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post #1 of 2 (permalink) Old 11-04-2008, 10:54 PM Thread Starter
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The future under President Obama

News Americas

The future under President Obama

By Rob Reynolds, Senior Washington Correspondent

President Obama faces multiple challenges - from Afghanistan to the economy [GALLO/GETTY]

Having surfed to power on a wave of voter discontent generated by the failures of President George Bush and the Republican Party, and having generated a level of enthusiasm among supporters not seen in decades, Barack Obama has become the 44th president of the United States.

But as he prepares to enter the White House, he faces challenges almost unique in modern times.

It has been 40 years since a new president took office in a time of war.

And with the American economy facing what could be its worst crisis since the Great Depression of the late 1920s, Obama will have to act quickly to restore confidence.

On top of all this, add the confused geopolitical dynamics of a world devolving into multipolarity, at a time when the US' credibility and reputation is at an all time low, and you get a sense of the terrible pressures a young, new president is inheriting.

So what will President Obama do?

Let's start with foreign policy.

Obama has promised to pull US troops out of Iraq swiftly and send more military resources to Afghanistan.

He says he will make sure that multinational forces in Afghanistan defeat the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

Obama would pursue a much more consultative foreign policy than Bush, emphasising diplomacy as a tool and making use of traditional US alliance structures and the United Nations.

With the country sick of war, he is unlikely to make any additional major overseas military commitments.

He makes clear he is a fervent supporter of Israel's security, but has also said he would become actively involved in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process right away.

He has already met with Palestinian leaders during his trip abroad last summer.

European relief

I expect Obama to move very quickly to eliminate a major cause of the decline of respect for the US - the prison camps at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

I would be surprised if he does not announce within a few weeks of taking office that he is shutting down Guantanamo and transferring its prisoners to US facilities for some less irregular form of judicial process.

Europe - "old" and new - will likely breathe a sigh of relief with the end of the Bush era and the advent of a new brand of leadership under Obama.

If he makes the right moves, showing respect for European countries and willingness to act in concert with those traditional US allies, he should receive plenty of support from across the Atlantic.

Already, European leaders, like French president Nicholas Sarkozy, seem eager to become Obama's new Best Buddy.

Obama says he is willing to meet, with proper preparation, the leaders of Iran, North Korea and Cuba to discuss long-standing antagonisms.

Venezuela's president Hugo Chavez has already said he is willing to talk to Obama if he becomes president.

While Obama insists that the US will not allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons, he makes clear he is interested in breaking the 29-year-old frozen deadlock of mutual suspicion between the two countries.

Pakistan may cause Obama more headaches.

He has said repeatedly during the campaign that he would bomb Al Qaeda targets in Pakistan if the Pakistani authorities refuse to act on them.

But he cannot risk further destabilising an already shakey government and plunging the nuclear-armed subcontinental power into worse chaos.

Remaking America

Obama is a Christian, but given his background as the son of a man born into the Muslim faith (as well as the resonance of his traditionally Muslim middle name) I expect that much of the Muslim world will view Obama optimistically.

He will have an opportunity to re-make the negative US image in many Muslim countries if he chooses to reach out to them.

The same will be true of relations with Africa.

Obama's roots in the continent are likely to ensure it receives more than the traditionally scant attention it receives from US policymakers.

The children of the great African diaspora in the Carribbean, south America and elsewhere will no doubt have warm feelings of pride in the first black President of the US.

Obama has little experience of Latin America.

But he will owe his election in no small measure to the overwhelming support he has received from Latinos in the US.

It seems likely that he will reward this support with friendly policies toward Latin nations.

Domestic agenda

However, his commitment to reordering US trade policies to better advantage American workers as opposed to their counterparts abroad may disappoint some Latin American countries.

Obama could become the most extraordinary US leader in years [GALLO/GETTY]
But foreign policy (aside from extricating the US from the Iraqi quagmire) will not be Obama's top priority.

Domestic issues demand his attention - first and foremost, dealing with the faltering economy.

Obama has an agenda of middle-class tax cuts, alternative energy development to build a new job base, and tightening lax regulations that allowed capitalism to go berserk in the Bush years.

Affordable health care and universal health insurance coverage became a sacred commitment during the Democratic primary contest.

Look for Obama to make it a priority in his administration - perhaps entrusting former foe Hillary Clinton with a significant role in shaping the reforms.

In this, as in economic policy, Obama has a national mandate for change.

He may just become one of the most extraordinary leaders the US has had in many years.

Source: Al Jazeera
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post #2 of 2 (permalink) Old 11-04-2008, 11:02 PM Thread Starter
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Good Morning, Mr. President: Europe's Wish List - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International

Europe's Wish List
In conversations and e-mail exchanges with SPIEGEL ONLINE, European leaders and thinkers express their wishes for US President-elect Barack Obama. Yes, they want the US to join the Kyoto successor. And, yes, they want to see Guantanamo close. But many also know that theirs is a view from Mars.

sometimes, on both sides of the Atlantic, we have drifted apart, and forgotten our shared destiny."

On Tuesday the American people cast their votes electing a new President of the United States. I believe we are entering into a new era of trans-Atlantic relations.

Find out how you can reprint this SPIEGEL ONLINE article in your publication. In these times of extreme financial instability, it is more important than ever to strengthen trans-Atlantic relations and work together to solve global problems. Europe and the US share the same goals and values. We both want a peaceful, prosperous and stable world, where democracy is the norm, the rule of law prevails and human rights are respected.

Even more importantly, the biggest concerns facing us today are of a global nature. The financial crisis, climate change, security, the fight against poverty, hunger and disease in the developing world are all challenges that neither Europe nor the US can take on single-handed.

In order to stop the effects of climate change, developed countries must lead by good example. This is why EU leaders have committed themselves to cutting carbon emissions by 20 percent by 2020. If there is international agreement, the EU will deepen this cut to 30 percent. The EU is also committed to cutting energy consumption by 20 percent, with the aim of becoming the world's most energy-efficient region. I urge the US to take similar steps, working together with the EU on cutting emissions drastically and developing new energy technologies that generate smart, sustainable growth. I invite the new US president to take a leading role in paving the way for a global agreement on climate change in 2009.

Finally, the US has been particularly successful in creating growth and jobs, and maintaining competitiveness through technological innovation rather than low labor costs. The EU on the other hand has brought forward an ambitious climate change package and works hard to promote social justice. As we have seen in Scandinavia -- where the concept of the flexicurity seems to have been born -- it is possible to combine economic growth with social justice. This involves promoting the well-being of the whole society and tackling injustices such as gender inequality, which manifests itself the most clearly in the pay gap between men and women. In the US, men earn 20 percent more money for the same job as women; in Europe, this figure amounts to 15 percent on average.

I believe the era of US unilateralism is over, and that partnership with Europe has become a central plank of US foreign policy. In this light, I invite the new US president to join the EU in shaping the future we all want -- a stable, peaceful and increasingly prosperous world. A world where development is sustainable and in which democracy is not imposed but nurtured.

Slavenka Drakulic, a native of Croatia, is the best-selling author of "Cafe Europa."

A View from Mars: I am afraid that we Europeans tend to attribute too much personal power to the president of the United States. We might as well be Martians for all that we demand of the new president. We would like him (especially if it is our favorite Barack Obama) to: stop the war in Iraq, divert funding from the military industrial complex and use it to improve the lives of the poor, introduce national health insurance, sit down with Putin and discuss how best to bring peace to the world, persuade China and India to restrict dangerous gas emissions, get rid of the Taliban in Afghanistan, make a deal with Iran, sign the Kyoto Protocol, catch Osama bin Laden and, finally, bring peace to the Israel-Palestine conflict. Of course, all of this should be accomplished in close collaboration with European governments -- and all in the first year, possibly in the first days of his presidency.

Being Martians, we can't see that the job suffers from obvious limitations and that no president is in a position, all by himself, to bring about substantial changes either in politics or in the economy. He is not a Santa Claus. Besides, Martians like to overlook the fact that even Obama would continue to see America as the most powerful nation in the world, and would not be likely to show much more respect for the United Nations or to deny himself a military option for dealing with Iran. Let's not forget that he is pro-death penalty and against gun control -- two things that, looking down from Mars, should make him considerably less popular. But again, who would bother to look at details from so far away? In regard to finances, we are again speaking about nuances, not reforms (a word that American candidates often use, but with a different meaning than is common on Mars). Whether the winner is McCain or Obama, it was the globalization of deregulated capitalism that caused the crash in the first place. We should expect the system will proceed as greedily as ever, even if it is tamed for a while. The president is not to blame. Nowadays politicians and governments mainly serve the interests of the big money, not the people. It is, after all, big money that makes or breaks an American president, in spite of what Americans or Martians believe to be true.

Still, even small changes in the right direction are important, although one can't really see that from Mars either. Under such conditions, can a single person really make a significant change? Yes, Barack Obama could -- but primarily on a symbolic level. It would be fantastic for Americans to have the first African-American president in their history. This would change the world's psychological landscape. It remains to be seen, however, if it will really make a difference for Europe, or for the rest of the world.

Part 1: Europe's Wish List
Part 2: 'We Need the US as a Strong Partner'
Part 3: 'On Iran, Precious Time Has Been Lost'
Part 4: 'We Need a Washington Less Ideological in Dealing with Russia and China'
Part 5: 'The Time Has Come to Kick-Start Talks with Tehran'
Part 6: 'Some Disappointment Is Inevitable'
Part 7: 'By Voting for Obama, Americans Are not Voting to Become an EU Country'
Part 8: 'Please Don't Bomb Iran'
Part 9: 'A Measure of Moral Leadership Would Be to Joint the ICC'
Part 10: 'Obama -- Something that Is Still Impossible to Achieve in many European Countries'
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