THE AMERICAN ZEROS | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, August 03, 2015 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, August 03, 2015

THE AMERICAN ZEROS

The world has seen a new United States in the last couple of years. It intended to pursue three great zeros through calming different heats, which had never been imagined even a decade back. These are zeroing frustrations among the American middle-class; zeroing military deployment in the hot geopolitical spots, and zeroing distance with its long-standing foes. The 'middle-class economy' has recently emerged as a normative buzzword subsiding the Kuznets' mantra of inevitable income inequality. Indeed, President Obama's The Audacity of Hope set the implicit tone of the middle-class economy seven years back, which he elaborated quite eloquently in his State of the Union in January 2015. It is yet a semi-utopian notion in the American context but achievable by undertaking manifold reforms in economic and social policies subject to managing formidable Republican ego. The first zero is therefore likely to be a long trail through promoting middle-class interest in the economy and polity, which also require economic and social transformations, and has a good chance of becoming a model of economic equalisation.

The second zero has also been initiated by the Obama administration to lessen the enormous burden of budget deficit to fight terror in South Asia and the Middle East. A decade-long war made the public economy of the United States considerably weak due to an estimated $6 trillion subsidy — continuing military deployment in Afghanistan and Iraq has become economically and socially unviable. Despite sporadic insurgencies and attacks on US-led NATO troops since withdrawal started in 2011, trailing a strategic zero is still continuing despite some airstrikes and Special Operations raids by US forces. Billions of dollars are also being spent to bring normalcy in economic spheres of the war-ravaged economies, which could have precious alternative uses. In fact, about 85 bailout packages could have been backed to reverse the global financial crises stemmed from the US by saving the cost of warfare in these two countries. The economic appearance of the present world could be much stronger and could be shining. The Obama administration has pragmatically realised the considerable opportunity cost of destructive dollars.

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The third and final zero is relatively new, which called for a really brave heart aiming at addressing some high-voltage issues of the US foreign policy. President Obama dared to attain diplomatic normalcy with Cuba, its long-standing foe since the middle of Cold War with limited opposition from domestic politics. The Cuban flag has been hoisted at its diplomatic mission in the US land after 54 years, just some days back. Cuba is believed to be one of the next destinations of enormous global investment which would help revitalise the bystander US economy. Obama has also met Central and South American leaders at the Summit of the Americas in Panama in April 2015 where he met Raúl Castro and held face to face discussions with him. He also addressed the 33 presidents and premiers attending the summit, including Bolivian President Evo Morales and Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro who are still highly sensitive to the US. Countering Maduro's wreath for the civilian victims in the US invasion of Panama in 1989, President Obama surprisingly acknowledged that the US is perhaps ready to remove the label of “meddle with impunity” in Latin American affairs.

These developments are just peanuts in comparison with the recent six-nation high-profile nuclear deal with Iran. The agreement is still subject to approval of the US Congress where President Obama is expecting a formidable challenge. He interpreted the accord as the alternative to war with Iran, but did not mention whether it is the first or second best solution. The Economist has, however, categorically narrated it as “better than the alternatives — war or no deal at all” in its cover story titled “Hiyatollah!” on July18, 2015. The US and its allies were perhaps compelled to continue dialogue with Iran due to the changing political atmosphere in Iran and the Middle East, along with greater confidence in President Rouhani and achieving a reasonable agreement to defer its nuclear ambition. Understandably, legitimising another sensational war in the Middle East would be much costlier and complex than the deal, a far more feasible alternative.

In the context of growing IS concern and distance of the US with Saudi Arabia, the realist approach of international relations suggest that the West has both imperative and opportunity to converge with Iran in deferring its nuclear ambition despite a hard resistance from Israel. The situation is popularly known as a “Corner Solution” of economics in which a player is compelled to adopt a strategy to move forward. The deal would pave the way to take the Iranian economy off, and a small part of the extra money would be spent to purchase costly modern non-military nuclear technology, and work closely with the scientists of the US and other big nations. Nevertheless, technology transfer and knowledge spillover would strengthen Iran's skill to fulfill their nuclear ambition after a decade or so, despite intrusive monitoring of all its nuclear facilities, and enable Iran to inspect its military sites on request as per the accord, as apprehended immediately by David Rothkopf in Foreign Policy. On the other hand, the US and its allies would be able to engage Iran to curb and undo IS. Israel, which started helping Iran's nuclear programme before 1979, would eventually benefit from fighting IS, although it is now acting as a hardliner to resist the deal. Bridging the gap between Iran and the West would help soften Iran's present voice against Israel through a possible political and social transformation in favour of the West. Thus, the political economy and geopolitical equations surrounding the Gulf nations is indicating the inevitability of taking the deal forward for a win-win outcome. 

As the situation moves forward in the US, President Obama is likely to be chased heavily even by some Democrat senators who are inclined toward Israel. Therefore, he has to work hard to convince the senators in line with his press briefing that 99 percent of the world population is in favour of the deal. Not very hard to predict, he will try time and again to succeed if it is not passed in the current form. Why? A new America is perhaps approaching three historical zeros! 

The writer is Senior Research Fellow at the Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BIISS). 
E-mail:mahfuzkabir@yahoo.com.  

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