Obama Floats Like A Butterfly In World Opinion – by M K Bhadrakumar

Obama Floats Like A Butterfly In World Opinion – by M K Bhadrakumar


President Obama

President Obama

Pew Research Centre’s latest survey gives a flattering rating for President Barack Obama. He stands head and shoulders above his peer group in other world capitals — Angela Merkel, Vladimir Putin, Ji Jinping, etc.

That is, except for India, where Obama’s rating (58%) fares poorly with the ravishing rating his distinguished predecessor George W. Bush enjoyed. (But then, India’s bizarre rating speaks more about our elites’ mindset.)

What accounts for Obama’s popularity?     

‘Popularity’ is an inchoate concept, to begin with. What makes someone ‘popular’? To my mind, in this case, there was certain inevitability insofar as Obama came to the White House after Bill Clinton and Bush Jr. His image and reputation is untarnished by sleaze and venality – and, on the contrary, he is precociously cerebral and focused and seems to have wonderful human qualities.

In any case, we all love underdogs, don’t we? Well, he was genuinely one – starting from his middle name ‘Hussein’. Plus, he was an African-American to boot, and his lower middle class background, and his familiarity with life, ‘red in tooth and claw’, in impoverished regions of the planet. How could someone who experienced deprivation be a bad human being?

It is always thrilling to witness an underdog take on the Establishment – and goes on to win. The two books he wrote (which I read during his 2008 campaign) – Dreams from My Father and The Audacity of Hope – were both ‘unputdownable’ and guaranteed to win admirers far and wide.

However, when the final countdown begins – with just about 4 months remaining before Obama becomes a ‘lame duck’ – the assessment of him must be unemotional.

Plainly put, he has been a disappointment. And I will explain why.

Coming from this part of the world, South Asia, I had great expectations that he would redeem his pledge to end the Afghan war, a bloody war that began as fratricidal strife and with which my own heart and mind got entangled first some 37 years ago.

But Obama is leaving behind unfinished business. And, worse still, he is leaving the initiative in the hands of the US military – which is always a very, very dangerous scenario.

Unless the next American president is of an exceptional calibre with superhuman grit and dexterity and close familiarity with the ruthless exercise of political power to overrule the military-industrial complex in the USA (which is next to impossible), this war is fated to continue, and may even become bloodier.

It makes a shameful legacy for Obama.

Again, there is no other way to put it other than that Obama must be held responsible (in varying degrees) for the destruction of three countries, which didn’t deserve such cruel fate – Libya, Syria and Ukraine.

He may have played his part ‘efficiently’, without significant loss of American lives – except in Benghazi, perhaps – but an accomplice cannot be absolved of the moral responsibility for the crime.

Again, Obama was fond of swearing his faith in America’s ‘exceptionalism’ but in practice he was cold-bloodedly focused on his country’s self-interests. He did have his priorities cut out – America’s reconstruction or recovery or rejuvenation, call it what you will. That was understandable.

But then, he saw things in the world at large also through the prism of his priorities – ‘What’s there in it for the USA?’ ‘How many jobs can it create in our economy?’ ‘Will it give our chaps greater market access?’

However, Obama is a gifted politician and he could exude charm and affability if he wanted to, and stoop to conquer even stony hearts if it served US interests. Remember the ride he gave our Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the Beast?

Naturally, Europeans got put off by him, and Obama came to be known for his ‘aloofness’. He had little time for them except when he had to transact business.

What is his legacy as a world leader?

Importantly, Obama didn’t start new wars. It is the road not taken that makes him exceptional. We simply ought to forgive him for not ending the old wars the USA started — although he could have tried harder.

Second, he decided to engage with Iran over the nuclear issue rather than continue to manipulate the contrived issue to ‘contain’ that country for geopolitical ends.

Three, he was realistic enough to admit the failure of the USA decades-old containment policy against Cuba.

But the list on the negative side is much heavier. Obama did nothing to engage North Korea, and the regional tensions in Northeast Asia may have served the USA regional strategies.

Most certainly, Obama dissimulated the ‘reset’ with Russia, while practically continuing with the policy of ‘selective engagement’ riveted on the containment strategy expounded by the neoconservatives in the USA establishment.

Obama professed interest in disarmament but his actual record in nuclear weapon build-up and development of even deadlier weapons and the militarization of outer space remains highly controversial.

He promised the Russians he’d review the missile defence system once re-elected for a second term as president, but did exactly the opposite.

Again, the rebalance strategy in Asia is a barely-disguised attempt to retain the USA regional hegemony. And it fuelled tensions and militarization of the region.

Obama displays the cold-war era ‘bloc mentality’. If by driving up tensions over Ukraine, he brilliantly asserted the USA transatlantic leadership, quintessentially, his strategy in Asia has not been dissimilar – Even the raison d’être of the Trans-Pacific Partnership ultimately boils down to ‘be-with-us-or-against-us’.

In sum, contradictions are galore. He began as a Nobel. He is ending as the creator of the New Cold War. All this talk about ‘exceptionalism’ turns out to be hogwash. It has little to do with ‘values’ and everything to do with the New American Century project.

At the end of the day, however, the business of life is so difficult and pitiless for most of us that we become eternally grateful for small mercies. For sure, Obama has been any day a million times better than George Bush Jr – although Indian elites may disagree.

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  • Clyde Duncan  On 07/04/2016 at 9:20 pm

    M.K.Bhadrakumar served in the Indian Foreign Service for three decades and served as ambassador to Uzbekistan and Turkey.

    Apart from two postings in the former Soviet Union, his assignments abroad included South Korea, Sri Lanka, West Germany, Kuwait, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

    He served thrice in the Iran-Pakistan-Afghanistan Division in the Ministry of External Affairs, including Head of the Division in 1992-95. Mr. Bhadrakumar sought voluntary retirement from the IFS in 2002 and has since devoted himself to writing.

    He contributes to various publications in India and abroad and is a regular columnist for Asia Times and The Hindu. He has written extensively on Russia, China, Central Asia, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan and on the geopolitics of energy security. He normally resides at Delhi, when not travelling and lecturing abroad.

  • Clyde Duncan  On 07/06/2016 at 3:28 pm

    If you believed the lies about the FBI investigation, re: Hillary Clinton E-mails

    – you owe it to yourself to find better sources.

    by OllieGarkey – Daily Kos

    First, I want to say to everyone who actually believed there was something to the Hillary Clinton e-mail scandal: I’m sorry that you were lied to. I don’t want this post to be a victory lap or an “I told you so” post, because the issue we’re dealing with is serious, and deserves serious thought.

    What this whole story reveals is that we have a problem with churnalism. The reporters, writers, and journalists who bring us news are so understaffed that they don’t actually have time to fact check their own reporting. What most reporters do right now is just re-word whatever press release they’ve been handed. If you were someone who believed the oft-repeated lies told about the facts in this case, I’m sorry. But recognize that we don’t have effective news companies anymore, even in the new media space. In new media, people are often just re-wording what someone else previously re-worded. There’s no actual reporting.

    And as citizen journalists, the lot of you are actually capable of picking up a phone and calling someone who’s the subject of a story, or an expert. Just tell them you’re a blogger, and e-mail them the resulting post. I’ve done that. I think the rest of you should consider doing it, too.

    I wrote months ago that the only possible charges to bring against Clinton would be civil, and internal to the state department, requiring a sit down meeting with the president whose job it would have been to decide whether any sanction was necessary.

    Based on what we knew, I argued that there would be no basis for any charges. To prove that point, I quoted the Supreme Court decision Gorin Vs. United States:

    “The obvious delimiting words in the statute are those requiring intent or reason to believe that the information to be obtained is to be used to the injury of the United States of America, or to the advantage of any foreign nation. This requires those prosecuted to have acted in bad faith.”

    I pointed out that actual lawyers said there would be no basis for prosecution, and linked to a post by Dan Abrams. Others have pointed out that the State Department is notoriously leaky as an institution, and that this problem pre-dates Clinton. To quote the FBI today:

    “While not the focus of our investigation, we also developed evidence that the security culture of the State Department in general, and with respect to the use of unclassified systems in particular, was generally lacking in the kind of care for classified information that is found elsewhere in the U.S.A. government.”

    Clinton’s use of a private e-mail server ran afoul of an executive order created by Barack Obama, NOT Federal law. This is something that I and others pointed out months ago. And here is what the FBI said today:

    “To be clear, this is not to suggest that in similar circumstances, a person who gauged this activity would gauge no consequences. To the contrary, those individuals are often subject to security or administrative sanctions, but that is not what we are deciding now.”

    This means, as I pointed out, that there would have been a sit down chat with the president for someone at cabinet level. Based on all of the evidence, there was no reason to believe that Clinton would be indicted. I said so months ago. And what did the FBI say today?

    “In looking back at our investigations, into the mishandling or removal of classified information, we cannot find a case that would support bringing criminal charges on these facts.”

    I was right, because I found expert opinions to inform my own opinion. There are plenty of people who are likely smarter than I am who fell for this nonsense because of bad information. The same law of programming that informs coders applies to our own decision making process: Garbage in, garbage out. If you’re consuming terrible journalism, you will come to factually incorrect conclusions.

    On legal issues, I generally recommend LawNewz.com, and Dan Abrams in particular. I linked to his article in my own, and his analysis informed my opinion on this topic.

    Again, if you were lied to, and you believed those lies, I think you owe it to yourself to go and find sources that won’t lie to you. Not for anyone else’s sake but your own.

    All I ask now is that we recognize that the majority of the “News” we are exposed to — including a lot of the new media and social media stuff we’re exposed to — is created by professional bullshit peddlers who are lying to us. Let’s name and shame them, and remember not to fall for it again.


  • Clyde Duncan  On 07/07/2016 at 4:36 pm

    HRC Is Getting Gore’d By An Incompetent Media.
    by pollwatcher

    Remember how in 2000, Bush was the one that everyone wanted to have a beer with, and Al Gore was stiff and untrustworthy?

    While the consequences of Bush’s radical tax cuts for the rich were ignored, somehow Al Gore wanting to protect Social Security by putting it in a metaphorical “lockbox” was the butt of many jokes in the media.

    Bush could do no wrong by the media, no matter how many times he couldn’t put enough words together to form a complete sentence describing his proposals, and Al Gore was the stiff intellectual because he actually described his proposals in detail.

    Well, the same thing is now happening to Clinton. After months and months of the media playing along with the right wing propaganda machine and having lengthy debates with right wingers about if and when Clinton will be indicted, FBI Director Comey said no reasonable prosecutor would bring charges against Clinton. But what are the headlines in most of the major news outlets? Clinton was “Extremely Careless”!

    Instead of talking about how absolutely wrong and dishonest the right wing has been, the media is going along once again with right wing talking points that Clinton lied about sending or receiving marked classified emails.

    Comey was very ambiguous as to whether Clinton participated in any of the email “chains” after the emails were marked classified. Here’s what he said:

    “From the group of 30,000 e-mails returned to the State Department, 110 e-mails in 52 e-mail chains have been determined by the owning agency to contain classified information at the time they were sent or received.

    Separately, it is important to say something about the marking of classified information. Only a very small number of the e-mails containing classified information bore markings indicating the presence of classified information”

    So does he mean a very small number out of the 110 or out of the 30,000 emails? This could be 1 or 2 out of the 30,000. And how far did these email “chains” extend? Did someone in these “chains” mark these as classified after Secretary Clinton saw the email?

    I actually heard some reporters on MSNBC claim Clinton lied about handling classified emails when she said she did not handle marked classified emails, even though the director never said Clinton handled the “very few” emails while they were marked classified.

    So Clinton was going to be persecuted by the media no matter what the FBI director said.

    Just as the media turned on Al Gore and made him out to be boring and stiff and too intellectual, they have now turned on Clinton and will emphasize how untrustworthy she is.

    They may not treat Trump as the guy you would want to have a beer with, but they have set their course for the campaign to make sure Clinton gets Gore’d.

    The main stream media deserves as much of the blame for our declining democracy as the right wing propaganda machine.

    The media owes Clinton a public apology for every time they interviewed a right winger about how Clinton would be indicted.

    The media decides what we think about and talk about every day. The media decided that in order to sell their stories, the stories must be couched in controversy. Bad news sells.

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