Is it the ‘beginning of the end’ for Barack Obama or ‘the end of the beginning’? In an article for The Times Anatole Kaletsky proclaims anxiously that today’s political summit on healthcare reform in the United States is Obama’s ‘last chance to find a way forward’, out of political deadlock and into the promised brand of consensual politics. Kaletsky claims that if Obama fails to secure consensus on the reforms there will be dire consequences politically and economically for the US and its place on the world stage, potentially altering the ‘balance of power between Western democracy and benign dictatorship along Chinese lines’.
Speculation over the decline of US hegemony and its impact on geopolitics are a feature of the media coverage of Obama’s Presidency, demonstrating at times a cynical fall out from the historic election of America’s first Black President last year. In a more measured assessment, Allan Watson (2010) reviews the geopolitical implications of the Obama Presidency in Antipode. Watson traces the decline in US hegemony from the Bush administration to its present state suggesting that changing deep-rooted US policies through the model of open, collaborative and multilateral politics is no easy feat. Military supremacy continues to be on the agenda, which arguably strengthens US hegemony, but this has been tempered by the financial crisis of 2008 which increased American reliance on foreign investment and compelled diplomacy.
Watson remains uncertain about the future of US hegemony in shaping the geopolitical landscape but optimistic about the multilaterlism of the Obama presidency, seeing it as a chance for America “to re-invent itself as a more open and tolerant nation and practice what may be termed as a “moral hegemony” (see Kobayashi and Peake, 2000), without the need to exercise the hard coercive unilateral military or economic power upon the rest of the world” (p245).