Blaming Obama for a messy world

US President Barack Obama Image copyright Getty Images

A review of the best commentary on and around the world...

Today's must-read

The world was a mess long before President Barack Obama first took the oath of office, writes the Chicago Tribune's Steve Chapman.

To lay the blame for the crises of varying magnitudes in Ukraine, Israel, Syria, Iran and China at the feet of the current US president, he argues, requires a fairly concerted effort to ignore history.

Recall the so-called halcyon days of the Ronald Reagan presidency, the libertarian columnist writes:

"There was endless strife hither and yon: civil wars in Central America; Americans taken hostage in Lebanon; a US military barracks blown up in Beirut; and Libyan terrorists bombing a Pan Am plane. The Soviets shot down a South Korean passenger jet. South Africa's minority white government tried to suppress a black revolt."

And things didn't get any better after Reagan left office. Once communism collapsed, Iraq invaded Kuwait , a civil war consumed the Balkans and multiple African nations, and conflict sparked between Pakistan and India.

Since the turn of the century, everyone remembers 9/11 and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Chapman writes. But the world also saw Russia's invasion of Georgia, Islamic militants in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, and fighting in Lebanon and Sudan.

"When was this era of harmony that Obama has somehow forfeited?" he asks. "It never happened. And it's not likely to emerge under his successor. Even at the height of our post-Cold War power and influence, nasty events happened all the time, and we couldn't stop them."

The world is often destined for dismal results whether the US intervenes or not, Chapman concludes. "If there are two ways to get a dismal result, maybe we should choose the one that doesn't cost us thousands of lives or billions of dollars."

The Washington Post's Fred Hiatt offers the counter-argument, writing that the current troubles in the world have been exacerbated by Mr Obama's decision to gradually withdraw from Europe and the Middle East.

If the US had stayed engaged, he argues, it could have better shaped the fallout from the Arab Spring and kept Russian ambitions in check. The Syrian civil war could have been resolved and the Islamic militant uprising in Iraq avoided.

"Obama thought he could engineer a cautious, modulated retreat from US leadership," he argues. "What we have gotten is a far more dangerous world."


The schoolgirls left behind - The world is forgetting about the Nigerian girls who were abducted three months ago by Boko Haram, according to Mohammed Adam in the Ottawa Citizen.

"Western governments talked tough, promised big, but in the end did precious little to help save the girls," he writes.

He says that the Nigerian government is also to blame for letting the tragedy fade from the front pages. President Goodluck Jonathan, he says, didn't even meet with the parents of the kidnapped until Pakistani child advocate Malala Yousafzai pressured him.

"What's happening in Nigeria is symptomatic of government in many parts of Africa: self-serving, uncaring and clueless," Adam concludes.


A nation still under the shadow of World War One - A week from today marks the 100-year anniversary of British empire's entrance into World War One. It was a decision that changed Australia forever, says University of Queensland Prof John Quiggin.

World War One represented the real birth of Australia as an independent nation, he writes in the New York Times. It took its place on the world stage, with nearly 40% of the country's fighting-age male population enlisting.

"But what a price," he continues. "Even the smallest Australian country town has, at its centre, a memorial listing those who served in the Great War, and noting the many who did not return." In total, 60,000 Australians died.

Even though Australia recovered since the war, he argues, the country's wartime death toll gave rise to a strong antiwar sentiment and moved the country away from British influence and closer to the US politically.


Court battles over MH17 are looming - Countries like Malaysia may be able to hold those responsible for the downing of MH17 accountable in their domestic courts, says lawyer Roger Tan in the Malaysia Star.

It will be difficult to prosecute those responsible in the International Criminal Court, he writes, so domestic courts may be the only place for justice.

"The biggest hurdle will still be to get the perpetrators deported or extradited to the relevant states," he says.

Another option is to bring charges against Russia in the International Court of Justice. The challenge there, he writes, is that Russia must be proven to have been responsible for the tragedy.

"Indeed, the road ahead in securing justice for MH17 victims is a long and arduous one, but we must never give up at whatever cost," Mr Tan concludes.


Siding with Hamas over Israel - Brazil has a history of sympathising with military dictators and human rights violators, says the Miami Herald's Andres Oppenheimer, and this trend continues as it takes up the Hamas cause on the world stage.

Brazil's government recently expressed its condemnation of Israel for killing civilians in the Gaza Strip and recalled its ambassador to Israel.

"Israel can be blamed for failing to prevent civilian deaths in specific cases during the Gaza conflict, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government can also be blamed for not doing enough to speed up the much-needed creation of a Palestinian state," writes Oppenheimer, "but Israel cannot be blamed for defending itself."

If Brazil continues to side with human rights violators and dictators, he concludes, it will never be taken seriously as a modern democracy.

BBC Monitoring's quotes of the day

Russian commentators react to talk of European economic sanctions following the downing of MH17.

"The actions of our now-erstwhile European allies are only making the situation worse, forcing Russia to take countermeasures across all fields of co-operation" - Yevgeny Shestakov in state-owned Rossiyskaya Gazeta.

"I do not think I have ever seen such a dense stream of hatred aimed at our country. Russia is being widely described as a 'rogue state'... I don't believe we can beat the myths any time soon - the myths that are poisoning, killing and dragging Europe into an abyss." - Mikhail Rostovsky Moskovsky Komsomolets.

"We cannot rule out the possibility that the White House is getting public opinion ready for active US participation in the fighting in Ukraine." - Vladimir Skosyrev in Nezavisimaya Gazeta.‎

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