World News Today reporter Jago Kosolosky, in Washington D.C., looks at what we can expect from Barack Obama’s second term as President of the United States of America.
Two in a row
Let it be clear that Obama’s re-election will have effects both inside and outside of the country.
Internally, especially in equality, a more progressive US may start seeing daylight. This will not be reached directly by the President but through the Supreme Court. The American President has the privilege of appointing judges to the highest court in the country and is known to choose like-minded people. It is expected that within the next four years many of the current judges will need replacing. This way Obama will be able to consolidate a progressive Supreme Court for many years to come. American civilians often bring cases in front of this court after going through several trials. In the coming years this is likely to see issues such as gay marriage and abortion brought before the Obama appointed judges.
Furthermore it can be expected that the US will shift more and more towards a welfare state model. However, know that we are talking about baby steps here as the citizens of the land of the free feel easily patronized. A lot depends on how the election for Congress ends up as well. If the House of Representatives stays Republican and the Senate stays Democratic then there will still be a divided Congress, Obama will not be able to reach many of these goals.
When it comes to foreign affairs, a less progressive attitude can be expected. Let’s not forget that Obama, for one, approves the use of drones to eliminate human targets abroad while human rights specialists around the globe have long been condemning these practices. Guantanamo Bay’s slow closure, the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya provide us with the same picture.
Top priority for years to come
It is likely in the near future that we will see the US tighten its policy towards Iran. The United States does not want Iran to complete its nuclear program and come to own nuclear weapons. However, Obama has promised many times to only use force when necessary. It is likely that Romney would have sooner applied force against Iran if he were elected.
The attitude of the US towards Russia will become more decisive too. It is generally believed that Obama’s Reset policy towards Russia could have achieved more. It was not a complete failure as, among other things, the New START Treaty was a direct result of Obama’s efforts. Recently, however, relations with Russia have soured as Putin is having a more difficult time hiding his autocratic character and Russia continues to oppose international action in Syria.
For a long time the US has been telling the world that it wants to provide the Syrian rebels with heavier arms but Russia continues to respond with a solid ‘njet’. The US cannot afford to take action without the support of Russia for two reasons: Russia gives the US access to Afghanistan, and is a crucial negotiation partner in the P5 plus 1 talks with Iran on its nuclear activities. Putin is keeping the US in a stranglehold while the whole world has to watch Syria bleed.
Obama has recently promoted his Asia pivot both in the US and abroad. He will try to refocus diplomatic attention to countries like Burma, Thailand and Malaysia. Besides that, more attention will be given to the country’s relationship with China. The main issue here will be trade. China has been able to put numbers down in the books that Americans are afraid to even dream of. However, delicate issues like intellectual property rights, which have been a thorn in the American eye for years, will have to be discussed as well. There are doubts whether the US has enough leverage to force anything upon China or even forge a compromise. The military component of the Asia pivot mainly exists of increasing US Navy capacity in the region and is expected to be the least controversial part of Obama’s plan.
Within the region Obama will also have to deal with growing nationalistic sentiment in both China and Japan. These two countries have recently gotten involved in a fierce battle over a few tiny, uninhabited islands that has gone awry. This is just one example of an issue that can perfectly be resolved through peaceful negotiations. Nationalistic powers within both of the countries however make these negotiations near impossible. To keep matters from escalating, the US has always been present using its regional power to cool things down. It is uncertain however, whether this is something the US can continue to do. The American presence in the region is increasingly being contested and the lack of a regional security system including other countries makes people around the world question what will happen after the US is forced to give up its appeasing role.
As is clear, Obama has no easy task ahead of him. Ruling a country which just went through a very divisive election campaign that ended with closer results than anyone abroad expected, is a challenge at best. There is a silver lining though. Since the American economy has risen from the depths it once was in and continues to climb, Obama can expect to be given credit for this after the next four years of growth have passed.
However, these are fruits that can only be enjoyed after this term. Right now Obama has a daunting task ahead of him and the whole world is watching.
Sure, have a drink or two Mr. President but be sure to know what’s waiting for you tomorrow.