President Obama, in his impressive Cairo speech of June 4, 2009, said, “I believe that America holds within her the truth that regardless of race, religion, or station in life, all of us share common aspirations – to live in peace and security, to get an education and to work with dignity, to love our families, our communities and our God. These things we share. This is the hope of all humanity.” He continued, “Of course, recognizing our common humanity is only the beginning of our task. Words alone cannot meet the needs of our people. These needs will be met only if we act boldly in the years ahead; and if we understand that the challenges we face are shared, and our failure to meet them will hurt us all.”
By whatever yardstick used, Obama’s Presidency has failed because he has belied the trust of countless millions who cherished hopes that he would usher in a New World Order – one of peace, with social justice and personal dignity for the dispossessed – both in his own U.S. backyard and the Third World where hopelessness abounds. The US still remains the only superpower and the US Dollar the world’s reserve currency. But the glitter has faded; the President is deemed weak, the economy in shambles, and American citizenry in despair. To say he inherited massive problems upon election is only an excuse, not the stuff of which good Presidents are made. Franklin Roosevelt inherited a daunting legacy which he faced with unbounded courage and determination; his New Deal program, coupled with other reforms, brought hope to a nation steeped in economic despair.
Therein lies the problem: many ‘words alone’, and not enough ‘acting boldly’. Obama is a good man, but has allowed himself to be stifled in critical decisions by self-centered politicians, Congress and the Jewish lobby. There is little Faith in his Presidency.
American foreign policy too lacks rationale. Wars are being fought at intolerable cost in human suffering and wasted material resources, whereas urgently needed humanitarian action, such as in the East African famine situation, is neglected. The Libyan intervention “to save civilian lives’ was a cover-up, otherwise NATO warships would, by now, have been in Syrian waters. Afghanistan cannot be resolved as history attests, the Iraqi misadventure remains intractable. Is American foreign policy driven by delusions of economic greed and hegemonic interests? True, the Republicans in Congress are doing everything to deny Obama a second term in office by making him look inept, indecisive or incompetent. Obama should, like Franklin Roosevelt, take courage in both hands and prevail over his detractors.
Come September 20, Obama has a chance, albeit small, of redeeming his Presidency by giving the US‘s imprimatur for unconditional passage of the proposed UN Resolution for Palestinian statehood. With one phone call each to member states of the UN Security Council, he can restore the Faith of the whole world towards the US.
After all, he promised in Cairo in June 2009 to resolve this problem as top priority.And he has already laid out the underlying principles of a just framework agreement. So why dither? Why ask the Palestinians not to seek statehood at the UN Security Council at this time, without explaining why? If Obama acts with courage the fallout may be a strained relationship with Israel, but as a forever-enduring deep alliance it will recover. If the principles of social justice which Obama declaimed at the Cairo Conference are valid and he truly believes in them, including resolving the
Israeli-Palestinian conundrum, then no American will balk at their President’s decision and he will sail smoothly into a second term of office. What if he does not act? In his own words, “when innocents are slaughtered (replace with ‘unduly repressed and subjugated’) it is a stain on our collective conscience.”
At the end of the day what matters is that the American public and the whole world have Faith in the President of the world’s only Superpower to honor that full trust and belief, to be true to his promises, based on universally cherished values and principles.
The Arab Spring has turned autumnal; tensions in the region are escalating and Israel risks becoming the scapegoat for the ills in the region. For the world, and particularly for the strategic and security interests of both the US and Israel, it is vital that the major players resolve this conflict. The time for action is now.
The author is a former Regional Representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Australia, Japan, Malaysia and the Sudan.He currently lives in Geneva, Switzerland and is an active member of the Geneva Writers Group.