Yesterday at the UN General Assembly, Obama made another typical Obama speech...cooperation...yada ya...responsibility...yada ya...make a change. Now from the way I've written this you would think that I either do not like the man or object to his ideas and reforms, right? Wrong! I applaud the man for what appears to be a genuine passion to affect a change within a world which is for the most part unchangeable--from within one of the world's most conservative Western nations. Ordinarily, I would be like, 'well, gee-whizz that sure is a big task he's set upon himself' and happily turn around and go about my daily business as usual.
However, I think that this typical stance of mine will not suffice. I feel for Obama, really I do. I mean the tasks before the guy are immense, and after watching Newsnight I felt compelled to collect my thoughts and re-evaluate the way I look at things. Apathy is one of the things killing our world as a whole, knowing this how can I continue to be apathetic in response to what Obama is trying to do?
It has always annoyed me (not just me either!) the way that the US has become the world's self-appointed, thoroughly-corrupt police force. They pick their fights according to what is at stake for them and this should not really be the motivation behind 'humanitarian' action. While this annoys me, as somewhat of a realist, I can appreciate that this is what a sensible nation should do to some degree. Obama is right when he says that his nation have collected a lot of enemies because of this stance, particularly in the last couple of decades. But he is also right when he points out that an end to unilateral US action should be met by other powerful nations taking up their slack.
While the early indications are that the world's Western press is applauding the signals that Obama is sending, by backing down from the mantle of international hegemony and 'coming back into the fold' to become a team player, I wonder what this can ever truly mean. Liberal that he is, his country do not seem to be backing him and a divided leader (i.e with a divided support base) can never stand. It's funny that as despised as Bush was around the world, he was deeply loved by 'the right people' at home, so he could afford to screw up elsewhere. While providing states like Iran and North Korea with the archetypal 'evil Western leader' upon whom they could declare war. Obama is in a truly impossible situation, he does not have the luxury of that solid home base and therefore, like Clinton before him (to some degree), the reality of what he can do is limited. Further to this, Bush was an obvious known to his enemies. What dictator worth his mustard is going to trust Obama? They are caught between wanting to show him up and a lack of belief that the US will ever relinquish their total international control and effectively engage with them. And the sad thing is that everyone knows this. Facing unprecedented and difficult situations is standard for high-level leaders but that doesn't make the actual situation any easier.
The speech outlined a new direction in US foreign policy which is a direct 180 from his predecessors' unremittingly unilateral stance. Obama, much as he has done at home, is advocating multilateralism, cooperation and consensus in facing nuclear proliferation, climate change and terrorism. Important issues and definately options everyone should consider as a viable way forward in international politics. An honourable, and dare I say, heroic stance to take by the US President. This kind of change deserves at the very least an atypical reaction from this particular jaded follower of politics. And for what it's worth I salute what he's trying to do while all the time realising that the vultures are circling. But is this just Obama's wish list of unrealisitic goals and dreams?
Listen here for yourself to judge:
Further media coverage: