Thursday, November 6, 2008

Welcome to the 21st Century

The election of Barack Obama to be the next President of the United States provides a turning point in not only American history, but world history. It’s not just because he has made history as the first black President, although that has attracted a considerable amount of acclaim. Although that landmark is significant, it is the opportunity for genuine change and renewal in the United States, for itself and for its place in the world, which is of greatest importance.

The past eight years of the George W. Bush administration has been in every way a hangover of the 20th Century. His time as president has been marked by the prosecution of a war that had its seeds planted during the Ronald Reagan and George Bush Senior years. That war is in many ways a case of the son taking up the unfinished business of the father. Beyond that, the Bush Presidency has represented the ultimate pinnacle of the influence of the Bush family in American affairs going all the way back to Prescott Bush and his infamous connection to the Nazi party as a Director of the Union Banking Corporation in the 1940s.

The foreign policy of the United States in recent decades has become increasingly interventionist and increasingly unilateral, at a time when the rest of the Western World has been searching for greater unity and stability. The reputation of the United States has suffered because it has turned its back on the United Nations despite having been instrumental in its creation after World War Two for the specific purpose of circumventing war. The United Nations may be far from perfect, but it should be the role of the United States to strengthen that body, not undermine it.

W’s economic policies also owed much to those of Ronald Reagan, and at least in part the fallout from the present Global Financial Crisis can be traced back to those policies. The blind faith in the ability of the markets to self regulate has led to the inevitable result of unfettered greed being punished by those same market forces as the other primal driver, fear, tears apart the house of cards built upon hollow investment vehicles representing assets of no intrinsic value.

The election of Barack Obama is a turning point in world history because it provides the United States of America with an opportunity to restore its reputation as a world leader rather than an international bully. An opportunity to restore its own economy through investment in nation-building at home rather than military destruction abroad. An opportunity to look to the future rather than to be mired in the remnants of an imperfect past. An opportunity to once again truly embody the spirit and ideals of the founding fathers of the world’s greatest democracy, who wrote in their Declaration of Independence of the universal right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. An opportunity to once again stand for the ideals of freedom, democracy and justice for all.

This is the moment of endless possibility, the opportunity for national transformation, the real beginning of the 21st Century in American affairs. All that remains is for the new President to actually deliver the change he has repeatedly promised. I wonder if he can.

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