The success of Barack Obama has been welcomed globally, but will it transform the international security scene?
The electoral success of Barack Obama has been welcomed around the globe, but will it transform the international security scene?
It may be that when he takes office on 20 January President Obama will be able to plausibly distance himself from the policies of the Bush administration and assert his right to begin afresh in dealing with Tehran and Moscow, two of the most pressing issues on the U.S. national security agenda, but that is probably the limit of any opportunity to exploit the goodwill he will be able to claim.
Nothing will change with al-Qaida, whose repugnant objectives are unnegotiable, and it is unlikely that the Taliban even comprehends the imminent change in the American administartion. As for the Palestinian conundrum, there is no reason to believe that the conflict could benefit from further U.S. intervention, especially as Israel is due to elect a new government itself…
The real breakthrough may come in Tehran where the gap between the UN and the Iranians has narrowed considerably. It may just be that some smooth-talking from Obama might provide the Iranians with an excuse to reach a settlement, perhaps based on international inspection of the country’s nuclear programme and a commitment to acquire fuel from Russia, combined with a pledge to abandon all enrichment or anything that could be interpreted as steps towards weaponisation. In other words, Obama’s intervention might just provide the figleaf needed to bring Iran back into line.
Such a welcome development would give Obama’s new administration real momentum and authority, and support its confidence as it turns it attention to even more intractable challenges. The world has demonstrated high expectations of the 44th president, and this is an asset he can capitalise on.
As for Russia, it seems that Moscow has welcomed the election results, and this historic event might put Poland’s anti-missile project on the negotiating table. On this occasion, however, the face-saving would seem to be all on NATO’s side, but it may be that this will be considered a reasonable price for establishing a new relationship with the Kremlin, even at the expense of backing down over Georgia.
The problem with such a strategy is that Vladimir Putin will undoubtedly interpret this as a major endorsement of his none-too-subtle tactics and be encouraged to interfere further in the Ukraine’s elections.
The other major issue that Obama must address will be Baghdad, and it may be that the Democrats will be in for a shock when the realities of Iraq, and the President-elect’s access to current intelligence briefings gives him a realistic glimse of what has been achieved, and what is in prospect.
The once much-favoured option, of delcaring a victory and withdrawing quickly on a declared timetable, will evaporate as the new administration begins the transition process so, ironically, it may be that Obama’s emphatic mandate will empower him to make the tough decisions that, just a few weeks ago, would have seemed impossible to sell to his left wing supporters.
If Obama opts to continue the Bush withdrawal strategy in Iraq he will have the authority to do so. Perhaps his relative silence in recent weeks on this crucial topic is an indication that he has already reached that very conclusion.
The world’s economy now also seems to be an integral part of American foreign policy, but during the closing days of the election campaign Obama’s only public pronouncements were limited to platitudes and bids to outspend his opponent on supporting the domestic mortgage market.
For the American electorate, the only certainty is higher taxes to fund a middle class bail-out. No doubt Obama is hoping that one of the Bush legacies will be a global recovery programme sponsored by the G-20.
One is then left asking the question, what sane individual would ever want to be the 55th president in these troubled time?