President Obama is the winner of WHAT!!!
Considering that President Obama has promised a great deal to the Arab world in general, it is quite understandable that some distinguished foreign-policy experts are feeling both skeptical and bewildered over his Nobel Prize victory. It does not take a genius to figure out that Mr. Obama’s hopes for the region have been drastically curtailed by the debacle in Afghanistan…as well as other domestic priorities that are high on his administration’s agenda (i.e. health care reform and fixing the national economy).
Scholars such as Marc Lynch and Stephen Walt have already pointed to his lack of progress on substantial issues relevant to Arabs worldwide. President Obama’s vision for a genuine and long-lasting Israeli-Palestinian peace deal is perhaps the most effective illustration.
In the first few months of Obama’s presidency, the White House essentially re-formulated its entire perspective with respect to the conflict. Palestinian grievances would be heard with open ears and respected with an open mind; Israelis would be pressured into making concessions that they have never made before; and Arab nations would be expected to moderate their behavior to further the prospects for regional peace. The key was to depart from the status-quo of the George W. Bush years, when U.S. support for Israel was virtually unlimited and unquestioned.
Months later, what has been accomplished on the Israeli- Palestinian front? The answer, of course, is nothing; unless you count Washington’s regression back under the same old “we work for Israel” banner. Obama, for reasons I still do not understand to this day, has decided that caving-in to Prime Minister Netanyahu’s settlement policy is more important than working towards a comprehensive agreement…not only exacerbating the already horrendous living-conditions of the Palestinian population, but diminishing the optimism that so many Arabs wanted to experience. U.S. policymakers are once again viewing Israel as a “reliable” partner, re-inflaming the same hostility that President Obama hoped to eliminate in his Cairo speech. The “say one thing and do another” approach is once again the microcosm of American foreign-policy
Perhaps the biggest blunder to Mr. Obama’s Mideast peace plan is the fact that he has lost a considerable amount of support from the Arab world. While the 44th president still enjoys widespread international support (hence the Noble Peace Prize), people may be slowly realizing that he lacks the strength and resolve necessary to back up the “yes me can” rhetoric.
Iran is another case in point. Despite the President’s pledge to limit Iran’s nuclear capability (a key issue among Arab populations), Tehran continues to produce uranium at an unprecedented speed. Yes, talks between Iranian representatives and western powers are gradually gaining fruition on both sides; the idea that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is willing to export uranium for further enrichment is by no means a minor breakthrough. Yet, as everyone knows, this is certainly not a show-stopper.
There is a very real possibility that Obama’s premature acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize could translate into his own demise, undermining his credibility and ruining his legacy. With the Prize in hand, the President is now placed with a tremendous amount of added pressure on his shoulders. With more power comes more responsibility, and if the White House fails to live up to its end of the bargain, the United States may very well return to its previous position: the most hated and unpopular nation on earth.
Of course, one cannot solely blame the President for these failures. After all, the man has only been in the Oval Office for the past nine months. No leader, however transformational on the global stage, would be able to successfully complete all idealistic objectives in such a short period of time.
Nevertheless, Arabs are losing patience. At least George W. Bush lived up to his philosophy.
Note: This post was originally published on Marc Lynch’s blog at ForeignPolicy.com
-Daniel R. DePetris