Granted, foreign policy has not been focused upon very much in the later throes of the Presidential Campaign since the Economic Crisis hit. Although people assumed that Iraq and Afghanistan would feature strongly in the campaign, this held true only in its initial stages.
David Ignatius, Associate Editor of The Washington Post, spoke to us last week to comment on how US foreign policy may shift should Obama win on Tuesday. (Ignatius is also the author of 6 novels, the latest of which being Body of Lies, which became a movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe).
Although it sounds very much like the sloganeering Obama has utilised to the highest degree, Ignatius agrees that should Obama take the highest office, “The World Will Change”.
He was however fair to McCain, who has stood up to Bush on the issue of torture amongst others.
Staffing itself will not change significantly, but if there is a theme that can be attached to foreign policy, it would be talking with the enemy, especially with Syria and Iran. Second, there will be increased cooperation with China, and third, greater bilateral relations will be established with Russia.
Although it is true that either President would value the worth of better US-China ties, it is unclear which would be the better outcome for China per se. Speaking to one of the delegates from China here, it seems that should the Democratic party adopt greater protectionist policies on behalf of its own country, there will be more restrictive measures within the free trade agreement vis-a-vis China. In order to shield local markets and reverse unemployment trends across the country, policies may shift outsourcing labour away from China.
On a whole, Southeast Asia will not feature prominently in either Presidency, since they will be spending most of their time grappling with Afghanistan, Iran and North Korea (nuclear weapons), Iraq, Russia (Putin), Mexico (the impending financial crisis that will ripple through the States as well), negotiating the Middle East Peace Process, and the Six Party Talks. The US will need to reach domestic consensus on the issue of International Climate Change before December 2009, which will keep them busy.
Personally, it is foreign positioning rather than strict foreign policy that will change the way the world looks at the United States of America. During one of our conversations, a Tunisian colleague said that Obama’s win may even validate all that the US of A has been droning on about all this while, about democracy and its ability to champion freedoms all across the world. If anything, it is his psychological stance that may influence the way the rest of Government will operate.
However, it is wise to remember that the President of the US is merely the Head of the Executive, and will still need to function with Congress and the rest of American mechanics and agencies (many of whose heads are likely to be maintained). If Congress gets a landslide Democrat win along with Obama’s victory, perhaps then there may be a sliver of opportunity for some policy shifts.
If America is able to articulate its position as a friend, a collaborator, a joint-worker-for-a-better-world, as opposed to its presently perceived position of superior saviour of the world, Big Brother with lots of money, enemy of anyone who disagrees with them, and so on (you get the idea), this will augur well for its future relations with the rest of the world.
Someone asked today, why is there so much interest in the US Elections?
I answered, because every decision America makes has a profound yet direct impact on the rest of us… whether we like it or not.
That is true, and that is why I am here.