Monday, February 16, 2009

Gandhian Hardball

What do you do when you want to be bi-partisan and unifying, but the other side is only interested in partisanship and division? This is Obama's dilemma.

Hendrik Hertzberg of The New Yorker has, as usual, incisive commentary on the subject.

Fifty years ago, the civil-rights movement understood that nonviolence can be an effective weapon even if—or especially if—the other side refuses to follow suit. Obama has a similarly tough-minded understanding of the political uses of bipartisanship, which, even if it fails as a tactic for compromise, can succeed as a tonal strategy: once the other side makes itself appear intransigently, destructively partisan, the game is half won. Obama is learning to throw the ball harder. But it’s not Rovian hardball he’s playing. More like Gandhian hardball.

Full article here.

32 comments:

PG said...

Excellent. Gandhian hardball.

Robert Sievers said...

The only reason that Ghandi's method's were successful is because they were done against a foe that had Judeo-Christian values. Had he done that against the Muslims of Pakistan, we wouldn't even know who he was, because he would be dead.

I also find it rather disingenuous that when the democrats went against Bush, they were apploauded for freedomn of expression. When the Republican's do it to Obama, they are a snare to progress. The politics of fear that Obama is putting forth will eventually be seen by most people for what it is.

PG said...

You make so many strange connections, Robert. They're simply not worth refuting. I will say this, though. Opposing war is one thing; opposing a financial plan is quite another. You do that apples and oranges thing a lot and think you're being rational and logical.

Adam said...

Last I checked, Ghandi is, in fact, dead.

Robert Sievers said...

PG,

You are saying that the democrats worked with Bush other than on issues relating to Iraq? Hardly.
Speaking of which, how is that troop withdrawal coming. Just like the Bush plan, eh?

And you state that I say so many strange things.

PG said...

No, Robert, I'm not saying that. I'm not even speaking to you. You just like to argue. Sometimes I'm like that, too. But I'm tired of it with you. Because there's no profit in it. The logic is too strained. The assumptions are false. And to the extent that Obama is unable to follow a path of nonviolence, I will be equally condemnatory of him as I would with anyone. Because that is my chosen path, because that is the way Jesus taught and lived. The greatest problem with Bush was that he injected evangelical Christian fundamentalism into the workings of government -- and ruined both. The damage he did to what is true and good about Christianity is almost inestimable. Clearly history will show Bush -- the torture president -- to be one of the worst leaders we have had, if not the very worst.

brownie said...

Though I often understand Robert, I don't often agree with him. However..."Had he done that against the Muslims of Pakistan, we wouldn't even know who he was" is point well taken, and I think he's probably right on this count.

My 2 cents...

PG said...

This is a great historical opportunity, isn't it? Obama had shown great initiative in reaching out to the Muslims, people Robert unashamedly fears and hates. We can only pray Obama succeeds in his effort.

Dan S said...

Gandhi wouldn't have gotten anywhere with the Catholics and Protestants who controlled Europe hundreds of years ago either (see history of Anabaptists for what would have happened to him).

Perhaps the lesson here is that non-violent strategies work when those in power are secular humanists, and not so much when they believe in a literal word of God.

Perhaps another lesson is to not judge a religion by its extremists.

Perhaps yet another lesson is that you do non-violence because it's what Jesus did, not because it is always effective.

PG said...

Dan! You're so smart! Also, I believe nonviolent action is something that we're still learning, it's a process, it is action. As they sing in Rent, the opposite of war isn't peace, it's creation.

Robert Sievers said...

Dan, Churchill was not a secular humanist.

pg said "And to the extent that Obama is unable to follow a path of nonviolence, I will be equally condemnatory of him as I would with anyone. "

Ok, so Obama has authorized an increase of 17,000 troops to Afganistan. So everyone here tell me what you think of his decision.

PG said...

I'm utterly opposed to Obama's escalation of war in Afghanistan.

You know, Robert, a LOT of liberals and progressives aren't crazy about Obama at all. But he is SO much better than his predecessor.

As for fearing Muslims, I have to confess. I have had various interactions with devout Muslims. I once hired a worker, a student overstaying his visa, as a driver. He worked for me for almost a year. I helped him get a car and I helped him fix the muffler and worked very closely with him. He lived with a bunch of other young Muslim men, all devout. They would drive 2.5 hours to Chicago to buy their sanctified kind of meat, whatever that was. I could never penetrate their midst.

I did have the feeling that they perceived me as, well, if not an infidel, then unclean, unsaved, something. Maybe they would have had no compunction about blowing things up, taking over, and so forth. I don't know.

But what I do know is that 1) I will not succumb to fear, suspicion, and hate and 2) I could never be convinced that overwhelming force and violence would correct our differences. The more we try to kill off the enemy by violence, the more seedlings we plant to fight another day.

Robert Sievers said...

pg,

I have no clue where you get this idea that I hate or fear Muslims. My heart goes out to them, and I love them dearly, both as a group, and many individually. Why you had no compassion for thousands upon thousands of Iraqi Muslims dying at the hands of Saddam I have no idea. You argue with me as if I like war. Be serious. I love freedom, and I understand that sometimes you need to defend it. Jesus came to the aid of those who were in need. Why would you not want our country to do the same?

As for what they thought of you, I will spare you the answer, because you won't believe me anyway.

PG said...

You love Muslims in the same way you love gay people.

What we brought to Iraq was not freedom. Bush's war made things worse. It will take a lot of undoing.

All the historians -- even the bulk of the military men, unable to speak out (and who actually opposed the surge behind closed doors) -- say the same thing.

The literature is already out there: the invasion and occupation of Iraq was a venal error. And, in any event, it is not the way Jesus prescribed for change. "Freedom must be defended," you say. Well, you have a different idea of what freedom is and a different idea of what defense is, too.

You have to justify the actions of Bush and his followers by giving them noble reasons. But that is not the truth. I think you know that. The soldiers fighting in Iraq are killing themselves in all-time record numbers. They know their cause is illegitimate and they are shamed.

PG said...

See what you've made me do, Robert. I knew this would happen. Oh, well. We haven't anything better to do until Lost comes on...

PG said...

When Jesus came to the need of people in need, did he wear camouflage and carry a gun? Are the things Jesus said just to be glossed over when they don't support our affluence lifestyle? So that divorce becomes OK and wars of aggression become "sometimes necessary"? Like torture -- which seemed necessary to Dick Cheney -- violence doesn't work in the long run, especially when it is aggressive and unprovoked as it was in Iraq. Haven't you heard interviews with people on the ground in Iraq? They are sick of us. Completely. To a person.

PG said...

I think we should have gone to the aid of the Iraqis under Saddam. That's the whole point. We should have been utterly sacrificial and generous to a fault. We should have sacrificed thousands of American lives and billions of American dollars to improve their lives, with humanitarian aid and programs, with genuine outpouring of love and goodness. The result would have been inestimably greater than the fiasco of the war and torture we committed, which -- perhaps coincidentally and perhaps not -- also APPEARED to serve our material interests, with potential control over oil, over the region, and profits, profits, profits for the oil companies, the mercenary contractors, and the former company of the serving vice president of the United States. Oh, yes. It really looked like we cared "deeply" about the Iraqi people. Sure, we did.

Robert Sievers said...

Ok, now tell me how you feel about Obama's increase of troop levels in Afganistan.

PG said...

Can't talk now. Lost is on.


(I HATE it and I'm writing the White House about it.)

brownie said...

Also very good points (about Catholics and Protestants) Dan. But I think the difference IN THE PRESENT DAY is that it doesn't go in the West but continues to go on in the Middle East.

The militant/religous are a far worse problem in the east than in the west.

PG said...

Brownie, did you see Milk?

PG said...

Tao Te Ching, Verse 30, part 1

30
Whoever relies on the Tao in governing men
doesn't try to force issues
or defeat enemies by force of arms.
For every force there is a counterforce.
Violence, even well intentioned,
always rebounds upon oneself.

PG said...

Tao Te Ching, verse 46

When a country is in harmony with the Tao,
the factories make trucks and tractors.
When a country goes counter to the Tao,
warheads are stockpiled outside the cities.

There is no greater illusion than fear,
no greater wrong than preparing to defend yourself,
no greater misfortune than having an enemy.

Whoever can see through all fear
will always be safe.

Fingtree said...

Obama just needs to send Bill Ayers to the war zones and scare all of these Muslims into non-violence. It would be much cheaper too. The Democrats wouldn't have to raise taxes.

PG said...

Dan, I hope you don't mind. I'm stuck in a middle school classroom with two students ostensibly working on science. I have a computer and am researching next week's column, using your blog to practice on. I'll quit soon. There are so many good verses from the Tao te ching, I don't know which one to use for my column.

PG said...

Bill Ayers is the same as Bush. Thinks violence changes things...

Fingtree said...

"Whoever can see through all fear will always be safe"
Wise words, how true it is.

Fingtree said...

It was tongue and cheek PG about Bill Ayers

PG said...

I know. I wasn't though. I'm way distgracted by these kids

brownie said...

PG-

I've not seen Milk yet. But I plan to. Probably when it makes it to the grocery...er...video store.

PG said...

Europe says "nix" to more troups to Afghanistan.

http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2009/02/20-3

PG said...

March to End the Occupation of Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine

Tell the Pentagon and Obama that occupation is a crime.


http://apps.facebook.com/causes/223910?m=3dcef1aa