Thursday, 7 February 2013

WORLD-US: Obama's leading from behind & global leadership vacuum

US Vice President Joe Biden has achieved his five days Europe trip. He toured, Germany, France and London in an effort to strengthen trans-Atlantic ties. Global politics have come to a standstill in recent years, with the United States unwilling to show leadership and Europe and other major powers unable to fill the vacuum.

Two topics were on the menu of US Vice President Joe Biden. In Germany, Joe Biden spoke eloquently about trans-Atlantic cooperation. He reiterated the same message in France and Britain. But one of his core duty of this five days Europe trip, was indeed to convey US President Barack Obama's message that America and its allies need to come up with a new way of divvying up responsibilities in this uncertain world.

In 1998, then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright called America the "indispensable nation." But now, 15 years later, it is primarily an exhausted one, a global power in decline that has its gaze turned toward the domestic front rather than Afghanistan or the Middle East.

This should come as no surprise. Since the end of the Cold War, US soldiers have spent almost twice as many months at war than they had in previous decades. The country has pumped a phenomenal amount of money into its military. Indeed, in 2011, it spent more on defense than the next 19 military powers combined. And, of course, this only contributed to its record mountain of $16 trillion (€11.8 trillion) in public debt.

The key sentence of Obama's inaugural speech was: "A decade of war is now ending." US Vice President Joe Biden relayed his ''patron''( boss) core belief that ''diplomacy'' is far better than ''war'' to Europeans leaders. But There is a sense of ''unwillingness'' pattern behavior to suggest that the US is unwilling, or possible reluctant to engage its leadership on global politics.

Obama, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate, didn't focus on creating a better world in his speech. Instead, he talked about a better America, one with more opportunities for immigrants, more rights for homosexuals and less social inequality. Today's America is deeply divided, but all sides agree on one point: America's well-being is more important than the world's.

Obama's predecessor, President George W. Bush, had far-reaching, messianic visions for American foreign policy. But what remains of that in the Obama era is the so-called "Eisenhower Doctrine," as US commentators are re-discovering it. As a general, Dwight D. Eisenhower was the hero of World War II. But, as America's president from 1953 to 1961, he wanted to avoid bloodshed at all costs -- or at least the spilling of American blood. According to biographer Jean Edward Smith, from the end of the Korean War till the end of his presidency, America didn't suffer a single combat fatality.

Obama has now nominated Chuck Hagel to become his new secretary of defense. Hagel, a former Republican senator and decorated combat veteran of the Vietnam War, gave Obama an Eisenhower biography as a gift and wants to keep today's GIs out of harm's way. Indeed, Hagel shares Obama's global vision of "leading from behind" -- whether it's in Libya or, more recently, in Mali, where the US is happy to let France take the lead.

Even US closest allies are a bit ''shocked'' about Barack Obama's pick of a new secretary of defense. Israel, for instance, believes that Chuck Hagel's nomination as new US secretary defense, will reverse US's leadership on global politics. It suffices to say that Israel is more concerned of its relationship with the US in relation with Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Top-ranking government officials in Jerusalem confirmed Tuesday that Israel would exercise its longstanding, constitutionally granted veto power over American policy if U.S. lawmakers confirmed retired congressman Chuck Hagel as the United States’ next Secretary of Defense.

Still, this new division of duties isn't the end of the world anymore than cuts in US military spending are. They are easier to implement than the grumbling military brass lets on. The real drama would be if America decided to completely retreat behind its own borders.

The fact is that, when it comes to America's standing in the world, the Obama-Biden team has made up a lot of ground. But its foreign policies have yielded hardly any real results. Indeed, even the Brookings Institution, the respected Washington-based think tank, believes that Obama has yet to chalk up many foreign policy successes.

In countries that take a hostile stance toward America, such as Pakistan, Obama is just as unpopular as Bush was -- perhaps as a result of deploying more drones than diplomats. It appears more likely than ever that Iran will develop nuclear weapons, the battle against climate change is stalling, the Israelis and Palestinians are back at each other's throats, and Sino-Western relations are still on shaky ground.

Some would think it were high time for Obama to jump back into the saddle before he gets reduced to a lame-duck status. Of course, this gives rise to the question: Which country could step in and replace the United States? China is panicking about whether its economy is losing steam, Russia has degenerated into a petro-dictatorship, and Brazil and India are faltering. At the same time, international institutions, such as the United Nations, NATO and the European Union, are suffering from an identity crisis about what they're supposed to do.

We currently find ourselves in an era marked by a global "leadership vacuum." This void of ''leadership vacuum'' is not going to be filled itself...of course 'nationalism'' might be taking over '' globalism''. But this could turn out to be a time of forward progress, especially for the Europeans, who may ultimately become the new global police.

But it still seems more entertaining than probable. If you exclude Britain, European nations have slashed their defense budgets by an average of 15 percent since the end of the Cold War. Worse yet, as illustrated by the euro crisis and the most recent brouhaha over London's role in the EU, diplomatic unity in Europe has yet to make the leap from paper to reality.

Indeed, rather than making progress, it is much more likely that the world will shift into reverse. Europe isn't in a position to provide decisive leadership. And the US doesn't want to anymore.

By Guylain Gustave Moke
Political Analyst/Writer
Investigative Journalist

Photo-Credit: AFP