Pres. Barak Obama repeatedly refers to the end of his time in office and that he is no longer campaigning. There is more than a little ambiguity there, however, for his modus operandi is a permanent campaign – even when it is for more limited objectives than the highest office in the land.
But now come rumors from the Middle East that he is, indeed, campaigning, and for a new and powerful job. The Kuwaiti daily Al-Jarida says he has been secretly sounding out Democrats, Republicans and Jewish officials in the U.S. for support for a campaign to become the UN chief.
There is no confirmation anywhere of these Arab media reports, but they take the possibility seriously and also refer to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu already engaged in a campaign to head Obama off.
Al-Jarida says Netanyahu is recruiting the Persian Gulf states including Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain, his new tacit allies in their fear and opposition to Iran. Obama’s attempt to reach a new accommodation with the Persian mullahs has raised the hackles of the Arabs and the ante in the Arab-Persian, Sunni-Shia conflicts.
The Jerusalem Post claims a source close to Netanyahu doesn’t deny that the prime minister is aiming to “torpedo the Obama project.” The source added: “His presidency was characterized by Washington’s moving closer to the Muslim Brotherhood, toppling the regime of Hosni Mubarak, and attempts to ally itself with political Islam.”
According to some sources, Obama figures he can somehow resolve the internecine warfare between Shi’ites and Sunnis, between Persians and Arabs, Turks and Kurds, Copts and Salafists, and get all “the fifty-seven [UN] states,” to support for him as a messianic UN Secretary General. The UN boss is appointed by the General Assembly, on the recommendation of the Security Council. ’s selection is, therefore, subject to the veto of any of the five permanent members of the Security Council.
The UN General Assembly, dominated by anti-American leftist and autocratic regimes, the argument runs, would support even an American candidate, one who has made reducing U.S. power abroad his principal strategy. But an okay from China and Russia, both of whom as permanent members of the UN Security Council and have a veto over the secretary-general’s appointment, is another question.
It seems likely that the whole story is another of those wild figments of the imagination that characterize the Arab world and its media. But, then, Obama was a most unlikely candidate for president of the U.S., and there is still something of a puzzle of just how he made it to the office, and furthermore, was reelected. And one gets the impression that outrageous ambition is not far from the center of the President’s personality.
We can’t think of a worse idea, however. Even under the lackluster former South Korean foreign minister, Ban Ki-moon, the eighth Secretary-General whose term ends this year, the office took on increased activities never intended in the original UN proposals. Ban, much more than his predecessors, has taken to advancing his policy proposals, when, in fact, he was supposed to be a creature of the Security-Council limited to its convoluted and often stymied instructions. The office in the hands of an activist like Obama – moving his current controversial presidential initiatives to an international level – would create an unelected, unrepresentative new element into an already increasingly unstable international scene.
Offhand, we don’t have a job for a former U.S. president, still too young and obviously too vigorous, to settle for retirement and elder statesmanship. But running the UN certainly isn’t the right niche.
* This commentary was posted on yeoldecrabb.com on January 12, 2016