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Le Devoir, Canada

Barack Obama’s Inauguration:
Low Profile



By Serge Truffaut

It’s a safe bet that he will favor the route of making more or less small gestures and financial aid offers over the negotiation of treaties and military intervention. He will probably do this because he understands and recognizes the limits of American influence.

Translated By Laura Napoli

22 January 2013

Edited by Ketu­rah Hetrick


Canada - Le Devoir - Original Article (French)

Barack Obama kicked off his second term by speaking of the duties that pertain to his generation. What duties? Channeling efforts toward freedom for all, reducing economic inequalities, fighting against global warming and more or less maintaining America’s status in the world. What a big program!

We don’t know who recently made the remark that, unlike his predecessors, Obama concluded his first term in the White House and started his next without one scandal having punctuated the last few years or hovering on the horizon of his next term. In other words, in this respect, the chief executive benefits from moral and political capital that is free from the stains that characterized the administrations of Nixon, Reagan, Clinton and Bush Junior.

We recall that we must stress — or rather, argue — that despite this capital, this new term risks being the mirror image of the first. More precisely, the promises he made yesterday are likely to meet the same fate as those made four years ago — stored away and forgotten in cardboard boxes. To prove this, it will suffice to note that the Guantanamo Bay prison is still open, or that the eternal gap between the rich and the poor remains. But so what? When Obama had in his hands all the cards to discipline and moralize Wall Street after the shocks that produced the worst crisis since 1929, he pussyfooted. And nothing is a better symbol of his deficit policy than the fact that executive bonuses continue to rise.

That being said, it’s very likely that it’s on the immigration and gun control fronts that the 45th* president intends to make his mark on domestic policy. In Washington, it is rumored that he will announce immigration reforms in his State of the Union address — a policy similar to one that Bush tried to pass, giving amnesty to illegal immigrants. We should remember that the “little whites” opposed that with so much vehemence that Bush abandoned the project. On firearms, the opposition to any sort of gun control is already so strong that things look to be heating up quite a bit. That leaves foreign policy.

We must give Obama credit for having finished two of the longest wars America has ever been involved in. These are, of course, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. We should also expect that Asia will be at the heart of the action and concerns of the administration. At the request of many of China’s neighbors, from Japan to Vietnam to South Korea, we will see a redeployment of forces and likely an economic offensive, with the hope that both will reduce Beijing’s appetites.

In fact, for everything he is doing in foreign affairs, and to paraphrase an analysis published in The New York Times, Obama’s strategy of action in Asia, the Middle East and Europe will mirror that developed by Dwight Eisenhower in the 1950s. Already, Obama’s strategy during the first term was largely similar to that of his Republican predecessor, with his inclination for the defensive. Now, it’s a safe bet that he will favor the route of making more or less small gestures and financial aid offers over the negotiation of treaties and military intervention.

He will probably do this because he understands and recognizes the limits of American influence.

*Editor’s note: Obama is the 44th president, not the 45th.



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