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Saturday, February 13, 2016

Barack Obama: “History Will Absolve Me”

The legacy machine is now running strong on the last days of Barack Obama’s “transformational” presidency. Talleyrand is fortunate, not only to have perfect historical hindsight but also to have a hidden crystal ball. He sets it to 2020 and it tells him the following:

For all that a few wags touted Obama as the American Gorbachev—pushing his country in a direction of necessary “reform” before it was ready for it, and, rather than persuading people that it was right, insisted that they comply because his judgment was better than theirs—Obama has proven them wrong. For one thing, the United States—that great modern imperial experiment—has not dissolved. No territory has seceded. There is no Commonwealth of American States. And, apart from the occasional Shays-style rebellion out West, no Chechen wars. Peace, harmony and union remain intact and in force.

Obama’s signature domestic achievement—imposing a requirement upon all Americans to purchase expensive health insurance—remains the law of the land. Many Americans are a bit healthier, if only more than a bit poorer.

His other domestic priorities—harmonious relations among the races; a more civilized and civil level of political discourse; an end to “gun culture” and a steep decline in the murder rate; a fair immigration policy; an even fairer justice system; greater economic opportunities for everyone; and a serious commitment to reversing the damage from climate change—have all come about. America in 2020 now ranks one notch below Norway and two notches about Sweden, Japan and Germany in all these areas.

His priorities in foreign policy also show remarkable prescience, patience and success.

--China has got the message of his “pivot to Asia” and has decided at long last to be a good neighbour to everyone, even the Vietnamese and Filipinos, has dismantled North Korea’s nuclear weapons arsenal, and has even signed a collective security treaty with Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Russia. The American mantra of “win-win” now tops the charts of fashionable mottoes in Beijing.

--The European Union—minus the UK, Greece and Spain, and the Euro, alas, but now with an independent Scotland and Catalonia—survives and promises the world to thrive under renewed German leadership.

--Vladimir Putin and his clique have been hounded from power by an emboldened democratic movement, which has speedily restored the Crimea to Ukraine and disavowed any further “revisionist” moves by Soviet nostalgics. The reformed Russian Federation has begun membership talks with the EU following a joint initiative with Germany.

--The Middle East has reached the limit of its bloodthirst, as Iran, Saudi Arabia and their respective proxies have called off their rivalry after faced with a unified NATO-Russia ultimatum in Syria, Yemen and everywhere else. The region’s two leading powers are now cooperating with Egypt, the Gulf States and every other presumptive regional power for a peaceful, stable and even democratic future. This new trend has even persuaded the Israelis to make nice to the Palestinians, and to offer them in good faith the viable state they have so long coveted.

And so, at long last, the United States and its friends and allies around the world can look forward to a future cultivating their own gardens first, without having to worry or wring hands about interventions hither and yon. For the rest of the world is cultivating the same, as it should be doing, in the ideal, just and sensible realm of our imagination, as it has learnt to do, under the deistic hand of the Americans. It just took a bit of patience, luck and faith in the “fierce urgency of now” to get us there.

Hope, it is said, is the last thing to die.

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