Palestinian Hamas supporters burn U.S. flags as part of widespread anger across the Muslim world about a film ridiculing Islam’s Prophet Muhammad. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
Amidst the anti-U.S. protests being played out in over 30 countries, many so-called pundits seem to be jockeying for positions over the President who is the singular authority of the nation’s foreign policy
Because it’s an election year, there are many who are trying to place themselves in positions that are totally beyond their reach. Foreign policy is exclusively the domain of President Barack Obama; he and his administration (anyone whom he appoints) are the sole voice of the United States when dealing with foreign policy, particularly the security of Americans abroad. His leadership role in the trouble spots in the Middle East, Africa and Asia at present appears to be exploited by some trying to gain political points in this election year.
The reported cause of these anti-American pockets of violence that have so far killed four Americans (including a U.S. ambassador) in Benghazi, Libya, and other Americans in other areas of the world, is being aggressively investigated by the President. The violence has now spread to Indonesia and down under to Australia; and it also has some domestic ramifications on several fronts.
Focus has also been targeted on the maker of the video that went viral on YouTube and apparently triggered the violence, and on YouTube itself, as it relates to the video giant’s responsibilities as a distributor of video content throughout the world. The 14-minute video is reported to have been privately produced and directed somewhere in the Southern California region by a man who claimed to be a Coptic Christian in which it portrayed Prophet Mohammed in a very unsavory and demeaning manner.
Like the so-called ‘Arab Spring,’ which one reporter referred to as the ‘Autumn Rage,’ that swept through the Middle East region last year, and the video that went viral, the anti-American protests appeared to be spreading across the region and beyond. One report described it as seething, pent-up resentment against Western powers in general, and the U. S. and Britain in particular. Pleas from world leaders thus far seem to have fallen on deaf ears and have only exacerbated the situation. It has stretched from Western Africa through the Mideast, Indonesia and Australia.
Listening to a foreign policy expert who is also a political science professor, it is easy to connect the dots when he draws parallels between the anti-American violence abroad and the verbal reactions coming from the President’s political opponents especially when words from the White House are that they do not have all of the facts, and are just sowing seeds of division with the intent of affecting the outcome of the election.
It must be remembered that President Obama inherited a country whose reputation was riddled with few friends and lots of unfriendly hostile nations around the world. His leadership role was immediately tested and it could be measured – especially in foreign policy – from the tone and text of his inauguration speech when, on day one, he said “… To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society’s ills on the West — know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist…”
For it was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who said “…Peace is not just the absence of war, it is the presence of justice …” President Obama must have been mindful of those words for his leadership approach has been consistent in seeking new ways forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect, and peace, not only in foreign policy matters, but also in dealing with domestic issues.
History has shown that even though the country may be occupied by foreign interventions, the people at home are usually focused on the economy – especially at election times – and that is where the President’s leadership will be tested. (Remember ‘it’s the economy, stupid.’ Despite former President George H.W. Bush’s success in the first Gulf War, it was the state of the economy that denied him a second term.)
And though the Republicans are touting former President Reagan’s ‘are-you-better-off- now-than-you-were-four-years-ago’ slogan which he used successfully against former President Carter that denied Carter a second term, the same scenario does not fit President Obama’s circumstances. Former President Clinton made that perfectly clear during his speech at the recent DNC when he said, “When President Barack Obama took office the economy was in a freefall. It had just shrunk 9 full percent of GDP. We were losing 750,000 jobs a month. Are we doing better today?” He went on to answer with a resounding, “Yes!”
In addition, according to the Department of Labor figures, during President Obama’s term, the last 42 months, up to July 2012: for 17 months, the jobs were lost; for 25 months, jobs were added, and though economic growth currently is slower than expected, jobs are continuously added each month.
At present, the President is occupied dealing with the overseas anti- American violence against Americans, and it seems certain that since many are politicizing this unfortunate, sordid set of events jockeying for its possibly election-time advantage, it will most likely surface prominently in the upcoming presidential debates in October.