“The solution of the Palestine problem is key to many problems between the West and the Muslim world. Our hope as Muslims to Obama and the U.S. is not unreasonable: If the Palestine problem could be resolved, it would be more than enough.” – Masdar Mas’udi, deputy chairman of Indonesia’s largest Islamic group
So all you have to do is solve the Middle East crisis, Mr. President. Make the Jews, Muslims, and Christians put aside the crusades, victory mosques and well poisoning, and start getting along. Mr. Obama is in Indonesia right now, the world’s largest Muslim (86%) democracy. His trip will be cut short because the volcano is menacing. Maybe it’s the left over jinx from George Bush’s 2006 visit, when an Indonesian mystic named Ki Gendeng Pamungkas slit the throats of a black crow, a snake, and a goat, and then drank a potion made with the blood. To clarify for the Americans, this man is a voodoo practitioner. Muslims won’t even touch pork.
Today Mount Merapi is spewing its molten fury 20,000 feet straight up in the air and raining ash and rock 150 miles away. Whole villages have been smothered and the fleeing inhabitants mown down by searing gases that raced down the mountain at 60 mph. The seismograph needle is still going crazy, which means the worst may be yet to come.
The President is on his way to Seoul, South Korea, where 20 elected mouthpieces will smoke Cuban cigars and make handshake deals over vodka tonics and $600 billion in U.S. Treasury bonds. His goal is to force the Chinese Yen high enough to balance the U.S. export market and get the economy to turn over. Indonesia stands to lose a sizeable chunk of their 2011 projected 6.2% economic growth if the world market is flooded with Yankee dollars. They are not happy about this. It wasn’t their bubble that burst.
But if we can get Prime Minister Netanyahu to back off the green line and sit down and talk about what a two-state solution might realistically look like, all will be forgiven. Indonesians consider Obama one of their own. They are proud of his youth spent in Jakarta, despite his mischievous conduct in school, and they welcome his return to their island home. And now, with the Republican congressional agenda set on repealing the health care reform bill and securing the Bush era tax cuts, the President may well find his most fruitful work in the field of foreign policy.
President George W. Bush began talks to implement the two-state solution in November of 2007, but Israel’s continued settlement of the West Bank and the violent Hamas reaction has prevented any meaningful accord from being reached. The two-state solution has been proposed numerous times throughout the history of modern Israel, but the people are so mistrustful of one another that if the Jews accept the partition lines, the Muslims will reject them out of hand as Zionist treachery.
It’s been a tough two years for Mr. Obama, the toughest any president has faced in my lifetime, and he has carried himself with the characteristic cool and confidence that so infuriates his fearmongering opponents. All that could be over tomorrow, when the Chinese, the Germans, and every other country that is dependent on U.S. consumerism finds out that it’s all over, that we’re broke and we don’t really need more fast food toys and battery operated toothpick dispensers anyway.
We should have seen this coming. The Group of Seven became the G20 because the gap between developing and developed was closing so fast that we needed to call roll and establish our position in the group before East Asia formed their own international cabal and shut us out in the cold. We were counting on our money to save us, except that money means nothing. It’s an act of faith. A cowardly lackey won’t be bullied with a fistful of notebook paper.
So the Federal Reserve Bank added $600 billion to the pot, devaluing the dollar to motivate international investors to buy from us. This is what the Chinese have been doing with their currency for years. The difference is we’re doing it too fast. The American public is losing their faith in money. When gramps talks about two movie tickets for a dime, and now it’s $20, that’s successful use of inflation. The value of money fluctuates naturally, just like any commodity with a variable supply.
The problem comes when we devalue our money all at once, and the Chinese, who have been stacking U.S. dollars hand-over-fist for a couple decades, find out it’s worth half of what it was before. Then they spend it before it loses more value, which causes it to lose more value. A trillion here, a trillion there, and pretty soon a grocer won’t take less than two wheelbarrows of the stuff for bread and milk.
So, as he goes into the G20 conference, my hope for the President is this. Remember what’s really valuable. Life, liberty, and the PURSUIT of happiness. You have the power to shape the future of the world, both competitively and cooperatively, for the better. If we’re hungry next year, so be it. We’ve been hungry before. We can take it. Don’t let them cut you a deal for some good news right at election time in 2012. The American people and the Indonesian people want the same things, the really important things: a just world, a free country, and a chance to improve our condition for ourselves and our children.