Obama’s legacy

Posted on June 28, 2016

It is a funny topic to choose this week. Amid so much happening in and around Pakistan. NSG. Growing violence in Karachi. An ex-ambassador crying new great game, new great game. Another warning the menace another Clinton administration can be. Counter-intuitive? Very. But the reason? Despite a never-ending series of setbacks, Barack Obama is a good man. He deserves a legacy. And someone to identify it in the unlikeliest place possible. The talk of legacy is essential. His term is ending. And no one entered the White House in recent years promising so much hope. So much hope that he won Nobel Peace Prize. I still remember this announcement: “The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided that the Nobel Peace Prize for 2009 is to be awarded to President Barack Obama for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples. The Committee has attached special importance to Obama’s vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons.” What became of that hope is another matter.

Just two days back, a US Supreme Court 4-4 decision maintained a lower court decision that Obama had overstepped his authority by deciding to shield five million illegal immigrants from deportation. Merrick Garland, his nominee for the Supreme Court seat left vacant by the death of judge Antonin Scalia, is not going anywhere. Sadly, things don’t end here. President Obama promised at the very start that he would shut down Guantanamo Bay. Two terms later, it is still operational. He promised to withdraw forces from Iraq. And so he did. But the result? Bedlam. In his time in office we heard that an Arab spring was to democratise the countries in the region. Today we see it as a mere prelude to an era of infighting, chaos, bloodshed, more authoritarianism and genesis of monsters like the IS. His resolve to see the back of Bashar alAssad in Syria failed and today millions of Syrian refugees escaping civil war in the country are treated as pariahs in foreign lands. His meticulous efforts to destroy Iran’s nuclear ambitions have brought him only to a nuclear deal with the country that would be blown to smithereens if a Republican were to succeed him. His hope of leaving behind a stable and peaceful Afghanistan sounds only wishful today. And this is not all either.

The relationships with Israel and India were considered his major priorities. But both countries elected ultra-hawks as their leaders. The warmth between the Israeli and American governments went out of the window because of the Iran nuclear deal. He is still trying to strengthen friendship with India. But honestly I wince whenever I see Narendra Modi cuddling Obama. The latter was supposed to be the prince of hope and Modi the lord of destruction. Look what time has done to our prince.

Obama inherited a deeply polarised country. An economy in bad shape. A country bleeding soft power. The world heaved a sigh of relief at Bush’s departure. So relieved in fact that it seems the Norwegian Nobel Committee decided to hand him the award solely for this reason. But he leaves behind a country so polarised that a man known for his birther attacks is now the Republican party’s presumptive presidential nominee. The economy is recovering but is not quite there yet. Soft power. Yeah. So should we assume he has no legacy to talk about? But he does. During his term in office, we saw significant emphasis on providing civilian aid to Pakistan. For the first time in the history of its relationship with the country, America decided to engage the civil and military sides simultaneously. The result was the first-ever democratic civilian to civilian transition. Despite so many contradictions, the new dispensation is still working. Make of it whatever you please, to me it sounds like a legacy. But we know what Obama thinks of Pakistan privately. Publicly he talks about his maiden visit to the country as a young man and learning to cook lentils and minced meat. I want to know more about his experience for there must be something in it that ensured that he never set foot again in the country even as he didn’t hesitate to visit the world’s most troubled spots. And as president he will never visit the only place where he might have left a lasting impact.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 26th, 2016.

Source : – http://tribune.com.pk/story/1130197/obamas-legacy/