Skip to main content

One telephone call may seal Obama's place in history

For many, the Obama presidency has been a disappointment. The 'Yes we Can' mantra has faded into a distant memory. But in many ways he was bound to disappoint. Voter expectation for change wasn't predicated on an agreement on what that change would be. Change meant different things to different people. 

But change there has been, and nothing reflects that change more than a simple act; a telephone call.

When Obama lifted the phone in the Oval Office to call Iranian President Rohani it represented a different way of thinking about world affairs. It said 'Yes we can' to solving issues in a way that doesn't require a resort to military intervention. 

Of course it required the biggest change of all. A change in the Iranian Presidency. But it takes two to tango and the first tentative steps have been taken in a fifteen minute telephone call. 

It is of course too early to say what a rapprochement with Iran will lead to. But if there is rapprochement it may make Obama's mark in the history books. If it creates a new atmosphere for resolving the problems of the Middle East the world will be a safer place. 

It is also too early to say  how the Syrian crisis will resolve, but Obama backed away from a military strike to 'give peace a chance'. At one point it looked as if a military strike had momentum. But popular will said a resounding 'no'. First it was rejected by the UK parliament; then Obama backed off to seek congressional approval.

Some saw this as weakness. But it takes strength to think again. As Obama has said in response to criticism that he was dithering 'I am much more concerned with getting the policy right'. 

How different history might have been if the Bush administration had taken time to think again about invading Iraq or at least thought through what the end point was likely to be.

If the Syrian regime gives up its chemical weapons it will be a major achievement. Russia will take great credit for brokering the way forward. But Obama has shown real courage in stepping back and supporting the process. It is surely better than military intervention in a messy civil war. 

There will be those who are sceptical. Perhaps they are right to be. But when I heard the news of the telephone call made by Obama I was full of hope and optimism. A great deal more now needs to be done. But it is the first bit of optimism I have felt in international affairs for a long time. A cloud has lifted and the sun might shine. 

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Ian Duncan-Smith says he wants to make those on benefits 'better people'!

By any account, the government's austerity strategy is utilitarian. It justifies its approach by the presumed potential ends. It's objective is to cut the deficit, but it has also adopted another objective which is specifically targeted. It seeks to drive people off benefits and 'back to work'.  The two together are toxic to the poorest in society. Those least able to cope are the most affected by the cuts in benefits and the loss of services. It is the coupling of these two strategic aims that make their policies ethically questionable. For, by combining the two, slashing the value of benefits to make budget savings while also changing the benefits system, the highest burden falls on a specific group, those dependent on benefits. For the greater good of the majority, a minority group, those on benefits, are being sacrificed; sacrificed on the altar of austerity. And they are being sacrificed in part so that others may be spared. Utilitarian ethics considers the ba

Mr Duncan-Smith offers a disingenuous and divisive comparison

Some time ago, actually it was a long time ago when I was in my early teens, someone close to me bought a table. It was an early flat pack variety. It came with a top and four legs. He followed the instructions to the letter screwing the legs into the top. But when he had completed it the table wobbled. One leg he explained was shorter than the other three; so he sawed a bit from each of the other legs. The table wobbled. One leg, he explained, was longer than the other three. So, he sawed a bit off. The table wobbled. He went on cutting the legs, but the table continued to wobble. Cut, cut, cut! By this time he had convinced himself there was no alternative to it.  He ended up with a very low table indeed, supported by four very stumpy legs and a bit of cardboard placed under one of them to stop it wobbling on the uneven floor.  Mr Duncan-Smith argues that we need a 1% cap on benefits to be 'fair to average earners'. Average  earners have seen their incomes rise by less tha

His way or none? Why I can't vote for Jeremy

There is an assumption that all would be well with the Labour Party if people hadn't expressed their genuine concern with what they consider the inadequacies of Jeremy Corbyn's leadership. If only, it is said, the Parliamentary Labour Party and his Shadow Cabinet had supported him, instead of undermining him, all would have been fine. If they had been quiet and towed the line, then the party would not have been in the mess it is in. So, should they have stayed silent, or speak of their concerns? There comes a point when the cost of staying silent outweighs the cost of speaking out. This is a judgment. Many call it a coup by the PLP. They paint a picture of a right-wing PLP out of touch with the membership.  This is the narrative of the Corbyn camp. But Jeremy Corbyn, over the decades he has been in politics, showed the way.  It was Jeremy Corbyn who opposed almost all Labour leaders and rarely held back from speaking out, or voting time and again against the party line. As