Idealism is praiseworthy, above all when it's tempered with realism. Obamacare is a commendable ideal, but would the setting up of such a costly health-care system, during possibly the worst financial crisis in history, and when the USA has never been more deeply in debt, be realistic?
He would be quite right to expect well-off Americans to help more in shouldering the financial burden, but he would be quite wrong not to pull back just as much, if not more, on his ambitious, public spending programs.
To help solved the insolvable, the debt ceiling level has been raised. This seems to imply that the US can continue to play for time, instead of adopting more austere measures- the stringent steps called for and expected regarding European countries far less in debt, for example. It's difficult to follow the US Congress theory that the federal debt will be reduced in ten years time by raising it's ceiling level.. No doubt extra intelligence is require to understand such 'high finance' subtleties.
Obama therefore seems to be doing his best to explain how such situations are developing, perhaps less swaggeringly confident that he will succeed in regaining the pubic support he so enjoyed during the first year following his election. But it appears that he is stuck in a deeper hole than ever, and no one, certainly on the Republican side, is showing any eagerness to help pull him out.
Consequently US foreign commitments could be increasingly limited. The world is informed that 10,000 American troops are leaving Afghanistan this year. A further 20,000 will be leaving Afghanistan next year.
It's difficult to imagine the Taliban making public announcements to inform the world that several thousand of their forces will be pulling out at any given time.
Obama's latest declaration regarding foreign affairs was a sweeping statement underlining that on no account will there be any military intervention in Syria.
Assad must also be delighted to hear this affirmation, that as far as the US are concerned, he can continue without impediment to encourage and congratulate his army for their courageous and patriotic stand, in regularly massacring mostly unarmed, Syrian civilians.
One only hopes that the EU will be more forcefully realistic and idealistic regarding Syria. Almost on a daily basis the Syrian people are sacrificing themselves for an ideal which, at least in principle, the free world is supposed to defend. One can't defend the principle of democracy in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, and at the same time be virtually a tacit accomplice to systematic assassinations of unarmed civilians whose only crime is to manifest for the same freedom in Syria.
One either defends the principle of democracy or not. Incoherent double standards are usually only practised by cowards or hypocrites.
There is also a paradoxical twist regarding the terrible situation in Somalia. In order to help well over two million famine victims, it seems that the US are considering the possibility of easing restrictions imposed on the extremist Islamist group al-Shabab, the killers of Western aid workers. This might mean that in the hope of getting some of the much needed food supplies through, al-Shebab could even be paid 'taxes and tolls'. In any case it's probable that when restrictions are lifted, much of the supplies will also be creamed off by the extremists, to add insult to injury.
Such an idea seems senseless. Surely this massive catastrophe deserves a far more important, international engagement. In order to insure that precious food and medical supplies get through to the famine victims, shouldn't these supplies be escorted by strong contingents of UN or NATO forces?
The world is precious, and still beautiful, but it badly needs a lot more care and attention, certainly from those who are willing to give it. Needless to add, the USA, the great nation that has always claimed to extol freedom above all others, should continue to play a prominent role.
Opinion and water-colour vignette © Mirino, August, 2011