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      On the NATO Summit in Chicago

      As a divided NATO prepares to gather in Chicago, the new French president François Hollande will be announcing a pullout of his 3,300 troops from Afghanistan two years ahead of schedule. While a new AP-GfK poll shows the vast majority of Americans oppose keeping troops in Afghanistan past 2014, Prime Minister Julia Gillard said last month that Australia, too, intends to withdraw their 1,550 troops[1] a year ahead of schedule, saying, "the peoples of the world's democracies are weary of this war."

      Meanwhile, the G8 One Percenters will be hidden at Camp David, whisked there by Barack Obama to prevent an impolite repudiation of their economic politics in the streets of Chicago. The election mandates in France and Greece indicate a swelling rejection of austerity. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel will deploy federally subsidized heavy armor[2] and keep pepper spray at the ready to suppress democratic crowds next week.

      This is what democracy really looks like: elites in retreat, police in the street, public frustration with war and austerity on the rise, no end in sight. 

      One other startling development: G8 member Japan is operating today, if only temporarily, with all its nuclear power plants shut down due to local prefecture opposition and tens of thousands in the streets. 

      The pattern is an old one: when the center cannot hold, when the elites are unwilling to make concessions, things crumble from within, and in the vacuum, far-right parties gather force. 

      By taking the G8 to Camp David, President Obama may have successfully out-maneuvered the Occupy protestors, left-wing coalitions and Adbuster culture-jammers who called for 50,000 in the streets or tents. Obama may announce in Chicago that he’s winding down another war. But these are tactical adaptations only. The crises may worsen and intensify in the absence of deeds. 

      Obama could seize the time and blame the Tea Party and Mitt Romney for a market fundamentalism that threatens our economy and paralyses our democracy. Obama can accelerate the US withdrawal from Afghanistan while stepping up regional diplomacy. Obama can question, publicly or privately, how exactly a North Atlantic treaty organization can win a war in South Asia, and how long the billionaires can buy elections to squeeze the rest of us.

      Those are certainly among the questions that people will ask in Chicago in next week and along the campaign trail for the next six months.  


      [1] The Australian contingent is the largest contingent of any non-NATO member fighting in Afghanistan.

      [2] Cities hosting a designated National Special Security Event (NSSE), such as the upcoming NATO Summit and Democratic/Republican National Conventions, receive millions of dollars in bonus Federal funding for law enforcement.

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