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President Barack Obama takes the oath for his second term

as president of the United States: The international community

expects him to lead an extremely slimmed-down foreign policy.

 

 

Obama II: Prepare for America's New Danger-Averse Global Course (Neue Zuercher Zeitung, Switzerland)

 

"Weakened by years of partisan bickering but freed of the pressure of having to face popular election again, Barack Obama will on Sunday begin his second term as leader of the United States. ... There will be no more large-scale operations like those in Iraq and Afghanistan. Pressure on the Pentagon to economize will continue to grow. Land forces, in particular, will have to justify their existence. Faced with the choice of trimming the social welfare state or the military budget, Obama will no doubt choose the latter."

 

By Andreas RŁesch

††† †††† ††††††† ††††† ††† http://www.worldmeets.us/images/andreas-rueesch_mug.jpg

 

Translated By Stephanie Martin

 

January 20, 2013

 

Switzerland - Neue Zuercher Zeitung - Original Article (German)

President Barack Obama's second term begins today: The world can expect a much more cautious foreign policy than it has seen before.

 

BBC NEWS VIDEO: Algeria crisis: Captors and hostages die in assault, Jan. 19, 00:02:35RealVideo

Weakened by years of partisan bickering but freed of the pressure of having to face popular election again, Barack Obama on Sunday will begin his second term as leader of the United States. The message with which he will address the nation in front of the Capitol the next day is a well-kept secret, but one thing is certain to be included in his speech: The word "new."

 

This is a rhetorical ingredient, the value was already appreciated by one of Obama's predecessors. In 1989, President George H.W. Bush spoke of a "new breeze," and later of a "new world order," that, along with the end of the Cold War, would pave the way for an era of harmony. Bush's successor, Bill Clinton, urged the destruction of the "old order" and the creation of a "new" and freer world under American leadership. By now, the expression "new world order" is probably too debased to be used by Obama for inspiring an atmosphere of change and optimism. But on the global stage, a changed world order is most certainly discernible - one in which the role of Americans has changed considerably.

 

Onlookers in Mali

 

Over the past few days, the attitude of the United States on the conflicts in Mali and Afghanistan have illustrated this not once - but twice. With their passivity in the face of the French intervention in Mali, the Americans have signaled that they intend to exercise extreme caution before being drawn into another war. While Washington has welcomed this military action, it put Paris' request for logistical support on the back burner for now. It is true that France is accustomed to conducting solo interventions on African soil. But "Operation Serval" on desert terrain the size of France is much more demanding than France's occasional military actions in recent years in the Ivory Coast, Somalia, and Chad. President Hollande's goal of restoring stability to Mali can only be achieved with a massive, broadly-supported, multi-year international effort. What's new is that the U.S. is not instinctively pushing for a leadership role in a kind of "coalition of the willing." Already during the Libya war, the United States at least outwardly allowed the French to take the lead. However, at the time, and without calling attention to the fact, the Americans took on the lion's share of air operations and helped Europeans when they ran out of ammunition. Obama called this "leading from behind," which earned him some ridicule - but it was nonetheless a claim to leadership. That certainly cannot be said of Mali.

 

 

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Another new feature is that the Americans are disavowing jurisdiction over a mission they only recently considered part of their own "War on Terror." In Mali, the issue is about wresting control from jihadists over a vast territory, from which they can move freely and plan operations like the recent attack in Algeria. So far, the Islamists rampaging in northern Mali have yet to call for acts of terror overseas. But the Bush Doctrine of 2001 pledges that the United States will take action against all countries that grant shelter to terrorists. The government now lists six such "safe havens" for terrorists related to al-Qaeda around the globe. The Americans have intervened everywhere in recent years, even if with only pinprick operations. The only exception is Mali, where the U.S. previously restrained itself from using armed drones. This reticence reflects the new thinking in Washington: If there is more at stake for other countries, the Americans won't be pulling their chestnuts out of the fire. This region does in fact have a greater strategic significance for France. Paris isn't just concerned about Mali, but about its interests in neighboring countries, from the energy industry in Algeria to uranium mining in Niger, all of which is threatened by the unimpeded march of the Islamists.

 

In Washington today, cool pragmatism now reigns over Afghanistan policy as well. Obama seems to have quietly said goodbye to the goals of bringing about peace in the Hindu Kush and preventing a return to power of the Taliban. All signs point to withdrawal, regardless of how the situation may appear in two years after the NATO mission. While the generals recommend a robust military presence beyond 2014, the White House is pushing for a minimal residual contingent that would likely have the capacity to conduct no more than the occasional anti-terror operation. The poorly trained Afghan forces will therefore soon be on their own. The survival of the central government will then depend on whether foreign powers at least continue to provide the previously granted financial support. No wonder many Afghans are preparing for an intensification of the civil war, and that some war lords are starting to rebuild their militias.

 

Self-Limitation with Consequences

 

In a policy paper a year ago, the Obama Administration announced its course change. It said in the paper that from now on, America would focus on "low-cost initiatives with a small military footprint." Read: There will be no more large-scale operations like those in Iraq and Afghanistan. Pressure on the Pentagon to economize will continue to grow. Land forces, in particular, will have to justify their existence. Faced with the choice of trimming the social welfare state or the military budget, Obama will no doubt choose the latter. From a personnel perspective, he has already laid the groundwork. With John Kerry as secretary of state and Chuck Hagel as Pentagon chief, he has chosen two secretaries who are extremely skeptical about interventions abroad. Of course, none of this is without consequence for global politics. Even if a military intervention against Iran is not a good idea at the moment, it is just as inadvisable to signal in advance that military options will not be considered.

 

 

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Syrian dictator Assad, who probably doesn't feel particularly threatened by Washington's "low-cost initiatives," can breathe a sigh of relief. The Americans cannot be faulted for their reticence - for their interventions in the Islamic world have earned them mainly hatred. But it would be fatal to ignore the consequences of this change in roles. In Mali, it means that the risk of failure increases; in Syria, that the country will sink further and further into civil war and become a cauldron of instability for years to come.

 

CLICK HERE FOR GERMAN VERSION

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Posted By Worldmeets.US Jan, 20, 2013

 

 







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