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Friday, November 7, 2014

American Voters perplex me once again: Old wine in new bottle?

Well, I am not an analyst at all when it comes to America. And you can hardly call me a US-watcher, though I watch it carefully. Subscription of Int'l New York Times, the prototype of mainstream journalism, in print has made it easier to be in touch with events there but it has not helped me to dispel the sense of ignorance and vagueness about America as a society and country. Rather the contrary. Here is one advantage though, having read the typically brief columns at NYT, I'll try to keep this commentary brief.

I think I can understand something about the frustration of people at Obama and his government now into the last two years of a eight-year tenure. But the choice of Republicans to lead both the houses as the alternative doesn't seem to me quite that intelligible.

If the American voters think they are in perpetual quagmire, both domestically and internationally, it is probably what it looks like from there. But for the rest of us navigating through far worse situations, a quagmire doesn't even start from where the Americans are now.

What I can possibly comment about with some relevance is on Obama's foreign policy, now that the frustrations about his handling of it is being touted as an important determinant in the election outcome.

In a piece titled Obama again!! US avoids a dangerous policy shift carried in this blog, I had written:

Now that Obama has triumphed to gain a second term, little seems to change for the US and for the world. But what is more important is that both US and the world are now saved from some dangerous policy changes at Washington that were highly likely in case of the different result in these polls. 

Many in the US and beyond who believed Obama meant real change were disappointed over his first term. His omissions in so many potential avenues for change and his vulnerability to sabotage and impediment from the right were seen as his main drawbacks. 

That disappointment was, however, far from enough to unseat a president who, even though belatedly, ratcheted up the populist slogans of fighting for the middle class in America. This along with the bewildering nonsense from the rivals like the issue of 'legitimate rape' and '47%' remarks really helped Obama given the fact that no corporate money could buy the voters who saw a real threat to their lives in case of a Romney win.

In strategic sense, I believe, Obama's win serves a purpose contrary to the ordinary belief. Understandably, a more militant Fergusonian Republican administration waging war here and showering missiles there would have given a more palpable sense of military superiority. But the Bush-era drainage of economy by the wars that was followed by the economic downturn shows that, America also has a limit a stretch beyond which becomes definitely counterproductive. In this sense, one more term for Obama might have well decelerated the decline of the American power. 
 Well, I'll focus on the last part now. In most foreign policy issues--except the much sought after withdrawal from Iraq--Obama pretty much tried to fill the shoes left by his predecessor George Bush.  From striking Libya to hell to avenge an unfriendly dictator to helping the opposition against Assad to proliferate in Syria, he didn't look much different from Bush. Nobody knows whether he missed glory or survived humiliation by canceling the plan to strike Syria in the last minute--thereby opening the possibility of Kerry's famous gaffe and entire deal to relieve Syria of chemical weapons--but that was more of an exception than a norm.

When it came to issues of much more profound consequence like stoning the Russian hornet's nest in Ukraine by encouraging (and possibly co-ordinating) the Maidan protests that would eventually change the political geography of the region, no Republican president would have ever out-Obamaed Obama. His determination to risk a mutual race to bottom with Russia rather than reach a negotiated settlement in time looks weird when viewed from outside US-centered approach to international issues.

Having 'bombed Libya into stone age', let the Israeli-Palestinian conflict snowball with stubborn support for outright abominable policies of Israel, choked Iran into misery through sanctions, infuriated China by closer co-operation with Japan, Philippines and other regional adversaries, Obama looks today little different from his hawkish Republican alternative.

Yet, Obama's party has been repudiated in the mid-term polls with a remarkable triumph for the republicans. So, what is in store for the future now?

May be many things, but I am particularly worried for some of them. The overbearing majority of so called pro-business representatives may tip the balance in issues Obama has chosen not to decide so far. Construction of the Keystone XL pipeline to connect Canadian oil sands fields with American refineries on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico may be one such decision. If Obama blinks now and goes ahead with the permissions, it will be potentially his most disastrous decision in the long term.

When it comes to predicting the implications of these results for the next presidential elections in two years, I am yet to figure out how much to be discomfited with the possibility of a Republican candidate defeating Hillary Clinton if she goes on to fight for the post on the side of the Democrats.

If an Obama having come with the message of change and hope out-Republicaned the Republicans in so many foreign policy fronts, I have no hope of seeing any difference in the foreign policy orientation of Clinton and any of the Republican candidates.

So, the things have come full circle now in American politics, much like elsewhere in the world. People are fed up of the wine, a new bottle filled with same old wine pops up  and they long for it instantly. By two years or four years, the bottle has stains and stench, it is then discarded but by this time the wine has been already transferred to a shiny new bottle.

The only problem being, the new bottle may now harm the planet much more if Keystone XL comes to life. And there are issues as significant as this but I am not inclined to or qualified to talk about in this piece.

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