Такую вот статью ребята из Стратфора подкинули. Америка прекрасная между изоляционизмом и проактивностью
By George Friedman
STRATFOR does not normally involve itself in domestic American politics. Our focus is on international affairs, and American politics, like politics everywhere, is a passionate business. The vilification from all sides that follows any mention we make of American politics is both inevitable and unpleasant. Nevertheless, it’s our job to chronicle the unfolding of the international system, and the fact that the United States is moving deeply into an election cycle will affect American international behavior and therefore the international system.
The United States remains the center of gravity of the international system. The
The American system was designed to be a phased process. By separating the selection of the legislature from the selection of the president, the founders created a system that did not allow for sudden shifts in personnel. Unlike parliamentary systems, in which the legislature and the leadership are intimately linked, the institutional and temporal uncoupling of the system in the United States was intended to control the passing passions by leaving about two-thirds of the U.S. Senate unchanged even in a presidential election year, which always coincides with the election of the House of Representatives. Coupled with senatorial rules, this makes it difficult for the president to govern on domestic affairs. Changes in the ideological tenor of the system are years in coming, and when they come they stay a long time. Mostly, however, the system is in gridlock. Thomas Jefferson said that a government that governs least is the best. The United States has a vast government that rests on a system in which significant change is not impossible but which demands a level of consensus over a period of time that rarely exists.
This is particularly true in domestic politics, where the complexity is compounded by the uncertainty of the legislative branch. Consider that the healthcare legislation passed through major compromise is still in doubt, pending court rulings that thus far have been contradictory. All of this would have delighted the founders if not the constantly trapped presidents, who frequently shrug off their limits in the domestic arena in favor of
The Burden of the Past
The point of this is that all U.S. presidents live within the framework in which Barack Obama is now operating. First, no president begins with a clean slate. All begin with the unfinished work of the prior administration. Thus, George W. Bush began his presidency with an al Qaeda whose planning and implementation for 9/11 was already well under way. Some of the al Qaeda operatives who would die in the attack were already in the country. So, like all of his predecessors, Obama assumed the presidency with his agenda already laid out.
Obama had a unique set of problems. The first was his agenda, which focused on ending the Iraq war and reversing social policies in place since Ronald Reagan became president in 1981. By the time Obama entered office, the
Obama’s campaign was about more than particular policies. He ran on a platform that famously promised change and hope. His tremendous political achievement was in framing those concepts in such a way that they were interpreted by voters to mean precisely what they wanted them to mean without committing Obama to specific policies. To the anti-war faction it meant that the wars would end. To those concerned about unilateralism it meant that unilateralism would be replaced by multilateralism. To those worried about growing inequality it meant that he would end inequality. To those concerned about industrial jobs going overseas it meant that those jobs would stay in the United States. To those who hated Guantanamo it meant that Guantanamo would be closed.
Obama created a coalition whose expectations of what Obama would do were shaped by them and projected on Obama. In fact, Obama never quite said what his supporters thought he said. His supporters thought they heard that he was anti-war. He never said that. He simply said that he opposed Iraq and thought Afghanistan should be waged. His strategy was to allow his followers to believe what they wanted so long as they voted for him, and they obliged. Now, this is not unique to Obama. It is how presidents get elected. What was unique was how well he did it and the problems it caused once he became president.
It must first be remembered that, contrary to the excitement of the time and faulty memories today, Obama did not win an overwhelming victory. About 47 percent of the public voted for someone other than Obama. It was certainly a solid victory, but it was neither a landslide nor a mandate for his programs. But the excitement generated by his victory created the sense of victory that his numbers didn’t support.
Another problem was that he had no programmatic preparation for the reality he faced. September 2008 changed everything in the sense that it created financial and economic realities that ran counter to the policies he envisioned. He shaped those policies during the primaries and after the convention, and they were based on assumptions that were no longer true after September 2008. Indeed, it could be argued that he was elected because of September 2008. Prior to the meltdown, John McCain had a small lead over Obama, who took over the lead only after the meltdown. Given that the crisis emerged on the Republicans’ watch, this made perfect sense. But shifting policy priorities was hard because of political commitments and inertia and perhaps because the extremities of the crisis were not fully appreciated.
Obama’s economic policies did not differ wildly from Bush’s — indeed, many of the key figures had served in the Federal Reserve and elsewhere during the Bush administration. The Bush administration’s solution was to print and insert money into financial institutions in order to stabilize the system. By the time Obama came into power, it was clear to his team that the
A Foreign Policy Problem
This was coupled with his foreign policy problem. Among Democrats, the anti-war faction was a significant bloc. Most Democrats did not support Obama with anti-war reasons as their primary motivator, but enough did make this the priority issue that he could not win if he lost this bloc. This bloc believed two things. The first was that the war in Iraq was unjustified and harmful and the second was that it emerged from an administration that was singularly insensitive to the world at large and to the European alliance in particular. They supported Obama because they assumed not only that he would end wars — as well as stop torture and imprisonment without trial — but that he would also re-found American foreign policy on new principles.
The relationship was no better under Obama than under Bush. It wasn’t personality or ideology that mattered. It was simply that Germany, as the prime example, had different interests than the United States. This was compounded by the differing views and approaches to the global financial crisis. Whereas the Americans were still interested in Afghanistan, the Europeans considered Afghanistan a much lower priority than the financial crisis. Thus, U.S.-European relations remained frozen.
The European response to Obama the president as opposed to Obama the candidate running against George Bush slowly reverberated among his supporters. Not only had he failed to end the wars, he doubled down and surged forces into Afghanistan. And the continued hostility toward the United States from the Islamic world reverberated among those on the Democratic left who were concerned with such matters. Add to that the failure to close Guantanamo and a range of other issues concerning the war on terror and support for Obama crumbled.
A Domestic Policy Focus
His primary victory, health-care reform, was the foundation of an edifice that was never built. Indeed, the reform bill is caught in the courts, and its future is as uncertain as it was when the bill was caught in Congress. The Republicans, as expected, agree on nothing other than Obama’s defeat. The Democrats will support him; the question is how enthusiastic that support will be.
Obama’s support now stands at 41 percent. The failure point for a president’s second term lurks around 35 percent. It is hard to come back from there. Obama is not there yet. The loss of another six points would come from his Democratic base (which is why 35 is the failure point; when you lose a chunk of your own base, you are in deep trouble). At this point, however, the president is far less interested in foreign policy than he is in holding his base together and retaking the middle. He did not win by a large enough margin to be able to lose any of his core constituencies. He may hope that his Republican challenger will alienate the center, but he can’t count on that. He has to capture his center and hold his left.
That means he must first focus on domestic policy. That is where the public is focused. Even the Afghan war and the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq are not touching nerves in the center. His problem is twofold. First, it is not clear that he can get anything past Congress. He can then argue that this is Congress’ fault, but the Republicans can run against Congress as well. Second, it is not clear what he would propose. The Republican right can’t be redeemed, but what can Obama propose that will please the Democratic core and hold the center? The Democratic core wants taxes. The center doesn’t oppose taxes (it is merely uneasy about them), but it is extremely sensitive about having the taxes eaten up by new spending — something the Democratic left supports. Obama is trapped between two groups he must have that view the world differently enough that bridging the gap is impossible.
The founders gave the United States a government that, no matter how large it gets, can’t act on domestic policy without a powerful consensus. Today there is none, and therefore there can’t be action. Foreign policy isn’t currently resonating with the American public, so any daring initiatives in that arena will likely fail to achieve the desired domestic political end. Obama has to hold together a coalition that is inherently fragmented by many different understandings of what his presidency is about. This coalition has weakened substantially. Obama’s attention must be on holding it together. He cannot resurrect the foreign policy part of it at this point. He must bet on the fact that the coalition has nowhere else to go. What he must focus on is domestic policy crafted to hold his base and center together long enough to win the election.
The world, therefore, is facing at least 14 months with the United States being at best reactive and at worse non-responsive to events. Obama has never been a foreign policy president; events and proclivity (I suspect) have always drawn him to domestic matters. But between now and the election, the political configuration of the United States and the dynamics of his presidency will force him away from foreign policy.
This at a time when the Persian Gulf is coming to terms with the
The point of this analysis is to try to show the dynamics that have led the United States to this position, and to sketch the international landscape in broad strokes. The U.S.president will not be deeply engaged in the world for more than a year. Thus, he will have to cope with events pressed on him. He may undertake initiatives, such as trying to revive the Middle East peace process, but such moves would have large political components that would make it difficult to cope with realities on the ground. The rest of the world knows this, of course. The question is whether and how they take advantage of it.