WASHINGTON – If Obama were an American statesman, then he would get seriously engaged in the foreign crises, from Gaza To the South China Sea, that are now threatening world order. But, in fact, Obama is mostly a politician. Therefore, he focuses only on the unfolding campaign for the mid-term elections and on the issues that will determine how people will vote in November. And international problems –he noted– are very low on the list. Therefore, why worry about them?
Iraq out of control
As we know, there are plenty of international crises out of control. Iraq, until recently the primary focus of US foreign and security policies, is almost falling apart, with a chunk of its territory now controlled by Muslim fanatics who may use this vast territory as a launching pad for new international terror operations. Meanwhile, the Kurds in the north of the country are moving towards de facto secession.
Post-Gaddafi Libya is now essentially a failed state. The Syrian civil war continues, with millions of refugees now in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. Vienna negotiations notwithstanding, Iran is well on its way to get a nuclear weapons capability.
There is a serious probability that the Moscow-funded rebellion in Eastern Ukraine may escalate into a full-blown conflict between a weak and poor Ukraine and a much more powerful Russia.
China is flexing its muscles by attempting to establish legal claims on the territorial waters of neighboring states.
Terror groups are destabilizing parts of Nigeria and now Kenya.
Plenty to do for an American President who would want to lead the world.
Obama is focused on the November mid-term elections
But do not count on American leadership. Obama is not a leader. He is a politician mostly worried about the upcoming mid-term elections to be held in November. He has looked at how all these foreign crises poll. And he has noted, with great relief, that foreign crises do not move many votes.
Yes, Americans do say in various polls that Obama is not doing well in managing US foreign policy. But in the same polls they also indicate that they do not want America to get involved in any new conflict, no matter what may be at stake. Most fundamentally, foreign policy is not a key concern; and therefore it is clear that it will not influence how most people will vote in November.
The economy will decide the elections
The issues that people care about, as always, have to do with the economy. We are talking about jobs, financial security, the burden of student loans, health care costs. To the extent that America is doing a little better on the economic front, if your primary concern is the outcome of the November mid-term elections, then things do not look so bad.
Raise money for TV ads
And it is quite obvious that Obama is focused on the elections, not on US world leadership. Therefore, as a true politician, the President is doing his best to improve the chances of the Democratic Party in November by hopping from fund-raiser to fund-raiser across America, with the goal of getting more and more cash for his party.
He knows very well that the elections in most cases will be won or lost by the candidates who will spend more on TV spots. And TV political commercials cost a lot of money. The more money Obama raises, the better the chances for the Democrats to forcefully counter the attacks of Republican challengers.
In other words, Obama is behaving like a smart politician. Most Americans do not even know where Ukraine is. They will not decide how to vote in November on the basis of Obama’s decisive or weak leadership in that crisis.
Yes, all those who wonder about the consequences of America’s passivity on future world stability are genuinely worried. But they are not even a significant minority of likely voters.
Let’s be frank. The average American does not care about who controls Mosul in Iraq, or Donetsk in Ukraine. And, in fairness, it is very difficult to articulate compelling reasons for US engagement in far away crises that, for the time being, do not touch the lives of average Americans.
Most likely voters care about having a job, affordable housing and health care. As I said, on the domestic front, things are getting a bit better in America. And this may give renewed hope to the Democrats, as they are getting ready to fight for the November elections. Hence Obama’s focus on fund-raising events in order to improve his party’s chances to win.
Obama is a good politician, in fact a shrewd politician; but he is not a statesman.