of European rule, and he was one of the early generation of Africans chosen to study in America and then to shape his country's future.

I know a great deal about anticolonialism, because I am a native of Mumbai, India. I am part of the first Indian generation to be born after my country's independence from the British. Anticolonialism was the rallying cry of Third World politics for much of the second half of the 20th century. To most Americans, however, anticolonialism is an unfamiliar idea, so let me explain it.

Anticolonialism is the doctrine that rich countries of the West got rich by invading, occupying and looting poor countries of Asia, Africa and South America. As one of Obama's acknowledged intellectual influences, Frantz Fanon, wrote in The Wretched of the Earth, "The well-being and progress of Europe have been built up with the sweat and the dead bodies of Negroes, Arabs, Indians and the yellow races."

Anticolonialists hold that even when countries secure political independence they remain economically dependent on their former captors. This dependence is called neocolonialism, a term defined by the African statesman Kwame Nkrumah (1909--72) in his book Neocolonialism: The Last Stage of Imperialism. Nkrumah, Ghana's first president, writes that poor countries may be nominally free, but they continue to be manipulated from abroad by powerful corporate and plutocratic elites. These forces of neocolonialism oppress not only Third World people but also citizens in their own countries. Obviously the solution is to resist and overthrow the oppressors. This was the anticolonial ideology of Barack Obama Sr. and many in his generation, including many of my own relatives in India.

Obama Sr. was an economist, and in 1965 he published an important article in the East Africa Journal called "Problems Facing Our Socialism." Obama Sr. wasn't a doctrinaire socialist; rather, he saw state appropriation of wealth as a necessary means to achieve the anticolonial objective of taking resources away from the foreign looters and restoring them to the people of Africa. For Obama Sr. this was an issue of national autonomy. "Is it the African who owns this country? If he does, then why should he not control the economic means of growth in this country?"

As he put it, "We need to eliminate power structures that have been built through excessive accumulation so that not only a few individuals shall control a vast magnitude of resources as is the case now." The senior Obama proposed that the state confiscate private land and raise taxes with no upper limit. In fact, he insisted that "theoretically there is nothing that can stop the government from taxing 100% of income so long as the people get benefits from the government commensurate with their income which is taxed."

Remarkably, President Obama, who knows his father's history very well, has never mentioned his father's article. Even more remarkably, there has been virtually no reporting on a document that seems directly relevant to what the junior Obama is doing in the White House.

While the senior Obama called for Africa to free itself from the neocolonial influence of Europe and specifically Britain, he knew when he came to America in 1959 that the global balance of power was shifting. Even then, he recognized what has become a new tenet of anticolonialist ideology: Today's neocolonial leader is not Europe but America. As the late Palestinian scholar Edward Said--who was one of Obama's teachers at Columbia University--wrote in Culture and Imperialism, "The United States has replaced the earlier great empires and is the dominant outside force."

From the anticolonial perspective, American imperialism is on a rampage. For a while, U.S. power was checked by the Soviet Union, but since the end of the Cold War, America has been the sole superpower. Moreover, 9/11 provided the occasion for America to invade and occupy two countries, Iraq and Afghanistan, and also to seek political and economic domination in the same way the French and the British empires once did. So in the anticolonial view, America is now the rogue elephant that subjugates and tramples the people of the world.

D'Sousa's suggestion that Obama inherited his anticolonial ideology from his father and that it drives his current actions as president of the United States is a compelling argument. It explains why Obama acts like a socialist even while not espousing socialism as his overall political society. Socialist acts are a means to an end and the end is that America should become poorer and the Third World become richer. And the only way to do this is to bring big business to heel and extract wealth from corporations in order to redistribute it to the poorer nations.

It also explains why Obama is so friendly toward Islam that a fifth to a quarter of Americans now believe he is a Muslim. Most Muslims are victims of Western colonialism in anticolonialist thought and so they are necessarily the good guys while America is the evil empire.

Obama is a post-colonialist professor in the White House. No wonder Americans are waking up and asking "What were we thinking?" in a horror-stricken tone.


Rod said...

I do not know if it is wise to essentialize all post colonial scholars/thinkers as liberals. I know of several post-colonial academics who are of the conservative-libertarian variety.

Craig Carter said...

Conservatives and Libertarians have little in common except a common distrust of statism. Post-colonialism is anti-Western civilization and I don't know any conservatives who fit that description.