It is as though Obama’s second term began in Seoul
It is true that there are still seven months until the U.S. presidential election in November. It is true that we do not know yet who will be the Republican candidate to challenge Barack Obama. But reports show that there is not only a lack of enthusiasm on the Republican front, but also a lack of charismatic and convincing candidates. Plus, there is Obama, who has not only fulfilled some important promises made to his voters, such as withdrawing troops from Iraq and passing a healthcare reform bill, but who has also managed to put the U.S. economy back on track and begun to create new jobs once again.
Perhaps it is for all those reasons that world leaders treat Obama as their working partner for the near future. And Obama acts like one, as everyone could observe at this week’s nuclear summit in Seoul. It is not only because the time span of the projects and policies he is trying to impose goes well beyond the end of his first term in office at the end of this year; it is clear in the body language he uses, from the way he tapped the shoulder of Russian President Dimitry Medvedev while posing for cameras, to the way that he beckoned Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu to join a meeting, while remaining close to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Obama is trying to show everyone that he is the one who will be around for some time to come.
So what can we assume regarding world policies, if he is really going to be elected for a second term? What kind of effect will that have on the world’s economy and politics? We can get an idea about that from the messages he has been sending in Seoul.
First of all, Obama’s stance on the nuclear issue, which is not limited to Iran’s nuclear program: Obama is seeking to reduce the overall nuclear arsenal, and has called on Russia for another round of limits on strategic nuclear weapons. This could be seen in the framework of reducing arms (or defense, to be more diplomatic) spending. It is a fact that Europe is also reducing its defense spending as a consequence of the economic crisis. The NATO Summit to be held in Chicago in May will be all about spending less and sharing burdens while remaining effective. That is what they call a “smart defense” strategy.
Second, in order to spend less and still be able to deter threats, the nature of defense structures must change. In Obama’s possible second term, we will probably not talk about occupying armies, but about guerilla-type hit-and-run military operations by U.S. forces, operating from naval fleets as needed.
Third, Obama has already turned his focus to America’s competition with China for trade and energy sources. So the focus will be on the Pacific and Indian Oceans, not the same regions of the world as previously. There U.S. has friends to look after the older energy and trade routes, such as Britain, Germany, France, Spain, Turkey, Israel, and, yes, Saudi Arabia, who must get along due to their strategic preferences despite various disputes and feuds amongst themselves.
This could be the design for a possible Obama second term. But what will the actual circumstances be? That is not easy to tell in a quickly transforming world.