William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

That brilliant poem written by Yeats in 1919* came to mind after 9/11, expressing the sense of chaos and foreboding that was so widely felt. It’s easy to forget how obvious it appeared that many attacks of similar magnitude would be forthcoming, particularly since 9/11 was followed quickly by the mysterious anthrax letters. However, as the years went by—despite some setbacks in Iraq and elsewhere—things seemed to be going better than many of us would have expected on 9/12/2001.

But ever since the inauguration of Barack Obama as president they have been going steadily downhill, with an especially steep decline since November of 2014. Obama is not responsible for all of it, but I lay a great deal of it at his feet. Almost on a daily basis, we have been reading and writing about the ways in which his actions have worsened things around the world.

In this post I will take just one example, however, and a relatively simple one compared with some of the others such as Iran/Israel: the Bo Bergdahl desertion charges. I wrote “relatively” simple, but that doesn’t mean the incident is simple at all.

The Bergdahl story actually has several layers of horribleness. The first was the prisoner exchange, which would have seemed a bad deal even if Bergdahl had been innocent of any wrongdoing—bad because it involved negotiating with terrorists, releasing captives of extreme dangerousness (five of them!), and also bad because Obama had omitted giving Congress notice although he was bound by law to do so. Then there was White House intransigence and denials in the face of mounting—and even compelling—evidence that Bergdahl was a deserter.

Then there was the delay in charging Bergdahl, which was rumored to be the result of White House pressure on the military not to charge him. And maybe there will be further travesties, such as an exoneration despite convincing evidence of guilt, or an attack masterminded by one of the Taliban Five.

But worst of all, really, was how the story dropped off the radar screen relatively quickly. That was understandable, though, because so many other terrible things were happening. That’s part of the plan, of course; to get us to play an ever-escalating game of whack-a-mole.

It was possible to have realized back in 2010 (see the last paragraph of this post, for example) that a second Obama term was to be dreaded because he would then be released from the need to answer to the electorate at all. But the electorate bears some responsibility too, as does the press and Congress. Why oh why are not more people screaming out that the emperor has been completely naked for quite some time now?

That “why oh why” is rhetorical on my part; I suppose we know the answer[s]. But in a more basic way it still is puzzling, because as things become worse and worse, and Obama’s actions more extreme and more revelatory, I keep thinking there must be a tipping point, both for the press and the public as well as Congress.

But even that is probably an illusory hope. Events make me more cynical, but I don’t seem to be able to ratchet my cynicism up quickly enough to meet them.

[Neo-neocon is a writer with degrees in law and family therapy, who blogs at neo-neocon.]

[NOTE: I originally had copied the date of Yeats’ death (1939) instead of the date he wrote the poem, which was 1919. That 1919 date is interesting in terms of the history of the Middle East, because the end of World War I triggered the division of that region (mostly during the 20s) into something more similar to its modern, post Ottoman Empire form. World War I was a cataclysmic event with enormous repercussions, and I submit that we have never recovered from it.]