As we face the new year, the biggest concern for peace lovers is Republican control of the U.S. Senate. While Republican votes don’t reach the key number 60, members of the GOP will still be in a strong position to push their belligerent global agenda.
I don’t mean to overstate the danger. After all, the Democrats were hardly better. But those who abhor war will awaken each day knowing that hawkish Sens. John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Ted Cruz, and their ilk are in control.
Peacemongers haven’t had much to cheer about during the Obama years. Barack Obama has gone back to war in Iraq and is conducting airstrikes in Syria, while leaving thousands of military personnel in Afghanistan, continuing murder by drone war in several countries, and maintaining the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Yet there have been a few glimmers of hope. Obama has pursued negotiations with Iran over its never-was and still-is-not nuclear-weapons program. The Iranian regime would like to return to the world economy by freeing itself from harsh U.S.-led sanctions, so it is bending over backward to assure the world that it wants no nuclear weapons. (The Supreme Leader years ago issued a fatwa against them.)
But the Obama administration, under pressure from Israel’s supporters in the United States, seems determined to push Iran further than it could possibly go regarding its ability to enrich uranium for civilian purposes. Moreover, Obama is at best ambiguous about whether all sanctions against Iran would ever be lifted, and the Republican Congress can be expected to obstruct any efforts in that direction. These two factors have turned optimists about the negotiations into pessimists.
If Obama blows this chance to normalize relations with Iran, which includes a large educated middle class friendly to America, it will be a tragedy of immense proportions. There is no way to justify the cruel consequences that U.S. sanctions have inflicted on the Iranian people. If a foreign power were doing this to Americans, the war cries would be deafening.
The American-Israeli-Saudi opponents of U.S.-Iranian reconciliation should be ashamed of themselves. Their cynical political concerns deserve no consideration whatever. If the regimes in Israel and Saudi Arabia fear they will be less important in a Middle East that does not feature a U.S.-Iranian cold war, let them get over it. Peace trumps petty politics. And if Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu believes that without his bête noir, Iran, his systematic abuse of the Palestinians might get closer American scrutiny, all I can say is: let’s hope so. Republicans of course will back Netanyahu.
The congressional Republicans can also be expected to block Obama’s proposal to normalize relations with Cuba. Republicans like to portray themselves as advocates of strictly limited government, but somehow those limits include the power to reform the Cuban government. How can that be? If they believe this is a matter of national security, as Ted Cruz says, then it shows how ridiculous his party is. How exactly does Cuba pose a threat to the American people — if indeed that’s what “national security” is supposed to mean.
Finally, the Republicans undoubtedly will try to stop Obama from deferring the deportations of some five million people who are in this country without government permission. Here again the Republicans show their lack of intellectual integrity. Why should anyone need government permission to be here? Aren’t rights possessed by all people, not just Americans? U.S. immigration controls condemn millions of people to a grinding poverty that no American could imagine. Perpetuation of that cruelty is simply unconscionable.
Obama’s stopgap approach to immigration is hardly ideal. Remember, he’s only deferred deportation, and he hasn’t done it for everyone who faces the threat. But it’s progress. Because of his executive order, millions of families will not be broken up by the U.S. government. That is something to celebrate, not obstruct.
The national-security state is rotten to the core, having inflicted incalculable death and misery on many foreign populations. Much hard work has to be done to free the world of this monster. In the near term, fortunately, some good things can be done at the margin — if the new Republican majority doesn’t get in the way.
Sheldon Richman is vice president and editor at The Future of Freedom Foundation in Fairfax, Va. (www.fff.org).