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Commentary Last Updated: Dec 28th, 2009 - 00:13:05

Loads of promises, little action from Obama
By Linda S. Heard
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Dec 28, 2009, 00:08

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Whenever anyone mentions US President Barack Obama these days, my instinctive response is to sigh deeply. He has made so many promises. He has said all the right things. But, almost a year into his presidency, he has delivered little of substance. It may be that those of us who expected great things from America�s first black commander-in-chief were na�ve.

We enthusiastically read his autobiographies. We applauded his pre-election speeches. We fell hook, line and sinker for his looks and charm. We admired his brilliant wife. We warmed to his adorable daughters. We placed him on a pedestal. We believed him. How wrong we were!

On September 22, 2009, Obama had this to say to world leaders gathered at the United Nations: �That so many of us are here today is a recognition that the threat from climate change is serious, it is urgent, and it is growing. Our generation�s response to this challenge will be judged by history, for if we fail to meet it -- boldly, swiftly, and together -- we risk consigning future generations to an irreversible catastrophe . . .�

Those are surely the words of someone wholeheartedly committed to saving the planet. Bravo, Mr President! But wait! If he takes this issue so seriously, then why did he pop into the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference -- the most important ever -- for just 15 hours?

Once there, Obama made an uninspiring address and engaged in intense negotiations with Chinese, Indian, Brazilian and South African delegates. But when push came to shove, he offered nothing new on America�s part besides a non-binding pledge to reduce his country�s carbon emissions by 17 percent of 2005 levels -- 8 percent lower than the recommended 25 per cent.

Plus, he has shown a willingness to donate to a $100 billion (Dh367 billion) global fund to aid developing nations. In the end, he left early with nothing except the recognition by some of the biggest carbon-emitting nations that temperature rises must be capped at 2 percent.

Not doing enough

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown might be impressed with this historic �first step� -- or, he pretends to be -- but hardly anyone else is. Many leaders of poorer, developing or low-lying countries are hopping mad. If the global warming gurus are correct in their predictions, those are the nations that will suffer most from drought, famine and floods. More than 170 countries could be vulnerable to a greater or smaller degree.

Obama knows this. He is no climate-denier. Yet it seems he would rather leave the future to fickle fate than stand up against Congress and big business. He may be able to salvage his conscience with the thought that major polluters India and China are reluctant to sign up to anything meaningful, but as long as the world�s biggest culprit, the US, doesn�t lead by example, developing countries will have little incentive.

Such a chasm between Obama�s fine assurances and what he is actually prepared to do is echoed within most of his policies.

On the stump, he promised to engage in unconditional talks with Iran. Instead, he sent the Iranian people a video New Year �card.� Now, he warns that he is unable to restrain Israel from attacking that country and is pushing for crippling anti-Iranian sanctions.

In 2008, Obama promised to close Guantanamo by January 2010. But as he admitted in November, that it not going to happen on time.

During his State of the Union speech, Obama said his Iraq policy was based on responsibly ending the war and leaving the country to its people. US combat forces are expected to withdraw in August 2010, but up to 50,000 trainers, counter-terrorism forces and advisers will be left behind, according to the Washington Post.

All along, America�s leader has been lending his support to the creation of a Palestinian state but he has shilly-shallied on the issue of whether Occupied Jerusalem should be the capital of Palestine or Israel and tolerates Israel�s defiant colony-expansion. As for his pledge to make progress toward peace, he has succeeded not one jot.

Then, to cap it all, Obama happily accepts the Nobel Peace Prize just days after announcing 30,000 more troops will be sent to Afghanistan and uses his acceptance speech to defend war.

In his defence, Obama has scrapped the proposed missile shield that was set to be based in Poland and the Czech Republic, and he is close to a deal with Russia on a 25 percent cut in nuclear warheads.

With his approval rating hovering around 44 per cent, Obama needs to grow a backbone. He cannot please all of the people all of the time but if he is not careful, he will end up pleasing no one except Republicans, like former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, who are gleefully eyeing 2012.

It would be tragic if Obama consigns himself to mediocrity because he�s scared of rocking the boat. You gave yourself a B-plus, Mr President. For someone with so much potential that is just not good enough.

Linda S. Heard is a British specialist writer on Middle East affairs. She welcomes feedback and can be contacted by email at

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