U.S. and World Politics

Obama Claims to ‘Reset’ the Imperial Clock

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

When the world starts spinning away and the situation is no longer in control, the first inclination of the control freak is to reset the clock, so that nobody else knows what time it is. The people of the Arab and Middle Eastern world know that it’s way past time to get free of American corporate and military tentacles. Oh no, said President Obama in his speech last week1, insisting on the “indispensable role that our country can play—and must play—in the world.” Translation: The United States is still the boss, even if you think it’s springtime for Arabs. Off camera and thousands of miles away, NATO was making Obama’s point, having by then flown over 2,500 bombing sorties over Libya.

Obama chided those who blamed the West “as the source of all ills, a half century after the end of colonialism.” But if colonialism is a thing of the distant past, then why are the combined militaries of the world’s historical colonial powers, the U.S. and Europe, bombing and strafing their way through Africa? The president praised the “moral force of non-violence” among Arab reformers, even as the U.S. and its European allies demonstrated their ghastly capacity for violence against Arabs in the heart of Arab North Africa. Then, as if there were no contradiction, Obama switched to the other teleprompter to assure his audience that the United States “will not tolerate aggression across borders.” That is, unless it is sanctioned or carried out by the United States.

“We have a chance to pursue the world as it should be,” but with “humility,” said Obama. As a superpower for the last 65 years and the only superpower for the last twenty, one would have thought that the United States had had plenty of chances to pursue such a world all along. The U.S. and the Europeans of NATO are mainly responsible for the Arab and African worlds being underdeveloped and with only recent histories of self-rule. And yet the U.S. and Europeans are still there, imposing their will. Isn’t it time, Mr. Obama, with all humility, that you allow these countries to pursue their own national aspirations?

Obama artfully mouthed non-sequiturs entangled in maddening contradictions. The United States “can and will speak out for a set of core principles,” said the president. And Obama speaks very well—all the while shredding the core principles of international law.

Now that new forces are in motion in Egypt and Tunisia—no thanks to the United States and Europe, which propped up dictators willing to look out for the interests of American and European corporations—Obama promises to “reach the people who will shape the future—particularly young people.” Translation: The U.S. will be sending in lots of money and political operatives, to subvert the young people’s political organizations and create phony “movements” friendly to U.S. interests. And Obama vows to “promote integration with U.S. and European markets.” That’s corporate-speak for deeper penetration of the Egyptian and Tunisian economies by American and European multinationals, further tightening the grip of New York, London and Paris.

So, it turns out that when Obama resets the Mideast and North African clock, it’s still superpower time, and the Arab spring has not yet sprung.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at

Black Agenda Report, May 25, 2011