Ham&High Article

January 22, 2009 at 2:08 am / by

I wrote an article about my fears and hopes for the Obama presidency which was published in my local newspaper today. I’ll scan the article in tomorrow as it hasn’t been put on their website yet.

Here’s the text of the article for now –

Walking to one of many ‘inauguration parties’ in London, I start thinking about the Herculean challenge ahead of Obama as he prepares to become the most powerful man in the world. Not only is there a worsening global financial crisis, the 44th President of the United States will have the whole world looking to him to deal with the numerous conflict zones they read and hear about every day.

The U.S election last year showed that the public had rejected Bush’s policies, including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Well, considering that Obama has announced that he’ll send extra troops into Afghanistan, some might think it was a bit of a wasted vote!

I have to admit that Obama’s reticence on Gaza has been disappointing. Opening the newspaper every morning and seeing more and more innocent lives being lost has made me wonder why Obama and other world leaders haven’t been more forceful in their condemnation of the violence. Is this the change we were hoping for? Or is it just that I, along with other Obama supporters, were being unrealistic in our demands? Perhaps it is even unfair to have these anticipations because even if Obama is aware of his powerful position in the world, ultimately he needs to place American interests and the American electorate first. The truth is that expectations have been raised and with each incident like Gaza, hopes will inevitably be dashed.

However his victory is still symbolically very potent. As the country’s first mixed race President he represents the hope for America to overcome its difficult racial history and move towards establishing a fairer society.

His administration will, I hope, create a less divisive image of America on the world stage and in time improve relations with the Arab world. Obviously much of Obama’s political capital is going to be spent addressing the global economic meltdown, but he will still be able to take steps like closing Guantanamo Bay, banning torture, ending the ban on funding going to organisations that promote sex education & abortion rights in Africa and addressing climate change issues.

I’m also optimistic about the level of competence around the new President. Bush surrounded himself with extreme ideologues whereas Obama has assembled level headed pragmatists who should lead to saner policies for conflict resolution, the economy and the environment.

Despite some worries about his silence over Gaza I’m keeping my fingers crossed. The focus on dialogue rather than isolation including engagement with groups like Hamas is promising. We still need to give the dashing President a chance to prove himself – it’s not fair to ‘misunderestimate’ him just yet!