What was absent in President Barack Obama’s State of the Union Address was more intriguing than what he mentioned, in relation to international conditions, and the positions of the United States on them. Clearly, President Obama wanted the American people to acknowledge what he considers his own achievement in the remarkable recovery of the US economy following the economic crisis. He wanted the American people to remember him as the president who rescued the United States from others’ wars and outsourced the war on terror so that no more American soldiers return in coffins to their country and so that American citizens no longer pay the price. He boasted of having ended US military presence in Afghanistan, declared the opening of a new page with Cuba, and called on Congress to authorize military action against ISIS. He mentioned Iraq and Syria from the standpoint of the war on ISIS, and mentioned supporting the moderate Syrian opposition in passing and also in the context of the war on ISIS. Obama did not mention Syrian President Bashar al-Assad at all, even though he had declared in previous speeches that Assad had lost legitimacy and that he must step down. He mentioned Iran only in relation to nuclear negotiations and his intention to veto any attempt by Congress to impose additional sanctions on Iran during the negotiations. He deliberately ignored the Iranian military role in Syria and Iraq, and ignored the Israeli military strike that claimed the lives of senior Hezbollah and Iranian commanders in the Syrian Golan. He did not address the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, even though he had made the resolution of the conflict his top priority at the start of his first term. More importantly, President Obama did not mention Yemen -- a major theater of his secret drone war on al-Qaeda in collaboration with the Yemeni government -- even as the Iranian-backed Houthis were carrying out a coup against the same government while Obama was delivering the state of the union address. Interestingly as well, Obama did not mention al-Qaeda. In effect, this the first time since the attacks of 9/11 that al-Qaeda is not mentioned in the traditional annual speech given by the US president.
It might be said: Why should the US president talk about the tribal, sectarian, and authoritarian insanity in Yemen, when he is addressing the American people about the state of their country? Why should the US president say anything to disturb the climate of reassurance for the economic recovery and the priorities of the middle class to talk about the consequences of not reaching a nuclear deal with Iran? Who said that the American people - or the US president - is unwilling to entrust it to others to fight the war on ISIS in their own territories so that this war is not fought in American cities? Moreover, who said that Obama’s policy, which is averse to involvement in Syria, was not in the US interest, after it became clear that Syria really is Iran’s Vietnam and after Russia realized it would inherit a fragmented Syria infested with extremist groups ready to take revenge against Russian policies in both Syria and Russia? Incidentally, isn’t it being said that the decline in oil prices, which has brought Iran and Russia to their knees, is US-approved? Why should President Barack Obama detail all these “achievements” in the state of the union address?
The state of the world is certainly not the responsibility of the United States alone or the making of US cunningness alone. However, the United States is not completely innocent vis-a-vis the world situation. The United States drafts policies that serve its interests for the long term and that do not stop with a president’s four-year or eight-year term. No doubt, US policies in their majority are practical and pragmatic, sometimes to the extent that they contradict claims of moral superiority among Americans. This is a superpower that does not stop at anything that would slow down the fast train guaranteeing US monopoly of superpower status. It places its economic, geopolitical, and strategic interests above any friendships and alliances, possibly with the exception of the alliance with Israel. Those who assumed that the US invitation for them to join the VIP car is irreversible and that it entitled them to permanent partnership soon found themselves cast off at a passing station, being bade farewell and dispensed of.
The perception of US President Barack Obama in the minds of non-Americans who pinned hopes on his promises that he showered on the world is not a good one. He was the man who tickled the fancies and dreams of a majority around the world, before everyone woke up to the pragmatic reality and fell into disappointment. Those who were disappointed in him have the right to be angry and to condemn him, because Obama made broad promises beyond his country that made people feel part of his popular base. But the practical reality is that Barack Obama is a US president not a world president. He is part of the establishment in the United States, which drafts long-term US policy and preserves US interests above all other considerations. Nevertheless, there is no choice for him but to bear the consequences of the policies he chose for the executive branch, even if they were part of strategies drafted decades ago for decades to come.
Reading what was mentioned in the state of the union address and what was absent is worthwhile, but overdoing it is harmful because the US president is a part but not the whole of US strategic policy. Tactics are important for those concerned with power in various positions, whether they are in power or are seeking to be in power. Because the Arab region is filled with both types, there will be many interpretations for what was said and what was left unsaid in the state of union address, because the impact on the men in power and those seeking power will be translated as actions on the American arena.
In Yemen, where US drones have been waging a war on al-Qaeda for years, the drone strategy is demonstratively flawed because it is not being accompanied by intelligence gathering on the ground to make the drone war more effective. But because Obama’s policy based on fulfilling the desires of the US people is governed by the “cleanness” of US wars, in the sense that no American blood should be spilled, the policy of flying over the ground in Yemen continued while the US was content with watching the most dangerous development in a multilateral war, which has reached the extent of a coup ready to topple a government that is friendly to the United States.
The policy of turning a blind eyed that the Obama administration adopted in many places does not necessarily mean that the