Obama: What a let-down he’s been?



Obama, as is often said, will always be more popular than his policies. It is impossible not to pay attention to what he says; he’s still viewed as the well-meaning guy who broke some real barriers to get where he did. When he took oath for a second term in office, it appeared that a centrist had transformed into a bleeding-heart liberal, as John Cassidy wrote in the New Yorker. Then, the good bloke with a whiff of fresh air at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. picked up the Nobel early on. It was a Nobel for not what one had achieved – Obama had just got into office – but for what one potentially could. He got the Nobel just for not being Bush.

Was it a premature Nobel? The president doesn’t seem to have achieved half of what people think he is capable of. As Obama walked into the White House, my excitement was about the possibility of being part of a historic generation which, under the Obama presidency, could see a huge ship turn around and change course. Just as another generation had seen the Cold War end or the two Germanys become one. I thought progress would be made on Palestine, that diplomats would be given the upperhand in solving the mess in Afghanistan, that Guantanamo would be closed down and that the War on Terror would be fought in a more effective but less hysterical way. Unfortunately, I don’t see American foreign policy changing much.

I remember discussing some of these outcomes with Vali Nasr, now the dean of the School of Advanced International Studies at John Hopkins University. We spent considerable time talking politics when he was in Delhi for the Hindustan Times Summit a few years ago.

Nasr, a former senior adviser to the office of Obama’s Special Representative on Afghanistan and Pakistan, or SRAP, stunned the State Department in March when excerpts of his new book, The Dispensable Nation, were published in the Foreign Policy magazine.

Nasr tells us that Obama ignored critical advice from his Special Representative on Afghanistan and Pakistan, the late Richard Holbrooke, the broker of Dayton peace accord that ended the Balkans war. Holbrooke knew that the gargantuan counterinsurgency and military offensives wouldn’t work. The Taliban were too entrenched to be wiped out and that Afghanistan’s official administration and government too mired in corruption. Holbrooke wanted “reconciliation” to be made the cornerstone of a wider strategy involving not just the Afghan conflict but also that of Pakistan and Iran.

The White House didn’t agree, Nasr says, because this would make Obama look “soft”. Nasr says Obama is too concerned with satisfying public opinion to take strategic decisions. Nasr, an expert on Iran, also feels that the Obama administration, for all its talk of giving diplomacy a chance, hasn’t given Iran the real sops that could get it to stop enriching uranium.

Some recent analyses, including Nasr’s, point to an Obama pursuing Bush-era policies under a silver tongue. Too concerned with public image and too mindful of critics. Obama should be aiming at leaving a mark on global politics, not America’s alone. It seems he may fall short on both. More worryingly, the president has relied on the show of American force on most issues of his presidency, rather than on diplomacy. That doesn’t quite make him a dove, as James Traub wrote in a Wall Street Journal review of Nasr’s new book.

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  • Anonymous

    Who gives a F***K about adarsh and what not.Folks MANU SANGHVI married with two sons , 27 and 24 starts with ******** with a Lawyer and then full blown F***K by Singhvi. My prediction Mamata will pull the plug , mid term election , A COUNTRY FULL OF RAPIST , mamata will at least assure a CLEAN goverment

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    Anonymous Reply:

    Shan,

    Why have you stopped visiting Mr. Sharma’s blog? We all are missing you
    there.

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  • Tanu Mittal

    Skyfall was really the fall of James Bond and the bond movies.A lot was expected from this movie and of all i was eagerly waiting for it.phew!!it was terrible , horrible and worse till the end.The bond movies are idealistic & the expectation arose more with this year release.Though reviews were ok but the general view shared by the public was not good.It was a total bore movie ,actions were lacking in the whole movie & our James bond Daniel Craig seemed to be tired & old .This movie seemed to be a liitle old fashioned with no techno savvy Bond as if its a 18th century movie.Where was the heroine in the whole movie ..definitely we must say all the glamour ,bold & beautiful were lacking and in all it was a heroine less movie!!This movie did not match the standard of legendary bond movies!!!

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    Kushal Reply:

    Yay! So I’m not the only disappointed one, Tanu. Thanks for the validation.

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  • Abhiroop

    We have the History of English in the B.A. syllabus? I totally want to do it then.

    I saw Skyfall last week and it was the first time I’d been inside a theatre since early 2009 when I watched Dilli 6. I remember fondly the first Bond film I saw, the Pierce Brosnan starrer Tomorrow Never Dies, when I was 10, a few days before my 6th standard final exams were to start and oh what a high it was to have watched what I later found out was an A rated film!

    And eh. Men read porn?

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    Kushal Reply:

    We HAD it in Calcutta University in the late 80s, Abhiroop. I can recommend some books if you’re interested.

    And sorry, I made a mistake. Men don’t READ porn, they watch it.

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  • Deb

    Me too (to your last sentence). And this movie contributes to what you say in the title of your post i.e. ‘Breaking the Bond’ (with the quintessential Bond fan, that is).

    It’s so refreshing to get an honest opinion from you, when all the reviews (and comments/articles) are going all ga-ga about the so called ‘humanization’ and ‘layering’ and other sorts of blah-blah of Bond. Well, who wants a more ‘humane’ Bond!! (perhaps the kind of people who don’t watch Bond movies in the first place?). I think it all started with the first film with Craig as Bond, ‘Casino Royale, with Bond beaten to a pulp. Something unthinkable in Bond movies of yore, even as he took his fair share on the chin, but always had the last laugh in any encounter.

    Bond movies are perhaps the last bastion of escapism, away from all the realism, like a good ol’ ‘dishum-dishum’ Amitabh movie of the 70s/early 80s, with rather more technical wizardry. And great one liners, the swagger, martinis,… (even if you discount the hot bods). So to deprive Bond fans of all this (in a spurious quest to cater to the tastes of so called ‘politically correct’ viewers) is sacrilege, no less. It somehow… enervates Bond, robs him of the very charm which drew most viewers.

    Me, I’d rather watch an ‘Agent Vinod’ (or, on a bad day, ‘Ek Tha Tiger’), who seems to be an able successor to the original Bond.

    PS: The “unnamed operative” with Bond in Istanbul later metamorphoses into Ms. Moneypenny, M’s assistant, at the end of this movie.

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    Kushal Reply:

    Hooray! Another dissident! Thanks Deb. BIG grin.

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  • h.mani

    He was a unmatigated disaster for India,to put somebody who came from former Pakistan as P.M.,he single handedly dismantaled RAW, We as People will even appoint Musaruff as P.M. if he somehow become Indian Citizen,haven’t we already appointed KGB Ex as most powerful politician in India?

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  • jay

    Frigging shameless fellow who was the cause of thousands of deaths in India and indirectly led to Kargil War and Mumbai massacre amongst other things. This fellow should have been eliminated long ago for the harm he did to mother India.

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  • Anonymous

    “Good guy of politics”? I guess the Radia-Sanghvi brand of “good” – I guess. That was the man who sat firmly in Russia during emergency and supported Indira Gandhi and cultivated and supported the Gandhi brand of politics to the nadir of Indian history. Right you are Vir Sanghvi, in your world.

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  • Star Canopus

    Mr Gujral was a principled and urbane intellectual as well as a generous, large-hearted Punjabi.

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  • Ramesh Kumar

    GUJRAL HAS NOT LEFT ANY POSITIVE IMPACT ON INDIAN POLITICS.BUT SURELY HIS ERA WAS AN ERA OF KITCHEN CABINETS ,WHEN PEOPLE CHOSE TO BE QUIET OR COMPROMISING FOR GAIN.
    IAM SURE CONGRESS WILL MAKE A SAMADHI FOR HIM. .ARE WE DIFFERENT TODAY? MAY GOD HIS SOUL REST IN PEACE.

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  • Sumit Bose

    Ponder over this; this (journo) Dalal waxes eloquent over another Dalal of Mrs Gandhi, but he drew the line for his dalali and he would not do dalali for her son! And wonder of wonders, this dalal terms this departed soul as a “good man”. This person was one more misguided pseudo-secularist and was an unrepentant “candle-light holder”. I wonder if he chose to be a candle-light holder just for protection against Islamic terrorism unleashed upon India and wonder if he would yet be holding impotent candle-light vigils, if his near and dear ones were victims of Islamic terrorism?

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  • http://www.facebook.com/rahul.diddi Rahul Diddi

    IK Gujral was a friendly, urbane ambassador to the Soviet Union when I was a student there. He loved life and adapted to Moscow’s conditions by being the only Indian ambassador who enjoyed skiing in Moscow’s cold winters. He was very friendly to us students. I have very fond memories of the few meetings I enjoyed with him in Moscow.

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  • Sad sad sad

    It is truly sad, and an evil portent for my beloved country, that a self acknowledged goonda like Bal Thakeray is mourned publicly and in the press, but the passing of a true gentleman like Mr Gujral is hardly even in the news.

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  • Suparna Salahuddin

    suave, intellectual, well-spoken and a think -tank, no doubt. Had more potential in foreign policy diplomatic areas. His potential could have been well-utilized if he stayed back in adviser’s team of Prime-minister. His decision for taking up prime-minister ship was a wrong step.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/selman.khan.3 Selman Khan

    He Was indeed a Good Guy.When the anouncement of his becoming the PM was made I happened to be in Okhla just near his house in Maharani Bagh in G block.I went to congratulate him and found I could cooly go to his house with no Bheed around his sardarji secretary made me comfortable in a room where where Gujaral saheb came offered Barfi. Perhaps the crowd was waiting at his official residence.

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  • Anonymous

    ” was Mrs Gandhi’s thug-like younger son, Sanjay”
    Should not section 66 A of the IT act 2000 be invoked.

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  • Guest

    Anyone who stood up to Sanjay Gandhi at the height of his extra constitutional authority must have been a brave and honorable man.

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  • vijay !

    Ik Gujral was a big disappointment as a PM. Just when narasimha Rao had managed to match ISI with RAW, Dawood with Chotta Rajan, Syed Gilani with Altaf hussain…. IK gujral surrendered everything for eating Kababs with Nawz Sharif.

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  • Javed

    his advice to indian congress politicians doesnt work at all, so he thinks he should try obama

    what BS

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    Anonymous Reply:

    That’s really good one. I doubt whether anyone takes this writer seriously.

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    engricn Reply:

    i agree mohan

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  • vijay !

    Taliban in Afghanistan would be the same Taliban of IC 814 period. America in Afghanistan meant thAt evil jehadis from afghanistan were spent and killed in fighting USA.

    SO if you wish well fro India you should pray that US sticks out in Afghanistan as it also periodically bombs Pakistan our enemy with drones. If this is doen for another 10 years, the concept of Jehad and Islamic superiority over minorities and other religions will die out. After all how many je3hadis will keep beleiving that they are going to janat…

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  • Anonymous

    “Obama: What a let-down he’s been?”

    Says ZIa Haq…Why? Because Obama did not spare Zia’s hero Osama.

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  • Faulitics

    Haha..Vali Nasr is a Muslim originally from Iran. Of course he is stabbing his own country in the back and supporting openly radical and Islamist regimes like Iran and the Taliban. Valid Nasir is to the US what Zia is to India. These communal types have only one loyalty and that is to their religion. Obama did one really good thing. He took the war to the home turf of zia’s “brothers”, the Islamists. He is droning them to hell as they richly deserve it.

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    engricn Reply:

    but there is no hope to win.

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    Abhi Reply:

    Let us do an HT poll on “Am I a Muslim or an Indian First’ on Zia!

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    co Reply:

    why so much hate? why!!

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  • momn doter

    I was waiting for his next post, for I thought it would be about row over vande matram walkout. Instead he goes to US, for which I dont give a rat ***.

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  • Anonymous

    White House got lessons from Indian Politicians ruling and opposition. Now both ruling and opposition parties are silent on corrpution issues once China introduced human rights case on corruption cases. To stop the mentality of indian politicians approaching other nations for various instances is that, Politicians like Mr. Palani Chidambaram have the facility of viewing public places and reading public thoughts and so on … and waits for appropriate time to make presentation in the parliament, before that, many common public are killed and even professional like news readers heads are done. Which is day to day professional work from chennai. Which i have written to our hounarable president of india to take appropriate action action against criminal who possess illegal technology development. Without stopping this it is difficult to monitor social networking sites even after bringing data handling data storage rules and regulation. Present scenerio, China introduced human rights against corrpution, tamil nadu politicians who were in corrpution list came out, human rights is open for sri lankan issue and all of them will seek US Government for support. Atlast China will be left over nothing.

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  • Anonymous

    Zia shows why muslims will remain laggard for foreseable future. It is the ostrich burying its head in the sand scenario.Rather than see things for what they are worth , No turn your head or eyes from uncomfortable truths and turn to , yes you guessed it the OBSCURANTIST REGRESSIVE MEDIEVAL DOCTRINE.Rather than advice Iran to junk religion become a secular republic WITH FULL FREEDOM ie, RIGHT TO PASS LAWS THAT IS ACCORDANCE WITH MODERN REALITY AND SHOWS TWO FINGERS TO THE BOOK. Rather than advice TO SQUEEZE PAKISTAN DRY so that it will realise that to survive IT HAS TO JUNK ARMY AND ALLAH and by extension the vicous virus that is Taliban.
    Next Zia will advocate SIMI be exonerated and allowed to spread terror Dawood Ibrahim allowed to return to india and no terrorist charges against him

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  • engrich
  • engricn

    Bankim Chatterjee’s provocative books gave birth to extremist Hindu
    groups who translated his thoughts into reality. Anadamath written by
    Chatterjee in 1882 was the first manifestation of militant spirit of
    Hinduism against Muslims. Abominable Vande Matram, the hymn of Mother
    India was part of this book which became the national anthem of Bengali
    Hindu nationalists. Later it became the national anthem of India.
    Chatterjee’s book preached hatred against Muslims of India and
    instigated the religious sentiments of Hindus to rise against them,
    terrorize them into submission and merge them in Hinduism or annihilate
    them. He portrayed them as interlopers in the land of Hindus

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    Abhi Reply:

    “Chatterjee’s book preached hatred against Muslims of India”
    Which do you think came first? Muslim’s hatred of ALL other religions or Hindu’s hatred against moslims? Even to day, Modi will wear a scull cap gladly if the moslim who asked him to wear it will wear a tilak.

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  • Anonymous

    Mr Zia

    Time you started realising that Obama has been good for INdia. he bombed the Pakistnais, killed a few thousand jehadis, bottled up the jehaids and Taliban in Afghanistan.

    If you are an Indian look at the world thru the prism on what is good for India and NOT what is good for Muslim Brotherhood.

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    Anonymous Reply:

    Zia can not think anything beyond Islam. His kind of people are great threat to secular society.

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    Anonymous Reply:

    Very sad. I wish he develops a pro India vision rathr than seeing what is good for Muslims in Serbia and karachi.

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