Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Obama-Cameron press conference: Momentum!

Obama held a press conference in London with huge-foreheaded British Prime Minister David Cameron.

Asked if the US will continue military operations in Libya until Qaddafi is overthrow/killed, Obama said, “we are strongly committed to seeing the job through, making sure that, at minimum, Qaddafi doesn’t have the capacity to send in a bunch of thugs to murder innocent civilians and to threaten them.” That’s the minimum? What’s the maximum? He also opposes an “artificial timeline” for withdrawal. Do you think he hears himself when he comes out with George Bush’s greatest hits like that and is horrified by what he’s become? Me neither.

I don’t think I’ve noticed this before, but Obama seems to have a strong belief in something he calls momentum. He talks here, as he has in the past, about breaking the Taliban’s momentum, and says of Qaddafi, “I believe that we have built enough momentum that as long as we sustain the course that we’re on, that he is ultimately going to step down.” But what does “momentum” mean in practical terms, and how does breaking it or sustaining it actually achieve these miraculous results?

Something similar pops up in a later answer to a question about Netanyahu’s description of the Palestinian demand for a right of return as a “fantasy.” He says that if the Israelis and Palestinians just start talking about future borders and Israeli (but I guess not Palestinian) security, “they can start seeing on the horizon the possibility of a peace deal, they will then be in a position to have a -- what would be a very difficult conversation about refugees and about Jerusalem.” So he’s depending on momentum to roll right through a resolution of those issues.

HE’S THE REMINDERER: “So, as much as it’s important for the United States, as Israel’s closest friend and partner, to remind them of the urgency of achieving peace, I don’t want the Palestinians to forget that they have obligations as well.”

He again says that the Palestinian government “tak[ing] the United Nations route rather than the path of sitting down and talking with the Israelis is a mistake” which “will not achieve their stated goal of achieving a Palestinian state.” First, it’s not an either/or. Second, if it would be so ineffectual, why is he so vehemently opposed to it? He hasn’t actually come out and described any harm that would be done by recognition.

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