The Republicans’ offer of a breather to raise the debt ceiling may have saved Obama from cutting a sorry figure. But given the history of fiascos, the US and the rest of the world, particularly West Asia, have lots to see in the next 40 months of his administration
If you put it that way, maybe I should just pack up and go home. Rumours of my demise might be a bit exaggerated at this point,” said President Barack Obama during a press conference at the White House in April, 2013, to a question whether he has enough fund to carry out his agenda. In November 2008, when the United States elected its first Black African-American President, Obama promised a new dawn. Almost five years later, the US faces a grim economic scenario, and the rest of the world is losing trust in the American leadership. The West Asia and North Africa region is bearing the brunt. While the high cost of directionless wars in Afghanistan and Iraq has eroded US confidence and political will to make all-out efforts to solve the crisis in the Arab world, the lack of domestic consensus in the wake of economic slump has tied Obama’s hands.
Keeping Americans in dark!
The crux of the row over the Affordable Care Act (ACA), better known as ObamaCare, is incomprehensible to the promised beneficiaries. Even as the US is on the brink of a debt default owing to one of the costliest government plan, Americans are anxious about four issues: the coverage of the healthcare; affordability; what more benefits they will get under the new plan, and finally, will it aggravate unemployment rate. However, despite all the uncertainties about ACA benefits and fear of massive fiscal burden, ObamaCare will boost insurance sector enormously.
Earlier, ahead of Iraq invasion, Lawrence Lindsey, the then National Economic Council Director, was forced to resign for telling truth to his fellow citizens about the cost of the war. Lindsey had told The Wall Street Journal that the war would cost between $100 billion and $200 billion. Even the then President, George Bush, had lied about the source of fund required for the invasion. He had claimed that the Iraq war would finance itself out of Iraqi oil revenues. However, the bitter truth was unimaginable. The US exchequer had to fund the war by borrowing about $2 trillion.
Recently, the Harvard University in a study spilled beans that the Afghan and Iraq wars had played major roles in triggering fiscal crisis. Moreover, it left the United States heavily indebted to foreign lenders. As per another study, $6 trillion will be spend on wrapping up Iraq and Afghanistan operations, including cost of rehabilitation of war veterans. This amount is equivalent of $75,000 for every American household, calculated the prestigious Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.
At the outset of the Arab Spring, the Obama Administration had made plans to work with moderate Islamist groups like Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Turkey’s Justice & Development Party to make the West Asia and North Africa more democratic and earn greater friendship and gratitude in return. But the multi-pronged plan was backed by half-baked strategies. Obama’s move to get closer to moderate Islamists didn’t yield the desired results. The aim was to isolate terrorists by recognising moderate radicals’ claim to power via democratic means. But if we examine the current situation, we find the US meddling has only aggravated the situation in the region.
The military backed-government in Egypt is already miffed with the US for announcing its plan to cut down support, including financial aid. While the Egyptian military has been successful in cracking down on the radicals and normalcy is making a comeback, the timing of the US decision poses threat to the Egyptian military’s efforts. The US is likely to lose the trust of secular and moderate Egyptian and the military. Moreover, keeping in mind the disdain of nationalists and anti-American politics in Egypt to the ‘imported’ economic reforms led by IMF, the US stands to lose economic leverage also.
Already, supporters of Mohammed Morsi are angry with the US for not preventing the coup against the first democratically elected government after the Arab Spring. It seems Obama misread the political situation in Egypt. The same Muslim Brotherhood, which had all the support of the US, demanded the release of jailed al-Qaeda terrorists. It is another matter that the White House is now downplaying its role in hailing Brotherhood during the Arab Spring.
Losing superpower status
The US loss of trust is a gain for Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the UAE, which have made generous pledges of economic support to the Egyptian Military. Saudis despise Brotherhood and the Islamists in Turkey as they are arch rival of the world of Sunni Islam centred in Saudi Arabia.
It is not only Egypt, where Obama has failed. His entire foreign policy towards the Muslim world has only complicated the situation. His rhetoric on “limited and narrow”, war on Assad despite uncertainty about who used the chemical weapons, and then altogether changing the war plan expose his shortsighted vision. Assad’s retaining power in Syria indeed encourages authoritarian regimes around the world and damages US credibility globally.
Assad has successfully used Russia and China against the imminent threat of an US attack. UN Security Council under the pressure from Russia and China has curbed any move for a comprehensive sanction on Assad’s Syria, which may get away with just handing over chemical weapons. Situation in Af-Pak region is grim again. Pakistan faces threat of an Islamist takeover. Drone attacks have already raised tempers, seen earlier during the Zia-ul Haq era when the US unceremonious lost interest in the region after the erstwhile USSR withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Vali Nasr rightly exposes, in The Dispensable Nation, the failures of Obama’s foreign policies, specially his plan to move the goalposts. However, Obama does not look incompetent only on Syria, Egypt or on his entire foreign policy, his action is suited to weaken the US abroad.