Opinion | Great expectations: a chance to return to American exceptionalism
Published: Thursday, November 8, 2012
Updated: Thursday, November 8, 2012 22:11
Four years ago President Barack Obama rode into Washington with a mandate from the American people. Now, after a long drawn out campaign fight highlighting the unpopularity of his signature policy achievement and his failure to be an effective steward of the economy, he enters his second term with no clear mandate.
With a similar cast of characters surrounding him on the Hill, it’s hard to believe that the country will truly move “Forward.” In fact, the makeup of both chambers of Congress following the election looks basically the same as it did when we allowed the country to move ever closer to the looming fiscal cliff.
Despite the fact that there is a serious need for comprehensive tax reform and a whole host of other issues that need to be addressed, it looks like the next few years will also be marked by hyper-partisan gridlock. Still, President Obama has an opportunity to use his second term to become one of America’s great presidents.
Like so many of his predecessors have done, President Obama has the opportunity to use his second term to turn his attention to the rest of the world and shape it in a uniquely American way.
I am of the mindset that despite all that was said during the third and final presidential debate, President Obama will not listen to the calls from both sides of the aisle and carry out a foreign policy whose days ended at the turn of the last century. I am hopeful that like Ronald Reagan, President Obama will look at the world around him and see that if used correctly, a second term could restore America’s place at the forefront of the international community, and bring stability to a troubled world.
In 1984, President Reagan looked out at the world and saw an opportunity to end the Soviet Union’s strangle hold on Eastern Europe. Over the course of his second term, Reagan took that opportunity and brought about the fall of Communism.
Now, President Obama stands at a similar crossroads, as the world looks to America for leadership to bring stability to the Middle East and end the threat of terrorism.
In Syria, President Obama has the opportunity to step in and take action where the U.N. Security Council, led by Russia and China, failed to end the bloody conflict that threatens to break containment and spill across international borders.
To start, he should go about setting up and enforcing a legitimate cease fire that will allow for serious talks about a transition to begin. With a cease-fire in place and the start of negotiations to remove Bashar al-Assad from power, he can go about helping the people of Syria set up a democratic government that respects the rights of all of its citizens regardless of their race, gender, or religious affiliations.
Nevertheless, establishing a democratic government and bringing about peace in Syria is only one piece of the puzzle, stability in the region will only come once the threat of a nuclear Iran is put to rest once and for all.
In the next few years, President Obama must stand up to the Iranians and tell them that a nuclear Iran is simply not acceptable, and that we will continue to ratchet up the strength of our sanctions or even put into place a fifth round of sanctions to prevent them from going nuclear.
And should these tougher sanctions fail, President Obama must be prepared to stand with our good friend Israel and take action to prevent this from becoming a reality. This might sound like something a war weary nation should avoid, but remember—a nuclear Iran is what we really should be wary of. A nuclear Iran is an Iran that in a single move could wipe off the face of the earth millions of innocent people for one simple reason—their religious beliefs.
Finally, with a democratic Syria and a non-nuclear Iran, all that is left for President Obama to do with his second term is help developing countries stand up to extremists within their own borders.
Right now, in the northern portion of Mali, religious extremists affiliated with Al-Qaeda control a sizeable piece of land and are using it as a breeding ground to export their radical views and wage war on the west. This is not only a threat to the United States but a threat to the innocent people living in those countries.
Currently, in those regions controlled by extremists, girls cannot go to school and women are being beaten and stoned. This is not the kind of world we want to live in, and as the world’s preeminent power we owe it to the people in those countries like Afghanistan and Mali to stand up to those extremists.
We can help them reject and defeat the ideals that keep them impoverished, living in sub-standard conditions and move towards a democratic system that honors and respects their rights.
You see, President Obama has before him the opportunity to end terrorism and bring stability to the Middle East but he must commit to this course of action. He cannot entertain the pleas for America’s retreat; rather he must push boldly forward.
Forward, to a world that embraces democracy and respects the rights of all people—a world shaped by a foreign-policy focused second term.