All deliberate speed

In July 2007, when the possibility that Barack Obama might win the presidency was still just a gleam in the candidate’s eye, he met with former national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski to ask for some advice. But he wasn’t after the usual campaign position papers or sound bites. Obama was already thinking in bigger terms.

What can a new president accomplish in foreign policy in his first 12 months in office that he can’t achieve later? Obama wanted to know. How should a new president reorganize his national security team so that the structure fits the problems of the 21st century? Brzezinski came away deeply impressed, and he became an informal Obama adviser.

With Tuesday’s victory, Obama and his advisers get to think about these global questions full time. Conversations over the past few days with several members of the president-elect’s inner circle yielded some basic outlines of the new administration’s approach to foreign policy: [continued…]

Obama’s Third Way

Barack Obama has won more than a presidential victory. He now has a chance to realign the national landscape and to create a new governing ideology for the West. Since the end of the cold war, two great political trends have coursed through the Western democracies. The first–led by Bill Clinton and Tony Blair in the 1990s–was the left’s steady progress toward greater comfort with free markets and traditional values, which increased their appeal to mainstream voters. The second was the ideological exhaustion of conservatism, a movement now riddled with contradictions and corruption, as personified by George W. Bush’s big-government, Wilsonian agenda. These two trends have intersected in 2008.

Of course, more Americans still identify themselves as conservatives than as liberals. There is a big red America out there. But that’s a reflection of the past three decades of conservative dominance, not a forecast of the future. “Among democratic peoples,” Alexis de Tocqueville wrote, “each generation is a new people.” [continued…]

We need sustainable capitalism

hen greeting old friends after a period of absence, Ralph Waldo Emerson used to ask: “What has become clear to you since we last met?”

What is clear to us and many others is that market capitalism has arrived at a critical juncture. Even beyond the bailouts and recent volatility, the challenges of the climate crisis, water scarcity, income disparity, extreme poverty and disease must command our urgent attention.

The financial crisis has reinforced our view that sustainable development will be the primary driver of economic and industrial change over the next 25 years. As a result, old patterns and assumptions are now being re-examined in an effort to find new ways to use the strengths of capitalism to address this reality. Indeed, at the Harvard Business School Centennial Global Business Summit held earlier this month, the future of market capitalism was one of the principal themes discussed.

We founded Generation Investment Management in 2004 to develop a new philosophy of investment management and business more broadly. Our approach is based on the long-term, and on the explicit recognition that sustainability issues are central to business and should be incorporated in the analysis of business and management quality. [continued…]

Now he must declare that the war on terror is over

A day of joy but also another day of horror. Even as American voters were giving the world the man whom opinion polls showed to be the overwhelming favourite in almost every country, his predecessor’s terrible legacy was already crowding in on the president-elect.

Twenty-three children and 10 women died in the latest US air strike in Afghanistan, a failed war on terror that has only brought worse terror in its wake. In Iraq, explosions killed 13 people. Obama’s stand against an unpopular war was the bedrock of his success on Tuesday, even though the financial meltdown sealed his victory. Now he must make good on his promises of withdrawal.

On Iran, the last of the toughest three issues in his foreign in-tray, his line differed sharply from McCain’s. In contrast to the Republican’s call to “bomb, bomb, bomb Iran”, Obama offered dialogue. Though he qualified his initial talk of having the president sit down with his Iranian counterpart, he remains wedded to engagement rather than boycott.

In this arc of conflict – Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan – Obama’s approach is preferable to Bush’s or McCain’s. The century-old paradigm of Republicans as the party of realism and the Democrats as the party of ideologues was turned upside down by the neocons. Bush led an administration of crusaders and took the country to disaster. Obama offers a return to traditional diplomacy.

Nevertheless, his position contains massive inconsistencies. While his instincts are cautious and pragmatic, he has not repudiated the war on terror. Rather, he insists that by focusing excessively on Iraq, the Bush administration “took its eye off the ball”. The real target must be Afghanistan and if Osama bin Laden is spotted in Pakistan, bombing must be used there too.

This is a cul-de-sac. If the most important single thing that Obama should do quickly is to announce the immediate closure of Guantánamo Bay, the corollary has to be a declaration that the war on terror is over. [continued…]

World reaction to Obama victory: Elation

If history records a sudden surge in carbon emissions on Wednesday, it may be due to the collective exhalation of relief and joy by the hundreds of millions — perhaps billions — of people around the globe who watched, waited and prayed for Barack Obama to be elected president of the United States.

In country after country, elation over Obama’s victory was palpable, the hunger for a change of American leadership as strong outside the U.S. as in it. And there was wonderment that, in the world’s most powerful democracy, a man with African roots and the middle name Hussein, an upstart fighter who took on political heavyweights, could capture the highest office in the land.

Suddenly, Americans used to being criticized for speaking hyperbolically about their country found plenty of others doing it for them.

“The New World,” the Times of London declared on its front page, beneath a huge smiling portrait of Obama.

“One Giant Leap for Mankind,” echoed the Sun.

From the beginning, this campaign has mesmerized observers far beyond U.S. shores. Two wars and two terms under President Bush have left many abroad angry and spent.

Yet though many have denounced U.S. power and unilateralism, they also seemed intent on putting the country back on a pedestal, and they fixed on Obama as their hope. Polls consistently showed that, if the rest of the world could vote, the Illinois Democrat would win not by a landslide, but an avalanche. [continued…]

Print Friendly, PDF & Email