Today we learned that the US senate seat of Ted Kennedy, who fought all his life to get health care to all, now is taken by Scott Brown a republican in a change that indeed jeopardizes just the health care bill of Obama. He thanked John McCain in his acceptance speech so McCain got some sweet revenge for the loss in the election. According to Huffington Post it was a protest vote. People are angry about Wall Street and about Health Care, which is a little strange because Massachusetts have health care for all thanks to the former Republican Governor Mitt Romney.
This happens as pundits are writing reviews for Obama's first year. I have only read that of The Economist which I like because it was positive. I also think Obama did well this year. He had to fight a little when the adoration of the election era weaned off but only really erred on his Afghanistan war which I unfortunately think will be a mistake. I think he was worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize for having created a new more positive world mood and having ended the use of torture for interrogations. However, giving a war speech for the ceremony did not rhyme well.
I did not even vote for Obama because I adhered to the foreign policy of Robert Kagan that fueled John McCain's candidacy. However, something happened in the world after the financial crisis and I now firmly believe that the Democrats should be in power due to the fact that this harmonizes best with Europe. Obama is the obvious leader still with a strong mandate and I hope he will get reelected in 2012.
One of the more significant events last year is probably that Obama and his administration have learned that China is no friend. Although Asia is regarded as a bonanza economically problems are brewing. Japan and the US now are at odds about a military base at Okinawa. I have not seen that yet but I still hope that we will have a trans-Atlantic president back, which for example would mean that Obama lends an ear to the Green movement in Europe.
Obama's Middle East approach probably went OK. However, people complain that he told Israel to completely stop their settlements which he had to retract from. I guess he learned that Israel is completely fixed on the problem with Iran and have little interest in the Palestinian question at the time. Solving the Iran problem would take care of Hamas and Hizbollah in their humble opinion. Obama's Turkish speech was probably partly aimed at building a possible bridge to Iran via this route. There might be some potential in this approach. If Iran gets the bomb, it is good with a more positive relation.
Obama was also helped by the fact that Iran got internal problems after the reelection of Ahmadi-nejad. Who knows, perhaps the democracy movement in Iran was in part fueled by Obama's stretched out hand gesture at the beginning of his presidency. If I was an Iranian, I would also think more of improving my country than fighting the infidel if the outside pressure is relieved. Removing sanctions rather than strenghtening them might further enthuse the Green Opposition movement for possible change to the better in Iran. However, making sanctions stronger seems to be what is currently in the mind of the establishment.
Before the election in Iran there was no consensus from Obama's administration to bomb Iran to delay the possible production of an atom bomb. Looking into the future the perhaps highest probability is that Iran will make a bomb and this is supposed to change things in the Middle East. How this is going to change things differently from the already present nuclear situation in Pakistan is unknown to me, perhaps via less transparency, but it must be considered one of Obama's toughest challenges for the remainder of his presidency.
The self-inflicted situation in AfPak and future nuclear capabilities in Iran must be considered as high risk nuclear proliferation problems. We will have to get used to this risk or face a major war situation with very dim prospects for the future. It seems inevitable that this problem will eventually mature during Obama's watch.