Sunday, October 16, 2016

Alter Egos by Mark Landler

Image result for alter egos book markAlter Egos takes us inside the foreign policy of Barack Obama, his relationship with his secretary of state Hillary Clinton, and their different world views. My interest in the fractured relationship between Obama and Clinton piqued when I read the controversial book by Edward Klein "The Blood Feud", which basically comes down to representing Obamas and Clintons as two warring clans engaged in a perpetual power struggle over control of the the Oval office and the Democratic party.

The relationship between the most powerful man and the most powerful woman in the world forms the backdrop of this book, while you also get to learn why Obama's administration did different things in different places around the world. The book keeps it's focus on the foreign policy of the Obama Administration and Clinton's role as secretary of state in it.

Obama is the outsider, he moved outside America when he was little, and spent his formative years in SE Asia. He looks at the US as the global policeman and has a similar views on China, living in tiny nations like Malaysia and Indonesia provided him with a unique prospective on hegemonic states. Obama learnt that states like China, USA and Russia are feared and hated by the rest of the world. He wanted to change that perception, his foreign policy indicated/indicates his world view. Obama reached out to Cuba, struck a nuclear deal with Iran, reached out to several smaller nation in SE Asia which are threatened by the communist oligarchy of China, and pulled out troops from Iraq believing that US has no right to interfere in foreign lands. Obama was not always the dove, he did authorize dozens of strikes in Pakistan, took out the Libyan dictator Gaddafi and sent Bin Laden packing.

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 All this time Obama had a rocky relationship with his secretary of state Hillary Clinton. Clinton who had a complete different world view from Obama had a diametrically opposite upbringing from former rival and later her boss. Clinton the daughter of a small business owner, was bought up in the heart of America. A Lawyer by profession she would go on to marry the charming future President Bill Clinton. Hillary believed in the power of USA, she during her formative years saw US opposing and fighting the evil of communism around the world, to her the US was not a global policeman but a morally righteous force fighting evil and bringing freedom to the downtrodden.

Clinton in the beginning had a hard time fitting inside the Obama Administration. The vitriolic campaign that both sides had fought against each other left a bitter taste. Obama's advisers and staff did not trust Clinton's and vise versa. Eventually Clinton through her experience and hard work won over many of the presidents' s aides and even the President himself. Mr. Mark Landler, the author potrays Clinton as a very smart, loyal and intelligent operative quite unlike unlike her portrayal in the media and by Trump. The fact that the author is biased towards Hillary is pretty obvious, Obama is shown as a well meaning amateur whose ideals would always get in the way of doing constructive things and building consensus. Obama was also naive when it came to ISIS his inaction caused the group to grow like cancer and becoming the equivalent of modern day Nazis. Another disaster for Obama was Syria, he warned Assad of using bio chemical weapons on his own population but when Assad did not heed his warning, Obama only stood by and did nothing, thus in the view of many weakening the position of the President and in turn the USA. One thing I was pretty surprised about was how there was no mention of India at all in the book, not even one line. Perhaps, because the book only dealt with troubled nations like Pak, Syria, Iraq, North Korea, Cuba and Myanmar.

Clinton worked with Obama on many of his foreign policy initiatives. She turned out to be a team player and not the megalomaniac that the media would have you believe. The two managed to work together despite having completely different world views and egos. Even striking a "friendship" with each other.

Clinton is portrayed as a much better people's person and manager than Obama. No one even Clinton's worst critics dispute that she has ample experience and is backed by powerful groups. Looking at her opponent in 2016 elections her ascendancy to the throne is all but guaranteed.

3.5 Stars out of 5

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