Thursday November 27, 2014
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27.11.2014
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Prof. Abraham Ben-Zvi

The year Obama would rather forget

U.S. President Barack Obama will not endeavor to have the year 2013 remain in the world's personal and collective memory, even though the year-end employment and growth rates indicate the American economy is well on its way to recovery.

The jewel in the crown is the health-care reform, the 44th president's legislative focus during his first term. Now, after Capitol Hill approved the landmark law and the Supreme Court granted its backing, it became clear that the Obama administration has difficulty turning words into action. As the amazing technological capabilities of the National Security Agency were exposed for all to see, incompetence was also exposed -- the federal incompetence and lack of planning of everything related to the very simple issue of organizing in good time the marketing of the new Medicare policies. Although one cannot expect the president to be personally involved in all details of bureaucratic implementation, this is a social objective that he strived for above all else, seemingly justifying tighter monitoring.

Another equally disturbing expression of the Oval Office's disconnect from the activity of the federal bureaucracy is seen in the Snowden affair, which exploded in 2013 and upset U.S. relationships with almost all of its allies. In contrast with the president's liberal worldview and the emphasis placed on the rights and freedoms of the individual in the president's articulate speeches, an eavesdropping scandal was recently exposed, blatantly monitoring and infiltrating the depths of the private sphere of many American citizens, and especially of the many millions around the world, including the leaders of its allies. As in other cases, Obama's reaction in light of the conduct of the invasive "Big Brother" program was halting and hesitant. It showed a certain distance -- the detachment and inability to take the bull by the horns and force the intelligence community to be subject to a system of checks and restraints faithfully reflecting the mask of his ideological beliefs.

The White House's grades in foreign policy for 2013 are even lower than last year's and indicate a shirking of the basic duty to protect stability and world order. In the Middle East, for example, the people are truly crying out to the heavens due to Obama's failures in Egypt, Syria and of course Iran. From all this, a picture of weakness emerges, of indecision and of a voluntary waiving of the levers of powerful influence -- which are required by the hegemonic superpower.

This, for example, is why Obama flinched at the last minute and chose not to get involved in a (limited) military conflict with Syrian President Bashar Assad, despite his proclaimed explicit commitment to act in light of the chemical massacre on the outskirts of Damascus. Also with Iran, his eagerness to reach a deal with President Hassan Rouhani at any cost raises disturbing questions about his credibility and ability to safely lead the international community.

Equally alarming and puzzling was the behavior of the Obama administration on the Egyptian front in 2013. The cold shoulder that Washington gave Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi's pro-Western regime, sparked a shock wave throughout the Sunni Arab world and projected a sense of disorientation and lack of basic understanding of the strategic interests on the agenda. The consequences of this came at the end of the year, with the aggressive conduct of China (the East China Sea dispute) and Russia (especially in Ukraine), which showed that they were well aware of the American Eagle's growing weakness and powerlessness and are accordingly redrafting the borders of their scope of influence.

As the curtain falls on 2013, it remains to be seen if this process of withdrawal and deterioration, with all its dangers, will continue at its current rate in the coming year.

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