Political Promise

Obama’s Balancing Act

In Matthew Wheavil on February 28, 2011 at 9:49 am

As violent revolutions rage across the Middle East, like a vicious chain of falling dominoes, many will be casting a skeptical eye on the world’s soul Super Power – The United States of America, says Matt Wheavil.

In the wake of 9/11 and the subsequent ‘War on Terror’ launched by President George W. Bush, during which Saddam Hussein was toppled by (mostly) US military force, an unavoidable sense of irony shrouds recent events.

Now (on the surface at least) it seems that people power has become a more effective method of removing oppressive dictators than hard US foreign policy. Swathes of Tunisians and Egyptians were somehow able to remove their Government by relatively peaceful means.

It has been this remarkable surge of people power that has inspired the current, though considerably more brutal, waves of protest in Libya and Bahrain. Where US foreign Policy failed, civil unrest has seemingly succeeded.

With this in mind, it is no surprise that Obama has cautiously maneuvered towards supporting the pro-democracy civilians of the Middle East, especially considering that US interests have arguably been served in the past by some of the dictators in question.

Take Mubarak, the recently ousted Egyptian tyrant, who was responsible for containing the ‘Muslim Brotherhood’ – a group largely believed to have inspired or fused links with al-Qaeda. Alas, Mubarak has been considered a US ally for many years, making it difficult for Obama to have come out strongly in favour of his removal.

Thankfully, Obama negotiated this tight rope of competing US interests and values with moderate success. He hesitated at first before eventually not only declaring publicly that Egypt’s voice must be heard but in private, having conversations with Mubarak that were “said to have been the toughest between an American president and an ally since Ronald Reagan’s scolding of Menachem Begin during Israel’s bombing of Beirut in August 1982.” (The Economist)

Gaddafi too poses problems for Obama’s desire to balance US interests and values. Being one of the Middle East’s most cunning dictators, he has previously handed over information on Terrorist activities to the US Government and declared himself out of the ring in terms of Nuclear weapons development.

Although such actions have enabled Gaddafi to clutch on to power for 40 years, his horrific acts of Genocide against the Libyan people mean that Obama will surely have no choice but to act in unison with the International community in insisting upon his removal – perhaps even by physical force.

Somewhat unsettlingly, The US has already shown with Iraq that it is a country more powerful than the UN when it wants to be. The future balance of power in both the Middle East and across the globe may therefore rest heaviest in Obama’s juggling hands…



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