"The day I'm inaugurated, not only will the country look at itself differently, but the world will look at America differently."
Early reaction to his election has indeed been very positive. We noted some of the warm response last week.
But popularity shouldn't be the primary objective of US foreign policy as Jeff Jacoby noted in Sunday's Boston Globe:
"Great nations have great interests in the world - interests that cannot always be secured through patient negotiation or Security Council resolutions. As the foremost military power, the United States must at times be "the world's reluctant sheriff," using force to maintain order or defend liberty. President Obama may speak more softly than his predecessor, but he will still be carrying a very big stick. Like other presidents, he will be loudly condemned when he uses it."
Many thought anti-Americanism - a plague that has beset every recent US administration and, for that matter, every 'top dog nation' in history - had suffered a terminal setback on 9/11. It hadn't, of course. Anti-Americanism resumed because of America's assertive response to those attacks and also because that response was often pursued incompetently and ineffectively.
Barack Obama's foreign policy options divide into four broad categories. We list them below with some example policies:
RIGHT FOR THE WORLD, RIGHT FOR ANTI-AMERICANISM
- An and to aggressive interrogation techniques including waterboarding and the closure of Guantanamo Bay.
- The continuation of the Bush administration's Africa policies which have included large increases in aid spending - particularly against malaria and HIV/AIDS.
RIGHT FOR THE WORLD, WRONG FOR ANTI-AMERICANISM*
- Perseverance in Iraq until the benefits of the surge are safeguarded. Many in Europe and the Middle East will be disappointed at a measured withdrawal of forces but a precipitate exit would not just endanger Iraq's transition to stability but, in the medium term, contribute to a lack of confidence in American power.
- A surge of troops into Afghanistan and greater commitment of European soldiers to the task of defeating the Taliban.
WRONG FOR THE WORLD, RIGHT FOR ANTI-AMERICANISM
- Submission to the UN. The world will initially appreciate multilateralism but many will come to resent the lack of action that results from prolonged summitry.
WRONG FOR THE WORLD, WRONG FOR ANTI-AMERICANISM*
- Anti-free trade policies as supported by many US Democrats and union leaders. UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown is urging the President-Elect to resist protectionism.
* When we say "wrong for anti-Americanism" we only mean in the short-term. Policies that are "wrong for the world" - pursued for a long enough period - will progressively undermine confidence in US policy and power.