Three years ago young Barack Hussein Obama, a man with mixed cultural and religious identity, made history when he became the 44th President of the United States. A Black man entered the White House riding a wave of popularity.
Obama promised change, he passionately talked about the change before he became the President. The change occurred; this President is different—but just in appearance.
Obama’s ascend to the top position has demystified some myths and stereotypes about the Black people. Nearly 40 years ago, the U.S. society was segregated on the basis of colour, a section of the U.S. mainstream media, still, portray the Blacks as uncivilized and criminal minded people. In such a society, in Obama, we see a Black man who speaks with a posh accent and is cultured and stylish.
Behind his soft mask, in some ways, Obama is similar to his predecessor George W. Bush, particularly in the foreign policy sphere. Bush was a PR disaster for the United States. He was a bully and he behaved like a gangster. Bush was a White supremacist and a religious fundamentalist, too. He never showed any remorse for his prejudices.
Obama, on the other hand, is a PR guru. He uses his charm and trendy and soft-spoken style to continue pursuing Bush’s policies.
In the beginning Obama showed some courage by taking a different course on international issues such as the question of Palestinians’ right of self-determination and the so-called war on terror. He also appeared to have disagreed with the hard-line Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. However, despite his apparent sincerity and good intentions, President Obama soon developed a reputation for back tracking. He became defensive to appease his bullish opponents.
A CIA operative, Bruce Riedel, is President Obama’s main advisor on the Middle East, Afghanistan and Pakistan. In February 2009, Obama appointed Mr. Riedel as the chair of White House review to overhaul U.S. policy on Afghanistan and Pakistan.
A senior fellow at the Saban Centre in the Brookings Institution, Mr. Riedel is hawkish in his approach and ideology. He is a staunch supporter of Israel and opposes Iran. He is a so-called counterterrorism expert, a man who perceives a key U.S. ally Pakistan as an enemy.
Another architect of the President Obama’s defence policy is his new Defence Secretary Leon Panetta, an Italian-American who led the CIA prior to his new responsibilities. Unlike other spies, Panetta was a known public figure from California before becoming the CIA Director. He worked as the White House Chief of Staff under President Bill Clinton.
In his early life Panetta was a civil right activist and was allegedly friends with a member of the U.S. Communist Party. Panetta has a reputation of a good man and he has been standing for just causes, however, he is not likely to deliver peace in the Middle East or Afghanistan due to his strong connections with the powerful U.S. Jewish lobby.
A devout Catholic, Panetta is considered very close to the Jewish lobby in the United States since the 1970s. He led the change in the U.S. official stance towards the Iranian nuclear program.
In 2007, in its National Intelligence Estimate, the U.S. had concluded that Iran was not pursing to achieve nuclear weapons. But under Panetta, that estimate changed and the CIA claimed that Iran is in pursuit of military nuclear capabilities. Therefore Panetta is not seen as a neutral and objective broker in the Middle East peace because of his pro-Israel policies.
Panetta has already annoyed Pakistan by publically accusing it of harbouring terrorist networks. Under his leadership the U.S military can carry out military operations in Pakistan that would be disastrous not only for that country but for the U.S. interests in the region as well.
Some see a role of U.S. spy agencies behind the growing security cooperation between India and Afghanistan. Again it is not a wise policy by the Obama Administration which seems to rely more on covert diplomacy rather than using open and transparent diplomatic channels.
For the last 60 years, the United States has been undermining civilian governments in Pakistan by wheeling and dealing with military dictators and corrupt generals. In the latest instance, the U.S. support for the military dictator General Pervez Musharraf has harmed Pakistan. The U.S. supported him for nine years and in 2008, the U.S. helped the dictator to escape Pakistan without facing persecution.
It was sad to see the U.S. President Obama publically defending a murderer and mercenary Raymond Davis, who had killed two Pakistanis in the daylight.
The U.S. has been directly financing military dictators who had invaded Pakistan. Due to the continuous U.S. support the military is powerful than any other institution in Pakistan.
The CIA under its new head, General David Petraeus, is engaged in holding contacts with the Taliban, including the Haqqani network, but the U.S. accuses Pakistan of having connections with the Taliban and terrorist networks. It is double talk and double game. The U.S. contempt of democratic process in Pakistan has resulted in complete mistrust in U.S. policies and leadership.
With President Obama playing in the hands of his powerful spy masters, relations between Pakistan and the United States are not likely to improve and there will be little or no progress in Afghanistan either. U.S. intelligence operatives see the world in terms of maintaining the U.S. hegemony, spy agency rivalries and conspiracies. Their mission is not peace, harmony or justice. Leaders who are statesmen lead their spies not accept their dictation.
The President of the world’s sole super power ought to be a statesman, not a showman. However, the United States is not the only country where showmen pretend to be statesmen. For the last few decades, appearance and false image precede content in the Western political system. Lies and manipulation, not truth and honesty, help in winning elections. Tones of money and artificial glitter and shine, not commitment and principles, are the way for politicians to grab top posts.
Obama is young, trendy and glamorous so was Tony Blair who led Britain into disaster after disaster. Blair was successful because he was good in front of cameras. A permanent false grin was his mask. He was a hypocrite who fooled Britons for 12 years as he successfully orchestrated the image of a good guy. Blair’s ability to put positive spin on everything bad was the reason behind his success. However, the British public did not learn any lessons. In form of David Cameron they elected a new version of Tony Blair. Cameron, too, is young, looks cool and has nothing meaningful to offer.
Whether it is French President Nicolas Sarkozy or Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, Western public chose playboys, hypocrites, and shallow and shiny actors who are sexy and cool because Western culture is driven by sports and entertainment industry.
Age, image, money and glamour play central role in recent Western politics. You do not have to be, but you must appear honest. Even if one is an unfaithful husband and an irresponsible father, in public and in front of cameras, politicians must show affection towards their wives and children. It is sign of a deep moral crisis that prevails in Western societies.
Spin doctors, perception mangers and image gurus advise Western politicians on how to behave in public, on use of body language and dress codes. Even tiny details are discussed and crafted. Tough negotiations with television producers and presenters take place before politicians appear on a TV show.
An army of experts and PR specialists work for leaders and politicians basically with one aim—to deceive the public i.e. voters.
In reality the media circus sets the political agenda in the West. Most politicians are puppets of big corporations and interest groups. Western democracies have reduced to mare change of faces without real, positive or meaningful result for their publics. When maintaining the status quo becomes an objective, anarchy spreads and systems collapse or revolutions occur.
Shiraz Paracha is a journalist and analyst. His email is: firstname.lastname@example.org