Obama's legacy: Cuba, Iran, and silly, PC Brit-bashing
Barack Obama's international legacy will come down to a probably reasonable move to reconcile with Cuba, a possibly disastrous deal with Iran, and, this side of the pond, a gratuitous history of Brit-bashing based on shallow political correctness
At last Obama has secured his ‘legacy’ and in the most unusual and unexpected circumstances. Perhaps the most serious criticisms levied against him relate to foreign policy. Obama’s foreign policy has been not to have one.
Under his stewardship, America has progressively withdrawn from the world, leaving an open field for China and Russia. And yet his legacy will be two historic foreign policy ‘triumphs’.
First up is Cuba.
For 56 years the two countries have been scowling and snarling at each other. The American posture has been diplomatic lunacy. It embargoed all trade, including that by foreign companies with American interests. It banned travel between the two countries. It ended all diplomatic relations.
It banned oil exports, leaving Russia with an open goal to supply Cuba in an oil-for-sugar barter agreement that allowed Moscow to establish a major foothold in the Caribbean and threatened American security and interests throughout Latin America.
Most disastrously, it engendered the Cuban missile crisis which brought the world to the brink of nuclear war.
Not only was American policy plain daft; it was counter-productive. It allowed communism to become entrenched in Cuba by allowing Castro to use the existential threat from the US to crush any semblance of dissent.
And it allowed Castro to present himself to Latin America and the world as the Hispanic hero who stood-up to the bullying Yanqui.
Now Obama has begun the process of normalisation. And not before time.
Next is the Iran deal which might -- just -- end a stand-off between the two that has lasted for nearly four decades. There is a wider context than only America. The deal was endorsed by six world powers and the EU.
Will it work?
The antis think it a defeat, a sell-out. Israel calls it ‘an historic disaster’. There may be considerable substance in their fears.
The regime of the ayatollahs has been characterised by meddling and mischief-making of the highest order throughout most of the Middle East. It is interfering in Iraq and Syria, supporting Hizbullah in Lebanon; and stirring up trouble in Yemen and Bahrain.
Lifting sanctions will release more money for fomenting trouble.
The supporters believe that Iran’s nuclear ambitions will be stymied for 10 to 15 years, by which time re-joining the world, attracting trade, investment and tourism, and bringing prosperity to the much put-upon population will be the country's overriding priorities.
After all, the regime itself could be threatened by the worsening of the condition of the people through extended sanctions.
What options do the antis propose? There seem to be only two; wait for a better deal, or war. The first is unlikely and the West has learnt from its adventures in Iraq that the second makes matters worse, much worse.
If the deal works it will secure Obama’s place in history. But there is one legacy that he might not wish to remember.
The British tend to regard some US Presidents with affection (FDR, Ronnie. Ike) or indifference (Carter).
Obama is possibly the only POTUS in living memory who has been actively disliked in the UK, (with the possible exception of George W. Bush, though that was for ideological reasons). The explanation is not difficult to find.
He maintains that his grandfather (whom he never knew) was imprisoned and tortured by the British for his part in the Mau Mau uprising.
We are informed that this was the reason why Obama threw out the bust of Winston Churchill whom he regarded as a colonialist oppressor. The fact that Winnie was half-American, an honorary American citizen and idolised by most Americans was of little consequence.
We regarded this as a studied insult to the British people as a whole.
There are no records of his being jailed at all, although there has been an anecdote circulating that he was locked up for 6 months in 1949. On what charge there is no evidence, but it could not have been for a Mau Mau connection because the uprising only began three years later, in 1952.
He was a Luo. Mau Mau were Kikuyu. He came from western Kenya, far away from the violence. He was a Muslim. Mau Mau were animists who bound their supporters by vile oaths.
Most of the sources for this tale are garbage. One maintains that it was Obama’s father who was locked up, and that Mao Mao (not Mau Mau) is so-called because they were followers of Chinese communism.
The only known ‘atrocity’ was the killing of eleven detainees at the Hola Detention camp. There was a full enquiry as a result of which all detention camps were closed.
Then there was his contemptuous treatment of Gordon Brown when Brown visited him and the belittling gift of DVDs which were not playable on the UK system anyway.
Finally there were his outrageous attacks on BP during the immediate aftermath of the oil rig tragedy when the causes and responsibility were unknown.
He made great play of ‘British Petroleum’ although it has not been called this for years, it is an international company, no longer British, and the rig was not only under the auspices of BP America based in Texas but largely managed by Halliburton, Dick Cheney’s paymaster.
But never let the truth get in the way of some Brit-bashing.
Robin Mitchinson is a Contributing Editor to The Commentator. A former barrister, living in the Isle of Man, he is an international public management specialist with almost two decades of experience in institutional development, decentralisation and democratisation processes. He has advised governments and major international institutions across the world
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