Foreign Experts Offer Advice to Obama

U.K.: Help Unite Our States
By Timothy Garton Ash

First the good news: we are all Obamamaniacs now. In a recent Guardian/ICM poll, 53 percent of British respondents said Barack Obama would make the best U.S. president, compared with just 11 percent for John McCain. That means Obama is now the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat candidate for president. Then there's the bad news: even in Britain, America's linguistic motherland and staunchest ally, nearly eight years of George W. Bush have done huge damage to the United States' reputation and authority. This distrust has reinforced a deeper historical trend. The old transatlantic West of the cold-war period is no longer cemented together by such an obvious common enemy as the Red Army in the heart of Europe. So enthusiasm for Obama personally is equaled by skepticism about his country. That means there's a lot of ground for him to make up.

Sometime near the beginning of what many here hope will be the first of Obama's two terms, and at the latest in 2010, the British government will most probably change from Labour to Conservative, from Gordon Brown to David Cameron. But Washington needn't worry: the next lot will be even more pro-American than the last. The Tories adore Obama, NATO, New York and American ways of doing almost everything. A Conservative government will, like the Blair and Brown ones, share Obama's insistence on taking a long-term, multifaceted approach to combating terrorism and his emphasis on the importance of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Britain's armed forces are overstretched and underfunded, but they will still help America as best they can, especially in Afghanistan. London is the place to have a conversation about a joint political, military and economic strategy toward Pakistan and Afghanistan. We have been in those places before. And we're there in several ways now—not just militarily but through our many new Brits of Pakistani origin who live mentally, if not physically, in both countries.

Unlike most Continental Europeans, Brown and Cameron think globally. They're sharp on G8-type issues like energy security, climate change, financial crisis, the Doha Round of trade talks and how to lift Africa out of poverty. Unfortunately, they don't think European. Their analyses and approaches to many issues, from Iran to Palestine to China, are quite similar to those of our German and French partners. Yet they are reluctant to accept that British national interests can often best be realized through a stronger, better-coordinated European voice in foreign policy. Cameron has a particular blind spot here, made worse by his Euro-skeptic party and the Euro-skeptic press. If Obama truly wants a stronger Europe to forge a renewed strategic partnership with the United States in a world of rising giants like China and India, he will need to start getting that message across to the man who will likely be Britain's next prime minister. If such a message comes from Obama, he might even listen. Only a charismatic American could persuade conservative Brits to become more European.

Garton Ashis professor of European studies at Oxford University and author, most recently, of"Free World"(2004).

France: Land(s) of the Free
By Dominique Moïsi

Dear Mr. Candidate,

The first thing you should know about my country, France, is how much we love you here. (Eighty-five percent of Frenchmen would vote for you if they could, according to a Europe-based poll.) There is, of course, an inverse relationship between that love and our strong distaste for George W. Bush. You not only incarnate the best of America, but give us hope for the full integration of our own black and Arab citizens. Your extreme popularity is also indicative of France's traditional schizophrenia toward America. The United States has long acted as a mirror reflecting our fears and our hopes. You clearly not only embody our aspirations but our nostalgia for an America that's a land of dreams.

The special relationship between France and America owes to history and the unique competition between our two universalisms, both of which are based on the principles of our respective revolutions. I suppose our two countries are the only ones in the world that still consider themselves representative of a message that goes beyond them. There is, of course, a big difference between us. When we were a great power, you were a nascent giant. The moment you became a superpower, we were reduced to a middle-sized power with world ambitions. You have therefore become like a barometer of our relative decline. Yet for the first time in modern French history, we no longer feel we need to oppose you in order to assert our identity. To cite one example: unless our diplomats get things wrong, France will return to full NATO membership next spring. This is great progress and a sign of maturity.

Despite France's re-engagement with the United States and the world under our new and energetic president, Nicolas Sarkozy, most French citizens are particularly morose these days. They are uncertain about the future and are searching for protection from the increasing complexities and difficulties they face. They are convinced of the need for structural reforms, yet are unwilling to pay the necessary price for them. Your election in November would demonstrate how much remains possible in the world—even the realization of the once impossible dream of electing a black president, 40 years after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. If that's possible for you, then why shouldn't it be for us, too? Is there a French Obama waiting in the wings?

Moïsi issenior adviser to the French Institute of International Relations.

Germany: Too Much Hope
By Josef Joffe

For Barack Obama, the good news is also bad news: if he ran in Germany today, he would win by a landslide, with 67 percent of the vote. Why is this bad news? Because hell hath no fury like a nation disenchanted, to borrow from the old English play "The Mourning Bride."

Germany's Obamamania has disappointment written all over it, for two reasons. One is President George W. Bush. Somehow, the chattering class has decided that W is a cross between a demon and a dolt, a one-man Axis of Evil with a room-temperature IQ. Hence the derision and the contempt they direct at him; hence, also, a scapegoat fantasy that confuses the man with his country. Once we finally pack off Bush, so the wishful thinking goes, we will be able to love America again.

Alas, Germany's and Europe's problems with America run a lot deeper than that. W is just shorthand for overweening power; it's Mr. Big and not Mr. Bush that irks the European soul. It is power liberally used—and not, as in Iraq, always used with the say-so of the lesser players. It is America as a league of its own, a giant who will not reflexively submit to the dictates of goodness by which Europe (give or take Britain or France) now lives. At any rate, anti-Americanism is older than Bush, and it will outlive him. In fact, it will last as long as the United States remains No. 1—the world's steamroller of might and modernity.

The second source of disillusionment will be Obama himself. Once inaugurated, the Savior & Redeemer will be president of the über-power that is the United States. He will be more multilateralist than was Bush in his first term, and he will speak more softly. But he will still carry the biggest stick on earth. Germans might want to read the foreign-policy chapter in Obama's book "Hoffnung wagen" ("The Audacity of Hope"). There are paragraphs in there that are pure Bush doctrine. On pre-emption: "We have the right to take unilateral military action to eliminate an imminent threat to our security." On American power: "There will be times when we must again play the role of the world's reluctant sheriff. This will not change—nor should it."

Obama can change the tune of U.S. foreign policy. But he can't get rid of the brass and the kettledrums, so when he visits, he might gently prepare Berlin for the dissonances to come. Such as when, for instance, the next president asks Berlin for more combat troops in Afghanistan, where the Bundeswehr would rather drill wells and build schools.

Joffeis publisher-editor of Die Zeit in Hamburg. His latest book is"Überpower: The Imperial Temptation of America"(2006).

Israel: Let's Make a Deal
By Tom Segev

When Barack Obama arrives in Israel, he'll find that people here are as hungry for change as his supporters back home.

The senator may be surprised to discover how Americanized Israelis have become in recent decades: the American Dream is now a central element of their identity. Most Israelis feel deeply dependent on America and will not risk major policy differences with the United States. That means Obama may find them open to a new, more rational approach to the Middle East's conflicts.

Obama has declared his support for Israel, and most Israelis believe him: they assume that no one can get elected president of the United States today unless he or she is willing to put Israel's security near the top of Washington's list of priorities. For many years, however, U.S. politicians have confused "support for Israel" with support for the Israeli government. There's a difference, and Obama may be surprised to discover that Israelis are actually much more reasonable than the hawkish parties who keep their coalition government in office—or than the inflexible pro-Israel lobby in Washington.

Few Israelis ever believed that the approach of the Bush administration or Ehud Olmert's government, which included fictions such as "the Roadmap" and the promise to resolve the conflict with the Palestinians by the end of this year, would get very far. Israelis are much more realistic. They don't believe that full peace can be achieved at this time. But many of them are ready to take steps that would make life more livable for both them and the Palestinians. Those include lifting the siege on Gaza and putting an end to at least some of the human-rights violations in the West Bank. Opinion polls also show that most Israelis support direct talks with Hamas.

Obviously, when Obama visits Israel, he'll hear a great deal about Iran and Syria. Most Israelis know as much about Iran today as Americans knew about Iraq prior to the war. But when the president of any country, let alone one as powerful as Iran, threatens to wipe them off the globe, they don't take that lightly. Not after the Holocaust, another central element of Israeli identity. Even Iran's threats, however, can lead to something positive: they're encouraging many Israelis to favor peace with Syria in exchange for control of the Golan Heights (which Israel won in 1967). Hammering out such an agreement will require friendly but firm guidance from Washington, as well as possible security guarantees. But Obama may be surprised to discover how little pressure on Israel it will take to get there.

Segevis an Israeli historian and a columnist for Haaretz.

Jordan: Take the Lead
By Marwan Muasher

Welcome to the Middle East, Senator Obama—a region marred by conflict and instability and one that needs help urgently. I hope you will take this opportunity to begin a candid dialogue and to learn about the area's aspirations. As you rightly articulated, the United States' approach to the Middle East needs to be reoriented. America shouldn't continue to focus first on Iraq and Iran. Resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict should be the top priority.

When you get here you will witness firsthand the growing radicalization and the mounting frustration and hopelessness of the Arab Street. These ills owe to the continuation of the Arab-Israeli conflict and political, social and economic systems that are in dire need of reform. You will feel the people's anger at America—not at the American people or the American way of life, but at America's policies in the region. Most Arabs view the United States today through the prism of the Palestinian-Israeli struggle and they see Washington applying double standards: preaching democracy but ignoring Palestinian aspirations, pushing for reform but hesitant to embrace its outcome.

Senator Obama, the old view taken by American politicians—that they can't want peace more than the parties themselves—no longer holds. Washington must take the lead if it is to remove a major cause of frustration and cut support for radical elements, which try to prove that only violence yields results. A two-state solution to the conflict would not be a sellout of Israel. In fact, if such a solution isn't implemented soon, Israelis will be forced to confront a ticking time bomb, where the Arab population under Israel's control comes to outnumber the Jewish one. The alternative to peace—an indefinite occupation and continuing violence—is not sustainable.

Americans may not know it, but the framework for a solution already exists. It's been arrived at through multiple negotiations among the parties themselves. We need the United States not to manage a lengthy peace process, but to help close the deal. Washington must lead by reminding the parties that an end to the conflict would be in the best interest of everyone—Israelis, Palestinians, Arabs and Americans alike.

Peace, by empowering moderates, will also help move the region's stagnant reform process forward, contributing to good governance, political reform, economic well-being and cultural diversity. It won't be a panacea, but it's a crucial step America must help us take—before it's too late.

Muasheris the former foreign minister of Jordan and author of"The Arab Center: The Promise of Moderation."

Iraq: Time to Go
By Ali A. Allawi

It's natural that Barack Obama should see Iraq through the prism of U.S. involvement there and its implications for America's domestic affairs. But that can't be the basis for building a new U.S. policy. The turmoil that has engulfed Iraq for nearly 50 years has deeply scarred the Iraqi people. We have suffered from wars, mass expulsions, genocidal killings and sanctions—and, most recently, from the chaos that followed the U.S.-led invasion of 2003. Since then, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have been killed and millions have become refugees.

Obama should realize that the picture of Iraq he'll get from meetings with military commanders, U.S. diplomats and senior Iraqi leaders will be incomplete, offering him only a glimpse of the country's true conditions. It's true that there have recently been salutary developments on the security front. The levels of violence and instability are well below the dark days of 2006 and 2007. But the convulsions of the post-invasion period aren't over, and represent a continuation of a pattern that has bedeviled Iraq for a long time. That pattern features misgovernment, wasted resources and difficulties reaching a consensual political framework. The invasion of Iraq basically destroyed the old Iraqi state. And the new order is now being held hostage to factional politics and power grabs. The country is being chaotically and venally administered by remnants of the old bureaucratic class in partnership with returning exiles. The Iraqi security forces—the Army, national guards, tribal levies and police—have improved security, but it's unclear where their loyalties lie. If the new order fails to improve conditions soon, Iraqis may well turn once again to proverbial "men on horseback."

Iraq's citizens yearn for a normal, dignified life. They are a fiercely proud people and will not accept the long-term presence of foreign troops. Iraqis do not want to be party to agreements that could create tensions and drag them into conflicts with their neighbors. It's therefore time to refashion the U.S. presence in Iraq. Washington should adopt a policy of "constructive disengagement." This will require changing the focus of the American-Iraqi relationship, away from military and security issues and toward political and economic ones. Troop levels should be rapidly drawn down. The United States should then concentrate on supporting Iraqis as they build a fair and representative political order, and should help us create the institutions and policies needed to underpin it.

Allawi served as Iraq's minister of Finance from 2005 to 2006 and is the author of "The Occupation of Iraq: Winning the War, Losing the Peace."

Afghanistan: A Thirst for Justice
By Ashraf Ghani

In The Afghan worldview, justice is the foundation of order. Our languages are suffused with the notion that while prayer can save a single soul, justice can save the world. Our people saw the attacks of 9/11 as acts of injustice, and in the days that followed, we welcomed the deployment of international forces to Afghanistan, as well as the rebuilding of our state under the Bonn process. At first, thousands of Afghans who had devoted their lives to fighting the Soviet Red Army supported the arrival of foreign troops in 2001, and the United States enjoyed exceptional popularity. Children played with the visiting soldiers in the streets of Kabul, our capital city.

But Washington—and Senator Obama when he visits—should recognize that the international presence in Afghanistan has now reached a tipping point. The Afghans are frustrated by the waste and lack of transparency in the international aid system and the failure to invest in institutions of higher learning. Government corruption and mismanagement are increasing. Afghans are becoming increasingly skeptical about the Coalition's commitment to our rebuilding. Growing violence, especially civilian casualties (many inflicted by the international forces) are making us feel less secure. So are rising food prices and a youth-unemployment rate of 40 to 60 percent.

Obama should understand that the current state of affairs was not inevitable and is reversible. An Afghan-led strategy for state-building yielded both stability and legitimacy between 2002 and 2005. A series of comprehensive national programs, ranging from rural development to a national army to modern telecommunications, were put in place. Both NATO and U.S. forces have recently articulated a counterinsurgency doctrine that puts statecraft at the heart of winning the consent of the people. This shift in strategic thinking supports the Afghan world view that justice and rule of law are the keys to a legitimate order.

What we need now from Obama or whoever becomes the next U.S. president is something similar to the Marshall Plan that helped rebuild Europe 60 years ago. A medium- to long-term regional initiative that removes terrorist sanctuaries and leads to full economic cooperation between South and Central Asia would help Afghanistan regain its crucial position as a central node of communication in the region. Credible supervision mechanisms are needed to make the forthcoming presidential election free and fair. The narcotics and terrorism problems require the integration of development and security strategies. We need a systematic overhaul of our police and our judiciary, and efforts to rebuild state capability at all levels of government.

The Afghan people are ready to believe again. We are waiting for statesmanship, forged in the best American tradition, to overcome past neglect and help us create an Afghan state that is stable and legitimate at home and respected abroad.

Ghani,the former Finance minister of Afghanistan, is chairman of the Institute of State Effectiveness.

And Three States Obama Should Visit:
China: Our American Dream
By Michael Anti

In 1989, even as the Chinese government cracked down on the Tiananmen Square protests and the Chinese copy of the Statue of Liberty suddenly vanished from TV screens, a subtle change was occurring in the way English was taught in my high school. The British accent was being replaced by an American one, and my teachers started telling me I should repeat "the past has been passed" in a flat Yankee way. China has long since started following the United States, and today the Sino-American relationship is at the center of Beijing's foreign policy.

The relationship between these two countries is much older than most people realize, however. It dates back at least to 1881, the year a 15-year-old Chinese kid named Sun Yat-sen, then studying at Punahou Prep School in Hawaii, was granted U.S. citizenship. This same kid, of course, would go on to become the father of modern China, spending his whole adult life trying to transform a corrupt Middle Kingdom into an Americanized Asian democracy.

Today another Punahou alumnus, Barack Obama, is dominating the news. Should he become the U.S. president, many Chinese will welcome this young and open-minded new leader. But Obama should know that many Chinese were actually rooting for Hillary Clinton to become the Democratic nominee. That's because it was her husband, Bill, who first invited China to join the World Trade Organization and become a full-fledged member of the international community.

This points to one key fact Obama should remember: trade is now central to the U.S.-Chinese relationship. China needs more trade—not just for its economy or its government, but for the sake of its civil society as well. Free trade will strengthen the hand of liberals in Beijing, will help desperate Chinese peasants find jobs and will broaden the perspectives of China's emerging urban middle class. Increased free trade will also weaken China's historical sense of victimhood, which has tended in the past to bring out the worst side of Chinese nationalism.

China's young generation, reared on "South Park," Google and McDonald's, would be shocked if America became a protectionist country. Obama should make sure that doesn't happen.

He should understand the need to set a good example for these young Chinese. China's civil society needs much more support from Washington on issues like political reform, human rights and the environment. But it would be even more effective if the United States stopped violating human rights itself at Guantánamo Bay and started leading the fight against climate change. Such moves would help Obama strengthen China's faith in the American Dream, and would further Chinese aspirations to create a rich and democratic country of their own. That dream was first implanted by one Punahou alumnus a century ago. Now we hope another one will do his part to keep it alive.

Antiis a Chinese political blogger and currently a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University.

India: The Great Exception
By Shekhar Gupta

Not long ago, David Mulford, the U.S. ambassador to India, visited The Indian Express for its weekly "Idea Exchange" program. A young reporter asked him, "How does it feel to represent a country whose president is the most hated man in the world?"

Mulford wasn't stumped. "President Bush's [approval] ratings in India are twice as high as in America," he said. "I think I'll take that."

That's the first thing Barack Obama needs to know about India—and it is a big reason he should have included India in his travel plans. Obama may need to work hard to fix America's battered image abroad. But not here. The United States' standing is just fine in our young, confident, urbanizing and audaciously hopeful nation.

Yes, there is widespread concern over America's handling of Iraq. But Indians are also celebrating their improved relations with Washington these days. They're appreciative of Bush, who carried forward the de-hyphenation of America's South Asia policy—finally separating "India-Pakistan"—that President Bill Clinton began during his second term.

That said, Obama should understand that the best way to keep improving ties with New Delhi would be to recognize India's aspirations. Don't patronize us by talking to us like just another "promising emerging market." In fact, never try to sermonize to us. We Indians can outsermonize anybody—even someone as articulate and convincing as Obama.

Another reason India merits Obama's attention—and a reason it's unique and so important—is that it defies two negative sentiments that today drive much of the world: anti-Americanism and Islamophobia. Both phenomena are actually declining in India these days, and for good reason. This confident country no longer fears anybody. And democratic coalition politics have ensured a healthy balance among our many different communities and groups. All coalition governments, even those led by the right, have to function with restraint, thanks to their reliance on secular parties that depend on the Muslim vote. And that has strengthened Indian secularism across the board. The steady improvement in India's relations with Pakistan, meanwhile, and the democratic developments there have also diminished Indians' anxieties about radical Islam. Obama should remember that ours is one of the only nations with a large Muslim population where the Islamic clergy has issued fatwas against terrorism and has condemned it on religious grounds.

Finally—and this may be the biggest surprise of all—Obama needs to understand that while Indians admire his remarkable story, we have our own versions to celebrate. We think our politics are better than America's at awarding a powerful political voice to victims of deprivation and discrimination. That's something Obama would have figured out had he put India on his itinerary.

Guptais editor in chief of The Indian Express.

Brazil: The Giant Down South
By Luis Fernando Verissimo

If Barack Obama came to visit Brazil—and he should—we would impress him with our bigness in everything. We might even cause him to ponder just what all this bigness and ambition means for the United States.

If Obama came, we would show him not just a good time, but a great time. He could join the biggest party on earth (Carnaval) or go to the biggest football stadium in the world (Maracaña) to watch the biggest, or at least the winningest, national team in action. We would awe Obama with our geography. We're bi-hemispherical, crossed by the equator on top and laying our feet near the South Pole. We can sweat and freeze at the same time. We occupy more than half of South America, we have the biggest river and the biggest iron-ore reserves on earth, and might just become one of the world's leading exporters of oil in the not-so-distant future. And if that doesn't work—or if our oil runs out—we will surely become the leading producer of biofuel. Our reputation for ethnic harmony is a bit undeserved but, still, ours is the biggest experiment in racial integration and miscegenation in history. We have a big, leftist (more or less) government but also a capitalist economy and are on the way to developing a big popular consumer market for our own products and for imports. We also have the widest spread between rich and poor in the world, however, along with the ugliest shantytowns and probably the worst corruption scandals. When not having fun or being awed, Obama would have much to think about. He may see us as a semitropical China, a giant stretching its limbs and demanding attention—but a different kind of attention than it got in the past. He may notice that we have Americanized, or McDonaldized, to a high degree, but notice, too, a sense in the land that it's time our bigness started to pay off and deliver on the future it promised. This might mean standing up like a giant in defiance of old attitudes and submissions. Obama might view moderate Brazil as a good ally against the radical populists popping up throughout the continent in the wake of failed neoliberal economics, or he may see us as an emerging geopolitical threat. There are people in Brazil who are sure that the United States is redeploying the Fourth Fleet to the South Atlantic just to show us who's really big. We have big ambitions—but big paranoia, too.

Verissimois a Brazilian journalist and author.

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