President Obama’s pre-election rhetoric of 2008 filled the hearts and minds of many Americans with the promise of change. Weary of wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the message reverberated with hopes for peace, stability, and justice to mankind. What happened to “change?”
In a mere three years, that magic word has transformed into political ambition, economic chaos, and indignation to countries that hold political and strategic importance to the U.S. and the world.
With 2012 election looming, President Obama has lost his ground on economic recovery domestically. His healthcare bill is being challenged by 26 states on constitutional grounds. The Supreme Court has acknowledged their argument and has announced to review the bill. According to a Gallup poll, President’s popularity has dropped significantly, from nearly 70% in 2009 to 43% in 2011. The wheels of change seem to be turning in the opposite direction.
President Obama’s purpose of visit to Australia seriously undermines a long-term relationship between China and the U.S. The timing indicates political motive. The President is desperate to gain his footing on foreign policy just in time for the 2012 election. He appears to be tough.
He should have been tough with the bankers immediately following the 2008 recession. Instead, the President relented to the financial motive of the Wall Street. The bailout money paved the way for the high rollers to continue to betting on the risky commodities and pocketing hefty profits, salaries, and “retention bonuses.” The big banks focused less on consumer spending. The high-level cabinet appointees in the administration have favored the Wall Street magnates. The financial reforms have been ineffective in improving the sluggish economy. Unemployment and inflation remain high.
To emphasize the strengthening of the military power in Australia, the President declared, “We are deepening our alliance and this is the perfect place to do it” (The Washington Post, 11/17/2011). But is the timing strategically right or politically opportune to do it? Building a military base in northern Australia illustrates the U.S. government’s rising discontent with China. Whether China poses a real threat to Australia or any other countries in that region needs to be tested. The President’s message is precariously undiplomatic. He said, “The notion that we fear China is mistaken; the notion that we are looking to exclude China is mistaken” (The Washington Post, 11/17/2011). The President’s argument is weak. If there is no fear of China, then why bother beefing up the military alliance with Australia?
The outcome of the President’s message is yet to be seen. But the damage has already been done. China believes the U.S. is trying to exert its military might over China. The President’s statement may have repercussion with U.S.-China relations.
To add to this challenge, China holds $1.3 trillion U.S. Treasury bonds. In a world where money can buy many things, including power, China certainly has a strategic advantage over U.S.
Afghanistan and Pakistan are becoming increasingly separated from the U.S. to nurture stability in the Southeast Asia. These two countries also carry huge political implications to the stability in the Middle East and North Africa.
Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai’s discontent with the current administration is clear. He does not approve of the U.S. covert missions to snatch targeted terrorists from Afghanistan. President Karzai’s suspicion cannot be ignored. But it does not mean that U.S. has no right to intervene to protect its national security from future terrorist attacks.
The issue that remains critical to sustaining a bilateral relationship between U.S. and Afghanistan is motive. The U.S. activities and interest in Afghanistan must be transparent to the leaders of that country.
President Obama’s Cairo speech had ignited the hopes of bridging the gap between the Muslim world and the West. But it was only a speech. The two worlds remain divided and bitter.
The politics of ambition and indignation seriously undermine the democratic principles of the free countries, particularly the ones with power and wealth. President Obama must bring about political, economic, and social changes. But he must utilize deliberate and calculated actions to do it. The rhetoric would not be enough.