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A daunting challenge

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23.JAN.09

SEARCHLIGHT joins with the millions of people all over the world in celebrating the elevation of Barack Obama to the Presidency of the United States of America. Never before in the US history has a President enjoyed the broad popular support that Mr. Obama has engendered from people, black and white, red and yellow, spread all over seven continents.{{more}} Never in the history of the world has a national leader been able to, even before assuming office, command such wide ranging respect or generate such feelings of goodwill.

His assumption of the highest office in the USA, while a major advance for people of colour and minorities in America, is at the same time a major boost for US standing in the world. His predecessor, George Walker Bush, at the behest of the hawks in his Cabinet, had seen not just his own popularity, but US prestige in the world, sink to an all-time low. His anti-people policies and support for unbridled, rapacious capitalism virtually wrecked not just the American economy, but rocked the foundations of global capitalism itself. His is a legacy of death and destruction in Iraq and Afghanistan, whilst the very soldiers who lost leg and life in defending supposed US interests could not even get reasonable benefits at home, while victims of Hurricane Katrina till today are still crying out for succor.

The American land of the brave and free, whose founding fathers waged a revolution so that its people could enjoy life and liberty, receded more and more into the past to be replaced by a country where individual liberties became curtailed under the banner of a “war against terrorism”. Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo sullied the fine reputation of the USA abroad and provoked resentment and hostility worldwide. Refusal to sign the Kyoto treaty or even to acknowledge the threat of global warming left many dumfounded. America under Bush seemed to have completely lost its way.

Barack Obama, therefore, faces a daunting challenge to repair all this damage and to make America great again in the eyes of the world’s peoples. That is no mean task. Extricating his country from wars where blind intransigence fosters civil strife and ruthless fanatics are prepared to stop at nothing to enforce their dominance will not be easy. Finding solutions to his country’s energy problems, while at the same time practicing environmental conservation, will test his mantle. Rebuilding the confidence of the rest of the world in the leadership of the USA and its obligations to put right before might is critical to the process of his foreign policy intentions. Above all, there is the gargantuan challenge of fixing the US economy and creating jobs for the millions on welfare.

Fortunately, the new President’s outreach and demeanor, his insistence on a collective approach to his nation’s problems, his inclination for dialogue, plus the tremendous goodwill and support he enjoys, place him in as good a position as any to accomplish these goals. Quite naturally, his focus will be a largely a domestic one, but such is the nature of the challenges before him that he will not be allowed to have a singular focus. We can only wish him well in his endeavours.

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