According to Obama, ISIS “No Existential Threat”?
“ISIS does not produce anything (therefore) poses no existential threat to US,” said President Obama on the occasion of his “tango” conference in Argentina. The logic of this statement escapes me. Hitler did not “produce” anything; Napoleon did not “produce” anything. It is precisely the opposite, which is the case here: those who do not produce but destroy pose an existential threat to the rest of us.
However, Obama’s statement is more insightful into the mind of this limp-handed egoist than it appears. First of all, it shows his psychology, which is firmly rooted in his notion of invincibility: he is the most powerful man in the world, guarded by the most sophisticated secret service. He is safe and no-one can harm him and his family. His primary concern has always been for himself and his “legacy.”
Whenever I see Obama, I recall Norman Mailer’s essay entitled the “White Negro” and Christopher Lasch’s book “The Culture of Narcissism.” Of course, Obama’s politics are founded on Wilsonian peace-making and nation-building – antithetical to Alfred Thayer Mahan’s concept of the naval power, all types of “Rough Riders” and thus also our military values and the values on which the world operates, which is to say values firmly grounded in the doctrine of the balances of powers, alliances and Machiavellian pragmatism.
Obama proclaims himself to be a pragmatist but is anything but: his concern cannot be in what works because to have such a concern in the first place, one must have an aim in mind, e.g. defeating ISIS, creating a workable relationship with Israel and Great Britain, advancing the changing purposes of the North Atlantic Alliance, etc.
Obama’s “existentialist” statement underscores both his psychology and his philosophy. Psychologically, he always takes the route of least resistance, hoping to make friends with everybody. That is his primary weakness – he wants to be liked and admired, cannot accept criticism. Therefore, his philosophy is tantamount to resignation. This resignation is coupled with internal contentment, security derived from the pathology of negation: I must be weak in order to be strong; everyone who threatens me is weaker and acts out of weakness; I must remain cool at all times…
In the background, I hear the communist mottoes from Orwell’s 1984: “War is Peace! Freedom is Slavery! Ignorance is Strength!” Philosophically, they can be defined as “Absurdism” and “Nihilism.” They are children of existentialism. Take, for example, the completely apathetic Meursault, the main character in Camus’ “Stranger.” This man does not cry at his mother’s funeral and when he is sentenced to death, he thinks it is somehow a natural course of life – to be punished. This Kafkaesque turning into a bug that watches others come and go, pass by, unable to do anything about life, because “being” simply “is,” is at the core of Obama’s life philosophy.
Norman Mailer, the author of the great war novel “The Naked and the Dead” (of which every American should have read at least the first 80 pages), describes this psychopathology in his “White Negro.” This term refers to all people who are in some way products of existentialism, which started with Nietzsche’s “God is dead” and completed full circle in Sartre’s “existence precedes essence.” Existence comes first and essence is defined by constant negation: we become something only to “unbecome” and turn into something else. A hipster-existentialist (i.e. “the white negro”) avoids neurosis not by psychoanalysis and value-orientation, but by creating a workable psychopathy, which tells him to “let it be.”
Likewise, Clinton’s “What difference does it make at this point anyway?” is a statement profound in its shallowness: nothing really matters at the end of the day. It is a statement made by Camus’ main character – rather than being Kafka’s bug, upside down, kicking one’s tiny legs in the air, unable to communicate, cry for help – she develops a workable psychopathy of nihilism.
It is this psychopathy which is the mangled version of pragmatism: we avoid danger to our existence by letting our essence take whatever form the world desires it to take. Our Constitution, our Bill of Rights, written laws, history – they form a stable, immutable essence. This essence must be erased in order to preserve our existence. At the same time, self-preservation is of little concern (to Obama) because even that is only a form of transformation: if the United States should be transformed into a United Caliphate, it would make no difference to the existence of its people – such is Obama’s opinion and philosophy.
Obama’s “doing the wave” in the Cuban stadium, his “tango” in Argentina, his walking through the streets of rainy Havana… those are all symptomatic of this existential psychopathy, whose main and sole purpose is to be cool, hip, admired, and let everything else “slide.” When Norman Mailer was asked: “What is existentialism?” he replied: “It’s sort of playing everything by the ear.” No doubt, Kierkegaard and even Nietzsche and Sartre would agree.
After all, when “God is dead,” everything is allowed. To ask about Obama’s religion is like asking a bug what time it is. Religion, with all its powerful symbols, are like the symbols of statehood to him: the Statue of Liberty does not symbolize national strength, power looking to the rising sun; but, rather, it stands for a mangled version of Lazarus and tango, defined by connoisseurs as “vertical solitude.” Taken to the ultimate logical conclusion, Obama’s resignation is no different than the approach of the suicide bomber, who welcomes death as the ultimate equalizer and liberator – except, in Obama’s case, it is the death of the essence of what it means to be an American (albeit mere existence shall be continued).