Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Barack Obama, President of the World

The above is a CNN article describing some of the jubilation around the world at Obama’s victory. The expectations are very high in some nations. I was especially interested in the Pravda response: “In Russia, Pravda was ecstatic, announcing that "Eight years of hell are over." It proceeded to catalog George W. Bush's perceived failures and slights against Russia and criticized the cost of the "grand American soap opera" during a time of economic crisis.”

The quotes from the Guardian and Der Spiegel were more restrained than I would have expected. Even though we are getting only snippets of opinion, I suspect CNN sought out the most provocative. The Jordan Times, for example is quoted as saying, “If only we could all vote as well as watch and listen, because the outcome is vital for everyone around the world.”

And the Tunisian Arabic Daily, Al Khalee, wrote, Today America elects ‘The President of the World.”

COMMENT: Though the quotes from Russia, Jordan and Tunisia seem exuberant, the rest seem restrained, as though they are saying “Okay, now that we got what we wanted, let’s see if it is what we wanted.”

Way back in 2002 I voiced the opinion that Bush was doing the right thing in taking the war to the Islamists. Removing the Taliban was good. It took me awhile to warm up to his removing Saddam Hussein. I was more a realist in those days and realists don’t remove dictators for idealistic reasons, but I finally got on board. If Iraq could be brought into the modern world as an example of democracy, it could influence other Arab nations away from Islamism.

But I also expressed the hope that the Bush doctrine of opposition to Islamism would be so well established that by the time the Democrats won an election in 2008 (and I thought it would be Hillary Clinton who won), she wouldn’t be able to back away from the “war.” There is a parallel here with Harry Truman’s administration. He left under clouds of disapproval and a very low rating, but the Truman doctrine was alive and well. Eisenhower couldn’t back away from it and it continued on until it caused the defeat of the Soviets in 1989. Truman was among the most hated presidents when he left office, but now he is considered among the greats. Will the same thing happen to Bush in about 50 years? Probably – if the war against Islamism continues on to an eventual victory. Now that Obama has the reins I can’t see him pulling Iraq to an instant halt. He is going to look for a level spot, a safe spot, a spot where it looks like things are going well for the Iraqis. After that we shall see if the Iraqi government holds together.

I was especially interested in Obama’s interest in pursuing the Afghanistan war with more vigor. He wasn’t behaving as a pacifist when he voiced that opinion. I suspect he’ll be a bit like Clinton. He will try to keep the “military option” off the table, but he’ll put it back on if necessary – and he didn’t start the Afghanistan war so his commitment to it can be seen as an attempt to wind it up successfully. “Cut and run” sentiments he expressed in the past seem to have been abandoned.

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