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Timely Considerations on Soft Power and President Obama's Legacy Timely Considerations on Soft Power and President Obama's Legacy
by Dr. Emanuel Paparella
2012-12-30 12:14:00
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As I have previously asserted President Obama’s legacy would be already assured, even if he had lost the election and had become a one term president. He, unlike scores of Democratic presidents before him, successfully brought about health care reform and universal health care to all US citizens thus bringing the US up to par with most of the other wealthy industrialized countries of the planet. Of course there are scores of other accomplishments, some of them major, already enumerated.

But there is another accomplishment already in progress which may come to fruition in Obama’s second term. I refer to the ongoing relationship with China. Few doubt that China intends to be a challenge to the United States in the 21st century on both the military and the economic front. Not unlike that other Communist power of the 20th century, the former Soviet Union, it wants to be taken seriously as a viable global economic alternative to the United States. Not just its aggressive military built-up points to it but also the fact that in 2010 China, by its own official report, had direct investments of over $60 billion in foreign nations and between 1950 and 2009 had given more than $38 billion in aid to developing countries.  

The challenge for the United States will be how to remain a great Pacific power with considerable economic and political hegemony in the region, or in other words, how to blunt the Chinese challenge by limiting its influence, but do so peacefully without recourse to out-right military conflict between nuclear powers which could well prove an unmitigated disaster for the whole world. President Obama’s recent trip to Asia is a reminder that the US intends to retain its hegemony in the region well into the next century, and to be a major player in the ever-changing Asian power dynamics. 

As I have also written previously (see my article “Pacific Trade Agreements, Prosperity and Democracy: for Whom does the Bell Toll?” at this link: http://www.ovimagazine.com/art/9396 ), the successful meeting of that challenge may well be the crowning achievement of the Obama presidency. How so? Well, for one thing, Obama has already put in place a web of interlocking dynamic Asian alliances (again, see above link). It is via those alliances that China will be held to the honoring of international economic standards if she is to be an international bona fide player and retain the global status of a great power. I suppose that can be dubbed the counter-challenge to China.

It is also no great secret that India, Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Australia and just about all the other nations of South East Asia, with the possible exception of North Korea and Vietnam,  which are wholly dependent on China, are apprehensive about a rising powerful China and what that may eventually mean to their security and prosperity, not to speak of democracy and free trade. This is undoubtedly fertile ground for involving them in economic and military alliances to the benefit of everyone involved. The process as envisioned by President Obama is already in progress.

The question naturally arises: how does one manage those alliances? It has been suggested by some pundits that  President Obama practice once again some sort of “cowboy diplomacy.” This immediately raises the ghost of President Bush and his neo-con advisors bent on war conducted unilaterally and in defiance of allies cowboy style, but that is not what these pundits are suggesting. The template here should be that of President Teddy Roosevelt.

What those pundits mean by cowboy diplomacy is the Rooseveltan idea of speaking softly with the voice of diplomacy but brandishing a big stick as a deterrent to those who prove too obtuse to soft power. There is however an important caveat: this stick should never be imprudently used against a challenger of more or less comparable power. In other words, the powerful sword while a deterrent for lesser powers must never be unleashed against China. For example, Teddy Roosevelt could talk tough to European powers in his day but he actually never went to war against them. When World War I arrived the US role was that of an ally, not that of an aggressor. Similarly President Regan could call the Soviet Union “The Evil Empire” but never fought a war with it, except through proxies.

What if the “big stick” deterrent doesn’t work, what then? Here President Truman’s example may be instructive. What Truman did after World War II was to involve the European nations into a common military alliance called NATO which protected them from the ambitions of Stalin’s Soviet Union. He also installed an economic plan called “The Marshall Plan” which promoted trade and close economic relationship with the US. Similarly, the US may now involve the Asian nations in an alliance that stresses however the economic rather than the military component. After all, one suspects that if a poll were to be conducted in the Asian nations, here again with the possible exception of North Korea and Vietnam, where they’d prefer to live, in a dynamic disorderly democracy with check and balances to limit power and constitutional guarantees of human rights and freedom of choice, or a well-ordered prosperous dictatorship the few rule and their dictates is the law, most people would choose the former.

In conclusion, those two achievements, Universal Health Coverage and Asian Alliances to promote democracy and free trade, by themselves alone would assure an enduring legacy for President Obama. Should he also accomplish immigration reform and tax reform, which is a possibility, he will most probably go down in history not only as the first black President but as one of the greatest presidents of the US.

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Murray Hunter2012-12-30 12:31:31
Dear Prof Paparella,
Well written. With the exception of extra judical killings by drones in more than 10 countries by the Obama administration my concerns are now focused domestically on two issues.
1. The privately owned US federal reserve is printing money outside the authority of the US constitution. The US President has shown an oath to uphold the constitution and doesnt seem to be doing so.
2. With the questions remaining about the Sandy Hook incident still outstanding, there was a quick call for gun control by Obama. Guns dont kill only people using them. Is this an attempt to breakdown the unorganized militia in the US, the peoples last line of defense against the Patriot Act?
It appears the Obama Administration is running an agenda rather than running upon a philosophy. For example, the US fought terrorists with the declared war on terror but is now supporting terrorists in Syria.
As an alternative ending (my opinion only) he may go down as one of the most conservative and establishment Presidents in history, running the agenda of "the Family".
Have a happy new year Professor Paparella.
Best Regards

Thanos2012-12-30 13:53:01
The last few days I’ve been thinking the concept “persona of the year” and Obama’s name kept coming. I think Barack Obama is the persona of the year due to the character (that’s the best way I can put it this minute) controversy he’s raising. He actually reminded me that everybody has one self they like others to see, one they like to be and another they really are. Add to that the one others see, projecting their wishes you got a real schizophrenic situation.

Emanuel Paparella2012-12-30 17:43:48
Dear Professor Hunter,

Happy New Year to you too! It is indeed intriguing to me that you’d even suggest that President Obama may go down in history as "one of the most conservative and establishment presidents in history." That is certainly news to me, and I suspect that it must be also news to all the right wing crazies in Congress who, for the last four years, have been accusing President Obama of being a wild left winger who consorts with Communist and Socialist-leaning subversives. It is indeed a tupsy turvy world we live in.

Also intriguing to the point of humor that gratuitous insinuation of running “the family” which I suppose you’d locate in Chicago, or could it be New York? One wonders.

But coming to your more serious cavalier charges, n. 1 concerning the printing of money. I am not a constitutional lawyer but should we not assume that President Obama being one (with a degree from Harvard University) may be well aware if he is stepping over the line of constitutionality and risking impeachment? Here are some historical facts that may or may not “enlighten” you and others of a similar mind-set on the matter. In Knox v Lee, 79 U.S. 457 (1871), the Supreme Court ruled that paper money was not unconstitutional: "The Constitution nowhere declares that nothing shall be money unless made of metal." The Court argued that the Congress can manipulate the value of precious metals to the point where it can be rendered as inherently worthless as paper (the Congress could enact a law that says that 10-dollar silver coins weigh 400 grains in one year and 500 grains the next, effectively devaluing the silver). The Court even noted the arguments of the Framers against "emitting bills," but wrote that the Framers, one, could not anticipate all governmental needs, and, two, allowed the Congress to do what was necessary and proper to carry out its powers. In this case, that includes printing paper money. So, said the Court, even though paper money is not expressly permitted by the Constitution, it is also not expressly forbidden, and in spite of the extra-constitutional opinions of some of the Framers, the ability to print paper money is a necessary and proper power of the federal government.

On n. 2, your statement “guns dont [sic] kill only people do” perfectly dovetails the NRA belief that guns are innocent bystanders, “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” Really? Let us look at some revealing statistics from you own country, Australia. They may a long way in "enlightening" our own obtuse politicians in the US and perhaps even those in Finland since there too there is a similar problem with the proliferation of arms vis a vis the rest of the EU. Almost two weeks after a shooting spree stunned Australia in 1996, leaving 35 people dead at the Port Arthur tourist spot in Tasmania, the government issued sweeping reforms of the country’s gun laws. There hasn’t been a mass shooting since. The then Prime Minister John Howard who had just been elected with the help of gun owners – pushed through not only new gun control laws, but also the most ambitious gun buyback program Australia had ever seen. Some 650,000 automatic and semiautomatic rifles were handed in and destroyed under the program. Gun-related homicides dropped 59 percent between 1995 and 2006, with no corresponding increase in non-firearm-related homicides. Suicides by gun plummeted by 65 percent, and robberies at gunpoint also dropped significantly. The most convincing statistic for many, though, is that in the decade before the Port Arthur massacre, there were 11 mass shootings in the country. Since the new law, there hasn’t been one shooting spree. Polls indicated that up to 85 percent of Australians supported and continue to support the measures taken by the government.

A modest proposal: perhaps it is time in both the US and Finland to simply bypass and ignore the gun fanatics and idolaters and imitat Australia where there used to be massacres, they acted, they no longer have massacres. Indeed the definition of insanity is to continue doing the same thing obsessively and expecting different results. Best wishes for an “enlightened” new year,

Emanuel Paparella2012-12-30 18:13:01
Hello Thanos and happy new year to you and the whole Ovi family!

As you may or may not know, Time magazine has in fact chosen President Obama as Man of the Year.

What you say about the schizophrenic situation of the human condition is quite revealing and on target. I think Socrates was up to something too when he recommended that we go beyond the knowledge of scientific external facts and begin to “know ourselves.” A Freudian slip perhaps?

Freud of course complicated things considerably by postulating the id (the instinct to survive), the ego (what we want to appear to others) and the super-ego (what we ideally wish to be and manage to sublimate…). As you point out others then project their wishes on us and we have schizophrenia pure and simple. Freud projected it on Jung, and of course Freud, being a psychiatrist thought that the situation was curable via psychoanalysis, for Jung, not for him who was already perfect since he had already psychoanalyzed himself. Jung was not so sure and pointed to Freud's dreams which suggested he did not have it completely under control. I think Jung had it more on target. There is a transcendence to human nature that cannot be explained scientifically and empirically. The last men, as dubbed by Nietzsche are of course not convinced but that would not be anything new since Socrates...

Emanuel Paparella2012-12-30 22:20:40
P.S. In the previous comment I forgot to mention that the fabricated assertion that the Obama administration "is now supporting terrorists in Syria" is not only proposterous to the point of hilarity but also dovetails quite well the vitriolic insinuations of the right wing crazies in the US Congress who believe that President Obama is illegitimate since he was born in Kenia some place.

Emanuel Paparella2012-12-31 04:14:27
Dear Professor Hunter,

quite instructive that throughout this anti-Obama rather rambling tirade the suggested facts of Australia's stance since 1996 on assault weapons are conveniently ignored or overlooked. I suggest that such silence speaks volumes by itself.

Murray2012-12-31 03:33:01
Dear Professor Paperella,

I am only concerned that the current Obama administration is taking away the rights of its citizens and taking an aggressive international military posture around the world.

The Sandy Hook incident is very convenient to the gun control agenda. There is no talk of improving mental health in the US, as one must remember it's a human that must use the gun. The big question here is why do humans cause violence? The shooting allows people to pursue their hatred of guns and reactivate the gun control agenda once again. Most murders according to the stats I have been reading come from knives and hand guns rather than automatic weapons. Gun control will have the side effect of enhancing the police state and extending section 802 of the Patriot Act, far from being a liberal document.

This argument however we will never be resolved in this forum. It's just ironic that no one is taking any similar response to the death of thousands of Muslim children that have been killed in wars financed by US citizens.

There just seems to be a convenient switch to the rise of homegrown terrorism in the US at present, supporting moves for gun control. With each massacre, Colorado included, there are just too many unanswered questions that authorities have not answered. Over the last 10 years US citizens have been losing their rights and constitutional protections and had to finance continuous wars. The US government is now sending troops to 35 African countries in the name of fighting terrorism http://rt.com/usa/news/us-deploying-troops-order-749/print/

I would not call these liberal actions, even though you may laugh. One must be concerned that society is being engineered upon the logic of mass murder, both domestically and internationally. I'm sure that Hitler has not been the only person in history to use a "false flag" operation to further agenda. Iraq and WMD comes to mind here.


Murray2012-12-31 03:37:15
So certainly I agree with Thanos that Obama is the man of the year, if not the decade. He will leave a lasting Orwellian legacy upon the US if not the world, which may be too late to stop. Obama may have well surpassed George W. Bush in taking away the rights of Americans and extending military influence around the world.

You may well see with the "Fiscal Cliff" drama that compromise may conveniently allow continued tax breaks for the rich. Even "Dallas" was not this gripping.

Please remember the world is a stage and there are actors who perform upon the stage. Just look how lightly HSBC got off for laundering Mexican drug cartel money. Certainly I agree Obama is very liberal when it comes to justice for the banks.

The only thing George Orwell got wrong was the year. maybe it should have been 2013. I predict more "homegrown" terrorism and stringent gun laws will go through, I'm sure to yours and many other's delight. Just think about the consequences without your emotions being overshadowed with emotions about Sandy Hook. Excuse the metaphor here but have the people taken the Sandy Hook story "hook, line and sinker?"

Good day to you Professor Paperella. Nothing would give me more happiness than to find that you are right and I have been misled, deluded and totally wrong. Lets together please pray for that.

Murray2012-12-31 03:38:54
PS. Hilary Clinton is reported to be a member of "The Family" along with people like John Ashcroft, and James Baker. President Obama has attended Fellowship Foundation prayer breakfast sessions and is featured prominently on their website http://thefellowshipfoundation.org/

Murray Hunter2012-12-31 13:56:07
Sorry: Port Arthur - I overlooked as I was focused on US, not Australia (by the way Australia is not my country).
You said "Since the new law, there hasn’t been one shooting spree" - Thats simply not correct. One example is the Monash massicre of 2002 where Huan Yun Xiang, a student, shot his classmates and teacher, killing two and injuring five.

Emanuel Paparella2013-01-01 02:35:19

I stand corrected; however the more important point usually overlooked by the NRA and the gun fanatics who support their luny philosophy on guns, is that overall as mentioned above the percentage of murders and suicides has in fact substantially declined since the gun buyback scheme was implemented in Australia saving thousands of lives a year. From 11 massacres in the decade preceding the gun control law of to 1 since 1996 (16 years ago) is certainly progress, at least for most sensible rational people (85% of all Australians).

Here is a statistic from Wikipedia on the politics of guns in Australia: “A 2010 study found that the gun buyback scheme cut firearm suicides 74%, thus saving 200 lives a year. The study,[51] by Christine Neill and Andrew Leigh (later elected as an Australian Labor Party MP), also found that states such as Tasmania, which withdrew guns quickly, had a bigger decline in firearm suicides than states such as New South Wales, which withdrew more slowly.”

Murray Hunter2013-01-01 03:50:15
Dear Prof: Syria
Al Nusrah that is doing the core of the fighting in Syria is proclaimed a "Terrorist Organization" by Washington, but is being armed by the US and the West. See this article by Pepe Escobar for information http://www.4thmedia.org/2012/12/25/the-rape-of-syria%ef%bc%9afor-whom-the-syrian-bell-tolls/
Im sorry I cant see the hilarious part to it.
Have a great 2013.

Murray Hunter2013-01-01 04:10:22
Prof. Here is another account and video footage showing what US funded rebels are doing with US taxpayers money. Im surprised that you dont consider this terrorism. http://www.4thmedia.org/2012/12/29/video-syrian-rebels-try-to-shoot-down-commercial-airliner/

Emanuel Paparella2013-01-01 11:33:16
Indeed, dear professor, this statement too dovetails what the loonies in the US Congress have been saying all along about President Obama: that he used to consort with leftist subversive and terrorists when he was a social worker in Chicago. So, the loony argument continues, it is no great surprise that this illegitimate president born in Kenya and a secret Moslem to boot, who illegitimately got into Harvard because of affirmative action and who puts his feet on the people’s furniture in the White House, would now pal around with middle east terrorists and try to end the regime of a Hassad, a perfectly legitimate peaceful president of Syria. These are the same people who have also criticized President Obama for not doing enough to oust Hassad. In other words, throw anything against the wall and see if sticks.

Fortunately most people are sensible enought to see through those absurd tactics and decided to reelect him. I would also suggest that most people are able to see the hilarity of the above mentioned pronouncements.

Happy New Year!

Murray Hunter2013-01-02 02:59:59
Here is some more information about the results of the gun buy back scheme in Australia you are interested in.

The bottom line of the research showed that the buyback scheme was a waste of tax payers money.
In addition it must be said that Australia has a low homicide rate compared to the US and there have only been 3 massicures in Modern Australian history, 1 before Port Arthur and one after Port Arthur I mentioned previously.

Murray Hunter2013-01-02 03:09:35
In addition, despite the Howard initiated increase of federal control over guns, the per capita rate of private firearm ownership in Australia (15.5 per 100 people) , although well below US levels (88.8 per 100 people), is still relatively high by international comparisons. At least according to the statistics available at
The same source estimates about 2.7 illegal firearms per 100 people.
"The estimated total number of guns held by civilians in Australia is 3,050,0001 to 3,500,000." Claims that "Australia banned guns" following the 1996 massacre are just not accurate. Gun control is a state not a federal jurisdiction. It was a buy back not regulatory inititive.

Murray Hunter2013-01-02 03:09:55
In addition, despite the Howard initiated increase of federal control over guns, the per capita rate of private firearm ownership in Australia (15.5 per 100 people) , although well below US levels (88.8 per 100 people), is still relatively high by international comparisons. At least according to the statistics available at
The same source estimates about 2.7 illegal firearms per 100 people.
"The estimated total number of guns held by civilians in Australia is 3,050,0001 to 3,500,000." Claims that "Australia banned guns" following the 1996 massacre are just not accurate. Gun control is a state not a federal jurisdiction. It was a buy back not regulatory inititive.

Murray Hunter2013-01-02 06:10:22
Prof: As I said the world is a stage and actors perform roles upon the stage. Even Fox news is reporting these things (hardly liberal)http://gretawire.foxnewsinsider.com/2013/01/01/the-congressional-black-caucus-does-not-appear-thrilled-with-the-fiscal-cliff-bill-their-press-release-uses-the-term-reluctantly/?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+foxnewsinsider%2Fgretawire+%28Gretawire%29

Emanuel Paparella2013-01-02 08:46:03

Indeed, we are all entitled to our opinions, our interpretations, even our own myths and fantasies, but nobody is entitled to fabricate and then claim his own historical facts.

Barack Obama was born in Kenia is not a fact, it is a fabrication and a loony’s fantasy and it is a lie to boot. The principle of non-contradiction is a logical fact, the law of gravity is a scientific fact and they remain such till one can show that those laws are not well thought out or are falsifiable, as Popper well taught us. If that is not the case, then to manipulate science itself, as Stalin did, it is to manipulate reality itself, miscontrue the very idea of Truth and go down the deep end of absurdity and nihilism.

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