Obama’s Map: Which States are Hot and Which are Not?

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America Diminished TWN.jpg(photo illustration by Kevin Van Aelst; reprinted with permission from the New York Times; used with Parag Khanna’s article, “Waving Goodbye to Hegemony“)
The Washington Post recently posted an interesting search tool to scan President Barack Obama’s key speeches, policy statements and media interviews.
What fun this can be, I (and we) thought.
We wondered which countries Obama talked about the most. Would China – which is key to just about every one of America’s major international goals – get a lot of air time?
Japan’s Prime Minister Taro Aso was the first official guest of the White House and Japan Hillary Clinton’s first overseas destination. Would Japan score well? How about Israel and Palestine? Is Cuba on the President’s map?
How about failing states – not just Afghanistan and Somalia – but others like Burma and the nation of his father’s birth, Kenya?
We did a quick and simple scan of nations in the Washington Post search tool.
In order to balance the ends of the development spectrum and our own parochial interests, we searched three groups: G20 members, nations from the recent Foreign Policy/Fund for Peace 2010 Failed States Index, and a handful of other nations (with one eventual state in purgatory: Palestine) that are significant challenges for the Obama administration.
The entire list of 45 nations plus Palestine follows at the end of this piece.
From January 1, 2009 until July 12, 2010, Barack Obama mentioned Afghanistan in 70 major speeches and commentaries. Afghanistan leads among all nations in the FP failed state index.
China follows with 58 mentions. Then Iraq from the failed states line-up with 54. India beats Iran with 46 mentions to 43. North Korea scored just 19 even though it has nukes, sank a South Korean ship, and tests more ballistic missiles than virtually any other country.
Pakistan, which also has nukes and ranked No. 10 on the FP Failed States Index, got 17 mentions.
Interestingly, Israel and Palestine had nearly the same number of tags in key speeches and comments – 19 for Israel and 17 for Palestine.
The United Kingdom, which recently pushed through a resolution that it was downgrading the “special relationship” with the US to an important relationship, also found its relative ranking downgraded by appearing in just 12* Obama speeches and media comments.
Cuba, which has frustrated many an American president and against which the United States maintains the only travel embargo that it imposes on its citizens traveling anywhere else in the world, only appears two times in Presidential speeches. This confirms my sense that the Obama administration doesn’t realize that maintaining a Cold War-era fashioned embargo undermines its interests disproportionally, particularly given the relative disinterest of the US national security establishment in Cuba.
Other interesting points. Venezuela scored a single appearance in an Obama speech. Saudi Arabia, which is a vital strategic ally of the US, appeared just 6 times.
The BRICs are really rising though, compared to the rest. Brazil weighs in at 16. Russia 28. India 46. China, as mentioned previously, 58. Collectively, the BRICs are 148.
The G7, in comparison to the four BRICs countries, gets a score of 95.
Somalia and Yemen, which have been occupying an increasing share of the attention of those concerned about “safe havens” for al Qaeda and affiliates, are way down the list with Somalia at 5 and Yemen at 3.
This quick check of Obama statements shows a President and his team mostly focused on rising powers and key problematic powers.
Overall, there is still a systemic dearth of attention to the states that are doing the worst and sliding into failure.
The distraction of Afghanistan and Iraq is palpable – while the perceived need to manage US-China relations appears paramount.
The President doesn’t make a false choice in the Middle East by mentioning Israel much more than Palestine.
And Cuba, which probably represents the lowest hanging fruit for constructive change in the global system with impact far greater than its population would normally warrant, languishes untended. President Obama would score some real points by finally putting an end to the Cold War in the Western Hemisphere.
This tool is a great service. Thanks to the Washington Post for providing it.
Enjoy your own searches.
— Steve Clemons
Number of Major Speeches, Statements, and Media Interviews by President Barack Obama between January 2009 and July 12, 2010 in Which These Nations Appear
G20 Member States
China 58
India 46
Russia 28
Germany 25
Mexico 25
South Korea 25
Canada 23
France 17
Japan 17
South Africa 17
Brazil 16
United Kingdom 12
Australia 6
Indonesia 6
Saudi Arabia 6
Italy 5
Turkey 5
Argentina 2
Other States (and Near States) of Interest
Iran 43
North Korea 19
Israel 19
Cuba 2
Palestine 17
Syria 3
Venezuela 1
Top 20 Nations from Foreign Policy Failed States Index
Afghanistan 70
Iraq 54
Pakistan 35
Haiti 17
Somalia 5
Kenya 5
Congo 3
Guinea 3
Yemen 3
Nigeria 2
Sudan 2
Zimbabwe 2
Burma 1
Cote d’Ivoire 1
Ethiopia 1
Niger 1
Central African Republic 0
Chad 0
*Editor’s Update: Regular TWN reader and former House Foreign Affairs Committee senior staff member sent a very constructive note that I had short-changed our British friends. Given that the UK works with aliases — Great Britain, England, Henry’s Place (been re-watching “The Tudors“) — it turns out that the UK in substance appears in 12 Obama commentaries, rather than 8 — though it doesn’t change the UK’s ranking or the basic point I made about the lessening of fervor in the “special relationship”.

Comments

24 comments on “Obama’s Map: Which States are Hot and Which are Not?

  1. questions says:

    Move over China, here comes Bangladesh, on half the pay. Woohoo, cheap labor just got cheaper.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/17/business/global/17textile.html?_r=1&hp

    Reply

  2. David says:

    Can’t believe I left out how unhappy I am with the militaristic trap Obama has become enmeshed in in Afghanistan. It is the ultimate POTUS trap. Doesn’t matter that people are angry about the war (only that we are losing). Inheriting a war, any war, is a lose-lose situation. Last successful military engagement (not counting those viscious little military assaults like the Dominican Republic, Grenada, Panama) was WWII, which FDR took from beginning to end, and which we actually had to fight once war came. Nothing since then is actually defensible.

    Reply

  3. David says:

    “They’re cut of the same cloth, David. Bush, Obama, Rice, Clinton, same scumsuckin’ elitist narcissistic stock.”
    Their individual histories don’t support that statement, POA, and where people come from and who they are shaped to be do matter, even when they fall short. It determines which direction they will go any time they actually have a choice.
    In the case of Obama, I would point you to his appointees as compared to Bush’s appointees. And I would cite the return of science to the executive branch.
    I am very unhappy with Obama’s shortcomings in two areas: his inability to deal effectively with Israel (but remember what happened to Carter simply for offering an honest assessment of the conditions in Gaza); and what he has let BP get away with (they had to provide the technology and the equipment, which unfortunately sort of did not exist, but I would have preferred that Obama set the overall agenda. Ken Salazar was the weak link.) But the old saw that there’s not a dime’s worth of difference between the two parties just isn’t true. There is no Alan Grayson in the Republican Party (yes, I know his one blind spot), nor is there a Dennis Kucinich, an Al Franken, or that host of other Democrats who are worthy of respect and do have a clue (except for far too much unconditional support for Israel, no matter what it does, which I find reprehensible).

    Reply

  4. PP says:

    You have been quoted by the Spanish media:
    http://www.elmundo.es/blogs/elmundo/cronicasdesdeeeu
    u/2010/07/14/en-que-paises-piensa-barack-obama.html

    Reply

  5. AmyF says:

    The dearth of ‘Cuba’ mentions is even more extreme when you examine the two hits that come up: one was a reference to the Cuban missile crisis (and spoken by McCain, not Obama), and the other is just the word “incubating.”

    Reply

  6. JohnH says:

    Obama mentioned Honduras exactly once in 2009, when he condemned the coup in Honduras. Then he immediately muzzled himself.
    Guess he learned that the dirty business of overthrowing democratically elected leaders is best done in silence, lest it create dissonance with America’s public diplomacy and phony humanitarian goals.
    By comparison, TWN mentioned the coup only about three times.
    It appears that democracy is only important to the extent that it can be used to criticize America’s enemies.

    Reply

  7. JaneP says:

    what a cute new toy! Thanks, Steve — and thanks, WP!

    Reply

  8. davidt says:

    Cmon Steve,
    Are you serious? Since Michelle is mentioned in 67 speeches, does that mean he needs to spend more time on more important topics like jobs and less on his wife? Does the fact that Ted Kennedy appears 37 times mean that Obama is far more concerned about the late Senator than U.S. Policy towards Mexico? Or does the appearance of country or individual references tell you little of his priorities.
    I can understand that perhaps the high number of instances of references to certain countries tells you something. But not much that is so revealing.
    Furthermore, once again you’re looking for evidence of why Afghanistan is a problem. But the evidence here says little surprising unless you believe that any major US military undertaking can somehow not sap lots of the president’s time and attention.
    It might be shocking to you Steve but I’ll bet that the president’s time at meetings on Afghanistan is high. Why that might be surprising I don’t know. How many references to BP? Does that mean that BP is a higher priority to him than a topic mentioned fewer times? Given what happened how could there not be lots of BP references whether he wanted the topic of oil drilling to be front and center or not.
    Finally, what makes you think if the president had fewer references to Afghanistan he would have more to Saudi Arabia?
    And where’s the post about the Romney op-ed and how frightening it will be if the Republicans choose to use the US-Soviet arms control treaty as a political football? How many references are there to this matter in his speeches or on this blog (seen a reference or two but not re: a leading presidential rival to Obama)? Or is this not so interesting since its not about our president’s failings or mixed up priorities?
    Frustratedly once again,
    DavidT

    Reply

  9. Dan Kervick says:

    Speeches containing the word “terror”: 67
    Speeches containing the word “terrorist”: 44
    Speeches containing the word “terrorism”: 46
    Speeches containing the word “fear”: 57
    Speeches containing the word “fight”: 155
    Speeches containing the word “war”: 291
    Speeches containing the word “military”: 71
    Speeches containing the word “forces”: 58

    Reply

  10. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Not so sure, David. Can you tell me what the pubics woulda done different in regards to Iran? Iraq??? Afghanistan??? Isr/Pal??? Accountability??? Rendering??? Its all about “BOO!!!!”, and both sides are milkin’ it for all, its worth. Bush gave us a clusterfuck. Hillary and Obama might just give us a world war.
    They’re cut of the same cloth, David. Bush, Obama, Rice, Clinton, same scumsuckin’ elitist narcissistic stock.

    Reply

  11. David says:

    The only place we will go if Democrats lose in November and Obama loses in 2 years is a much, much worse place, abysmally worse.

    Reply

  12. David says:

    They’re all hot as hell, and gonna get hotter, Braindead Inhofe notwithstanding. Hope he suffers the same fate as that ubiquitous frog.

    Reply

  13. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “I Won’t Rest Until the Terrorists are Caught….”
    “I Won’t Rest Until Leak Is Stopped …”
    “And I won’t rest until every American who wants a job can find one…..”
    “I promise you this: I won’t rest until things get better…….”
    “I Won’t Rest Until Everyone Has A Good Job…”
    “So, I won’t rest until businesses are hiring again, and wages are rising again……”
    “And I promise that I won’t rest until America prospers once again…….”
    “I Won’t Rest Until Leak Is Stopped…..”
    “And I won’t rest until you, and millions of your neighbors …”

    Reply

  14. WigWag says:

    Now that Steve got me thinking about Lady Gaga and opera, I decided to actually go back and look at the libretto for “O Mio Babbino Caro.” For those who don’t know (and might be interested), the aria is from the very funny Puccini Opera, Gianni Schicchi. While the opera itself is comedic, this particular aria is one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever written.
    Here are the words in the orginal Italian,
    O mio babbino caro
    Mi piace,

    Reply

  15. PissedOffAmerican says:

    If you are really keeping score on this posturing asshole, Steve, you should probably tally the number of times he says “I won’t rest until…..”
    And he doesn’t rest. Visiting golf courses and sports teams is time consuming, by God.
    What a disappointment this guy is. He will crawl out of the White House in disgrace.

    Reply

  16. Bradley Smith-JPN says:

    Steve- Funny that you caught the Bernanke typo but not the
    “Beetles.” ; )

    Reply

  17. WigWag says:

    Yes Steve, I’ve heard that Lady Gaga is a good friend to the gay community and I’ve heard that she’s done more than one fundraiser for AIDS research.
    Personally I don’t really like her music but that song (whatever its called) that she did with Beyonce isn’t too bad.
    I am rather partial to opera myself. I’d take “O Mio Babbino Caro” over “Pokerface” any day of the week.
    But then to each his/her own.

    Reply

  18. Paul Norheim says:

    A correct spelling of the Beatles also resulted in 0… McCartney too,
    although Obama gave Paul McCartney the Gershwin Prize in the
    White House earlier this year.

    Reply

  19. WigWag says:

    Actually, a search on “Bernanke” uncovers 3 mentions by Obama not the 0 I mentioned above.
    Sorry about that Dr. Bernanke!

    Reply

  20. Steve Clemons says:

    All tools have their limits Wig. Thanks for checking on so many cool
    possibilities.
    You have Bernanke misspelled, but I checked for you and found
    that Ben Bernanke was mentioned 3 times.
    Interestingly, at the Human Rights Campaign dinner last year at
    which Barack Obama spoke, he did mention Lady Gaga as she
    opened for him – -and he made a big deal of it. That speech,
    however, may not be included in the roster of “major speeches”,
    statements and commentaries offered by Obama. Not sure. But if
    that was included, then Lady Gaga would get a “1”.

    Reply

  21. WigWag says:

    I really wish Steve had never pointed out this tool; like his blog itself, it’s kind of addicting.
    Some random searches of Obama’s speeches uncovered the following utterances of various words:
    1)Christianity=0 but Christian=6 and Christians=3
    2)Judaism=0 but Jewish=6 and Jews=4
    3)Islam=17 but Muslim=18 and Muslims=19
    4)extemism=16 always in regard to Islamic issues
    5)terrorism=46
    6)homosexuality=1 but gay=8
    7)Don’t Ask Don’t Tell=1
    8)sex=7 but always referring to gender never to copulation
    9)Hillary Clinton=41
    10)Robert Gates=26
    11)Larry Summers=5
    12)Timothy Geithner=20
    13)Ben Bernake=0
    14)Sarah Palin=3
    15)John McCain=15
    16)Newt Gingrich=2
    17)Mitt Romney=1
    18)Rush Limbaugh=1
    19)Glenn Beck=1
    20)Keith Olbermann=0
    21)Rachel Maddow=0
    22)Steve Clemons=0
    22)Love=123
    23)Hate=67
    24)Beauty=6
    25)Rolling Stones=1
    26)Beetles=0
    27)Lady Gaga=0
    28)Snoop Dogg=0
    29)Happy=59
    30)Sad=55

    Reply

  22. Drew says:

    Very unclear to me how opening Cuba is any more significant than
    would be opening Belarus. I mean, there would be an hysterical
    cultural shift as college kids flew charters to Havana at spring
    break, but beyond that? Cuba is broke, pitiful, and harmless, now
    that they can’t be used by Uncle USSR to fight their proxy wars.
    I think it’s just our parochial politics, not cold war inertia, that
    keeps the USA on the wrong side of this issue.

    Reply

  23. nadine says:

    If it’s really “goodbye to hegemony” it’s by choice, not necessity. Call it the “Obama Doormat Doctrine”.
    Any of you who celebrate the loss of American hegemony are damn fools. Without the Pax Americana, the world will quickly become a far more violent and unstable place, as a raft of regional powers jockey for position.
    There is nothing remotely “realist” about thinking that peace is a state of nature.

    Reply

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