I still remember the early morning of November 4, 2008, as the US Presidential election results started pouring in, I realized that something unbelievably historic was happening in America. I just couldn’t stop wondering how a Black – African American (since so many mails and messages have told me!) – could become the President of the United States of America; the same country that had earlier re-elected George Bush as the President! The whole experience was so tumultuous! I couldn’t help recall old books about America that I had read. Books about the Civil War that President Abraham Lincoln had presided over; the war that eventually resulted in the emancipation of blacks. As I wrote in my editorial in The Sunday Indian on November 9, 2008, my favourite book, of course, was Uncle Tom’s Cabin. The book – which passionately documented the immense pain of black slaves – is perhaps the greatest read for any human wishing to understand the meaning of the term ‘depth of character’, and is guaranteed to bring tears to your eyes. And on January 21, 2009, I relived the whole gamut of those emotions seeing Barack Hussein Obama emotionally taking his oath to become the 44th President of the United States of America. That day again, I actually felt that historical figures like Lincoln and Stowe did have the biggest path-breaking roles to play in changing the character of modern day America.
My appreciation for Obama is immense, and this appreciation does not simply come from his becoming the President; but from his becoming President for all the right reasons. He demanded change from his fellow Americans, not simply in economic outlook or policy orientation, but in something graver; he beseeched them to realise that in the hardships of today should not be forgotten the intensity of the American character of past. Despite all research to the contrary – that a Black presidential candidate stood no chance against the white combine of America – Obama committed passionately to his steadfast belief that American character was deeper than suspected, wider than speculated and more intense than believed by Americans themselves... and he won... a win that is not only as brilliant as the brilliance of all his outstanding speeches combined – for I have rarely seen a more powerful and emotional orator than him – but a win that mirrors Obama’s greatness as proved by his commandingly devastating books – for Obama is great not just because of the words he speaks, but because of the greatness of the words that he has written in his books, which conclusively prove his magnificent character. I go as far as to say, and perhaps demand, that after his eight years as US President (!), Obama should be made the Secretary General of the United Nations for at least a decade more; for the world needs as amazing a leader as Barack Obama if we ever want to even take a shot at one day having true global peace and equitable development of the masses.
But even as I write this, Obama faces daunting challenges in Asia. And the least of those challenges that I’m worried about is Obama’s illogical disposition towards the outsourcing conundrum, with respect to specifically India. Obama has flatly commented that he wishes to restrict the outsourcing business to countries like India. But Obama, for all the gallery motivating statements, would fail double time on this issue. To discourage government departments from outsourcing is one thing, but forcing most competitive American multinationals to follow the example? Leave in high end software consulting and development, in this era of economic deceleration, there is no way that sensible global corporations would follow Obama think to stop IT outsourcing to India simply because of a patriotic appeal, especially when the cost benefits are dramatically expansive, sometimes even reaching 90% cost reductions.
Obama’s biggest challenges lie rather in foreign policy in Asia. And I have many questions. In Iran, Obama faces his predicament, as Bush faced supposedly in Iraq. Iran, and its clearly undiplomatic-mouthed President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, have regularly threatened the US about their intentions to go nuclear. Obama’s challenge lies in the Iran Libya Sanctions Act (after which came the present Iran Sanctions Act), which was in reality put in place in 1995 by the Bill Clinton establishment. The question is, will Obama go against this Act to create his own new liberal politico-think? That has a very slim chance of happening. And under what logic will Obama justify to Iran – which technically has a democratically elected government and was even a close ally of America till 1979 – that a nuclear deal can be signed with India but not with Iran?
And that leaves Obama with a neighbouring headache, remnants of the Bush era – Iraq! Obama has claimed he’s ready to pullout troops from Iraq and relocate them to Afghanistan. And this when the Afghan President Karzai has implored Obama to stay out of Afghanistan... How then would Obama ensure that the weekly bloodied ethnic battles between Shias and Sunnis in Iraq – which occur despite US presence – would not become more regular, god forbid daily? Will Obama also come clean about past US mistakes and reimburse to Iraq the losses they have suffered on account of stolen oil, a devastated economy and a destroyed society, all because of the US? I suspect Obama will not!
If there is North Korea that is threatening to go nuclear for a second time – and Obama’s predecessors have tried everything from hardball to soft pedal the Kim Jong clan – then there is China that is so strong economically that forget criticising China’s clear human right indiscretions, Obama might have to look towards them for an economic bailout in the future. If there are Arabs who’ve been well fed on US money for years and were the main reasons for inflation (by manipulating oil prices to reach historic highs), then there is Israel that only needs a justifiable excuse and a bloodthirsty Hamas to bomb everything in sight in Palestine. Will Obama come out strongly against all of them, now that he is the President? Slim chance again...
And perhaps the worst expected response of the Obama camp will be to the Pakistan issue. Will Obama continue to irrationally mollycoddle India to ‘take it easy’ despite huge casualties in the Mumbai attacks and despite clear evidence of the Pakistan administration’s complicity? I believe that the spineless Indian politicians will actually make his task easier. But the truth is that if Obama, like his ill valued predecessor, continues to finance Pakistan and its leaders in spite of their being a terrorist state, a major part of the Indian populace – which fervently wants to believe in him – would lose complete faith in him and the values that he stands by. For in his response to terror in Asia – especially in the Pakistan-India conflict – lies his biggest nemesis. Slight Pakistan, and Obama risks losing a critical geographical military beachhead in attacking al-Qaeda targets in border regions. Slight India, and Obama risks losing long term support from an economic superpower of the future.
Unfortunately, to top it all, Obama’s fight to save the American economy would take precedence over every other global issue; for the solution to the current slowdown will require a long term structural repair program engineered by global governments, and Obama’s focus would completely be diverted to this issue for most of his first term at least. And that is the irony of it all; that though the world expects gargantuan change from a person who personifies the promise resounding in his words, most of the change would occur in the American continent only. And Asia, for most of it, will remain unchanged... lakhs would continue dying of poverty, many more would suffer ill-health, and lakhs more would succumb fatally to hunger. Asia will sadly remain unchanged.
But that in no way takes away an iota from Obama the fact that history, and future, will never remain the same. In my November 9, 2008, editorial, I was compelled to write: “Above all, it is the United States of America which won today at least the hearts of millions like me all over the world, because today, America has shown that it has in it to finally give respect to a black man at the highest level possible; and this surely will change world history forever.” Today, in Barack Hussein Obama, I see Uncle Tom’s deep emotion resounding in the dream of Martin Luther King Jr., a dream that had beseeched the character of Americans to change to a moment in history when a man would be judged by the content of his character and not by the colour of his skin. Today, in Barack Hussein Obama, I see that undeniable moment in history... And I would not give that up for anything!
1. There is no way that global corporations would follow Obama’s call to stop IT outsourcing to India.
2. Will Obama continue to mollycoddle India to ‘take it easy’ despite clear evidence of Pakistan’s complicity?
- 22 January 2009 |
- Dr. Arindam On America