Obama vs Romney: My take

Obama vs Romney: My take

OKLAHOMA – I am on a two-week-long book tour in the United States, which takes me from city to city, state to state. And besides my doing my job, which is talking to audiences at colleges and churches, I try to observe what is happening in America.

The biggest happening, of course, is the presidential race between President Barack Obama and his opponent, Governor Mitt Romney. I had the chance to watch their third and final debate on TV with a group of very “red” (i.e. Republican) Americans, who were inclined to see Romney as the winner. (Oklahoma is a very “red” state in which Obama fans are as rare as churchgoers in Amsterdam.) But, objectively speaking, Obama seemed to be the winner, as he will probably be on the night of November 6, when the elections will be held.

Is this wishful thinking, though, in contrast to my wishfully thinking friends whose bets went for Romney? Perhaps a bit. I can’t hide that I sympathize with Obama, especially on foreign policy issues, and hope to see him in the White House for a second term. Like most people in the world, I see his willingness to be multilateral as far preferable to the unilateral dictates of the previous administration.
But it also seems to be an objective view to give a better chance to Obama. It is true that he has not been able to create the miracles people expected from him, yet still his first term can be considered successful. And on TV debates, especially the last two, he has proven to be more assuring than Romney.

What I find particularly interesting in the criticisms that Obama has received from the Republicans is their similarity to the criticisms that Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan has received from Turkish nationalists.

Here is what I mean: Both Obama and Erdoğan tried “openings” to reach out to the actors that are considered enemies by their nations. Obama tried to open a new page with Iran, a country which resonates with “terrorism” in the minds of many Americans. Erdoğan tried to reach an agreement with the PKK, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which is a terrorist group by both Turkish and American definitions.

None of these efforts have proven fruitful so far. Obama’s “unclenched fist” did not find a very warm response on the Iranian side. Hence the tensions between Washington and Tehran continue. Erdoğan’s effort to disarm the PKK has not worked so far, and the group keeps on launching attacks on Turkish targets.

This has given the Republicans in the U.S. and Turkish nationalists in Turkey (such as the Nationalist Action Party – MHP) a good propaganda line: being “weak on terrorism.” Both Obama and Erdoğan have been accused of that, and of not being bold and aggressive enough against “our enemies.”
However, the “openings” of both leaders can still work. (The British deal with the IRA took a long time.) Moreover, even if they will not work, such efforts to use diplomacy before force give one the moral high ground. “We tried all other options,” a leader can say, instead of looking aggressive and arrogant.
In other words, I see the “dovish” position that both leaders represent when compared to the hawks in their respective countries as helpful to both those countries and the world. And while this perspective does not sell much here in Oklahoma, I hope it will make sense to more Americans on Election Day.