So the United States has a new president this year. Inaugurated on 20 January, he is sometimes called ‘the most powerful man in the world’. Certainly there is much hope that he would ‘change’…something. That was reflected back in September last year in this article/blog post in the (American) Huffington Post website, whose author expressed relief and hope that the US economy will have an eventual upturn with Obama in charge. FT.com has another hopeful article titled ‘Bush damage can be undone’ (free registration required), while acknowledging the ex-president’s mistakes up front.
But of course.
However there seems to be a gradual movement towards ‘rehabilitating’ Bush (in a manner of speaking). Some people history may later say things differently about George W. Bush, that history may be kinder to him once more time is permitted to pass and events are interpreted with a longer retrospective view and possibly more nuanced lenses.
I believe it’s already started, with this story on how Bush should be credited and was ‘right’ for ‘going forward, not backward’ with the troop surge in Iraq. Obama was advised to keep at it.
Then there’s ‘The African people may be alone: they’ll miss Mr Bush’, where he is again lauded, this time for giving African states a leg-up in fighting HIV/Aids with a programme started in 2003 – the same year, incidentally, that he sent troops to liberate invade Iraq. This piece doesn’t say how many countries exactly, but at least two are mentioned as having good results due to the Aids relief efforts.
And now. What now?
When Obama was elected as US president in early November last year, many people thought that ‘change’ – whatever that meant – would be in the works. A sobering article tells us that he will not seek to change everything; that even though his administration will be ‘committed to end the uglier aspects of the Bush administration’s foreign policy’, we should not expect miracles – least of all in US support for Israel and the latter’s own uglier aspects of its domestic and foreign policies.
One welcome ‘change’ is that he plans to close the US terrorist detention centre at Guantanamo Bay, ‘as soon as practicable’ and within a year, reported the BBC. This is good news to people like me and Farish Noor, who has made a compelling plea for Obama to shut down the aforementioned prison camp – not least because this camp is part of the so-called Global War on Terror that enables authoritarian governments – or any type of government – in my part of the world to unjustly detain, torture and maybe even kill their own (or others’) citizens.
Indeed, Noor has written about recognising we should neither be caught up in the euphoria of Obama’s victory, but instead take a look at the costs of US foreign policy for the people of Asia and the rest of the world. Noor is not that hopeful that things will really change under an Obama administration.
As am I. If this other article is any indication, it would seem that the second term of the Bush administration’s policies are seen in a good light by some, and recommended that Obama continue with them in some substantial form, in ‘The making of George W. Obama’. I have my doubts if the last 4 years was really ‘pragmatic internationalism’ as described. Not when the Bush team has continually and unconditionally supported states like Israel throughout that time, up to the last days of its life. And now Obama will be set to continue, sad to say.
So the question remains: What now?