Spearhead Analysis – 08.11.12
Four years ago in a historic election President Obama was elected with a much bigger margin than the narrow one which gave him victory and the trust of the American people for another four year term. The Republican aim of making him a one term President failed and his rival Mitt Romney conceded victory gracefully. With a four year education behind him President Obama should know exactly what he has to do and how he should go about doing it. In his first term he had taken over from an unpopular predecessor with the economy in shambles and the country mired in two disastrous wars — both undertaken on faulty premises. Now he takes over from his own four years of trying to put things right in a nation deeply divided and with his rivals controlling the House of Representatives. Afghanistan is not quite behind him, the war on terror against radical Islamists goes on and Iran is as unresolved as ever. Those who have voted for him did so because they think that he will do what is best for Americans in the United States — and this will be the focus of his next term.
With the European Union fragmenting, China facing possible financial and political problems and Russia still looking inwards the US remains the primary power in the world. All the talk about the limits of power, economic meltdown and a flawed foreign policy does not change the fact that the US has an enormous technological advantage, great influence over the world’s financial institutions and the resilience to do what needs to be done to fix its domestic situation to give Americans jobs and prosperity. These basic truths need to be borne in mind by those who frame foreign and economic policies. President Obama will reshape foreign policy and while doing so he will relook at the war on terror and the US relationship with the Islamic world with the realization that not all Islamists are radical nor are all radical Islamists terrorists. With elections in Iran next year President Obama will seek to move into a pragmatic policy shift moving away from ultimatums and towards negotiations. He will reassess the Afghanistan situation realistically and again move towards settlement with or without Karzai. The Middle East policy has been taking shape after Libya and the US has been leaving it to ongoing events to determine outcomes. In fact this may be the dominant trend—letting people in other countries determine their own future without the US getting involved in wars and other messy situations. The economic and political interaction with Russia and China will continue and the ‘pivot’ to Asia and the new Silk Road ideas may be modulated.
For Pakistan it is important to understand the likely US policy trends to determine and actively pursue its own interests — and forging a good relationship with the US should be a primary goal. Unless this is done the US policy towards Pakistan may end up as being transactional or one of indifference or it may become hard line with clearly spelt out demands especially if our dependence on the US for an economic bail out continues and grows. The only star in the US policy towards South Asia in the last decade should not be its strategic relationship with India — Afghanistan gives Pakistan an opportunity to be significant and an improved internal security situation and realistic bilateral relationships with regional countries can change ongoing dynamics in our favor. Bipartisan consensus on the major challenges facing the country has to be the first step regardless of elections and political transitions.
(Spearhead Analyses are the result of a collaborative effort and not attributable to a single individual)