An Indian point of view also!

obamaThis is the first time since US President Barack Obama came to power that an international investigation is made by the UN anti-torture watchdog about the widespread use of torture by the US government against helpless victims like prisoners, alleged terrorists and many other citizens in the name of transparent governance.

The tortures were all narrated by the now-on-going 10-member UN Committee against torture. It is to the credit of Mr.Obama that the US had taken several steps to undo the wrongs committed by the then George Bush term at the White House.

There are still 148 prisoners at the notorious tanamo Bay prison off Cuba. Obama’s promise of closing down that torture centre is still to be implemented. So too the widely alleged many other torture activities.

The US representative Ms Mary MaLeod told the committee so much that she admitted candidly that the US “crossed the line “in the human rights abuses. US President admitted to these lapses.

The CIA “black sites” and also other such notorious sites like the one in Iraq when Bush was in office.If the US as it says becomes from the past wrongs and still promises to behave as a country that promoted human rights and rule of law then we have to welcome Obama’s greatness in times of such great stress for the rest of the world.

Here is also a brief review of the latest three books on the American Presidency.

It is a custom in the USA, not in other countries, even in India we don’t have such a custom, the high level officials or politicians here, we don’t write our memoirs or experiences so that contemporary practitioners of politics can learn lessons and thereby can help to improve our political habits.

We still are insensitive to criticisms of corrupt politicians, we still induct tainted ministers, we still nominate candidates with criminal records and we don’t give much priority for violating human rights and rule of law.

So, we invite the readers to read these pages carefully so that we all can stand benefit from the US past misuses and also admitting frankly their mistakes and their promise to change for the better!

American power: how much Obama is handicapped by the American political system
Three new books on the American Presidency
A review of reviews
In fact, this is a review of the book review page of the FT Weekend (8 November/9 november.2014

The three books in question are by (1) Worthy Fights: A memory of leadership in War and Peace by Leon Panetta.
(2)National Insecurity: American leadership in an age of fear (3) National Security and Double Government by Michael Glennon.
All the three books are by writers who were close advisers to US President Barack Obama. Panetta was CIA director and the other was about the National Security Council and the second book is all about the history of the US foreign policy after the event of 9/11.Glennon writers about the 45 government federal
agencies  and the 2,000 private companies working for them at 10,000 locations working for them across the US and the Congress gives them the authority and the courts decide their legality.

The first two books for the first time give us, outsiders, like people in India an idea of how the US government works. What is the power and authority of the US President?

The reviewer, Edward Luce, is an old India authority as the chief correspondent of the Financial Times newspaper in India.
He is now based in Washington and serves as the US correspondent. He is already known for his book on the American economy and government, Time to start thinking and the Spectre of the US decline.2012.

As such the review here of the three heavyweight books are timely. These books by such top advisers like Panetta and David Rothkopf, there are very rare insights into the working of the US government machinery.

Says the reviewer: Washington figures of the past generation like Bill Clinton are described as ravenously intelligent, we don’t know what does that description mean, “Washington is a town of towering egos.”

The CIA seems to be a government in itself with all powers for itself almost claimed without even the authority of the President doing any favour! President Obama told Panetta, the CIA head once:”The CIA gets what it wants.”The CIA gets its drone strikes and also other goodies. It seems that CIA can do no wrong. It can delete passages from memories from former employees and get away, even from the memoirs of such august ones like Panetta himself!

So too it seems Pentagon, the defence agency. Since the security of the USA as a nation is so obsessive with everyone in the USA, there is a very pervasive paranoia about national security and this had grown only in volume and intensity after the 9/11 and also after the Bush wars in Iraq and the bitter lessons learnt from it.

So, we can see today Obama is seen largely as a weak President, the President is seen, as narrated by Panetta and quoted extensively in the review that Obama is accused by Panetta as one leader behaving as a cold logician of a trained law profession (Obama’s previous career) and also as an indecisive decision maker.

In the US, it is the Presidential face that is the measure of everything. More so now, the President had lost his majority in both houses of Parliament and as such his last quarter in office is always seen as a lame duck presidency!

The 9/11 event shook the USA out of its all past assumptions about itself, about its invincibility and made the Americans realise they didn’t have a clause as to how to respond. So Bush went for a war that proved a disaster. Bush first year was a total disaster. His second term was seen “as a course correction, the US reaction to the 9/11 was over-heated, so ill-considered of such scale and so broad  in its unintended  consequences that it became more defining, constraining and damaging that the original events.”

Under Obama, it is here we have to learn more, Obama runs the most centralised White House in living memory The NSC (National Security Council) has grown into a huge 370 staff strength, which is ten times the size under Henry Kissinger. Says the reviewer: The NSC spends much of its time in second guessing what others are doing at the White House! NSC now doesn’t do any big thinking.

No big thoughts. Bush administration was known for blundering into rash decisions, says the reviewer! Obama’s term may be remembered for agonising over tweets and press releases! It seems that even junior White House officials rebuking him (Obama) for talking in public without first seeking their permission! Hillary Clinton’s memoirs are far too polite to echo that complaint. The result of the past mistakes and mistaken decisions is today Obama administration seems to be a “strategic drift”.

In the view of Rothkopf it is the big personalities that matter and Obama must delegate. Now, he only wears the “captain’s short”. Bush Jr and Obama show their opposite traits.

The total impression we get after reading the review of the three books is that the US government is a gigantic operation. It is not everyone who occupies do a good job.

There are now so many checks and balances, Obama are clearly the best modern-mined and a bit well-informed person we can see after the two terms of George Bush and his blunders. Clinton was partly lucky and partly unlucky.

He woke up late, in his second etc. He came to India and went back as an international statesman. Of course, George Bush too was lucky in getting Manmohan Singh as his admirer: How can we, Indians forget Singh’s telling Bush as “Indians love you!”
Now, Obama, the best of the lot and one who had restrained himself from launching wars at the  touch of a button, as it was under his predecessor and also one who had given a progressive push to the most important scheme like public health cover for  a vast mass of people.

He has said he would follow his principles in the rest of his term.With all the built-in checks and balances in the American Constitution, here is one US President who created history for getting elected as the first black president and as the one, perhaps, the most well-educated and most dedicated one for maintaining peace in the world.

Luckily, there is also a measure of broad-based multi lateral peace initiatives and also for creating a more balanced world economic development as we have seen in the just concluded ASEAN Summit in Beijing.

Let us wish Barak Obama well.

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