UNITED STATES I: Obama's State of the Union address
by Joseph Poprzeczny
News Weekly, February 19, 2011
President Barack Obama's 7,000-word State of the Union address to the US Congress on January 25 was long on lofty rhetoric but light on specific policy proposals.
A representative segment reads: "This is our generation's Sputnik moment. Two years ago, I said that we needed to reach a level of research and development we haven't seen since the height of the Space Race. And in a few weeks, I will be sending a budget to Congress that helps us meet that goal. We'll invest in biomedical research, information technology, and especially clean energy technology - an investment that will strengthen our security, protect our planet, and create countless new jobs for our people."
Most of his address was similarly crafted since that's the style he and his advisers found to be so appealing during his 2008 presidential election campaign.
More interesting, however, was the fact that certain words and terms were conspicuous by their absence.
For example, the word "climate" never appeared once. Nor did the phrase, "emissions trading scheme". Both had been pivotal during his campaigning for the presidency and in subsequent policy pronouncements.
Obama and his Democratic Party power-brokers, primarily Nevada Senator Harry Reid and former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, have quite obviously heeded November's mid-term Congressional elections that saw a huge swing to the Republicans and decided not to press the issue of climate change any further.
The collapse of the December 2009 Copenhagen Climate Summit has also taken the wind out of the sails of American politicians promoting the United Nations-backed campaign to impose ever higher taxes on energy across all developed economies.
Americans, especially those who have been snow-bound over the past three winters, are increasingly annoyed with being lectured that the earth is heating, especially since the UN-sponsored International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) cannot get basic fact right in its reports.
The only reference to past Oval Office pronouncements on climate was the highlighting in the President's State of the Union speech of alternative energy programs.
Obama said (to repeated outbursts of applause): "Now, clean energy breakthroughs will only translate into clean energy jobs if businesses know there will be a market for what they're selling. So tonight, I challenge you to join me in setting a new goal: By 2035, 80 per cent of America's electricity will come from clean energy sources.
"Some folks want wind and solar. Others want nuclear, clean coal and natural gas. To meet this goal, we will need them all - and I urge Democrats and Republicans to work together to make it happen."
Noteworthy here is Obama's ploy of attempting to become everyone's friend - even the coal industry's (although he took care to prefix "coal" with the word "clean").
However, of far greater global significance was the single instance of Obama speaking emphatically in relation to foreign affairs.
Obama said: "In Pakistan, al Qaeda's leadership is under more pressure than at any point since 2001. Their leaders and operatives are being removed from the battlefield. Their safe havens are shrinking. And we've sent a message from the Afghan border to the Arabian Peninsula to all parts of the globe: We will not relent, we will not waver, and we will defeat you."
As Iran lies mid-way between Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia, a region that has over half the world's oil reserves, the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, could not have failed to perceive Obama's warning.
The American President's last four words, "We will defeat you", were undoubtedly left without the "you" being named or specifically identified.
"You" could be interpreted to mean al Qaeda's leadership, which American special forces have failed to locate since September 2001. It could refer to any groups in the Middle East who ally themselves with terrorists, be they the Taliban, or known Taliban helpers in Pakistan who have been regularly bombarded by rockets fired by CIA-operated drones.
Or else it could be referring to Tehran.
The only other reference to Iran highlighted the fact that it now faced tougher United Nations-backed sanctions.
Conspicuous by its absence was any offer of a hand of friendship to Iran's mullahs, as Obama had previously pledged during his June 4, 2009, Cairo University address.
As predicted by several Middle East experts at the time, that offer drew no reciprocal response from Tehran.
The fact that only a week after Obama's State of the Union address, America's lynch-pin Middle Eastern ally, Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak is teetering so precariously makes the Obama warning to Iran so much more pertinent and therefore ominous for anyone threatening the oil-rich regions between Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia.
Joseph Poprzeczny is a Perth-based historian and journalist.