What Obama Said At West Point Worth Noting

Obama’s address to the Army cadets offered the usual laudatory references to American military’s greatness and history. Including the ‘I’m your commander-in-chief but really ok guy’ jokes. Naturally, Obama’s omission of Wolfowitzian unilateral, unchallenged American power gets pundits’ tongues wagging. His embrace of diplomacy as a much needed option for exhausted recourse to military action welcome but also old news. We ain’t got the mojo no more – militarily or diplomatically. Even the Brazilian president, together with the Turkish prime minister, got the memo when cutting their own deal with Iran.

More important to the Stiftung was Obama’s indirect warning to the military establishment – the salad days are winding down. And with them? The last tangible claim America has to some kind of global centrality. He reminded all listening that American power’s foundation was, is, and will be our economic health. He indirectly alluded to its haggard state. We think it’s noteworthy Obama observed to the military that the American people need to start making things. We must engage in real economic activity (lawyers, politicians, Facebook devotees, media ‘personalities’ and wedding planners excepted) to support a world class military. As ritual requires, any hint of truth must be dosed with copious dollops of ritualistic cant about America’s future has never been brighter because [insert macro here i.e.,’the genius of American enterprise’, ‘the unparalleled creativity of the American worker’, etc.]

Obama hitched his horse to victory in Afghanistan. It’ll be interesting to see how he defines it down.

We have brought hope to the Afghan people; now we must see that their country does not fall prey to our common enemies,” Obama said. “There will be difficult days ahead. But we will adapt, we will persist, and I have no doubt that together with our Afghan and international partners, we will succeed in Afghanistan.

The British? Making moves about leaving.


  1. Comment says

    What is it about the culture that makes it impossible for anyone to talk sanely about Nat Sec – Clinton also had that problem. It’s a big Tweety problem –

    • Dr Leo Strauss says

      Perhaps we’re not too far removed from Neal Stephensen’s notion of a ‘distributed republic’ in the novel Snow Crash. He posited the dissolution and fragmentation of society into enclaves and interest groups. The federal government largely is irrelevant.

      America’s intoxication with brand identity is a major symptom. We *are* which car we drive, which ‘hot’ cell phone/gizmo we use, whether one goes to Applebees or Chilli’s, who one votes for on Dancing With The Stars [sic]. Brand by definition requires separation and re-attachment to something Other.

      From Google to Facebook to Apple to grocery store ‘member cards’, it’s rather appalling how Americans today so energetically surrender themselves utterly to someone else’s business model. The Leave It To Beaver age was different. It’s beyond first Chevy, then Olds, Buick and finally Caddy. Americans don’t just use brands but merge with them. Americans willingly surrender enormous amount of private data. Just to be dissected, analyzed and sold more crap. Facebook is the No. 1 most visited website in the world.

      The invasiveness is astounding, more than just greater ambient noise levels from the 70’s ‘I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing.’ Americans who engorge themselves on Rush and use say a CVS card for their purchases are giving corporations far more intimate details of their innermost privacy than a Census form would dare ask. They’d sue the IRS for asking. All in return for some future ‘CVS bucks’ to use against already inflated prices. The narcotic of instant gratification via ‘likes’, ‘friends’ and ‘approves’ is not too different than the British shoving opium up the Yangtze.

      One your point, the explosion of brand worship and sublimation really took off along with Netscape and the tech bubble. Digital technologies also created worship of ‘the business model’ and information promiscuity. The fragmentation broadcasters felt ala the Net and cable stations, etc. was also gasoline on the 1992 Culture Wars. Add 9/11 and the housing bubble’s fake prosperity. Aren’t the ‘War on Terror’ and ‘9/11 Changed Everything’ just another set of brands?

      If the Boy King issued a ‘National Security Strategy To Defend Facebook’ it would get wall to wall coverage. The trick? Drop in what the Administration thinks is really important security stuff with a Kim Kardashian photo layout around page 16. Critics of those serious portions (and they are legion) would respond in kind. Say a think tank or CFR publication with Adriana Lima or other Victoria’s Secret model. These are the times.

      Many Americans now are angry that the government appears useless. Not wholly disassociated. That’s why Obama’s first 18 months are so profoundly disappointing. Dissolution’s trajectory suggests soon people may not care. One could see millions tuning in instead to see what Steve Jobs says about the next oil spill. Or whether Apple Care warranties will now cover dental plans, too. After all, Sony’s most profitable product in Japan until 2006 wasn’t electronics but insurance (they sold it to save the electronics divisions).

      We’ve always said Obama likely would be a transitional figure. To what is still important.

  2. Dr Leo Strauss says

    Today’s new National Security Strategy is the West Point speech dragged over 50 pages. Objectively commendable and rational in recognizing an unsustainable ends means gap in U.S. obligations versus capabilities. The idea that the gap can be finessed with diplomacy and perhaps a bow or two dubious. the NSS does jetison ‘freedom’ and ‘unilateral’ but in many ways continues alot of the Warlord’s formulations (Obama himself keeps talking about war without clear end and edges up Cheney-esque endless war). One can only imagine how difficult it was to get final release clearance . . . asking Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins to signal they might possibly one day say a kind word about it.

  3. Dr Leo Strauss says

    srv, great link. Agree with your take. Loved the screenplay angle. Piece summoned some empathy for the abandonment of ‘friends’ and his depression while never minimizing the oddness of it all.

  4. Comment says

    It got little press, but Obama’s “making things” speech at Georgetown last year commencement was a better elaboration –

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