Nation e-Edition

EDITORIAL: US facing a changing new world

EDITORIAL: US facing a changing new world

Wed, November 07, 2012 - 12:00 AM

America is emerging today from one of its closest fought presidential races in its history to face a new and haunting reality in world affairs.

Long gone it would seem are the days of unilateralism, as we prepare for an imminent transition in China, where members of the Politburo Standing Committee of the Chinese Communist Party are due to meet next week to elect a new president to lead the country.

It’s not the kind of change that Barack Obama has been hoping for.

While his major social achievement as president of the United States between 2008 and 2012 has been health care, he has had limited success in foreign policy.

He kept a promise to withdraw troops from Iraq but it has resulted in a strategic political setback.

He was also constrained by the global economic crisis and the domestic political polarization from a hostile Congress. In addition, there has been the rise of several emerging powers that have been unwilling to accept American dominance.

Consequently, Mr Obama was unable to align strategic realities by reconciling United States’ broader interests with Iran, Pakistan or Israel. In the case of Pakistan, it cannot reach an agreement without India’s consent, given that America relies on India to counterbalance China’s growing influence in Asia.

Further, America’s relationship with Pakistan is in tatters, following the killing of Osama bin Laden on its soil. In fact, very little progress has been made in all strategic challenges faced in Iran, North Korea, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan and the Israeli-Palestine conflict.

One only has to look at Turkey which straddles the Middle East and Europe. This is an emerging economy that is poised to become a regional power. It has had a recent skirmish with its warring neighbour Syria and has called on NATO allies, not the United States, to bolster its security.

The United States’ influence in Iraq is also diminished as the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Malaki is becoming increasingly allied to America’s nemesis Iran. It was impossible to broker a compromise between Iraq’s and Sunnis.

Mr Obama expanded the war in Afghanistan, which he considered a war of necessity, and the Taliban is on the run. However, the United States will withdraw its troops in 2014 without a clearly defined strategy to ensure future stability.

Following the Arab Spring, Obama’s credibility with the Muslim world steadily declined. Many say he did not deliver on a promise made in Egypt in 2009 “to seek a new beginning between the United States and all Muslims”.

In the Middle East, the situation remains tense. The Israeli-Palestine conflict is still a unique problem and a resolution is nowhere in sight as little headway has been made. Overall, it was a difficult four years for Mr Obama, both foreign and domestic.

Though all politics is local, the new United States administration will have to deal with a changing world. A big-stick approach of the past to solving global problems is outdated and will not cut it.

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