Dr Nsoh Christopher Ndikum, Senior Lecturer in Political Science, University of Yaounde II, Soa, analyses President Barack Obama’s diplomacy.
President Barack Obama will on January 20, 2017 hand over power to the 45th President of the United States of America, Donald Trump. What would you say has been Obama’s legacy in the field of diplomacy?
He has left behind a legacy of thoughtfulness, caution, diplomatic negotiations and the marginalisation of unreasonable and risky military adventures in his foreign diplomacy. Furthermore, he has made other States of the world to understand the importance of their role in their different regions in collaboration with the United States of America to combat recent threats like terrorism, climate change, intra conflicts and to promote international peace and security. President Obama has strengthened the North Atlantic Treaty Organisations (NATO).
What have been his most outstanding diplomatic achievements at the bilateral and multinational levels?
There are three main issues I can make mention of. The Iran deal in which the United States of America under President Obama with other States worked very hard to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapon (The Iran Deal) which if not have been successful would have been a threat to the geopolitics of the Persian Gulf and to international peace and security.
For over half a century there was no diplomatic relationship between the United States of America and Cuba in spite their closeness, sharing common borders. The reopening of the Cuba-USA diplomatic relationship is a remarkable move of President Obama. Another positive aspect is the climate change deal in Paris. This is unbelievable in contrast to the collapse of the Copenhagen negotiations. These aspects are remarkable in his bilateral and multilateral moves.
Some keen political observers say President Obama did not achieve much. What did he fail to do ?
In order to understand this answer, one should have a view of the Obama’s era and the period before him. His era is one of multidimensional challenges. During the époque of the Cold War, there was one central issue. But today, we have terrorism, intra conflicts in Ukraine and Syria and other States of the world and climate change. Furthermore, previously, many people considered might or power when they saw booths on the ground.
The theater of boots on the ground is what the Obama’s regime did not share, especially when he backpedalled attacking or bombing Syria in Summer 2013. This made some to see him as a weak president with weak or little successes. A point of view I, a Cameroonian do not share because a war would have caused more deaths than the present numbers and more displacements than what we are observing today without any guarantee of removing Assad.
These are people who are being nostalgic of the military might époque. However, he did not close down the Guantanamo high security prison as he promised and his use of drones that killed so many children and innocent people.
How prominent in the American diplomacy in world politics at the time Mr Obama is leaving power?
Many world leaders will remember him for his diplomatic skills that have brought the United States of America closer to the other states of the world. He destroyed the myth and hierarchy that previous American presidents have always built around the USA. He has strengthened the position of NATO. However, there is no guarantee since Mr. Donald Trump, the President- elect has always threatened rupturing the relationship with NATO. Obama has created a situation of international liberal order especially as he strongly believes in avoiding risky, unnecessary military adventures.