US President Barack #Obama is now just a few months away from vacating the White House where he stayed for eight eventful years. Like any other leadership which faces an anti-incumbency challenge after a prolonged stay in power, Obama has also been witnessing criticism on various issues. His critics have been especially ruthless over his performance in foreign affairs. The president has even been described as one who wasn’t a realist.
That is a serious criticism. In decades that followed the Second Great War, the historical experience of the North Atlantic (NAT) countries had made ‘power’ a key concept while viewing international relations and gradually, Political Realism became the central philosophy for the NAT countries eclipsing any other school of thought in the discipline of International Relations. This made those countries that had experienced mammoth wars fought over the pursuit of power careful about safeguarding their respective interests and this ethnocentric tendency made hegemonic intervention on others' soil a common sight.
When the head of the state of one such NAT country is labeled as a non-realist, it means there is a serious problem somewhere. Did Obama really did not care for realism, a political philosophy which influenced several of his predecessors or is it that the American thought process is an irreversible process today?
It's 'us vs so many of them' today
Those who still believe that this world is open for the unhindered pursuit of Political Realism are perhaps not right anymore. Just like the theory of hegemonic stability, the spread of democracy and empowerment of groups that had once remained overshadowed by nation-states are also a reality in today’s ultra-complicated international relations and the US just cannot conduct its foreign policies like it did during the days of bipolarity. Instead of ‘us vs them,’ today’s international relations is more about ‘us and so many of them.’ There is no more a straight line.
If Americans felt glad when Obama nailed Osama bin Laden and upset when he ‘failed’ to deliver on Syria, it means the thought process is conditioned. The US administration’s policy to execute military strategy against any country which it perceives as a threat has to end somewhere. After all, the enthusiasm to fight wars against regimes that would eventually collapse has made the US pay heavily in recent times. Besides making the economy and soldiers suffer, the interventions have made Washington lose its moral authority to be a global guardian. Thus, when Obama did not take up a similar mission in Syria where the world fraternity has failed, it hurt an old habit.
Why blame Obama for others' chaos?
The US has succeeded little in two countries it had attacked post 9/11 – Afghanistan and Iraq. Far from managing the situations that were created in those countries by the George W Bush regime, Washington today is virtually clueless on how to get rid of the chaos. It is absolutely unfair to blame Obama today for not being able to repair the damage caused by an earlier regime.
What Obama did was logical in avoiding another mission in the #Middle East. The thinking that the US does a great job in propagating democracy is a flawed one. Democracy is not an exportable commodity. Countries become strong democracies of, by and for their own. Any initiative to supplant a regime of the soil to plant a democracy from above only invites danger, as we saw in Iraq. There is also no guarantee that Syria minus Assad will become a heaven.
If realism traditionally has spoken in favor for naked pursuit of power and serving self-interests, it is time for the American establishment and lobbies to rethink it. Obama did great in mending ties with Cuba or visiting Hiroshima for these gave the US opportunities to win friends without bringing in the military angle. But the worrying part is: After a president like Obama, there is every possibility of the bruised American nationalistic ego to choose a Donald Trump as its face. #Foreign Policy