PIVOTING TOWARD PEACE? Let’s allow ourselves to hope, or imagine, for a moment that Barack Obama’s second inaugural address opens the door to a new US foreign policy. There was no saber rattling, and his comments regarding the troops and America’s battle against “fascism and communism” seemed perfunctory. Instead, he stressed that “enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war.” And in a line that could be read as a signal to countries like Iran, Obama suggested that, in the past, former enemies have become “the surest of friends.”
Obama vowed that the United States will “try and resolve our differences with other nations peacefully,” adding: “We must be a source of hope to the poor, the sick, the marginalized, the victims of prejudice…because peace in our time requires the constant advance of those principles that our common creed describes: tolerance and opportunity, human dignity and justice.”
Obama articulated what ought to be the absolute core of US foreign policy: not attacking some small or medium-size country every of couple years, thereby creating bigger enemies; not riling gigantic rivals like China by “pivoting” toward Asia and the Pacific with our air force and navy. Instead, the United States should be organizing global attention on urgent needs, such as clean drinking water, vaccination programs, healthcare clinics, sustainable economic growth, and other achievable goals that could be bought and paid for worldwide at just a fraction of what we now spend on what is euphemistically called “defense.” Perhaps John Brennan, Obama’s nominee to head the CIA, will help the president wind down drone warfare, too. ROBERT DREYFUSS
WE LIKED IT BEFORE IT WAS POPULAR: Editor’s note: Nation contributor Dan Wakefield alerted us to our role in helping to launch the poetry career of inaugural poet Richard Blanco. Dan writes:
When I went to teach at Florida International University in the spring of 1994, I went to a student reading and was especially impressed by one of the poets, a young man named Richard Blanco. I asked if he would give me copies of the poems he read that night. I picked out three that I thought worthy of publication and suggested I submit them to The Nation, where I have been a longtime contributor. Rick said that none of his work had been published yet, and he was happy for me to send the poems to Grace Schulman, then the poetry editor. To my delight as well as Rick’s, Schulman selected his poem “Last Night in Havana” and eventually published it in The Nation (March 31, 1997). So The Nation was the first periodical to accept for publication the work of our new inaugural poet. And as a show of thanks for helping to get his poetry published, Rick gave me my first guided tour of Little Havana, Miami’s legendary Cuban neighborhood.
STUDENT ACTIVISTS RISE UP: In advance of spring, student activists are building intercampus networks to combat austerity-mongering university systems and state governments. On the heels of the Student Power Convergence held in Ohio last summer, students will hold several regional convergences to coordinate their efforts.
North Carolina has seen $414 million slashed from the state university system; the North Carolina Student Power Union will host a statewide conference, Retaking Our Schools, Remaking Society on February 16. “NC-SPU emphasizes the importance of building a diverse, grassroots student movement in the South—a region with a rich history of resistance and student activism,” says organizer Matt Hickson.