What Obama’s re-election means for the world
The Lost Pakistani | GQ India
The world is going to be a better place because Mitt Romney has not been elected the United States’ 45th president, despite President Barack Obama’s shortcomings.
Obama’s first term left plenty to be desired. The rule-of-law presidential candidate of 2008 failed to shut down Guantanamo Bay, ordered the extra-judicial execution of Osama bin Laden and failed to demonstrate that his drone attacks have been legal. In Yemen, he ordered the assassination of a U.S. citizen; in Pakistan, it is unclear whether the government continues to consent to drone strikes as the Pakistani president himself has requested for them to end, and the argument of self-defence seems weak.
Moreover, the Nobel Peace Prize awardee failed to show that his attacks were either morally defensible or justified by improving security.
Drone attacks in Pakistan have killed up to 884 civilians, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which also claims that the CIA targets rescuers – a war crime. Compounding this senseless cost, researchers at Stanford University and NYU found that only 2% of casualties of these strikes have been top militant leaders.
The numbers suggest an ironic and appalling disregard for the worth of human lives in distant lands by a president whose fathers lived continents away. In pursuing these attacks, Obama, like his predecessor, has undermined security. They fuel anti-Americanism as well as extremism in Pakistan, which is as rife as ever. Closer to home for Obama, Faisal Shahzad, who attempted to bomb Times Square in 2010, justified his act by telling the judge, “When the drones hit, [the Americans] don’t see children.” Little wonder that polled Pakistanis favoured Mitt Romney.
Yet while Obama has been cavalier with international law in his counter-productive strikes in Pakistan and secret attacks on Yemen and Somalia, his administration has uselessly watched the Syrian state massacre thousands of civilians, as opposition forces explicitly request his assistance.
With respect to the economy, Obama prevented a global depression with a stimulus package of USD 787 billion. But he could have done more, and with less, had he had the political courage to bail-out defaulting homeowners, rather than financial institutions with weak conditions for their amplified defaults.
Terrible as Obama has been for the rule-of-law and human rights and imperfect as he has been for the economy, Mitt Romney would have been worse.
Vis-à-vis Palestinians, Romney sounded ill-informed at best, and ill-equipped to reduce hostilities between Israelis and Palestinians. His comments at a fundraising breakfast in Jerusalem were denounced by Saeb Erekat, the Palestinian chief negotiator at the Oslo Accords, as ‘racist’ and ‘promoting extremism, violence and hatred’.
On Iran, Romney revealed shocking ignorance, stating several times that Syria is Iran’s only route to the sea (Iran has the Persian Gulf and does not border Syria), and that Iran posed the threat of dirty bombs to the United States. (It does not.) His foreign policy advisory team, peppered with interventionist veterans of the Bush administration, suggested that he may well have followed-up his tough talk with hawkish actions.
Obama, on the other hand, has been a proven force in weakening Iran. UCLA academic David Weinberg observes that Obama caused panic amongst Iran’s leaders by using renewed American prestige to convince European allies to embargo Iranian oil, in addition to imposing severe unilateral sanctions. Obama has also made America’s volatile ally Israel feel securer by doubling its funding for protection against missile attacks.
Where Romney trumped was Syria. He advocated arming ‘responsible’ insurgents. However, one expects similar action from a second-term Obama as he no longer fears the ignominy of being a one-term president (he was heard telling Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that he would have more flexibility on European missile defence after the elections). He will seek to align his legacy as president with the image he portrays of himself in his autobiographies as a socially-conscious man.
Regarding Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen, little indicates that Romney would have chosen a different course from Obama’s.
The world can rejoice at not having Romney accelerate global warming or take it back into a global recession.
For a man who could have been in the most powerful position to tackle climate change to tell an audience, “I’m not in this race to slow the rise of the oceans or to heal the planet,” should have caused concern. It did for Mayor of New York Michael Bloomberg, who, in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, endorsed Obama.
Romney’s spending cuts and increased inequality through tax restructuring would have slain domestic demand and slowed growth in the world’s largest economy. What’s bad for the American economy is bad for the world. Obama’s victory has prevented the mad elephant from inflicting wounds first on itself and then on its friends and family.
Imaduddin Ahmed is British and Pakistani and works in development and finance. Follow him on Twitter @ImadAhmed.
The views expressed are solely those of the author.