Barack Obama’s first presidential term was marked by a discrepancy between great expectations and little accomplishments. This was understandable given the fact that he had to first undo the mistakes of the past and then revive the American Dream anew. Hence the largely unshaken support of the American people for his party and the endurance of universal sympathy with his personality. Obama was the very first American president who managed to create a global aura of trust, despite the deteriorating image of the “West” in the “rest” of the world. He was loved and respected in countries like Turkey, where America was regarded as the largest threat to the country. He couldn't deliver what he promised to the Muslim world, but Muslims made excuses for his failures. They made themselves believe that Obama was waiting for his second term before attempting to change the course of history. They prayed for Obama, most probably more than any southern Baptist priest or any New Jersey rabbi did.
This is why he is the last chance for America to continue to be a global superpower and a guardian of the world political and economic order.
As Obama himself put bluntly, we are living in a post-American age. America is no longer able to impose policies, let alone regime changes, on even the smallest countries of the Old World. World politics is already multi-polar, and it is evolving towards a non-polar ideology-free state. Micro-religions -- extremist expressions of established religions with no historic, cultural or artistic depth -- are emerging as new actors of regional politics. Knowledge has become omnisciently accessible and has lost its status as a strategic asset of technologically developed countries. Smaller states with financial and human resources have turned out to be the new “dream-weavers” of disturbed generations. American might has turned it into an awkward elephant, and Obama is the last trainer that can teach this elephant how to dance without stepping over the feet of its mate.
It is also no longer the sole elephant in world politics. Its tail is tied to China, and its trunk is stuck in the greater Middle East.
What can Obama do to save his country and our world?
The U.S. can sign the Kyoto Protocol and push for other signatories to abide by their commitments. This will not only enhance our awareness of threats like global warming, but it will also reduce countries’ reliance on carbon fuels and decrease many countries’ energy dependence. This, in turn, will increase the sense of independence in Turkey, the EU and China.
The U.S. can alter its traditional policy of endorsing Israeli policies, however cruel they may be, and still continue serving as the guarantor of the existence of Israel as a Jewish state. This will force Israel to forge a final settlement with all the Palestinian factions and freeze all settlement activity on Palestinian lands once and for all. This will also create a space of opportunity between the newly emerging democracies of the region and the state of Israel.
The U.S. can create a new dictionary of world politics through which the citizens of the globe will perceive and rethink their world. This dictionary can bring back the “human actor” who had been brutally murdered during the Industrial Revolution and the two world wars, just like Obama himself brought the warmth of humanity to American politics.
America can do more, but first it has to remember Obama’s first election motto, “Yes, we can!”
(This article was published on Today's Zaman online on Nov. 7, 2012.)