BARAK OBAMA: in search of the Jeffersonian legacy?

By: Naro-user | Posted: 08th July 2011

By Michael Orfanos

Few days ago, President Obama’s speech on the Middle East took by surprise foreign analysts, diplomats and foreign governments, due to its highly ideological and ethical context, pressuring Middle East countries, participating in the “Arab Spring”, to pursuit liberal reforms. The most surprising aspect however- from the President’s speech- was his reference to Israel-Palestinian relations, urging his long lasting ally (Israel) to make peace with Palestinians on the basis of the boundaries that existed before the Arab-Israeli War of 1967. Stay tuned with for all latest world news.

Speaking from inside the Benjamin Franklin room in State Department, President Obama became the first US President to break the long lasting tradition of all former US Presidents who totally supported and argued in favor of Israel’ s foreign policy decisions. This comes in total contradiction with the previous -Bush- administration that claimed that “it is unrealistic to expect” Israel to pull back from the West Bank and Golan heights. President Obama however, tended to keep his distance from both sides, commenting that: “The dream of a Jewish and democratic state cannot be fulfilled with permanent occupation” arguing in favor of “full and phased withdrawal of Israeli military forces from West Bank”. He claimed however, as a necessary precondition the existence of a nonmilitarized future Palestinian state (acting as a buffer zone), stressing his undetermined will of a secure and safe Israel state. Israel President Netanyahu however, bluntly rejected Obama’s speech, as non-realistic. Indeed, from a “Realpolitik” point of view (as Chancellor Bismark defined it, meaning that a state diplomacy should be based not on ideological or manihastic notions, but rather on pragmatism, practical and material factors) Obama’s proposal is catastrophic if adopted by the Israelis. First, they will have to give away territories won in war and paid in human losses (Israeli human losses). Second, the loss of West Bank and the Golan heights would render Israel’s borders virtually indefensible. Syria, by having control of the high grounds can easily open fire to Jewish villages-as they have done in the past. Third, countries in the international area, act egoistically and under a self-preservation spirit, seeking constantly to safeguard their existence against any potential threat from other states (aggressors) and at the same time, to maximize their own winnings at the expense of other international players (states). In other words, states today on an international level are acting according to the “Realpolitik” doctrine. Thus, there is absolutely no reason at all, for Israel to abandon its territories in return for a sign of “good will” from the Arab countries in the wider area. It is like asking from the US to destroy all their nuclear weapons in a peace gesture towards Russia, in order to promote world peace. “Self preservation” is the name of the game!

Moreover, President Obama’s speech called for a “new beginning” with the Arab world, suggesting that under his Presidency, alliances with the Muslim world will not be based on supporting pro-American dictatorships but rather (based on) alliances of states embracing democratic and humanitarian values, cooperating in harmony and on moral grounds: “After decades of accepting the world as it is in the region, we have a chance to pursuit the world as it should be”. Republicans for a start, denounced Obama’s vision, accusing him of “throwing Israel under the bus” (Mitt Romney). Sensible thing to say, if you consider the bulk of American voters of Jewish origin who are very sensitive in matters of Israel’s security in the region, and the upcoming elections, in little more than a year from now.

In addition, President Obama, also proposed a series of economic measures-one of which called for a $2 billion loan guarantees to Egypt, drawing fire for being over – enthusiastic and not realist since, as House Foreign Affairs Chairman claimed: “considering our own national debt, we cannot afford to forgive up to $1 billion of Egypt’s debt”.

President Obama’s speech gives the impression that is heavily influenced by the Jeffersonian legacy. Jefferson viewed all aristocratic / autocratic regimes as inherently corrupt and –heavily influenced by John Locke-claimed that each man has certain inalienable rights. He had liberal values and opposed any state action from infringing on the liberty of the people. Jefferson –as a US President-was also driven by his high values and ethics. The best example of this is the 1st Barbary War: while Jefferson was President, the common practice for all major powers (England, France) in the Mediterranean was to pay tribute to the pasha of Tripoli in order to secure the safe passage of their trade ships. When the pasha asked the same from the US and captured their trade ships, Jefferson felt insulted and refused to pay tribute. Instead, he ordered the creation of a small detachment of US fleet, having as an utter goal bombing Tripoli and restoring peace in the Mediterranean. Which he did! If you consider the cost issue, bribing the pasha or paying the tribute would be far more cost effective than building war ships and maintaining them in the Mediterranean, but for Thomas Jefferson it was not an issue of cost, but of principles. Only if we understand the kind of man he was, we can understand his decision to engage in the 1st Barbary War. Thomas Jefferson believed that the US was-at that time-the cradle of social liberties and democracy, thus US had the moral obligation to conform its foreign policy according to those ethical principles and to try to promote them globally, with the ultimate goal being an envisioned global democracy, based on liberal values, cultural uniformity and ethics. In other words, Jefferson envisioned world relations between states to be conducted on the basis of a “divine moral law”, where the states having adopted US revolutionary values & principles (as defined by Thomas Paine and others), cooperate harmoniously with each other.

Does President Obama’s speech signals a new turn towards a more Jeffersonian US foreign policy ? Is this mean that the US will follow this doctrine also concerning their foreign relations with Saudi Arabia-which is an autocratic regime? Their most valuable possession in the Arab peninsula and #1 oil supplier? Or perhaps with President Karzai in Afghanistan, who is infamous for his corrupted regime? Well, we’ll have to wait and see. In Quantico, Virginia, where the United States Marine Corps’ Officer Candidates School is located, they have a motto: “Ductus Exemplo” (Leadership by Example). President Obama, will have to show he really means business…

Michael Orfanos is Marketing Manager and SEO Expert for
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