Continental Comparisons: How Well Did We Really Fare in 2011?
On the evening of January 24th, 2012, as millions of Americans were glued to their television screens watching President Obama’s third State of the Union, another topic was on the mind of citizens in the Middle East: the one-year anniversary of January 25th, 2011, recognized by many as the start of the still-ongoing “Arab Spring”.
In his State of the Union address, although Obama mentioned the turmoil in the Middle East, his main focus was progress made at home in the past year, and his proposed initiatives to boost the U.S. economy in 2012. Especially in an election year which will be dominated by talk of jobs and recession, it is understandable that Obama wouldn’t focus on the goings-on in far away parts of the world. However, in a year that has been dominated by international news, Obama could do well by comparing the U.S. to other countries, and in emphasizing his foreign policy achievements even more. We shouldn’t forget that one of Obama’s biggest primary fights with Hillary Clinton was over his lack of foreign policy experience, however, with the help of now Secretary of State Clinton, he has achieved a great deal overseas.
Obama has had no trouble touting his achievements in hunting down and conducting a raid to kill 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden, but in the past 3 years he has severely diminished al-Qaeda’s overall power, also eliminating several other top leaders of the group. I believe Obama would benefit by not only reminding us of his accomplishments, but also giving Americans a reality-check on situations in other parts of the world. The United States was not the only place hit by a recession in 2008, indeed those events are often referred to as the “Global Financial Crisis”, and countries such as Greece are still struggling, with global leaders only this week struggling to find a solution to the growing European debt crisis. Although many in America are still feeling the effects of the recession, at least the economy here is recovering and jobs are being added, albeit more slowly than those who are out of work would like.
Affairs in the U.S. may have been less-than-stellar over the past year, but when compared to protests in the Middle East, debt crises’ in Europe, and earthquakes in Japan, one cannot help but think we have been pretty lucky. Citizens of Egypt and Libya have taken steps towards democracy, but they still have a long way to go before they will be satisfied by their conditions, as demonstrated by the renewal of protests in Egypt in November 2011. Countries such as Syria and Bahrain are still under the power of dictators, and brutal crackdowns against protests in those countries has resulted in the loss of countless lives. Obama’s State of the Union may not have been overly exciting, but that shouldn’t be treated as a bad thing. In a year that will go down in history as tumultuous across all continents, Obama and America have not done too badly for themselves, a fact which Americans should be reminded of every once in a while.
Image from Radar Communication on Flikr, licensed under Creative Commons