Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Obama's luster fading....not at this desk, in spite of Zakaria's view

In his essay below, Fareed Zakaria argues that the world is growing jaded with Obama, and points to two specific issues for which the world is disappointed with the President.
First, Obama failed to bring the Israelis and the Palestinians to the negotiating table, directing their talks to a two-state solution, following the appointment of George Mitchell, as Obama's envoy to both parties.
Second, Obama has continued and increased the drone attacks on terrorists, with the expectable yet debatable collateral damage, in the loss of life of innocent men, women and children.
As for Obama being seen as a transformative leader by Arab states prior to his inauguration, and therefore another reason for disappointment with his leadership, he could hardly have presided over more turbulent and transformative change in the Middle Eastern countries, although he can not and will not claim credit or responsibility for the Arab Spring.
However, in his restraint, in leading from behind in Lybia, to oust the Lybian dictator after so many decades of dictatorship, in his restraint in not joining a move to bring NATO into Syria, but in seeking to provide humanitarian support for refugees who have been displaced by the civil and proxy war, he has shown a different kind of leadership from his predecessor Dubya Bush, and has restored American honour and prestige in foreign capitals. With his decision to invade and capture Osama bin Laden, Obama shifted public confidence in the Republican "war machine" to the Democrats, and has received the unsolicited and unrestrained praise of people like Defence Secretary Gates, who was a Bush appointee.
In his auto industry bail-out, he demonstrated leadership and recouped hundreds of thousands of jobs, while restoring credibility to the American auto industry.
In his attempts to cap gasoline consumption with the auto industry, Obama has shown vision, leadership and courage and been rewarded by the compliance of the auto industry leaders.
In his careful approach to the Keystone Pipeline, requiring it to avoid the Nebraska aquifer, and thereby preserving the water supply of thousands, while putting the oil industry on notice, he has also shown maturity, and restraint, without closing the door to development, as he has also done by opening the offshore gas and oil reserves to company drilling, and moving to make fracking both more transparent and much safer in the extraction of natural gas inside the U.S.
He has beefed up the American presence in the China Sea, by establishing a military base in Australia, and while cooperating with both India and China, on their economic growth, he has also put China on notice that human rights will not be ignored by the rest of the world.
Pakistan, however, remains both a mystery and a black hole, with respect to the way they play the game of geopolitics. And while Obama rightly kept them in the dark about the bin Laden raid, he has dumped too many dollars of support into that hole, without securing the kind of loyalty and honesty and transparency that a beneficent partner could legitimately expect from the Pakistani leadership. His continued use of drones against terrorists has taken the greatest toll on Pakistani citizens, without bringing the discussion between these two powers into the light of day, so that citizens of both countries can know the full extent of Pakistani treachery. That is his biggest failure, in my opinion, but who could or would have done a better job on that file? Certainly not Romney, on that file or any other, especially his touted expertise on the economy, which, should he become president, will find the rich thanking him and the rest of us becoming even more poor, without having a voice at the table.

Why the world is growing jaded with Obama
By Fareed Zakaria, GPS on CNN, August 7, 2012
If President Obama is looking for high approval ratings, he should travel abroad. The numbers from a recent Pew Survey are astounding: 74 percent of Italians have a positive view of Obama, as do 69 percent of French, 60 percent of Britons and 58 percent of Spanish.
These numbers have actually dipped since 2009 – when they were truly stratospheric. But there are two trends that are particularly noticeable. One is the drop in confidence in Obama in Russia and China. Many Russians and Chinese are recognizing that they have issues with the American president because there are geopolitical differences between their country and the U.S., and that whoever is president, those differences are going to persist. Obama was never going to be able to wave a magic wand and make such divides disappear.
More: Romney, Obama both right. And both wrong
Then there’s the Arab world, where there has been much deeper disappointment (although it’s worth remembering that President Obama wasn’t all that popular there in the first place, contrary to conventional wisdom). In this case, the disappointment stems from hopes in the region that Obama would push harder with Israel over the creation of a Palestinian state. In addition, almost everyone is unhappy with the use of drone attacks.
I think the central disappointment for the much of the world, and not just in the Arab world, has been the Arab-Israeli issue, and I think Obama has mishandled that. He appointed a high level negotiator in George Mitchell, which was fine, as was the shuttling back and forth of U.S. officials to build confidence. But then Obama decided that he was going to get personally involved, and he put a lot of his personal prestige on the line.
Whatever you think of what should and should not be done in the Middle East, I think it’s clear that the Obama approach didn’t work. He tried to get the Israelis to freeze settlement activity, and they didn’t. And his efforts didn’t result in any kind of resumption of serious negotiations – so his strategy went nowhere. A better approach, in my view, would have been to spend more time trying to figure out what the likely path to success was – and if there wasn’t one, to avoid any great exertion of presidential prestige.
Obama’s approach ended up with no results, a public spat with the Israeli prime minister (which hasn’t helped him politically at home) and disappointment elsewhere. People believe in winners, and to see a president not be successful on this big issue is bound to affect views of him.
More: Romney walks political tightrope on foreign policy
The other major thorn in the side of U.S. ties with other countries has been the use of drones, and here there is simply a fundamental difference of opinion with the rest of the world. If you look at the Pew survey, almost every country surveyed other than the United States shows more people unhappy with the use of drones than approving (India is the only other country where more people approved of their use than disapproved).
This may be one of those times where we just have to live with that. We are the global superpower, we have this technology that we can use to take on these terrorist groups and it’s one that has been a very effective (nobody would dispute that.)
For much of the world, Obama is seen as symbolic in terms of his background and race – the fact that he has come so far and is the first African-American president. I think the opinion among many in the Arab world when Obama took office is that he would be a transformative figure. But as a leader, Obama has been more of a traditional president, especially in foreign policy. That would also explain why on the issue of foreign policy, Obama leads Romney by 15 points.
Tell us what people in your country think of Barack Obama.

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