Revisiting a Hundred Days Odyssey

DUBAI – Barack Hussein Obama, the 44th, first ever African American president of the United States of America, has inherited a very difficult legacy.

By Faryal Leghari

Published: Wed 29 Apr 2009, 9:59 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 1:25 AM

A complex international scenario when the US economic might is waning amidst a worsening global recession, Obama has to juggle multifarious tasks including putting the economy back on track, managing US military commitments abroad, and the most onerous of tasks that involves the redeeming of America’s reputation having suffered under the former administration. Obama is burdened with the weighty flotsam of his predecessor, George W. Bush, thus requiring an impartial assessment of key policy decisions of his first hundred days in office.

The decision to close Guantanamo by this year’s end won Obama many accolades, but was offset by growing concern about the fate of the over 600 detainees at Bagram in Afghanistan who are unable to challenge their detention; similarly, while the CIA rendition centres and illegal interrogation practices of terror suspects, have been terminated, Obama faced criticism for his refusal to prosecute CIA officials guilty of such practices.

The new strategy for Afghanistan, that includes Pakistan under the rubric of the Af-Pak doctrine saw Obama focusing on the elimination of al Qaeda, and an expansion of military and civilian resources as part of an integrated strategy to help win the war. More importantly he has called upon greater cooperation of regional states including Iran, China and Russia to help US efforts in Afghanistan.

The other significant initiatives Obama has undertaken focus on Iran, Middle East, Russia and Cuba. Soon after assuming office Obama has been making considerable efforts at reaching out to Iran, such as offering direct talks at the forthcoming meeting of the UN’s Permanent Five states on deterring Iran from its nuclear programme. The US is also reviewing to drop its precondition of Iran, halting uranium enrichment before negotiations.

In a bid to mend relations with Russia that suffered tensions over Georgia and the proposed US missile defense shield in Europe, Obama met Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in London. Even while the two leaders agreed to renew the START 1 treaty for the reduction of strategic nuclear weapons, Obama further suggested that the US may not pursue its plans of deploying the missile defense shield in exchange for Russian cooperation to pressure Iran to abandon its nuclear programme. Furthermore Obama in a historic speech in Prague in April urged international cooperation for a nuclear weapons free world.

The first hundred days have also seen a remarkable turnaround in rhetoric and approach towards the Islamic world. This was evident in Obama’ trip to Turkey, especially in his address to the Turkish parliament. The other significant attempt was to break fifty years of estrangement with Cuba, when Obama announced lifting restrictions on travel and remittances of Cuban-Americans.

The Middle East peace initiative is also seeing renewed efforts as Obama has reiterated US commitment towards a two state solution to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli issue, and has invited the key parties to Washington for talks in early June.

Besides key foreign policy concerns, Obama’s chief concern has been to check a spiralling economy. His other major decision was to remove restrictions on stem-cell research, an important deviation from the past bans in the biomedical research sector.

It is hard to recall a time when there was so much hope vested in one man as in the case for Obama and his promised “change.” However there is also increasing concern about his ability to match his intent with action. It is hoped that Obama does not lose perspective, by default, and puts the goodwill and optimism of millions around the world to good use.

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