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Psst, Hey India, Wanna C-17?

Calling India for Job Assistance

For Barack Obama, midterm 2010 has already been written off as a crushing Republican triumph, but that's hardly the full story.  After all, approximately 29 million Americans who voted for him in 2008 didn't bother to stir for him or the Democrats in 2010.  Think of it this way: he's less a man who lost to the opposition than a man who lost his own dispirited base, much of which is by now thoroughly disappointed, if not mad as hell, and evidently not particularly interested in supporting him anymore.

Like many presidents in defeat, he promptly left town (or "the bubble," as he's taken to calling it) for places as far east as possible, in this case all in Asia.  In the wake of an electoral blowout, this previously planned diplomatic journey of goodwill was quickly recast as a search for American jobs.  A little late to launch that search, of course, and India may not be the perfect fit either.   After all, any American who has ever made that desperate call for computer or other technical assistance and found him or herself on the phone with some young person not in Bangor, Maine, but Bangalore, India, probably won't be overwhelmed by the allure of India's ability to deliver jobs to the U.S.

Nonetheless, the president gamely arrived in India touting one of two industries which make things that go boom in the dark, where the U.S. still can't be beat.   No, I'm not talking about Hollywood.  You wouldn't take Hollywood to Bollywood.  I'm talking about that other American boom-time business under bust-time conditions: the making of high-tech weaponry.  India was once a Russian bailiwick when it came to arms sales, but no longer.  So the president arrived with a Boeing deal to sell C-17 transport planes to the Indian military for up to $5.8 billion (and so, supposedly, create 22,000 new American jobs).  A "preliminary agreement" was inked on this trip, while the two countries agreed on a counterterrorism security initiative, and the U.S. lifted certain export controls on dual-use technology as well.

If weapons sales abroad could pull the U.S. out of its present job doldrums, they would have done so long ago.  In the post-Cold War era the U.S. practically cornered the global arms market.  If you want to count on anything, however, count on this: we'd be perfectly happy to arm to the teeth the two great regional rivals in South Asia, India and Pakistan, if they'd let us.  After all, we arm the world (and worry about it later).  That Obama arrived more or less hat in hand in New Dehli tells you everything you need to know about the world's former "sole superpower."  And if you don't think so, check out the preview Juan Cole offers at TomDispatch.com of the coming ruins of the American empire in Asia. 

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