Out of Chaos, a New Global Spirit of Co-Operation
Dejevsky, Mary, The Independent (London, England)
The 12 months of a year make for artificial boundaries of perception and judgement. Yet as 2009 passes into history, and with it the first decade of the new century, a pattern can be discerned of an order more than half a century old sometimes grudgingly making way for a new one that is haltingly, even reluctantly, taking shape.
The inauguration of Barack Obama, a Democrat and the first black US President, fuelled expectations the world over that flew off the chart of optimism. It seemed to signify not only that Americans were now able to look beyond inherited black-white divisions, but that US unilateralism, as resurrected during the eight years George W Bush was in the White House, had been overcome once again.
In his oratory, but more especially in his tone, Obama signalled that the US was rejoining the world and that the world was invited to rejoin the US in a common endeavour. In his first months, he scattered a presidential term's worth of overtures, starting with approaches to Iran and the Muslim world in general. He announced the promised withdrawal from Iraq, refocusing US military efforts on Afghanistan. And he decided, controversially, that some of the most prominent terrorist suspects should stand trial in the US. Thus did he bring the Administration back to the rule of law, even as the timetable for shutting down Guantanamo slipped.
To object that the new President's achievements to date have been limited to a tonal shift is to underestimate the significance of that one change. Anyone who saw Obama primarily as a world leader by acclamation was always going to be disappointed. His presidency is not about leading or following, but about replacing confrontation with co-operation. And that applies in Afghanistan, too, at least as an aspiration.
Co-operation, not confrontation, placed determined non- cooperators, such as Iran and North Korea on the spot. The disarray into which the Iranian election descended can be traced directly to the difficulty the ayatollahs faced in demonising the United States. Perversely, the new atmosphere in Washington may also have complicated efforts to bring peace to the Middle East, as the US tried to treat with Israel and the Palestinians more even-handedly than before, even as both were in the throes of generational change themselves.
Obama's preference for the co-operative approach was part of his temperament and his world view. But the financial crisis in the developed world surely reinforced it. Not only had the crash in the United States helped to sweep Obama to victory, but it also contributed to the sense that the US was not the single, all- conquering superpower any more.
One vision of the long-term future was of a so-called Group of Two (G2), in which the only serious challenger to the US was, or would be, China. That was in part because China had weathered the global economic storms relatively well, and in part because the country's GDP overtook one OECD country after another. But a G2 future presupposes not only that the two countries will emerge dominant, but that they will seek to exercise the power this would bring.
Yet China has very far to …
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Publication information: Article title: Out of Chaos, a New Global Spirit of Co-Operation. Contributors: Dejevsky, Mary - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: December 23, 2009. Page number: 2. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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