Obama’s second Term: Marshall Plan to Marshall Islands?
The United States embarked on President Barack Obama’s second term in office with Israel’s attack on Gaza. Obama, who had avoided commenting on the attacks in Israel during his first term with the excuse of not having been yet inaugurated, began his second term by supporting Israel’s new round of attacks on Gaza and by trying to postpone recognition of Palestine’s statehood in the United Nations. Speeches delivered by both Susan Rice and Hillary Clinton during the voting on Palestinian statehood appeared to have been a new page in America’s book on foreign policy. What neither of the speakers recognized was that in calling the vote “unfortunate” and “counterproductive,” they were in fact summarizing the foreign policy the U.S. had followed in the Middle East for decades. Can we in fact recall one U.S. policy in the Middle East that was not “unfortunate” or “counterproductive”? The answer to this question is not all that difficult. The United States, which had actualized the Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe at the end of World War II, today, with the Marshall Islands vote, trapped Middle Eastern politics between a political rock and a hard place. In this sense, Obama’s first years in office were years in which discourses of “post-America,” “global mission,” “emerging powers” and “the end of the empire” peaked. The developments taking place in Obama’s first term in office also intensified the discussions on the U.S.‘s global role.
Clearly, this situation is not simply the result of the U.S.’s political stance in the world. Even more crucial than the political standing were the economic conditions. It was not only the lack of a “visionary political rationale” that stood behind America’s policy to “stand back,” which was perceived as “American reticence” or “indecisiveness.” It was also the need to borrow forty cents on the dollar for every proactive intervention it undertakes. Obama’s second term in office, which was won on the platform of “more America” and “less world,” does not prepare a realistic political ground for the 2016 elections to run on a world-oriented-politics platform. Therefore, in the days to come we will see an administration that has to prioritize domestic problems.
In a scenario in which Obama does not focus on domestic issues, a complicated Mediterranean he did not touch in his first term in office, the still-ambiguous structure of the Asian Pivot policy and a Europe in crisis await the United States. In a scenario in which complete withdrawal from Afghanistan is achieved, there is no real political ground for the United States to follow a proactive policy that requires funds. It is still vague whether the United States – which is signaling a policy preference of more ‘standing back’ with its new security team; John Brennan, Chuck Hagel and John Kerry; compared to Obama’s first term in office – will quietly withdraw, similar to Britain right before World War II.