Time to deliver

US President Barack Obama’s first year in office has been a mixed bag. The US economy is in better health than it was a year ago, although unemployment remains worryingly high.  Obama has moved closer to reforming the US health care system than any other president before him, a formidable achievement in the US. If he succeeds in enacting the reforms bill into law in the coming months, millions of poor Americans can hope to get free health insurance cover. On the international front, his presidency has slightly improved America’s image. While he has begun winding down US military involvement in Iraq, he has stepped up deployment of troops in Afghanistan. His AfPak strategy is yet to begin showing results. Many of Obama’s critics — and they are growing in number — are pointing out that while he has made grand promises, he hasn’t quite delivered. One year after he promised to shut down Guantanamo prison, some 200 inmates continue to languish there, while hundreds more are being held without trial in Bagram in Afghanistan. He ordered closure of the CIA’s black sites but granted a blanket amnesty to those who used torture in these prisons.

Obama’s approval ratings are slumping. If his approval ratings are any indication of his performance, it does seem that his first year at the helm has been a huge disappointment.  However, this is an unfair assessment. Expectations of him touched stratospheric levels at the start of his presidency.  These expectations were so great, they could not have been met realistically. Not within a short span of 12 months anyway. Some of the bigger problems that are now being described as Obama’s failures were those he inherited from his predecessor, George Bush. If the situation in Afghanistan has worsened, this is because the Bush administration shifted focus away from the crisis there to create one in Iraq. Obama is having to reap the harvest of the seeds sown by Bush.

Obama’s promises indicate that he is well-intentioned and has his head and heart in the right place, something few American presidents can boast of. His potential earned him the Nobel Prize for Peace. But pledges and potential are not enough to bring change. His first year, though disappointing, has had its bright moments. He has three more years to deliver on his promises.

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