The American press seized the opportunity at the UN General Assembly meeting- where US president Barack Obama delivered a speech- to refer to a list of promises the Obama had been making over the past eight months in the White House and during his election campaign that undoubtedly built bridges between the US and sceptical international public opinion after eight years of the Bush administration.
The overall impression of these promises was that many of them clashed with the facts and obstacles on the ground and with balances of power and international political manoeuvres that are dominated by interests. This caused the new administration to review its policies on the Middle East, North Korea and Afghanistan, and even on the closure of Guantanamo Bay detention camp in light of the difficulties of finding alternative locations to house detainees.
In other words, the honeymoon period that took over the world’s imagination and that was accompanied with grand expectations is over. This was expressed by officials from the administration such as the US ambassador who admitted last week that the expectations were excessive. The obstacles that emerged during the process of bridging the gap between the Arabs and Palestinians caused a delay in paving the way for negotiations as was expressed previously regarding the US vision of the peace process during the UN General Assembly meetings. Meanwhile, the policy of engaging in dialogue with Iran is still experiencing difficulties on Tehran’s part because of the nuclear file, and debate in this regard is yet to take any specific course. The same situation applies to Afghanistan, where the commander of the US troops warned of losing the battle there if the number of troops is not increased, whilst there was other news that [the US administration is] considering a reduction in the number of troops and concentrating on the fight against Al Qaeda.
Perhaps this administration is unlucky to have to deal with such problems externally…problems that are close to breaking point whether in the Middle East or Asia (the problem of the North Korean nuclear capabilities) and the unprecedented global financial crisis that the administration had to face from day one, in addition to the internal debate over health insurance.
However, the expectations of providing instant solutions to issues that have been complicated for decades now are unrealistic, and reflect a disregard of the facts on the ground and of the abilities and the influence of local parties, and their intentions to direct the crisis towards détente or to complicate matters further.
In addition, such hardships and obstacles do not necessarily mean that there is no hope on the horizon, or that we should despair once again over the changes this administration will make. Even though eight months have passed [since the administration came to power], the administration has maintained the momentum of a new administration, and Obama still gains a lot of publicity inside and outside of the US, which gives weight and legitimacy to the efforts of his administration in its international endeavours.
Over the next period we are likely to witness revisions of the trends and mechanisms that were adopted to solve foreign crises.
Perhaps, most importantly, over the next period we should witness more action from other parties to contribute to- and assist in- providing solutions, because what President Obama said at the UN about the US not being able to solve the world’s problems alone is true.