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The Obama Syndrome: Surrender at Home, War Abroad Hardcover – 18 Oct 2010

4.8 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Verso (18 Oct. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844674495
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844674497
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 1.8 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 955,801 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description


Praise for The Clash of Fundamentalisms: Lyrical and engaging, humane and passionate. --Nation

A wide-ranging and powerfully argued critique. --Financial Times

Praise for Bush in Babylon: A compelling insider's perspective. --New York Times

About the Author

TARIQ ALI is a writer and filmmaker. He has written more than a dozen books on world history and politics, as well as scripts for the stage and screen. He is an editor of New Left Review and lives in London.

Customer Reviews

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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In his short book covering Obama's political career before and after his elevation to the presidency (tellingly subtitled "Surrender at Home, War Abroad") Tariq Ali plainly regards the writing to have been on the wall for a progressive presidency since well before the election.

The case presented is persuasive: from his origins as a flunky for the Democratic party machine in Illinois and Chicago (the home of the Daley dynasty with it's stranglehold on the state Democratic party) to his time as a member of the U.S. senate it has been clear that the main evidence for his progressive politics was in the rhetoric of his speeches and writing rather than his actual political record.

For Ali his record as president is lamentable. Health Care reform was retarded by the vested interests of the private insurance sector; the program that was eventually enacted is skewed towards their financial interests rather than towards those who struggle to access health care. Experts predict that this will render the limited benefits gained grotesquely expensive before this decade is out. The policy of charter schools, a variant of which the Conservative party and their Liberal lackeys are touting under the name of "Free Schools", is likewise manna from heaven for the private education sector. On the economy, Obama has preferred to re-engage those who were up to their necks in the formation of the problem in the first place such as Lawrence Summers in preference to even considering those such as Joseph Stiglitz (
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Extremely informative! A real eye opener! Things common folks dont even have an idea about whats going on around and how their lives are affected.
This is Tariq Ali's first book I have read and I'll read more of his books. He has deep knowledge of what he is talking about and its evidence based, not shooting in the air!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A fiery but intelligent and extremely insightful polemic which takes up vast swathes of evidence challenging the conservative fear that Obama is an out of control leftist and the liberal view of the President as the new bastion of progressive ideals. Ali's thesis hold that the President is in essence another representative of the Reaganite agenda at home and the Neoconservative agenda of Bush abroad.
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Great book in highlighting the nightmare and failed hopes of Obama whether that be drones, cosy relationships with the bankers who created the crisis, arresting whistle blowers and so on! Interestingly Ali also focuses on how Obama is more dangerous in that liberals view him as the good guy. This means that he is doing things at present that would not have been accepted were they done by bush. We need working class movements in every country.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.2 out of 5 stars 17 reviews
26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Judge this book by its cover 14 Oct. 2010
By Jim LaRegina - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Whatever awards exist for book covers, I hope Alex Ostroy's artwork for THE OBAMA SYNDROME: SURRENDER AT HOME, WAR ABROAD, the new boss's facade crumbling to show he's the same as the old boss, wins. But please read THE OBAMA SYNDROME - the thousand words its cover picture are worth is just the start of what needs to be said about President Barack Obama, and author Tariq Ali's text does the job.

November 4, 2008, Americans wishing to reverse eight devastating years of George W. Bush chose Illinois Senator Barack Obama despite his Senate votes to fund the failed Iraq occupation, give $700 billion to the wealthy who caused the financial crisis, grant immunity to telecommunication companies that illegally spied on Americans, and so on. Didn't they see "Change" would be little more than chump change?

THE OBAMA SYNDROME reminds us President Obama is continuing where Senator Obama left off. The Senator kowtowed to the wealthy with his bailout vote. The President socks it to the working class with his insurance/pharmaceutical industry-driven health care "reform." The Senator sold out innocent Iraqis. The President sends drones to kill Pakistani women and children. And so on.

But while the people saw Senator Obama for what they wanted him to be, THE OBAMA SYNDROME notes they see President Obama for what he is: not much different than George W. Bush. THE OBAMA SYNDROME ends cliffhanger-style, leaving the reader to wonder what the fallout from all the faithful the Obama administration has alienated will be in both the mid-term 2010 elections and Obama's own 2012 re-election attempt.
41 of 49 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Two years on, a midterm critique from the far-left 19 Oct. 2010
By John L Murphy - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Editor of New Left Review, London-based Ali criticizes Barack Obama's obedience to the same corporate and military powers that controlled previous American administrations. What Ali sums up about a previous analysis of Obama speaks for Ali's own agenda: "A useful antidote to the gushing biographies." Ali's progressive stance confronts the illusions sold to voters in 2008 by a compliant media and capitalist firms who provided the vast majority of Obama's $900 million campaign funds. Goldman Sachs contributed nearly a million; who could claim surprise by their bailout?

His leftist presuppositions infuse this short series of what read more like related essays than a seamlessly constructed narrative. Ali admits a rush to print, preferring to provide a "preliminary report on the first 1000 days of the Obama presidency." However, with mention of the Gaza flotilla attack by Israel, the resignation of General McChrystal, and the BP oil spill, this is as current an overview as can be expected.

It begins energetically. The first "mixed-race" president reinvented himself as both white enough and black enough to win. "Little of what Obama actually said in a combination of blandishments, special pleading and specious arguments justified much optimism, but the manner of his speaking, the color of his skin and the constant invocation of the word `change' helped create a new spirit in the country--Obamania--that propelled him to the White House."

Ali cites African American scholars and activists among Obama's critics: "The emblematic significance of Obama's victory should not be underestimated, but did it ever move beyond symbols?" Ali doubts it did. After surveying the superficial gloss of Obama's campaign makeover, he turns to Obama's imperial aspirations, which extend those of his predecessors.

Surveying Iraqi and Afghani wars, Palestinian resistance, and Iranian and Pakistani dangers supposed by an Anglo-American military and multinational hegemony, Ali amasses more information akin to a current affairs journalist's approach than that of a political analyst.

This leftist reaction, in other contexts, typifies Ali's characteristic limitations. His progressive opposition leaves the reader wondering--in a world where no other superpower appears ready to take over America's role as carrier of the big stick--what viable alternatives might be.

As a weak response to such a crisis, Obama's "sonorous banality and armor-plated hypocrisy" earn derision. Ali exposes Obama's habitual lack of will. Rather than true reform for Wall Street, the healthcare system, or the Supreme Court, Obama capitulates to lobbyists and fundraisers who control politicians under a Democratic or Republican administration. Obama pretends that an audacity of hope leading to genuine advance will occur under his watch, but the "implication is always that the Washington system prevents any change that he could believe in."

One might argue that the Obama syndrome, no matter who inherits this affliction, may collapse as the parasite consumes the host. How can capitalism sustain itself in this self-devouring, environmentally threatened, and profit-driven world? Closing this collection, rather than appending an article on the failed Oakland health care system or the situation in Yemen, Ali could have addressed this dire scenario instead. One wonders about his solutions, two decades after the collapse of mass capitalist opposition, from his perspective in a London-based far-left.

Ali might have enriched this study. He could have articulated more often the fears and hopes of communities, grassroots organizations, and everyday folks who are entangled within their historical allegiance to Obama's own maker, the Democratic party machine. It dominates many cities and suburbs. No true radicals will get elected, even there. Few residents bother with whatever New Left Review encourages, when it comes to a disaffected American voter, or a non-voter majority. This lack of electoral choice prevents real change from occurring in a polarized, bipartisan, corporate-funded, unreformed campaigning system. The Democratic party's "leadership" will not support any more than the GOP a truly alternative candidate--no matter what his or her complexion--when it comes to perpetuating its own empire.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Muslims Uber Alles 23 April 2012
By Tracy McLellan - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Tariq Ali reports that the system is indeed rotten, everybody knows it. Rather than ponderous, his style is succinct and breezy. The one irony after another that he exposes are so sardonic, combined with his steadfast veracity, that this is one of the very few instances in which humor would be unwelcome. One can almost hear Ali uttering these words the same way he does in a lecture or a debate: carefully, slowly, and self-assured. Most admirable is the wisdom that captures and uplifts, filled with both the fearlessness wisdom demands of the violence and irrationalities that our times confront us with, and also the profound humility that ought go with it. Ali makes a significant divergence in insisting the responsibility belongs most immediately on the incumbent. Yes, the mess Obama inherited was horrific. But how will that be repaired by following and prescribing the very policies that have brought us to these crises?

Ali writes that Obama favors a thoroughly discredited market-oriented approach to every important issue, and the nurturing of the military muscle to enforce its every edict. Bailouts for the casinos on Wall Street? No problem. Help for homeowners in jeopardy? Not so much. Increased military spending? Obama makes Bush look like a welterweight. Escalate the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? Obama calls leaving 50,000 troops in Iraq complemented by a large contingent of mercenaries, and the building of the largest US embassy in the world in Baghdad, withdrawal. He ups the ante in Afghanistan - although Ali says we shouldn't be surprised because he promised to do so in his campaign - increased the drone attacks across the Afghanistan border with Pakistan, which have killed countless innocent civilians and destabilized the regime, and spread the so-called terror-war to Sudan, Yemen, and Somalia. After winning the election he stood by mute as Israel mercilessly attacked hospitals, schools, mosques, homes, orphanages, UN facilities, and used white phosphorous munitions on the civilian population of Gaza.

Repeatedly Ali describes the pusillanimity of the Obama style of governance. For example: "Unable and unwilling to deliver any serious reforms, Obama has become the master of the sympathetic gesture, the understanding smile, the pained but friendly expression that always appear(s) to say, 'Really, I agree and wish we could, but we can't. We really can't and it's not my fault.' The implication is always that the Washington system prevents any change that he could believe in. But the ring of truth is absent."

Obama and his Secretary of Education Arne Duncan have promoted charter over public schools, in the process vilifying teachers and their unions, and militarized schools in Chicago and elsewhere. Ali notes this is a process designed to obviate the need for a draft and makes for a surplus contingent of war recruits of the underclass, available for service to empire.

Only six months before the oil disaster in the gulf, Obama, and his industry-friendly Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar had colluded with the oil giants to allow for just the type of oil drilling that resulted in the catastrophe. Again and again Ali shows that Obama works, like his predecessors, for the ruling elite, and in the class warfare that is raging, as an agent of the plutocrats. Ali doesn't mention a single bright spot on Obama's resume as president.

At one point Ali calls it only half ironic that a leading columnist for the Financial Times lists the most important events of 2009 as speeches by Obama. In his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech Ali cites Obama in flagrante delicto alluding to the "limits of reason." As if our society has approached anything resembling reason, let alone scaling its limits. In the instance Obama elucidates that his "limits of reason" threaten even more aggravated use of US weaponry - rather than, as understanding teaches, the beginning of philosophy.

Perhaps the worst of all is Obama's economic team. Ali writes that as President Clinton's Treasury Secretary, Robert Rubin helmed the deregulation of Wall Street that culminated in 1999 in the repeal of the depression-era Glass Steagall Act. The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act dissolved the barrier between commercial and investment banks and insurance companies , which was largely responsible for the economic collapse of 2008. Lawrence Summers, Timothy Geithner, Neal Wolin and others, instrumental in drafting the legislation and proteges of Rubin, were all appointed to top posts in the Obama regime. Rubin left Treasury to pocket a cool $120 million at Citigroup, and Wolin to the Hartford Insurance Company. Both corporations benefited from this revolving-door economic policy, and were subsequently bailed out by US taxpayers.

Speaking of Obama's mandate in January of 2009, and the citizenry's disgust with the eights years of the Bush regime, Ali writes that, "If ever there was a moment for a set of measures [to be] enacted [to regulate the so-called free market] this was surely it, but US politics had for many decades been based on the needs of corporate capitalism, with the government as a supportive, rather than a controlling, force. The economy was wedded to militarism and financialization." Obama has changed this paradigm not a whit, shows Ali.

Ali is fair enough, however, that he doesn't put all blame on Obama, and in the process, offers a prescription for the terrible problems confronting us: "The lack of popular social movements in the United States enabled the elite to impose its own solutions, and these were, unsurprisingly, designed to boost the existing arrangements...The lesson is an old one: without action from below, there will be no change above."
46 of 58 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Title Tells Truely The Terminal Test That This Testator Tells 4 Oct. 2010
By Donald A. Collins - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Anyone who can read and think and who has read the recent trio of books about America's dangerous empire building over the past decades will realize that more and more Americans see our so called "defense" spending has been quite the reverse.

Please forgive the facetious title I have given this review, but the author in this title obviously echos the feelings of a growing number of Americans who know they have been conned, now for decades by the greed of our military and those who make their armaments. Obama, in his failure to act decisively to stop this plunge to ultimate bankruptcy, deserves this label, as he is writing a will for a foul future.

For example, Chalmers Johnson, the author of The Blowback Trilogy, has just added "Dismantling The Empire: America's Last Hope" to this earlier wake up calls for us to cease our mad rush to dominate the planet. He notes that while we are not taking territory, our military has over 700 bases overseas.

A number of other writers have eloquently echoed Johnson's perspicacious prognostications about building our empire. For example, Andrew Bacevich in his book, Washington Rules: America's Path To Permanent War, describes the role of two key architects of that empire: Allen Dulles, who planned the Bay of Pigs disaster (which cost him his job), and General Curtis LeMay who drove the Strategic Air Command to obtain nuclear weapons could have blown the planet to smithereens many times over.

Another new offering, The American Way of War: How Bush's Wars Became Obama's (Paperback), by Tom Engelhardt, Haymarket Books, Chicago, 2010 represents a little heralded paperback masterpiece of only 216 pages should enlighten anyone who has not already come to the sad conclusion that the USA has turned into a dangerous empire.

Yes, we lost 3000 lives on 9/11, plus over 4,000 men and women in the current wars, but we killed 3 million in Vietnam, then hundreds of thousands in Cambodia and now hundreds of thousands in the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars, including many women and children. Such civilian losses are commonly referred to as "Collateral Damage" by our military.

While our Cold War excuses (Remember the Domino Theory and the Missle Gap?) may have had some validity at an earlier time, the claimed threats that prompted our continued military escalations and expansions clearly need reassessment now.

This new author adds with his title alone a chance to question present stategy. Since 1962 when our involvement in Vietnam began in ernest, US military expenditures have been $23 trillion. Does anyone think we got our money's worth or that these "defense" expenditures might have been put to better use at home?

Obama had been start heeding the voices of Americans other than those representing the Industrial Military Complex, which have exceeded Ike's warning by amounts of spending and influence which I am sure the late President could not have imagined.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Spellbinding warning of the new face of Fascism 7 Mar. 2012
By eurydike - Published on
Format: Paperback
I read it from cover to cover. It was hard to put down, and full of insight into a President who has ridden in on false promises, and rubber-stamped and continued the Bush/Cheney legacy of stripping us of our civil liberties under the Constitution and Bill Rights, while advancing militaristic imperialist fascism.

Can anything be as epic as Obama's betrayal of the progressives who elected him? As epic as his embrace of fascism, his continuation of the Bush judicial legacy, and his intensification of torture, his continued erosion of our civil rights, and his toadying to the 1%.

The Republicans and their debates - those I think of a joke.

But Barack Obama as a populist and an opponent of Wall Street who has the people's interests at heart - That I think of a complete joke.

Anyone who STILL believes in Obama, I suggest you quit drinking the kool-aid.

I once did. In North Carolina, I actually worked on Obama's ground team as a volunteer for Obama's campaign in 08, helping him win the very primary that secured his nomination.

So you can see, I WAS a believer too. But after getting elected, I watched him sell all of us down the river. He floated in on so many promises that he has failed to keep. He is a DLC policy wonk like Clinton, a fact that became apparent as soon as he began assembling his appalling cabinet. His appointment choices have all been extremely un-revolutionary. He has also continued the contemptible judicial legacy of the Bush era. He has continued Bush's Patriot Act, he has continued the wiretapping of US citizens, he has continued the torture, and he has continued the wars.

He is a machine politician from Chicago, where the machine was perfected. And he was groomed at Columbia and Harvard to be a mouthpiece for the rich and powerful.

A person who posted on facebook named Nicholas Carroll put it best when he said:

"My impression of Obama is that something changed in him last year. He's completely a corporate stooge now. I think it was BP that bought his soul. There's just something different about him when I see him speak. Plus, he's obsessed with golf now, which he was never interested in it before. Pretty tragic. He reminds me of Indiana Jones in "The Temple of Doom" after drinking the blood of that Thuggee cult."

So wake up, my friend. We all know now that Obama is just another stooge for Wall Street, the multinationals, and for the World Trade Organization.

Obama does not work for the people. He works for the 1%, and for the War Machine.

Aren't you sick of it?
We can do better than this pitchman for Wall Street and the War Machine.
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