Friday, November 15, 2013


Recent events have seriously dented the second term of President Obama. His administration appears more and more isolated internally and externally. The health care reform debacle looks irreversible. An accumulation of faux pas internationally is undermining America's claim to being the indispensable world gatekeeper. The Russian "come-back" in what was considered an American sphere of influence is ominous for Washington's interests. Equally, the Chinese Cheshire cat purrs. The President's own party considers abandoning ship.

The temptation to consider all this as a symptom of regression comes as no surprise. There is a wave of commentary and auto-flagellation which is perverse insofar as it blurs both the temporary and the long term, the incidental and the structural.

President Obama got his Nobel Prize before he had done anything to deserve it. This can easily lead to hubris. The crux of the matter is that "great expectations" were based on a fable rather than on an epic. People cashed in on an almost political Ponzi mirage. The talented candidate Obama became a distant, almost nonchalant president. He appears more often than not to be narcissistic, disliking "proximity."  The "bubble" he inhabits is now bursting at the seams. 
Presidents come and go. If the political gridlock remains unchanged and the foreign policy continues to look erratic, President Obama might be gone before he exits. On the roof of the White House one can spot more vultures than swallows.  The conversation regarding politics has become a shouting match which, by the way, too often diminishes the credibility of the President's repetitive ad nauseam visceral enemies.

Nevertheless, this Gotterdammerung scenario needs to be revisited. As things stand now the future looks grim. Still, one should not be adverse to change for the better.  Politics have also their more ephemeral chromosome and predictions are hazardous.  It is a mistake to confuse political aberrations or mistakes in the short-term with the durability of a long-term diplomatic/military capital, which is far larger than the occasional personality who is supposed to make the best use of it.  What has been damaged can be repaired. The latest diplomatic  Russian "incursions" (Snowden, Syria, Egypt) represent a net gain of three serves for President Putin but the match point is open-ended. The United States remains the primary mover in most theatres, but confidence-building measures have to be taken urgently to convince shaken allies that American engagements stand for determination, not for procrastination. The "might" is a given which stands taller than its temporary warden. The former might be adept or not so.   Hence the "might" can as well become a notion in flux, not necessarily in retreat. 
However, it is becoming clear that the days of pax Americana are gone, whoever the president is, or will be. Fact remains that one is entitled to expect that the occupant of the White House will halt the demise of global influence rather than accelerate it. In any case, the task will be arduous given that the illusion of a unipolar world is no longer.

It would be sad if President Obama ends up with the unhappy crowd of Presidents Carter (very intelligent, nevertheless) and Ford (non-elected). He is gifted, but his character might continue to get in the way of his natural talent.  He still has three years to make good, but after 2014 he will have to consider that his so called aloofness is no longer a "habitat" but a de facto marginalization. He had better start doing a White House cleaning before it is too late. He is in urgent need of messengers bringing him bad tidings, and they are hard to find in the current "inner sanctum". The President can be criticized - that is democracy-, however he should not be systematically slandered by the extreme conservatives, as is too often the case. Soon the Birthers will be back, watch my words...

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