Christopher Lee

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Wrong candiates, Wrong election for Americans – 2016 is the year to watch

 

29 October 2012

President Obama said this week that America has to expand its global leadership idea and spread good US values – and if necessary send in the military to enforce those values. The Republican would-be president, Mitt Romney said the same thing. Make America stronger and fix the world whatever it takes – including lives.

That sounds about right for the traditional American view of what the world needs is soft power heavily enforced with firepower. So whoever comes out ahead on 6 November has it clearly set out for the voters and will presumably have a mandate: make America tough-guy of the world again and the economy will do well because the list of complying allies will increase and in will come the trade etc

There’s one election snag in this: there is no evidence that the American electorate believes this.  Moreover, there is serious polling evidence that the electorate don’t buy into this foreign policy philosophy.

The Pew Research Centre polls during the past four weeks detect that few Americans see the benefits of a global reach foreign policy. At first sight this is isolationist rising once more and, after the Iraq wars and the conflict in Afghanistan, this may not surprise.  However, there is an extension of this that shows a broader global understanding in America than is sometimes featured: Americans predictably say that world leadership has not done America much good; but they are also saying in the Pew research that they do not believe it has done anyone anywhere any good either.

 All this is more or less what America was saying after the 1914-1918 war into which President Wilson led them into a conflict without reason nor benefit and then refused to endorse his own plan for the League of Nations that was one consequence.

Andrew Kohut the Pew president agrees and goes further: “There’s dramatically more isolationist sentiment than there’s been for some time,” he says and adds that this was the mood after Vietnam and perhaps at the end of the Cold War two decades ago.

A further example of America’s electorate having  more than a superficial grasp of foreign affairs than imagined, is the poling that shows the majority of Americans don’t think that the so-called Arab Spring has done much for Arabs.  

This suggests that America should go along with moderate dictators (they would, ironically, include ex-Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak in this group) and stop pretending that Washington or London can deliver their kind of democracy anywhere outside their own borders.

Noticeably, Romney agrees with Obama that it was right to get rid of America’s strongest and trusted ally, Mubarak.  The further contradiction is that both Republic and Democrat administrations for more than half a century have had a core foreign policy ambition that Israel should be protected at all costs. Hence the Mubarak irony; Egypt was part of the protection for Israel and had been since President Carter brought together Menachen Begin and Anwar Sadat in 1979.  

It is in this example that we see the economic-military-politico pull-together.  Protecting Israeli and the Middle East protects the vital interest of the US – oil.

But now, we have through the Pew Research Center this month, evidence that almost 70 per cent of the US electorate believe Washington should keep out of leadership changes in the Middle East. That same poll suggested  57 per cent believe the Middle East should be stable government if there were was not so much emphasis on democracy.
So more than half America’s electorate didn’t believe the ME uprisings would or even, could improve the lot of the people. The final number is important if the American President is to know his nation’s mood: only 13 per cent of Americans believe it is important to promote democracy. produce lasting improvements for their populations.

Behind some of this mood is the correct understanding that countries beefed up by American aid eventually despise the Americans.

So what’s the problem for the President?  It seems he has a mandate from his people to stay at home and fix the economy stupid. The problem Mr President is that the rest of the world in trouble believe that America is the lead nation in fixing whatever problems they have. Pew calls this the role of the “indispensable nation”. It’s one no President wants to over-exercise, not does he want to step aside from its onerous burden.

The consolation for the presidential hopefuls is that foreign policy does not decide the outcome of elections.

The debate in Florida last Monday was well timed.  The electorate has more or less made up its mind how it will vote. Therefore the foreign policy stuff was Okay for Florida.  It mattered not excepting that America’s mood on this subject has been illustrated more than before by Pew.

At the end of the day, it is the economy that decides where the crosses go.  The further difficulty is for Americans not so much the candidates.  All these poling figures show an American mood that doesn’t quite expect to be satisfied at the election.  In other words, neither Democrats nor Republicans have the candidates they want.  

For that reason alone it is better that Obama stays on and then the whole choosing process for both Parties will be better placed to begin the 2016 election with a clean sheet.

But no matter how the world goes between now and then – just think what an Iran obscured by a mushroom cloud could mean – the main issue will still be the economy and that, ain’t stupid. But, if the Pew mood is right, then which Party stays out of foreign problems, will find themselves off to a good start.

Thus November 2016 is the one to watch for.

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