"His Popularness" Barack Hussein Obama II, the first African-American President of the most powerful state will be sworn into office soon. Indeed, the electoral victory of this charismatic character has been greatly cheered by most of the world. And people are expecting great things from him. Whether he can deliver is yet to be seen. But for now, the immediate challenges for the President are not only daunting but also mounting.
Even prior to his oath of office, the incoming President's plate has already filled up with both national and international challenges. The most salient ones that will require his immediate attention include: victoriously extricating American troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, defusing the Israeli-Palestinian (Hamas) fracas in Gaza, preventing the India-Pakistan confrontation, and arresting Iran's dogged nuclear pursuit. But, envisaging and executing a strategy to fix the ailing national and global economy will probably remain the President's most arduous challenge.
The American economy is in great distress. America is already in a recession. Unemployment rate is soaring by the day. More Americans have had their homes repossessed by lenders than ever before. Availability of credit in the market is dwindling sharply. The financial sector has lost an enormous amount of value and the investor confidence is in tatters.
Thankfully, President Obama already has a plan. He and his team have come up with a stimulus package. By injecting billions of dollars into the economy, he hopes to avert a financial collapse, create jobs and restore confidence in the market. Of course the federal government will need to intervene in these dire circumstances. However, he will also need to make sure that capitalism stays alive and more effective oversight and regulations are legislated and enforced to avoid the financial improprieties that have led to this financial predicament.
The President will also inherit two messy wars. The American entanglements in Iraq and Afghanistan have strained and drained America quite a bit. Financially, it is costing America close to 17 billions dollars a month to sustain military operations and other activities in these two places. Politically, these ventures have blemished America's image and its unilateralist strides have strained relations with a lot of other countries. And it has put enormous amount of psychological pressure on the troops stationed there and their families back home.
One of the primary objectives for the Commander-in-Chief will be to gradually pull the troops out while ensuring peace and stability in both places. America cannot ill-afford to abruptly abandon these two missions but neither can it afford to prolongate them. Amidst all this, it somehow has to emerge victorious. Hence, he and team will need to formulate an exit strategy which is viable and in consonance with the objective of restoring America's image. Furthermore, it must be executed in a manner in which the withdrawal illustrates success and integrity rather than failure or weakness.
Then, there is the perennial Israel-Palestine conflict. Recently, Israel has unleashed its armed forces in retribution for the incessant rockets fired by Hamas into Israel. A full scale ground and air incursion into Gaza by Israeli forces has already resulted in great destruction. And this war is quickly destabilizing the entire mid-east region.
President Obama's and his team will need to come up with a peaceful and sustainable solution to this conflict. This conflict has lasted too long and has consumed an enormous amount of American time, energy and resources. So, instead of a band-aid solution, President Obama and his team's challenge is to conjure up a coherent plan to secure lasting peace between these warring nations once and for all. This will entail playing a hard but open minded mediator/facilitator role. But in doing so, he will need to embrace Israel yet appear non-partisan to the Palestinians and satisfy the Arabs.
Next, there are the sabre-rattling South Asians. Following the Mumbai terrorist attacks, India and Pakistan are whiskers away from pulling the trigger at each other again. India claims that the terrorists were all from Pakistan and believes the perpetrators had links to government agencies in Pakistan. Pakistan denies these claims and instead pledges cooperation in the inquest and in bringing the perpetrators to justice. But in the meantime, perhaps sensing an imminent confrontation with India, Pakistan has re-deployed an estimated 20,000 troops that were combating Islamic militants in the northwest frontier to the eastern part bordering India.
Both countries are equally vital to the American national interest. Pakistan's efforts in rooting out Islamic militants as demanded by the American led "War on Terror" remains very crucial. On top of that, Pakistan's good neighbourly role in stabilizing Afghanistan is also vital. Indubitably, Pakistan's significance to American objectives is evidenced by the aid it receives. Pakistan remains one of the top recipients of American aid. On the other hand, India being the largest democracy and an emerging superpower shares a special bond with America. India's growing significance is adequately reflected by the recent American willingness to make a special exception to the non-proliferation regulations to accommodate India's nuclear aspirations.
President Obama will most certainly need to step in to defuse the escalating tension. If this case is not handled carefully, this row surely has the potential to escalate into an all out nuclear confrontation. Thus, here again, his administration will need to play a very astute balancing act to prevent the confrontation. Since both countries are equally important to the American interest, America needs to play a non-partisan mediator/facilitator role and come up with constructive solutions which are palatable to both sides.
Then, there is the Iran's dogged nuclear pursuit. Although Iran keeps on insisting that its nuclear program is aimed at energy production and not bomb making, hardly do these assurances serve to allay the fears of Americans, especially when the Iranian President keeps on spouting provocative rhetoric against Israel's existence and clinging obstinately to its nuclear ambition.
Given the varying implications and repercussions, President Obama will need to grasp the nuances and complexities associated with Iran's nuclear ambition. If Iran acquired a nuclear capability then others could easily tread the same path leading to unrestrained nuclear proliferation. Also, given Iran's propensity to provide moral and material support to outfits like Hamas and Hezbollah - which deem Israel as their mortal enemy, one cannot deny the possibility of Israel repeating the Osirak like assault on Iran's nuclear infrastructure. The consequences of which could easily be catastrophic. But most importantly, Iran's nuclear capability poses a threat to the American interest because of the prospect of Iran selling the weapons or the technology to stateless militant and terrorist outfits.
Yet despite all this, completely denying Iran the nuclear right appears legally and morally effete. First, as the signatory to the Non-Proliferation-Treaty (NPT), Iran derives the inalienable right to develop nuclear energy program for peaceful purposes (According the fourth article of NPT). Additionally, when the Americans and other western nations have a huge stockpile of nuclear weapons themselves, the morality and logic of telling Iran to halt its nuclear ambitions appears hypocritical.
Tackling the Iranian issue will require an immense amount of patience and dexterity. The Presidential team will need to employ the "Carrot and Cane Diplomacy" with great caution. And direct dialogue between the two nations and through other intermediaries is vital. This team will need to secure a mutually favourable outcome through compromise.
Until now, "His Popularness" has unquestionably demonstrated a pragmatic streak, great aptitude, admirable forbearance, and oozed charm. And these qualities have won him near universal plaudits. But now, time has come for him to step up to the task and prove his worthiness. No doubt that his tenure will be inexorably demanding and it will certainly necessitate great dexterity on his part to overcome these challenges. Further, he bears even greater responsibility than his predecessor because he not only has his fellow citizens to satiate but there is an entire bevy of foreigners in the "Yes we can" and "Change" bandwagons. They are all optimistically depending on his leadership to solve the numerous crises plaguing the globe. But, people's patience is only ephemeral. If "His Popularness" does not expeditiously deliver on those expectations, it won't be long before he is tagged with a new title "Oh Bummer."
Mr President, I earnestly hope you have the insight and the fortitude to overcome all these daunting challenges. And I wish you a very successful tenure. The entire world is counting on your leadership.
(Note from the Nepal Horizons Editorial Team: The views and opinion expressed in this article are that of the author and not of NHC. We request individuals with interest in Nepal to submit their views on contemporary Nepalese issues to the following e-mail address: email@example.com. Pictures of contributors or images that relate to submissions are welcome)