by Emmett R Smith
As matters now stand the round in the Middle East bids fair to continue. President Obama has named for his White House staff chief a dynamic fixer who is Jewish and a strong Zionist. The man is a true powerbroker personality and, indeed, he had to apologize for his father’s typing Palestinians as “janitors”. A little too much evidence of the background atmosphere got out this time, of course, and naturally the old man should have taken his own heat. He did not and certainly Jews who support Israel are not to be blamed for doing so by whatever means possible. The horror of historical and family narrative is real. And it is all-decisive until one by one moral human individuals find the courage to break the trance and reject the temptation to take immoral advantage here and now, for the hideous sufferings of their forebears. The horror of the Second World War for many European peoples was so great that no amount of political alchemy now can possibly make up for it. Not even haring off to play Settlers and Indians in Palestine. This is because the horror of World War II is not only Jewish, it is the horror of all human history. The only thing to be said for Mr Obama and his staff chief is that sooner or later any onesided policy collapses. Whether ruin or a new begining in more hopeful terms is the result depends solely and unpolitically on individual thoughtful moral progress. Among others now centrally under this common human moral imperative is Mr Obama…and his new staff chief. It is now a question entirely of what moral progress may be happening at three in the morning and simultaneously in their minds and thought — and in enough other hearts at the same time on all sides — to make it decisive. The real sign will be if enough people at many points in the round at once arrive at the insight that no “two state” solution is even workable. For Mr Obama’s new staff chief to step up to the plate on this one will be really daunting. This is a blinding glimpse of the obvious, for after all he has invested his entire personality and public career in another, an exclusionary postion. But now he, too, and his President together with us all are in this struggle, of following the argument to the bitter end. This is the one thing that it is absolutely the most difficult, in any position of total power, to dare to do.
It is exactly like kayaking and you are so busy fighting to stay afloat that getting to the end of the looping run becomes the only goal. However, total power is by definition always temporary, it ebbs as fast as any kayak race in human time, and in this case that means that equal rights for all in Israel is the only way forward. It means the end of the Zionist dream and admitting for once and for all the possibility terrifying for Jews, and very real demographically, of once again being a minority in the world, and that even in their ancestral home. There is nothing that anyone in a position of total power therefore can do to speed the event. Terror seeps but slowly from the minds of men, and so total power only runs powerfully into those futures where its interests are congruent with the emotional weight and thrust of the masses of the powerless. Hence, all that Mr Obama and his staff chief can do for now is to heed the situation from as many reports as possible, holding steadily in public to the need for negotiation — and, behind the scenes, insinuating new topics and conceptions for discussion into the minds and predispositons, of the individual dealers in the fragments of power now scattered in glittery bits around the circle. There is however, even in this admittedly tiresome call for patience yet once more, an actual shred of possibility. Again, relentlessly, it returns us to the question of the moral character and capacity of the new President.
Right development of the individual great man always precedes the public revelation of that greatness. And that same greatness when moral and not just massive consists in the fact that when it speaks through the mouth of its servant, it finds the the assent and loyal help of all who are above all morally well themselves, in the community. Hopefully this possibility of more rather than less moral sense applies also to the moral possibilities of conscience open within the mind and character of President Obama’s staff chief. For then things might just go a bit more smoothly. If Mr Obama’s new staff chief is not as openhearted as he needs to be in any real moral collision of duties, then a possible outward first sign of change will be when Mr Obama necessarily gives him leave in six months, or a year. Mr Obama is still in the first part of middle life and has much to learn on the run as President. So did Mr Lincoln one hundred and forty-eight years ago, when he sorted through leagues of thieves and fools, until he found the right cabinet (or at least a tolerable one), and some winning generals. This business of sorting out satraps so that your words are commanding abroad is the sole task every time of total power. Now either Mr Obama’s new staff chief will give his master loyal and honest, above all openended, discussion of all possibilities in the Middle East, or failing in this he will then enable Mr Obama to at least exercise his own growing moral sense, in removing his staff chief if this man too cannot bear to give up his old identity and prestige, even for sake of the real freedom of all of the people of Israel.
In either case, Mr Obama’s staff chief will then be said by historians to have served President Obama well, and very well indeed in one form or another, of the Useful Idiot.
[Emmett R Smith all rights reserved 6 January 2009]