The hope of change in Obama’s foreign policy has rather spectacularly collapsed. In Cairo Obama appeared to articulate a radical shift in the nature of politics in the Middle East:
“I’ve come here to Cairo to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world, one based on mutual interest and mutual respect, and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive and need not be in competition.”
But on the anniversary of his first year as President a whole spate of articles appeared on how Obama has carried on the foreign policies of the Bush era. He has been labled by some as George W. Obama.This has been regrettably true. On Palestine Obama promised change:
And America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own.
On Iran Obama promised change:
Rather than remain trapped in the past, I’ve made it clear to Iran’s leaders and people that my country is prepared to move forward. The question now is not what Iran is against, but rather what future it wants to build.
This is to name but two. And these two statements did not live up to what his administration has delivered.
Well respected commentators have called on his Middle East Advisor to resign due the complete lack of purpose and clarity on the Middle East peace process. The recent announcement that the US will deploy a missile shield in the Gulf shows the continued belligerent policies towards Iran.
Foreign Policy often involves a lot of movement but, much like a fountain seen from a distance, remains remarkably constant. Why is this? How is it that Obama a man so remarkably different from Bush has been unable to change the foreign policy of the US? Is it simply the nature of power? Obama cannot really move in this region in the right direction without radically altering the whole region. Is this too much to bear?
But did we not expect too much? Yes, Obama did fed that beast of expectation to delirious levels. Would it have been different if he focused solely on a couple of particular issues instead of trying to establish a global agenda? Is that the problem with our globalised age. That the greatest idol of the modern age had to give all things to all people at all times and ended not knowing where or how to start? Creating a vacuous nothingness.
Obama is not Bush but he is not a political radical either. He is a leader that is part of the same system as Bush, a system that has a foreign policy that cannot be changed by the President alone and not without great political ramifications at home. He still remains a hope for the potential for change in the region but we know now not change itself. For change itself you have to alter the source to stop the continuous flow.
We (this is the royal we) all love Obama. No doubt about it. I have just finished reading Dreams from my Father that left me with an even greater admiration for the man. But he is not the messiah and giving him a Nobel Peace Prize for achieving absolutely nothing on the ground is as stupid as giving Sadat and Begin a Nobel….oh wait. So the jury of the Nobel does not have a great record but this award really does put it in a category of its own.
Apparently Obama got the prize “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.” Great but getting a Nobel Prize for Peace should be for “exiting US troops from Iraq while also maintaining a strong and stable Iraq” or “making a substantial contribution to the ending of Israeli apartheid policies” or “Not fucking up Afghanistan and Pakistan so badly.”
A Nobel Peace Prize should not be awarded for creating one of the most ambitious foreign policies in modern US history, it is not a prize for theoretical policies (at least that was what I thought!) .
A Nobel Peace Prize should not be awarded for the remarkable feet of being elected President of the US and replacing the war criminal that was G W Bush.
A Nobel Peace Prize should not be awarded “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.”
Obama has got so much to achieve in Foreign Policy terms. The policy route that is decided by Obama with regard to Afghanistan and Pakistan is going to show what he is really made of. Here there is a real risk of all out disaster the US, as in Iraq, have tried strategy after strategy and they have all failed. Far from bringing enlightenment and states the US has pushed Afghanistan and Pakistan further into the “darkness” with their policies. He has thus far failed to successfully change the current narrative on how to “deal” with these states. A lot of work still needs to be done before awards start being handed!! As for Israel Obama’s the less the said the better on the performance of the Obama team. A bit of a joke but I am all for the give them time argument. They are not going to solve things in an instant. He is not a prophet after all….
While I 100% am personally for supporting Obama this is stupid. I am sure Obama turned to Michelle and said “Are they taking the piss?” (I admit this is what Obama would have said if he was from London but anyway something expressing the same utter flabbergasting confusion.)
The Economist hosts these great debates on various issues and the current one that will run until the end of the month is: This House Believes that Obama’s America is now an honest broker between Israel and the Arabs.
Supporting the motion is Daniel Levy who used to work for as an adviser to Ehud Barak and is p0litically what would be called a Clintonista. Against the motion is David “Shiver When You Here My” Frum, the neoconserative, who is, and I quote the moderator Xan Smiley, “…credited with coining the phrase ‘the axis of evil.'” I wonder if Xan Smiley would credit Ahmedinjad with coining the phrase, “Wiping Israel off the map,”? So you get the idea that this debate is a Israeli-American debate rather than an Israeli Arab one and if you are in any doubt the guest speakers confirm it. In fact not one ‘Arab’ perspective is introduced into the debate the closest we get is to the moderator Xan Smiley quoting some of the comments left by readers, “Understandably, many of those from a seemingly Arab standpoint remain unconvinced that Mr Obama will truly change American policy…”
The argument in fact goes beyond weather Obama is an honest broker and displays the split between those that support the idea of the Greater Israeli state (Frum) and those who want pre-67 borders. Those that support the Greater Israeli state are basically arguing for a security Iron Wall, the revisionist Israeli ideology that Shlaim articulated in his book the Iron Wall. The realist in me tells me the reality is going to be dominated by those that support the Greater Israel debate and that any solution is a long long long way away. Anyway back to the debate:
Levy articulates, arguing why Obama is an honest broker, quite the opposite and more to the point why no US president can ever be. Yes they are the well known facts that every person with an anti-Zionist or, as in the case of Levy, anti-greater Isreal perspective will throw at you. “Israel remains the largest recipient of overseas US assistance ($2.7 billion) despite having a PPP GDP per head of $28,000….In opposing settlements, the Obama administration does not embrace international law or punitive measures, and the US maintains unparalleled military measures and strategic cooperation with Israel.”
You really get the sense from Frum how Israelis on the right want to frame the debate. Apart from the obvious Iran arguments what the US and Israeli right have a problems with is that Obama thinks about the creation of Israel in terms of the holocaust and not the “millennial Jewish connection to the land of Israel…the narrative that moves him [Obama] is an anti-colonial narrative…”
Well I really hope so! Not that this will be enough. Even with the strong reaction against Obama by segments of the Israeli population he will still play it very much on the Israeli side. For instance the US focus has been on the growth of illegal settlements not the settlements themselves. I think we should think of Obama as being the most honest US President the Arab world is able to get but not an “honest broker”.