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Posted by on Jan 27, 2009 in Economy | 0 comments

Barack Obama In White House: What Next?


Now that the din and bustle surrounding the Presidential Inaugural ceremony, etc, has settled and Barack Obama and his team have begun to move around in the corridors of power in Washington, it may not be out of place to make some tentative observations.

However, I have always believed that a top leader should be allowed at least 100 days in office before any definitive appraisal of his performance is attempted. That is one reason why I have not yet written a word about the new Barack Obama administration. But that’s no reason to overlook the opinions coming out at the beginning of the Obama era.

In this post I would do a cut and paste job of my reaction to a series of two articles by an American professor that appeared recently in a Pakistani blog. (To read the articles in full please click here… And here…

Writing under the heading “Democracy Promotion and Islam” in The Pakistani Spectator, Prof Michael Brenner says:

“Obama will enter the White House with wide popular support and goodwill. He will have no specific mandate, though. His popularity will be based mainly on his personality and his being non-Bush. On foreign policy, the dispositions of public opinion are clear: do something to end the Iraq imbroglio but don’t do anything that embarrasses the U.S.; pursue a more multilateral tack but don’t forget American exceptionalism and safeguard our right to take action as we see fit; steer clear of open-ended nation-building projects, except where they create bulwarks against terrorists – e.g. Afghanistan; spent less money abroad, we need it at home; make us popular in the world again. Not much guidance there on how to untangle multiple, intersecting dilemmas in the Greater Middle East.

To me this opinion seemed to be in common with some other commentaries that I have read elsewhere so far. And here was my reply:

“Let me take these arguments one by one. Obama has a clear mandate of the American people to get the hell out of Iraq and Afghanistan, whether it causes embarrassment to the USA or not.

I do not understand what is meant by keeping America’s prestige intact while at the same time sacrificing the lives of the US and allied troops, as also the innocent local civilian populations, in an unending war.

Again, how is it possible to indulge in multilaterlism, and at the same time expecting the USA to continue to exercise “exceptionalism and safeguard our right to take action as we see fit.”

I am afraid this line of thinking is either borne out of naivete or a continuation of the Bush double-speak. So where is the CHANGE from the Bush era?

Let us be clear on this issue. The cardinal rule of multilateralism in foreign policy is a sincere desire to evolve a consensus, and then abide by that consensus.

The tone and tenor of the article above seems to be based on an assumption that the people living outside the USA are either morons or half barbaric. Such people, so the argument seems to go, need to be civilized by introducing “democracy” in these countries.

This obsession with introducing “democracy” (at selective places?) has become a modern-day evangelical crusade comparable to the missionary zeal of the colonial era to introduce Christianity to “civilize” the subject races.

I repeat that if the USA wishes to survive the follies committed during the past eight years of the Bush era, the ruling and the intellectual class should realise by now that Afghanistan has been the graveyard of many ambitious rulers in the past centuries. Even the Soviet Union collapsed after its misadventure in Afghanistan.

It is time that arrogance, avarice and greed (which was the hallmark of the Bush administration) should be replaced with a sincere effort to rebuild the US economy and bring peace to the world. The USA which once provided inspiration to newly independent countries, is now in deep trouble itself because of the questionable and dangerous policies of its leaders.

Obama administration has so far not offered a plan, or made a visible attempt, to reach out to the leadership in Europe, Asia or the Middle East to sort out the intractable problems that threaten world peace, stability and economy.

It will be a great pity if Obama loses this grand opportunity to bring about a real CHANGE while riding at the crest of the immense popularity that he still enjoys worldwide.”