Thursday, November 06, 2008

Our Ms. Brooks: Obama's World Reception

President-Elect Barack Obama (sounds nice, eh?) has inherited a passel of unwieldy problems from the cowboy-wonder, all of which are clamoring for immediate attention. One arena in which Mr. Obama might have a little breathing space, if only a little, is that of foreign policy. Right now most of the rest of the world is both delighted and relieved by the results of our election, as Rosa Brooks pointed out in her latest column.

...The world used to like us a lot, but our reputation plummeted during the eight years of the Bush administration. In 2000, 78% of Germans had a favorable view of the United States, according to the Pew Global Attitudes Project. By 2008, that had dropped to 31%. During the same period, favorable opinion of the U.S. went from 83% to 53% in Britain, from 62% to 42% in France, from 77% to 50% in Japan, from 68% to 47% in Mexico and from 52% to 12% in Turkey. ...

Far from seeking ways to "test" President Obama in his first months, world leaders likely will be eager to extend to America the hand of friendship that was so often withdrawn during the Bush administration (at times with devastating effect to our national interests). If Obama can capitalize on that global goodwill, he will have a precious window of opportunity in which his administration can make real progress.

Well, one world leader is doing a little testing right now, President Medvedev of Russia, who yesterday lashed out at the current administration's missile defense program which places missiles and other military hardware at Russia's back door. The Russian president promised to place "short-range missiles on Russia’s western border if Washington proceeded with its planned missile defense system in Eastern Europe." The timing is interesting insofar as President-Elect Obama can't do much for the next 75 days. It does, however, highlight one of the issues the new administration will have to address, which was clearly President Medvedev's intention.

Ms. Brooks suggests that the new administration should be up to this challenge, and all of the other challenges in the foreign policy arena.

No, Obama won't bring peace to Iraq and withdraw U.S. troops in his first month in office, or end Arab-Israeli tensions by March. He won't miraculously persuade Iran to switch from nuclear technologies to solar energy, or persuade Osama bin Laden to give up terrorism and open up a chain of florist shops instead.

But if Obama puts into his foreign policy strategy one-tenth of the talent, innovation and discipline he put into his campaign, he'll be able to make real headway on a range of critical issues that include nuclear-threat reduction, relations with Russia and stability in the Middle East and Central Asia.

And that's what we and the rest of the world expect from a President of the United States. I think the next one (you know, "That One") is capable of returning to the world with rational and multilateral policies. The era of looking into a world leader's eyes to assess the condition of that leader's soul is over. The era of creating a false reality and acting as if it were the actual reality is over. It has to be, or the US and the rest of the world is doomed.

May it be so.

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

<< Home