Nobody came to any office with as much hype as did Barack Obama when he took over as the President of the US in 2009. So relieved was the world to get rid of that “warmonger” George W Bush, that he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize within weeks of taking office.
He won it later in the year and the citation bafflingly read: “For his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.” Really?
That Obama himself was surprised was evident by his reaction: “I do not view it as a recognition of my own accomplishments but rather an affirmation of American leadership on behalf of aspirations held by people in all nations.”
A peace prize for “affirmation” and “aspirations”! It was like a huge overdraft in the bank of hope.
Cut to 2012. On the anniversary of 9/11, US foreign offices in Cairo and Benghazi were stormed by angry crowds. The Libyan attack saw the loss of a US ambassador for the first time in more than 30 years. The reason was supposedly because of a movie called the Innocence of Muslims that was made in the US.
The protests spread like wildfire. US diplomatic missions all over the world were targeted and tens of thousands of people took to the streets. The Arab world looked angry.
Pakistan saw one of the most violent and widespread protests against the US in recent times and a minister even offered a reward for the killing of offending film maker. In Johannesburg of all the places, 4000 people gathered outside the US Consulate. Australia saw protests too.
In India also there were demonstrations in places like (predictably) Kashmir and (surprisingly) Chennai.
In all, demonstrations took place in dozens of countries. 75 were left dead and about 700 injured.
If all this had happened in 2009, then it could have been shrugged off as a legacy of the warmonger Bush era. But how was this happening in the era of peacemaker Obama? That stumped his administration.
2009 had seen the famous Obama Cairo “A New Beginning” speech that was supposed to mend US relations with the Muslim world. The 2010 Arab Spring followed. By 2012 things were supposed to be hunky dory.
But they clearly weren’t. Speeches can get you elected and re-elected, but they cannot mend relations with other countries. In the absence of any concrete policy change, anger continued to simmer throughout the Arab world.
However Obama continued to maintain his ostrich-like approach and initially even hesitated from calling the Benghazi incident a terrorist attack. The world got even more words when a video was released in Pakistan offering an apology for the offending movie. As if that was the only problem!
In Afghanistan, more civilians were killed in 2009 then all previous years since the conflict started in 2001. That record was broken in 2010 and again in 2011. Pakistan saw a spike in deaths in terrorist attacks in 2009, the year Obama took charge. So much for peace!
When Obama became President, Pakistan was an unstable state with terror problems. In 2012, Pakistan is still an unstable state with terror problems. The only thing Obama did was to double aid to the country the moment he took over.
As far as drone strikes are concerned, “warmonger” Bush peaked in 2008 with 36 strikes and more than 300 fatalities (estimated). “Peacemaker” Obama took that to 54 strikes in 2009 and 122 in 2010, a year where the toll may have crossed 1000.
This is important because drone attacks have killed a lot of innocent civilians including children and terrorized households in the entire area.
The centrepiece of any US President is the Israel-Palestine issue. That way the biggest breakthrough was achieved by Jimmy Carter at Camp David in 1979 when Egypt and Israel made peace.
Obama has not endeared himself to Israel and his attitude was picked up by microphones at the 2011 G20 summit. Thinking the mikes were off, the then French President Nicolas Sarkozy said of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, “I cannot stand him. He’s a liar!” What did Obama reply? “You’re fed up with him? I have to deal with him every day!”
Far from making amends, a few months back Obama snubbed Netanyahu once again, refusing to meet him at the sidelines of a UN summit. With Israel threatening to attack Iran over the nuclear issue, this does not seem to be a good time to snub Israel.
It’s not that the attitude towards Palestine has changed either with the US being the only country to veto the 2011 Security Council resolution to condemn Israeli settlements. They also scuttled a Palestine’s plans to get recognised as a state at the UN.
Indians love Obama but Obama does not love India. Till the Bill Clinton era, all US Presidents did not even give India a second glance, paying only lip service.
George W Bush changed that when his administration unofficially offered to give India an ally status. India turned that down, but later Bush pushed hard for the nuclear deal and got it. Outsourcing also blossomed in his era and Indian IT benefited.
Instead of taking that forward, Obama took Indo-US ties back to the dark ages, even taking pot shots at India over the outsourcing issue.
There have been many worldwide polls and most of them favoured Obama. However in one he lost in China, their biggest economic partner and in another he lost to Pakistan, their biggest ally in the war against terrorism. So he doesn’t have the confidence of the peoples of both of America’s biggest global partners!
Wall Street also gave Obama a thumbs down before the polls.
Of course the most important people for Obama were not all of the above, but American voters, who have now re-elected him for four more years.
Make no mistake. Obama is a brilliant orator and the most charismatic world leader around. But he has fallen severely short as far his foreign affairs policies are concerned.
One hopes that his second term is better in that regard, otherwise the world is in for a torrid time indeed! More by this author
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Busting holy cows, Kejriwal style
Another stale cabinet. Another fresh claim.
So long and thanks for the laughs, Mr Ulta Pulta!