News

Obama’s First Year Disappoints Many Abroad

U.S. President Barack Obama’s sagging approval ratings aren’t only a domestic phenomenon.  The international community is expressing similar emotions about a president who initially offered high hopes, but failed to meet their expectations.

While one year does not make a presidency, some who observe reaction from abroad say there is widespread disappointment that Mr. Obama hasn’t produced more of the results he had led them to expect.

Like many around the world, the international media greeted the Obama presidency with high hopes for a new era of improved relations with Washington.  They were largely enthusiastic about Mr. Obama’s pledges to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center, to forge a new relationship with the Muslim world, to end an unpopular war in Iraq, to re-direct U.S. military resources to Afghanistan, to seek diplomatic solution to nuclear issues, and to tackle climate change.  But despite some progress, these goals remain to be met.

Middle East Peace Remains Elusive

Perhaps nowhere is the gap between the administration’s goals and its accomplishments more apparent than in the Middle East.  Despite naming a special envoy in an attempt to bring Israelis and Palestinians to the negotiating table, the prospects of that happening any time soon remain slim.  “People in the Arab world are deeply disappointed in Mr. Obama,” says Nadia Bilbassy, senior news correspondent with the Middle East Broadcasting Center. 

“People think of President Obama as a good guy with good intentions, but so far – if you look at the issues in the Middle East – he has not succeeded in any of them,” Bilbassy observes.  She says appointing Senator George Mitchell as his envoy to the Middle East may have been a good idea, but she notes the move has yet to bear fruit. 

While Bilbassy notices “some people doubt President Obama’s has the guts to challenge things,” she acknowledges the issues between the Israelis and the Palestinians have stymied other presidents, and that the obstacles to overcome are enormous. 

“When you have an Israeli government that is not willing to make peace, and you have Palestinian factions that are divided and unable to get their act together, it’s very tough to move forward,” Bilbassy says.

Iran and Iraq

U.S. efforts to deal with the Iranian leadership – whether on its nuclear ambitions or the crackdown on its political opposition – have also come up short, according to Bilbassy.   But again, she admits Iran’s leadership presents problems to most of the international community.

“Obviously, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s tactic for staying in power is being anti-American and standing up to the superpower.  But regardless of who’s in power, I think the Iranian government will pursue a nuclear Iran because they see it as in their strategic interest in a volatile region,” Bilbassy says.

Just as President Obama once again promised in his State of the Union address this week to have all U.S. combat troops out of Iraq by the end of August, Bilbassy says she believes Washington seems to be losing some of its “former clout” there.  She says Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has basically ignored U.S. pressure to open up the March elections to a wide range of Sunni candidates. 

South Asia

President Obama’s failure to mention Pakistan and its role in the war on terror has caused some resentment there.  His stature in much of South Asia is declining, according to former Pakistani diplomat and journalist Akbar Ahmed.  “People had immense hopes and expectations of him, almost too much for an ordinary mortal,” Ahmed says. 

Part of the reason for that disappointment may be that the United States and Pakistan have different priorities. “In South Asia, the big issue between India and Pakistan is the resolution of the state of Kashmir,” according to Ahmed.  And although Mr. Obama seemed to recognize that point before he became president, Ahmed says he has not mentioned it publically since that time.

“The two countries have to be encouraged to sit down and resolve these issues because both are nuclear and their combined population is one-fourth to one-fifth of the entire planet,” Ahmed notes.

Early in his presidency, Mr. Obama appointed Richard Holbrooke as special envoy to both Pakistan and Afghanistan.  The move signaled the region had become a new diplomatic priority for the United States.  “I was really excited,” says Ahmed. “I said, my God, finally an American president not only understands but feels for the region and will deliver.”

“But, despite the enormous aid package President Obama promised,” Ahmed continues, “the ordinary people of Afghanistan and Pakistan feel their lives have not been changed one iota as a result of his very generous aid.”

Like the roadblocks that hinder peace talks in the Middle East, Ahmed notes that President Obama inherited a set of what he calls “cumulative problems” in the Muslim world.  “We need to remember that Muslim leaders in Afghanistan and Pakistan have to begin to think of their own societies and not rely entirely on America,” Ahmed says.

Europe’s Different View of Obama 

Western Europe seems to project President Obama in a better light, where he has better polling numbers than he does in the United States.  “Europeans are particularly disappointed that the American people seem unwilling to follow their President on issues such as climate change,” says German journalist Christian Wernicke of the Sueddeutsche Zeitung.

The Next Three Years

Barack Obama’s job approval ratings fell by near record numbers during his first year in office .  History shows such a downward trend is not uncommon for newly-elected presidents.  While he remains personally popular – both at home and abroad – many people are disappointed Mr. Obama has been unable to bring about the changes that were expected of him in his first year.
We are reminded that a U.S. president’s time in office lasts at least four years.  With three years before he must face re-election, President Obama still has time to show what he can do.

Listen to VOA Radio for Judith Latham's INTERNATIONAL PRESS CLUB, heard throughout the day every Thursday on  VOA's "World News Now."

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs