There is a tired old song being played, almost like a broken record, in the U.S. in some quarters around the world, that Obama is a weak president who has mishandled Syria, Libya, Egypt and the
Arab Spring generally.
The song originates in a history and tradition of pugilism, even militarism and worse than that, outright aggression and bullying that has characterized too many of U.S. foreign policy, with intervening chapters of calm collaboration and peace-seeking, even reparations (one example, the Marshall Plan). The country began, after all, from the gestation of a revolution. Fighting against what some considered "taxation without representation" and in favour of a new "city on the hill" as if they were inspiring the apocalypse, and the story continues today. Thousands of Americans lost their lives fighting for and against slavery of African Americans. Deep divisions that one has to assume will never be eradicated from the cultural landscape, demonstrating a racial prejudice, bias, even bigotry that attends such social and political interventions as police road stops, and incarceration. Most white Americans do not even feel shame and certainly have no obvious desire to apologize for the evident racism that attends too many public institutions, nor to change their views of blacks, in spite of the clause in the Declaration of Independence that "all men are created equal"....just another ideal to which the country has not and never will live up to.
Many whites, especially among Republicans and especially among southern Republicans cannot tolerate the now fact of history that a black man resides in the Oval Office. They talk of impeachment, without any evidence for such a prospect. They talk of overturning his signature accomplishment "Obamacare" and most recently are marching toward a prospect of defunding the health care reform act, which will extend affordable health care to millions of citizens who previously were denied, and/or those who had pre-existing conditions, thereby permitting the insurance companies to refuse coverage.
Obama's success, as president, is not restricted to his reform of health care. It extends far into foreign policy first by making a "U" turn on the warmongering of his predecessor, based on lies and misinformation about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, and on his obsession with "rooting out AlQaeda operatives from Afghanistan. Thousands of lives, both American and Muslim have lost and many thousands destroyed through injury, and the sheer volume of destruction that results from bombs, missiles, drones an the like, all at the American military's trigger-happy fingers.
Obama has extricated the U.S. from Iraq, and is on course to do the same from Afghanistan. These are not signs of weakness in the president, but rather indications of a maturation process and a withdrawal from the knee-jerk reaction to seek military answers to complex diplomatic problems.
On Libya, Obama was accused of "leading from behind" another phrase that evokes weakness, because he garnered a coalition, participated in that coalition and effectively removed the Libyan dictator, Gaddafi. Once again, this was not a sign of weakness, but rather a healthy reading of the depleted budget, and human resources of the American military, not to mention the war-weariness of the American people.
With regard to the Arab Spring, Obama has for the most part "kept his powder dry" a condition that seems to frustrate many on the right, who would have preferred the American bully to inflict its weapons "linked to heavy diplomacy" to shape events in the Middle East, as the U.S. has done through the seduction of several dictators who depended on U.S. funding and arming their countries' military, thereby enabling those dictators to retain power and the U.S. to play a dominate role in the region. However, from Obama's perspective, intelligence on the ground has not been able to readily identify which elements of the Arab Spring street protests are favourable to the U.S. and which are toxic enemies. For example, in Syria, among the 100,000 rebels fighting the Assad regime and seeking its overthrow, there are at least 15-20000 radical Islamists, probably Salafists, who operated under the imprimatur of AlQaeda, and seek to do whatever harm they can inflict on the "west" but especially the U.S. and its interests.
In Benghazi, Obama was accused of not securing the consulate, resulting in the death of Ambassador Stephens. He has consistently expressed support for the ordinary people of each country who are seeking an elected representative government, and has opposed tyrannical measures from those who would take power into their hands, as did the dictators before them. Sensitive to the humanitarian crisis, (literally hundreds of lives have been lost, prior to the Syrian civil war) Obama has quietly dispensed health and food support to refugees while attempting to ascertain where to deploy additional resources, so they would not be seized by the real enemies of the U.S. including Iranian militia who seem to have exerted considerable havoc in Iraq, as well as in Syria and Lebanon, along with Hezbollah, the latter three forming a strong alliance, all of them supporting Assad, and all of them violently opposed to the existence of Israel, whose existence is a fundamental cornerstone of American foreign policy, and has been since the country was founded in the mid-twentieth century.
Public forays that express continuing support and protection for Israel, and limited support for the uprisings in the streets of Middle Eastern countries, without attempting to bully either the people or their elected representatives, is analogous to the "threading the needle" approach, another reference in language to something only women would be familiar with, except for the few shoemakers and tailors left in the haberdashery industry.
Too subtle, by at least half, Obama expresses a resistance to military action and a disciplined and restrained detachment and a tolerance for ambiguity, qualities that have been singularly absent from the U.S. actions and words on the world stage for too long. It was Dubya who famously told the world, "I do not do nuance" and "You're either for us or against us"....as if the world could be drawn realistically in such dichotomous a form, thereby eliminating all shades of grey from the public discourse in the American political culture.
The world, as it presents today, is probably more complex and filled with more shades of grey that at any time in the last century. The United States clings, not only to the last war, but to the reputation that comes from being the world's strongest military giant and the strings that accompany that archetype. Power does not sit comfortably idle; power just like the latest rookie to the NHL training camps that open today, wants to leap off the bench and score, or hit someone. Careless of any collateral damage, the rookie athlete in a physically combative sports activity wants, indeed craves ACTION as the only way to demonstrate his masculinity, his masculine prowess, his capacity to dominate and his capacity to undergo extreme pain and discomfort when finally released into "battle"...This is the American way!"
It is taught to little league football boys, who risk broken bones and even brain damage in pursuit of their parents and their community's praise. And a similar pursuit has been embedded into the "adult" culture of American life. The Pentagon, as the supremely "exceptional" of all the U.S. institutions, funded more than schools and programs for the homeless, neither of which rate on the richter scale of priorities in U.S. circles of government at all levels.
Obama, on Tuesday evening, delivered a speech from the East Room of the White House in which he noted "American exceptionalism" because we care for our people and we care for those who are being gassed in Syria, through the use of chemical weapons.
If a country seeks to be finally hoisted on its own petard, have its leaders fall victim to the trap that their people set, to elevate and pump up the psyche of those people into believing that they are "the best", the most exceptional, the most desireable and the most "compassionate" the most anything that they would consider a positive attribute.
The last generation of American school kids were pumped full of the same "pride" in themselves as an integral component of their education regime, whether or not they were performing at grade level in their assessments. They may have had "exceptional self-esteem" but their scores did not measure up to their self-esteem, really nothing more than the sugar-coated cotton candy which their teachers had pumped daily into their belief systems.
The same "sugar-coated cotton candy industry" is busy defaming the president for his lack of muscle, his lack of leadership, his lack of forcefulness....in the hope that by so doing, they will contribute to a national campaign that will drive him from the White House.
It is another chapter in the long history of political/military assassinations with which the country is all too familiar. It is a story written in the blood of Abraham Lincoln, and the blood of both Confederate and Union soldiers, and the blood of GI's and the blood of VietNam veterans, and more recently of Iraq and Afghanistan troops, and also in their prosthetic arms, legs, and other body parts, on their return to Water Reid Hospital and hopefully to their homes.
Let us not forget that an intimate fact of this militarism is found in the fact that more U.S. soldiers, seamen and airmen and women committed suicide last year, than died in both Iraq and Afghanistan combined.....and so with so many fallen, on the battlefield, and in the garages back home, at their own hands, and a president that seeks to find alternative pathways to resolving complex gordion knots, and a culture that literally cannot abide ambiguity, Obama is the target of the projections of the weakest of his 'tribe'......while at the same, the world knows that this is one of, if not THE best presidents in recent U.S. history....because he resists using the military option...as do all military leaders, ironically....because they know how expensive is the cost of deployment in dollars and treasure.