Goodbye 2009 and Welcome 2010

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What a year was 2009! It was a remarkable year that many people will always remember for either better or worse. It was the year when Barack H. Obama, the son of an African father and a white American mother, was sworn in to the highest office in the USA –” the most powerful nation on earth. This event is simply epoch making in a country that gave us the race riots and lynching of the Blacks in America just a half century earlier when boxer Muhammad Ali (then Cassius Clay) had won the gold medal in summer Olympic in Rome. Winning an Olympic Gold Medal for the USA by a talented Black athlete in 1960, 1964 and 1968 was an easier task than being recognized as an equal by a fellow white American. Ali learned it the hard way when he was refused service at a “whites-only” restaurant. After protesting such a naked display of racism and fighting with a white gang of hoodlums he threw that medal into the Ohio River. That is how worthless that coveted gold medal counted to the greatest boxer of all times! So, by most accounts, 2009 will go down in history as a year of change, and hopefully, for the better. The year ushered in the hard-won belief that “business as usual” was no longer an option that America could afford. She needed a new direction under a new chief –” wiser and courageous.

As we say sayonara or goodbye to 2009, we may like to digress for a moment reviewing changes that had taken place a century earlier, i.e., 1909.[1] That year, William Taft had taken the reign of the US government from Teddy Roosevelt. It was the year when the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was formed. The average life expectancy back then was 47 years. Only 14 percent of the American households had a bathtub, only eight percent of homes had telephones, and the fuel for car used to be sold in drugstores. There were no band-aids, bikinis, bubble gums, blenders, ballpoint pens, diapers, hair dryers, milk cartons, sunglasses, shopping carts, traffic lights, toasters and zippers. There were only 144 miles of paved roads in the USA for some 8000 cars that were limited to drive at a maximum speed of 10 MPH. Ford, the only automaker, had rolled in its T-Ford, the “Tin Lizzie” model, from the assembly line. There was no Sears Tower (to be designed later by a Bangladeshi American Architect –” Dr. Fazlur Rahman Khan) then, and only the Eiffel Tower, which was the tallest structure in the world, and that, too, in France, and not in the USA. A postage stamp cost two cents. The average wage was only 22 cents per hour; but that was sufficient for most wage earners to take care of their families. A dozen of eggs cost only 14 cents (it now costs more than a dollar in most places), sugar was available at four cents per pound, and coffee was 15 cents a pound. One in five Americans had domestic help or servants. In 1909, twenty percent of the population could not read or write. Only 6% of the American population had a high school education.

Water was not so readily available and as such most Americans could not afford to take bath or wash their clothes everyday. There was no shampoo. Women washed their hair with either Borax or egg-yolks once a month. The American culture was not so consumer-market driven as it is today. As such, there was no mother’s day, father’s day, boss’s day and the secretary’s day in those days.

The average American worker made somewhere between 200 and 400 dollars a year back in 1909. In 1909, of all the engineers, the mechanical engineers were expected to earn the most – $5000 per year (now chemical engineers are best paid). A veterinarian was expected to earn anywhere between $1500 and $4000 a year. There were few hospitals and more than 95% of births took place at home. Most of the doctors (some 90%) had no formal college education and had only learned rudimentary medical knowledge from some schools. The five leading causes of deaths were pneumonia and influenza, tuberculosis, diarrhea, heat disease and strokes. Penicillin was not yet invented, but the German Researcher Paul Enrich had just found a cure for syphilis. Marijuana and heroin were not illegal and could be found all over the counter at the local drugstore. In 1909, there were only 45 stars in the US flag (and not 50). Leisure time was not spent in front of the TVs, but with family members in picnics, baseball games, horse-riding and sitting around the piano.

Back in 1909, there were only 1.7 billion people in our planet. Today, we have almost four times that number. Back then the population of Las Vegas –” a.k.a. the Sin City –” was only 30. There were only 230 reported cases of murder in the entire USA. Today, most major cities like Philadelphia have almost double that number in homicide.

Fast forward to 2009. With the economic meltdown in the Wall Street, 2009 saw one of the worst economic problems of our time, creating a ripple effect everywhere. Ten million Americans are without job today, even after the economic stimulus package. The band-aid measures taken thus far by the Obama administration to infuse life into the faltering economy have not done any miracle that the people had hoped for with the change in the White House. It is, however, obvious that President Obama is taking a long term strategy towards bringing in a fundamental change to institutions where it matters. He is putting money in the education sector and into science programs so that years from now Americans would be better positioned to avoid such an economic mess in the future and would have the right ingredients to do the right things. On the plus side, for the first time in many decades the health reform bill was passed in the Senate. Thanks to President Obama, America’s tarnished image has been much improved internationally.

So how will 2010 look like for America? I am not into the prediction business. But I do believe that economy will remain the most important concern for most Americans. I also believe that Igor Panarin, a former KGB analyst, currently the dean of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s academy for future diplomats, will be proven wrong. In case you are wondering, Panarin predicted that the U.S. will fall apart in 2010. [2] No matter how bad the American economy is, the USA is in no position to fall apart (like what happened to the former Soviet Union). Economic recovery will be a very slow one though. Thus, it is easy to guess that the Democrats will lose quite a few seats within the US Congress in the 2010 mid-term election. Unless something miraculously wrong happens, which shows the current Obama administration absolutely ill-prepared, the Democrats are expected to retain a majority in both the Houses. This, in spite of all the hysterical blabbering from war criminals like Cheney!

American troops will remain, as already announced, in places like Afghanistan and Iraq. And as such, economy may not regain the vitality required to show a positive upturn.

With such negatives in the American horizon though, it may be too tempting for some Obama-insiders or advisers to sell the idea of going to war with Iran as an option. But that decision would be totally irresponsible and almost suicidal. A war with Iran will not only weaken Obama administration inside America, thus losing its liberal and anti-war support base that makes up the majority, but the move will surely put a final nail in the coffin of free market economy. It will also evaporate the tremendous support and trust that President Obama enjoys today outside. He will also do the greatest disservice and harm to the very Nobel Prize for Peace that was bestowed upon him last year.

I also believe that terrorism of all sorts –” state, individual and non-governmental –” will continue to play a big role in our world. As rightly observed by the ex-CIA chief of the Ben Laden Issue Station, Michael Scheuer, terrorism against America has nothing to do with her way of life, values or ethos but everything to do with American intervention and foreign policies outside that are deemed illegal, unjust and criminal. [3] Most Muslim terrorist activities against American and western interests today (including the latest attempt by a young Nigerian to blowup an American airliner on the Christmas day) [4] are reactive in nature and result from the overwhelming perception that America and the West are at war against the Muslim world, its people, land, religion, culture and way of life. As has been noted by many experts, there would not have been a 9/11 without the Israeli atrocities and war crimes in the Occupied Palestine. If America is serious about defeating terrorism, she has to revise her entire program around terrorism and come up with time-honored solutions that are scientific and feasible from both short- and long-term perspectives. [5]

While the Obama administration may like to prioritize Iran over Palestine in international affairs, it will be weighed in the Muslim world in respect to its commitment for ending the Israeli-Palestinian crisis. However, with a delayed economic recovery at home, Jewish economic prowess and influence of the Israeli/Jewish Lobby, President Obama is not expected to be in the driving seat for resolving the decades-old problem until the fundamentals with the economy improve. He will be unable to rein upon Israeli expansionist leaders to find a feasible and honorable solution there. More and more genuine area experts and affected people on either side will be forced to admit that the so-called two-state solution — a declared American policy since before the time of President Carter — is either dead or unworkable and, as such, opt for a one-state solution that guarantees, in principle, equal rights for the suffering Palestinians.

The year – 2010, therefore, appears to offer more challenges than opportunities for the Obama administration. In this challenging year, he cannot afford to appear Bush-lite but more Obama-like which put him into the White House.

Notes:

[1]. The author likes to acknowledge use of some of the data in this report from Just Cathy’s essay: http://tinyurl.com/yjftt7m

[2]. http://tinyurl.com/8umpnk

[3]. See, Michael Scheuer’s comments in the Introduction to Omar Nafisi’s book: Inside the Jihad: My life with al Qaeda, Basic Books (2006), NY, pp. xii.

[4]. The Nigerian passenger Umar F. AbdulMutallab is alleged to have ties with the al-Qaeda in Yemen and is believed to have reacted to the bombing inside Yemen that killed many al Qaeda sympathizers recently, including a preacher who was alleged to have ties with the shooter in the Fort Hood massacre.

[5]. For a deeper understanding, see this author’s book: Democracy, Politics and Terrorism –” America’s Quest for Security in the Age of Insecurity,
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B001ET5YOI/mmn-20/

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