Barack Obama will be re-elected not as a vindication of his policies but because the Republicans are incapable of providing a reasonable challenge to his flawed performance. On the central issue of our time — reining in the greed of the multinational corporations, led by the financial sector and the defense industry — a Republican presidential victor, with the possible exception of the now-sidelined Ron Paul, would do far less to challenge the kleptocracy of corporate-dominated governance.
As compared to front-runner Mitt Romney, who wants to derail even Obama's tepid efforts at regulating Wall Street and who seeks ever more wasteful increases in military spending, the incumbent president appears relatively enlightened. But that is cold comfort.
Not only has Obama been a savior of the banking conglomerates that so generously financed his campaign, but he also has proved to be equally as solicitous of the needs of the military-industrial complex. He entered his re-election year by signing a $662 billion defense authorization bill that strips away some of our most fundamental liberties and keeps military spending at Cold War levels and by approving a $60 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia.
Those two actions represent an obvious contradiction, since the attack on American soil that kept defense spending so high in the post-9/11 decade was carried out by 15 Saudis and four other men directed by Osama bin Laden, a wealthy Saudi primarily using funding from his native land. Now Saudi Arabia is to be protected as a holdout against the democratic impulse of the Arab Spring because it is our ally against Iran, a nation that had nothing to do with 9/11. Saudi Arabia, it should be recalled, was one of only three nations, along with the United Arab Emirates and Pakistan, to recognize the Taliban government that harbored bin Laden before 9/11.
This is the same Saudi monarchy that rushed its forces into Bahrain last March to crush a popular uprising. But that doesn't trouble the Obama administration; for two years it has been aggressively pushing the Saudi arms deal, which includes $30 billion in fighter jets built by Boeing. Forget human rights or the other good stuff Democrats love to prattle on about. As White House spokesman Josh Earnest put it, "This agreement reinforces the strong and enduring relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia and demonstrates the U.S. commitment to a strong Saudi defense capability as a key component to regional security."
The rationale for the first big arms deal since 1992 with the tyrannical Saudi monarchy is that a better-armed Sunni theocracy is needed to counter the threat from the Shiite theocracy in Iran. Once again, the U.S. is stoking religious-based fratricide, just as we did in Iraq. Only this time, we're on the side of Saudi Sunnis oppressing Shiites both at home and in neighboring Bahrain. That oppression — along with a U.S. invasion that replaced Tehran's sworn enemy in Sunni-led Baghdad with a Shiite leadership that had long been nurtured by Iran's ayatollahs — is what enhances the regional influence of Iran.
If Iran ever does pose a regional military threat because of its nuclear program or any other reason, real or concocted, it will be NATO forces that will take out the threat, not the Saudis, who will still be polishing their latest-model F-15s as icons of a weird conception of modernism.
The real reason for this deal is that it is the only sort of jobs program that Democrats are capable of pushing through an obstructive Congress. The administration boasts that the arms package will result in 50,000 jobs in 44 states, underscoring the warning from Dwight Eisenhower, the last progressive Republican president, about the power of a military-industrial complex that has tentacles in every congressional district. As Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri, an Armed Services Committee member who championed this sale, put it: "The F-15 is a world class aircraft built by hardworking folks right here in St. Louis. I am thrilled for all of the skilled men and women on the F-15 line that this important, big order that I have stood side-by-side with them in working to secure is finally happening."
A Democrat running for re-election, McCaskill added, "These are important jobs in our community. I will continue advocating for sales of Boeing products wherever appropriate." Being a good Democrat, she doesn't reference Boeing's profits, which are increasingly dependent upon arming the rest of the world.
That's the win-win of government-generated profits and jobs on which the Democrats are counting to defeat the Republicans, both through campaign contributions from the more rational among the wealthy and the votes of ordinary people who, despite being seriously hurt in this economy, have nowhere else to turn.
Robert Scheer is editor of TruthDig.com, where this column originally appeared. Email him at [email protected] To find out more about Robert Scheer and to read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Webpage at www.creators.com.