What To Expect In The Next Year
Over the past week, every IR scholar on this side of the horizon has been commenting on President Obama’s first-year in office. For those who are unaware of the special anniversary, the so-called “candidate of hope” passed his first-test as Commander-in-Chief a couple of days ago; surviving the Washington “broo ha-ha” and the intense atmosphere of partisanship that has come to dominate the nation’s capitol. And, taking some of this past year’s propositions into account, it appears that President Obama has passed challenge #1 with flying colors. In fact, not only is he retaining the country’s (indeed, the world’s) popular support with an iron fist…he is doing so with a weak and fractured Republican Party bent on discrediting his administration at every turn.
Of course, the first test for a President is not necessarily a difficult one. Even the most unpopular President in contemporary American history- George W. Bush- managed to survive his first year in the Oval Office with a 90 percent approval rating. It is what comes next that is the hard part; actually implementing campaign promises and working for re-election at the same exact time.
From Iran to North Korea, from nuclear proliferation to the War in Iraq, and from the Afghan conflict to the dismal situation in Latin America, the second-year in power will undoubtedly be a crucial time for the Obama administration’s legacy…heck, even its survival.
For the Democrats who have been riding on the President’s coattails for the last 12 months, the rest of Obama’s first-term will be an opportunity to expand health-care coverage, withdraw troops from distant deserts, and strengthen America’s image to the world through unconditional diplomacy and “mutual respect.” We may even see more U.S.-brokered talks with some of the world’s most brutal and authoritarian regimes.
For Republicans who have been gnashing their teeth and clamoring up the walls, Mr. Obama’s second-year will result in an enhanced effort by conservatives to re-take the U.S. Congress in the midterm elections. Expect the Republican Party to remain defiant in the face of a Democratic administration, advocating the Bush tax-cuts, pushing for tougher penalties against Iran, and redoubling the U.S military effort in a war that has been fading away from the American conscience.
What does this mean for the ordinary American citizen who ventures to the polls every four-years? Well, it is rather simple in my perspective; more tip-toeing over important foreign-policy issues that need to be confronted with the government’s full resources and the administration’s full concentration.
The nuclear stalemate between the Islamic Republic and the western community will continue to gain traction within the halls of Congress, absent Obama’s efforts at dialogue and despite the recent U.N.-approved nuclear enrichment deal. Israel may even take matters into their own-hands.
Israel will continue to build settlement outposts in the occupied West Bank…the same land that the Palestinians view as crucial for a future state of their own. As in the past, President Obama will cave-in to Israeli demands over settlement construction, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will inevitably be forced to accept a White House policy of “wait and see.” Meanwhile, expect dramatic changes in the Palestinian leadership, with Hamas radicals in the Gaza Strip discrediting PA President Mahmoud Abbas. It may not be illogical to expect a changing of the guard for Fatah, a movement that has been losing support among moderate Palestinians. To summarize, the same Israeli-Palestinian conflict that Mr. Obama labeled as the most eminent obstacle to American power in the Middle East will be avoided by yet another American presidency.
Iraq is perhaps the one silver-lining in this whole list. Thus far, the President has made it clear that he is willing to stick by his original plan, withdrawing the majority of American troops from Iraq by January of 2012. Yet, even this policy is up in the air, with Iraqi violence once again returning and the Iraqi Parliament failing to resolve some key issues, thereby pitting sectarian groups against one another (oil revenue, the city of Kirkuk, the Kurdish question, etc.).
Hopefully, I am wrong with all of these predictions. Perhaps I am just a pessimist, taking by skepticism about Obama to new heights.
However, this does not appear to be the case. Some scholars- mostly hawkish in origin- tend to agree with this same premise. President Obama could very well become the first sitting American President with a Nobel-Prize that is considered a sitting-duck ahead of the next November election.
-Daniel R. DePetris