What kind of president will Obama be?

Category: Americas, World Affairs Topics: Barack Obama, Foreign Policy, Global Warming Views: 3378
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As Mr. Barack Obama seals the 2008 presidential election, he will ride on a wave of optimism and hope. This is generated by his message of change, his personal charisma and the history-making symbolism of an African-American in the White House. 

Yet, that high wave of hope may hit a wall and leave Mr Obama's presidency and the country wallowing in choppy waters. There are difficult and quite immediate problems ahead that promise a hard start. 

The well-known American diplomat Richard Holbrooke, writing in Foreign Affairs, says that the President will face a more difficult opening day set of problems than any predecessor has faced since at least the end of World War II. This estimate was given even before the financial turmoil. 

A recession is upon the United States. Candidate Obama gained momentum by promising to bring back growth and protect American jobs. But most predict a downturn for one or two years, and President Obama will struggle to deliver on those promises, perhaps even by mid-term. Problems may deepen and patience among citizens will be in short supply. 

President Obama will need to restore confidence to the US and must put an economic team of the highest credibility into place, quickly. To help re-energise the world economy, a major step would be for freer trade, reviving the stalled Doha round and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec), which Singapore will chair next year. 

Yet, critics say that he and the Democrats, who dominate Congress, are protectionists who will isolate America and end up hurting the world economy. President Obama must be persuaded that America's economy is inextricably linked to the world. He will need to show political courage and skill to pursue growth and trade, while keeping his support base on side. 

A connected challenge will be climate change and energy. Even as President George W Bush was in denial, the public, companies and many states clamoured for America to respond to the existential threat of climate change. Both candidates promise steps forward, but Mr Obama has the more detailed plan to introduce permits to limit the amount of carbon that companies can emit. 

Expectations both nationally and internationally are that President Obama will bring the US on board the Kyoto Protocol and join in global efforts to stem climate change. Can he live up to expectation, during an economic downturn? 

Cynics say climate change action should be postponed as oil and gas are now cheaper, and introducing carbon permits will add costs that companies can't afford. 

Others retort that investing in new technologies and low carbon infrastructure can help pump up investment and help not just the environment, but also lower the American thirst for oil and increase their competitiveness. 

Security will be a prime challenge. The US faces military overstretch with the quagmires in Iraq and Afghanistan, and yet the fear of another terrorist strike still nags. 

Senator Obama opposed the war on Iraq from the start. On the campaign trail, candidate Obama said that military victory in Iraq, as Mr Bush is pushing for, is not possible and declared he would withdraw troops from open ended commitments. Yet, President Obama will find that timing will be critical. 

In both Iraq and Afghanistan, he will need to ensure that new political structures achieve some stability, both internally and with neighbours. Diplomacy, rather than military might, will now be the key. For this, a major rethink is needed for US policy not only with these two countries, but in dealing with allies Turkey and Pakistan, and opening dialogue with Iran, with whomMr Bush seemed close to waging war. 

In a wider context, Middle East policy will need to be addressed. Since about 2003, this has been more of a "Muddle" East policy with little coordination, and no concept beyond the all-encompassing "global war on terror". 

Relations with the rest of the world will benefit immeasurably if President Obama can begin in earnest with these difficult and pressing problems and show even modest progress. 

If President Obama shows he is more multilateral and communicative, and interested in more than just global terrorism, he can be prove as inspiring in Asia and globally, as he has among many American people, and offer leadership to a turbulent world. 

US ties with Asia will follow in track. Relative to other regions, there are not too many immediate problems, although there have been absences and a badgering, unilateral tone that have hurt. 

Relationships across the Pacific instead bring great opportunities and medium term challenges in dealing with issues like restoring economic growth, climate change, and a possible jostle for influence and leadership among rising Asian powers. 

If President Obama gets it right, the US can be part of this region, as it has since the end of WWII and fully participate in its rise, as a leader in a multipolar world. 

But if there is no patience among Americans for economic recovery and domestic forces try to protect jobs by closing off America, the Obama presidency may flounder. 

He and America will then miss opportunities not only in Asia, but in re-establishing American leadership just when the world needs leadership. The first months and year will bear close watching.

Simon Tay is chairman of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs. Next year, he will be in the US asa Schwartz fellow at the Asia Society and a Visiting Professor at Yale University.

Source: TodayOnline.com


  Category: Americas, World Affairs
  Topics: Barack Obama, Foreign Policy, Global Warming
Views: 3378

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Older Comments:
EDDISON TURNER FROM USA said:
Biblical Christians will be raised among conservatives, moderates, and indepententd.
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SALEEM FROM USA said:
Atleast Bush and Cheney's crusade has been rejected along with the neocon extremism.
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ADVOCATE FROM U.S.A. said:
In response to Romesh Chander's statement that the Israel/Palestine situation doesn't matter to the U.S.A.; I think it does. The U.S.A. was a helper in the taking of Palestine and now should take a step back and look at the mess it created. The war also concerns the Jews and Muslims in the U.S.A. Whether you like it or not, Muslims are part of the U.S.A. 7 million of them to be precise. The Israel/Palestine situation is a matter of responsibility.
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CASEY FROM USA said:
Obama's foreign policy will be no different than Bush! Obama should work for the Americans and Americans only!!
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RJ FROM MO said:
keep on rocking
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SALEEM FROM USA said:
No Pain No Gain.
America gave a price for this change and the people aho sacrificed so much needs to be remember, like Cindy Sheehan
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cindy_Sheehan

Many in America and beyound gave a heavy price for this Good Change in Washington. I congradulate Mr Obama for the Awesome Victory which only he can accomplish with so much Wisdom and hardwork.
Its not easy to defeat The Republican Party machine.
We need to remember at this point of joice the people who took much of the heat due to Whitehouse bad policies. Many of those do not even know what Whithouse is. Muslims around the Globe and especially in America took much of the heat and we need to remember them too. The innocent people in Iraq Afganistan and many other places. Many were discrimianted , intimidated and tortured and are still tortured in places like Gatanomo Bay. And many just because they are of different color in Us Jails. There DNA tests dhould be performed and should be compensayed for the in justice they have experiences in US Jail just because they are black or Mexicans.
We need to remember this and support this wise man Mr Barak Hussain Obama. And as US is not just a country or a NAtion its a land of Immigrant and built into ALL its Might by literally all the nations of the world. And enjoys the respect of all in this regard. WE NEED TO LOOK AT USA AS A LAND OF IMMIGRANT OF THIS GLOBE. And good people of America have proven themselves that Change will occur and progress will be made aMERICA is again open for business. With all its deginity and charm for a common man where ever he might be or the hope for th world I see is still ther eandwe should not let America go down beacuse alot of people from among all of us have given so much sacrifices for this nation to be that is "The only hope for this World"
Long Live America and Long Live BArak Hussain Obama!!!""and the good people of US who supported him.
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JOHN GORDON FROM USA said:
Those of us who are concerned by the Dems will "cling to" Biblical Christianity.
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ROMESH CHANDER FROM USA said:
Unless Obama finishes the war in Afghanistan quickly, he will not be able to solve any of the problems he is inheriting. Iraq war is easy to finish; just pull out. But will he pull out of Iraq and Afghanistan, I have serious doubts about it; so all the other problems will become worse. Ah, don't worry about Israel/Palestinian problem; first, US has little or no influence on Israel to solve the problem; second, it has little or no effect on the US itself, so why should US worry about it. Palestinian/Israeli problem is their problem, not that of US.

How will Obama handle economic problems? No too well. Situation is out of control of the administration. Their economic thinking is the same as that of Bush -- more and more. Unfortunately, 'more & more' is not sustainable. Globalization must be reversed. Will he do it, I must be deluding myself. A serious and deep and long term recession is unavoidable, and Obama has little or no control on it; all he can do is to pump more and more money into the financial system (which does not produce any goods people use), and that will compound the problem rather than solving it; someday, you will have to pay for those bailouts which will require increasing taxes sharply (an impossibility).

Poor Obama. Why did he seek this job.
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JUSATHOT FROM USA said:
This has been one of the momentous elections in my lifetime, if not in U.S. history. It is both exemplary and inspiring to see Obama make it all the way to the top - by overcoming all sorts of barriers. The symbolism notwithstanding of an African American - the so-called "black" President in the "White" House - it is much more than that. Obama has the mandate from the people to change the status quo. In fact, he was able to organize mass-mobilization because of his promise to change the course.
American foreign policy is always about geo-political self-interests of Uncle Sam. And going by some of his electioneering remarks, with President Obama, the issues of Pakistan-Afghanistan or Palestine-Israel would be gung-ho. And these kinds of approaches have the tendencies to usually exacerbate the crisis. Let us hope that his remarks were just rhetoric in the heat of an election campaign and that he might prove to be both a turning point for the region.
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JOHN AGNEW FROM MD, USA said:
Why on earth we keep emphasizing "African" American in every news article? He is half white! Also in Obama's own words, their is only one America, that is the United States of America. Obama's race is the face of America. It is not white, black, yellow, brown, green or pink.
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JOHN FROM SINGAPORE said:
Obama should work for the Americans , Americans and Americans.
But if he listen to AIPAC just like Bushler than there will be no different
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AHMAD SIRAJUDIN FROM MALAYSIA said:
As a lawyer, I think Obama knows what is legal and what is illegal unlike George Bush who has a back ground in business, does not not know what is legal and what is not. To George invading Iraq was legal looking at it from business perspective. So with Obama at the control, I expect more Rule of Law in the adminstration and no more lawlessness as it was under George Bush.
I also expect more round table talks with foreign countries instead of arms twisting and military treats to settle differences
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