By Simon Jenkins
IT’S the war, stupid. At the time of his election in 2009, everything about Barack Obama endeared him to British opinion.
Events since have honoured that enthusiasm, with the president retaining an approval rating in the region of 70 per cent.
Obama is admired for his vigorous steps to fend off recession. He is admired for confronting the health industry lobbyists. He speaks the language of conciliation abroad. He has seemed a voice of reason and sobriety, after eight years under George Bush when America seemed alien and painfully at odds with the world.
This has been spoiled by continuing western military aggression in and on Muslim states. All Obama promised, in cleansing the West’s reputation, in restoring disengagement and reversing Washington’s image as an overbearing bully, has been vitiated by surges, drone missiles and the knee-jerk attack on Libya. That the top item at a summit between Britain and America should be how to bomb a North African state that threatens neither of them is absurd. To many in Britain, American foreign policy under Obama has come to seem Bush-lite, while Britain’s seems Blair-lite.
This is more than sad. In Obama and David Cameron the West has two of its most capable and convincing leaders in a quarter century. Both are thoughtful men, albeit inexperienced in foreign affairs, with relatively secure home bases. These leaders should be ideally cast as beacons of sane judgment in parts of the world that chronically need it.
So why are both trapped in the morass of the Muslim arc, sitting targets for the jibes of Islamist fundamentalists? For the first time since the fall of the Berlin Wall, nations forming a significant regional grouping have seemed on the brink of freeing themselves from oppressive regimes.
They are doing so not through outside intervention or military coup but through the delicate process of insurrection. They have mobilised their capitals and provincial cities, their professions, their military, their urban middle-class and those eternal agents of change, students. They have demanded great sacrifice and loyalty from their peoples to the cause of freedom. But their cause has derived its peculiar potency through being ‘bottom-up’.
Such regime change may be aided by outside support, from the media, overseas contacts and an expatriate diaspora. It is not aided by grandstanding in Washington and London, by megaphone diplomacy and by blundering military intervention.
There is no evidence that it is helped by aerial bombardment, which strengthens rather than weakens the resistance of the bombed.
Such intervention played no part in the decay of communism. It toppled regimes in Afghanistan and Iraq by main force, but at vast cost and with so much damage to the physical and political fabric. — The Guardian, London
Source: The Guardian, London