Has Obama's Political Neutralism Come to an End?
14 August 2016
By Abdulrahman Al-Rashed
The upcoming US elections are considered unusual by all standards. This is not
only because one of the contestants is a boisterous businessman who has
nothing to do with political affairs and the second is the first woman to try
her luck as a candidate for the presidency, but also because the world has
changed a lot in light of the near absence of US leadership during Barack
The Middle East has become an explosive volcano, plagued with war and chaos.
Terrorism has spread and is an unparalleled threat to the world. Europe is
also experiencing serious crises; there is a rising tide of extreme
nationalism, immigration is threatening its social and political systems and
the European Union is at risk of disintegrating. In addition to this, the old
western front against Russian influence may not survive without a strong new
US administration. There are conflicts in the South China Sea which have
finally exploded and tensions have reached an unprecedented stage. This has
turned President Obama's dream of Atlantic cooperation into a nightmare of
conflicts over islands, borders and resources.
These are all issues that the next president will inherit, whether that is
Trump or Clinton. Can the next president continue with Obama's isolationist
approach or will he/she revive the principle of defending interests and the
role of the global policeman?
Events during the seven difficult years of the Obama administration have
demonstrated that a lack of intervention and active participation has not
decreased the dangers that the United States is faced with. ISIS is more
dangerous today than Al-Qaeda was yesterday, and the terrorist group has grown
as a result of full US withdrawal which has left it free to spread in Iraq,
Syria and Libya.
A new American president might not resolve these issues. However, the will to
cooperate with other countries to stop the conflicts and stop their flames
from spreading is necessary. This optimism does not reduce the extraordinary
global anxiety surrounding the US elections that will take place less than
three months from now due to Donald Trump whose extremist views have spread.
However, we realise that the United States is a state of institutions that are
not governed by the whims of individuals. The president can only work within
institutional frameworks, whether he/she decides on intervention or
The United States has more than 600 military bases in about forty countries
and has an arsenal of weapons to destroy the world many times. The arsenal is
governed by laws and regulations that prevent the president from doing as he
The president is required to obtain the approval of legislative institutions
before launching a war despite being the Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the
Armed Forces. The president must also gain the favour of many centres of
influence with the support of a large proportion of the American people.
Therefore, the rise of individuals such as Trump should not be feared, no
matter how much they exceed the bounds when talking about their approaches to
the management of international relations.
Al Rashed is the general manager of Al -Arabiya television. He is also the
former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al- Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly
magazine, Al Majalla. He is also a senior Columnist in the daily newspapers of
Al Madina and Al Bilad. He is a US post-graduate degree in mass
communications. He has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is
currently based in Dubai.