Midterm elections in USA: optimistic approach to the last two years of Obama presidency

Image-for-Midterm-Recap-PostMidterm elections in USA showed a huge win of Republicans Party. In both: U.S. House of Representatives and in Senate, Republicans, after elections have majority and can halt every presidential initiative which have to be passed by those two bodies. Even if this majority is not enough to reject the President’s veto, it is still huge change in US political scene. In such situation almost all analysts predicts, that President Barack Obama decision making process will be paralysed and this president will stay inactive, up to the end of 2016 when his presidency will terminate. But there is also another possibility, which in #MyPointOfView is more plausible.

Just after the results became undeniable, President of the USA issued such statement:
„Yesterday, millions of Americans cast their ballots. Republicans had a good night, and I congratulate all the candidates who won. But what stands out to me is that the message Americans sent yesterday is one you’ve sent for several elections in a row now. You expect the people you elect to work as hard as you do. You expect us to focus on your ambitions — not ours — and you want us to get the job done. Period. I plan on spending every moment of the next two years rolling up my sleeves and working as hard as I can for the American people.”
We can see it with ambiguity. From one point of view it could be understood as President admitting, he did nothing, or at least not much, until now and just from this moment he will roll-up his sleeves to get to work. Such view is expressed by his opponents, which are obviously in great majority in the US. Those opponents most often say, president will stay inactive next two years, because he his party is not strong enough to pass his projects. Another point here is that president will use his vetoes which even more deepen the paralyze of the country. It will be correct if president will be just a democratic party member, and not the head of the mightiest county in the world – above particularly interest.
Looking for the options President has now in his disposal, there is also possibility of increase of the advantageous presidential activity. President Obama has a great chance of much better outcome of the last two years of his presidency, ignited by the midterm elections, than his opponents expect. He need to use the core values of the democracy, we all perceive as the best known system. If voters pointed out that US policy have to be more in line with republican ideals, President need to use those suggestions. He can be than more active than before that moment.
As far as international affairs are concerned, President Obama failed in his most important and most obvious tasks he announced, when he entered the White House. In general, it was providing the peace and stability to the world. He promised to negotiate and search of the common understanding with Middle Eastern partners, instead of forcing western solutions. This was meant to improve US appearance and it’s relations with other international actors. He planned to shift US focus to east Asia, because in Europe as well as in the Middle East it was planned to stay peaceful. Libya after the of 2011 was meant to be example of good crisis management made by new administration. Less democratic but still successful was meant to be leaving Iraq in Shia led government of PM Nouri al-Maliki. US with allies were meant to be successful in defeating Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and weakening it in Pakistan, Yemen and other parts of the region. US drone warfare and intelligence surveillance was meant to keep in control those places and regions, where are possible new threats.
Unfortunately the situation in all aspects and all dangerous regions was much more complicated (http://wp.me/p4y6QP-2h). The use of just an interim policy, with a guiding idea of Soft Power and military solutions used unofficially produced a lot of contradictions. But first of all this policy was lacking a comprehensive strategy, rooted deep in the scientifically approach to the regions of greatest threat – or great interest. Iraq under control of Shiites fall in the sphere of Iran policy and it’s control. Most of the Syrian rebels from the beginning were cooperating with extremists, simply because many of them revolted because of their anti-secular approach (http://theworldoutline.com/2013/04/make-peace-not-war-for-syria/). In the north of Iraq and Syria, abandoned Sunni people, with no representation in the governments, became more and more frustrated and some of them violent. Many of them searched for a chance for normal life in this piece of hell, but also many joined Al-Qaeda, Al-Nusra or rebels in Syria. There was no clear solution of Kurdish question. Nobody started any serious negotiations between Turkey and Kurds. Turkish policy of zero problems with the neighbours, was somehow successful. Their agreement with Abdullah Ocalan and Turkish Kurds, should be just the first step to establish a better relations with Iraqi and Syrian Kurds. To achieve that (if possible at all), influential party, as a mediator, would be of great help. It should be no surprise, that when ISIS started it’s terror spreading actions, and focused on fighting the only force which was defending – Kurds, Turks were not willing to support people, they perceived as a greatest enemy. Turkish government was encouraged to support Kurds, by the many officials in the whole world, but encouraging is one thing, yet giving a good example and sending the „boots on the ground” is something completely another. No one should deny Kurds right in their struggle for their country. They show remarkable spirit, even sending their women to the battle ground. They proved they deserve their piece of land for many times. But just criticizing Turks by the people who armed and trained Syrian rebels, of whom many became IS fighter now, is great hypocrisy. Despite US efforts, Libya became another failed country and it’s masses of stored weapons after Kaddafi regime flown through the Sahara desert and the Gaza, into the Syria. Now it is used by the rebels and IS fighters in Syria and Iraq as well. This was another reason of fast growth of the ISIS and again Turkey was just the one of the last pieces of puzzle. In Libya almost next day after the Kaddafi regime fall, begun the war of the tribes and the strongest force was there Al-Qaeda of Maghreb and other extremist organizations. For a long time US tried to keep the false picture of Libyan transformation as a model, but it was not based on facts, but rather strong propaganda. In all those situations there was much more US president could have done or not done (as in the case of Libya intervention which should never happen at all). Of course it is impossible to see if he would be more successful, but many of the results could be easily predicted. Middle East did not change after president Obama’s Novruz message to Iran and Iranians. Destroyed country security structures in Iraq after 2003 and leaving this country alone in 2011 had to enforce Iran influence or even decisive role in that country. President Obama outrage on Israeli settlements in the West Bank didn’t stop Benjamin Netanyahu from his further actions of taking the Palestinian lands. The policy toward Iran is not decreasing this regime support for Hamas, aimed only in attacking Israel.
We could observe progressive change in the president Obama policy. He sent planes to bombers IS, even if he promised, he will not start any war again. He introduced sanctions against Russia even tougher than EU and supported Ukrainians with intelligence and most probably much more. He also did not resign using the sanctions against Iran, despite the growing pressure of his party to make Iran an example of the US peaceful policy success. Another symptom of more comprehensive policy was a great move by the Obama administration with agreement made with Saudi Arabia on lowering of the oil prizes. It created another leverage in both cases, most dangerous from geopolitical point of view: Iran and Russia. Both suffer very much from that move and this is a very good example, of how Smart Policy could be used. There are in the US people like John McCain who see everything possible using the military means only and Ron Paul who claims that US should withdraw from all its military activities in the world at all. President Obama pressured by the republicans can make his two final years as a moderate successful being in the middle, but using also both extremities if it would be strategically favourable.
Midterm elections will enforce that course of Obamas presidency. If he wish to live a better impression after his presidency, he could combine his views of the US role in the world and republicans, which in fact is somehow possible. It could imply coming back of the idea, which was meant to be the sole basis of his presidency: the concept of the Smart Power (http://wp.me/p4y6QP-2I). Until now he was oppressed by the „not Bush” image. Now if he wants to be active under new circumstances, he has to be „more Bush” than he imagined in 2008. He has to use much more direct military actions in the cases where it can be effective. ISIS is the example where direct military actions are expected, but using his negotiation abilities first of all he need to cut of the supplies for those extremists. Cutting of the supplies is the first rule of all military actions and art of war in general. We can easily enumerate few sources of ISIS power. Improving Turkey-Kurds relations would stop some source of ISIS support for sure. Saudi Arabia could be much better partner in fighting ISIS if there would be no threat of growing Iranian influence in the Middle East. So control of the Iraq seems to be a good plan also. New PM in that country makes some hopes, but Iranian regime becomes the rival and not ally in this case. It has many ways of activating or calming down its relations with Iraqi authorities if needed. Egypt can be a very important US ally or could be another Syria also if the military wouldn’t keep it’s supervision over the political transition process. As far as military in Egypt has so strong support of Egyptian people, criticizing president Abd al-Fattah as Sisi for being too cruel seems pointless. Egyptian president has many strong and extremely radical opponents in his country – and not only in Sinai. There is also a great issue in fighting Asad regime. Until now it produced only disaster for Syria and the region. US president should assess who will rule the Syria after Asad’s house. Using Iraqi example we should expect growing chaos and influences of Sunni monarchies but most accurate are those who predict, that falling of Asad will make t much better for the extremists. President Obama under republican pressure can be much more active in the Europe too. Rebuilding the NATO plans gives him a great opportunity to take the decisive role in situation of permanent Russian aggression in Ukraine and Russian show of force against Europe and US.
There is plenty of tools under his disposal and he and his Secretary of State in 2008, Hillary Clinton, enumerated them in general. Just it was no will of use part of them and there was not any great plan of combining them and preparation for different circumstances. As Zbigniew Brzezinski say, there was no comprehensive strategy for US role in the world. There was no contingency plans in case when the actual actions would go wrong or new threats emerge. All this can be good from two perspectives. One – it will improve his image and all democrats, whose voice is very important in the US internal debate and they should be not pushed out of scene too far. Second it could be a good starting point and preparation for a next – most probably – republican president starting in 2017. Both reasons are very important not only for president Obama, but for USA image in the world, which radicalises itself and gets more and more anti-american and anti-western.


Autor: Milczanowski Maciej

Maciej Milczanowski Maciej is a former professional soldier, participant of two foreign missions: UN in Golan Heights commander of platoon and position (1997-1998) and NATO Iraq Battle Capitan in Tactical Operation Center (2004-2005). Holds an MA in National Defense Academy in Warsaw and Ph. D. in Jagiellonian University both on politics in ancient history and he now works in University of Information Technology and Management in Rzeszow, Poland. Visiting Fellow in Hoover Institution, Stanford University. CEO of Institilute for Research of the National Security and leader of the Zimbardo Center for Conflict Resolution (Z-CenterC&R)


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