The Next President Must Not Forget America's Old Allies ; the US Will Remain Central to Solving the World's Problems Whoever Wins on November 6

By Miliband, David | The Evening Standard (London, England), October 22, 2012 | Go to article overview
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The Next President Must Not Forget America's Old Allies ; the US Will Remain Central to Solving the World's Problems Whoever Wins on November 6


Miliband, David, The Evening Standard (London, England)


TONIGHT'S American presidential debate between President Obama and Mitt Romney is being presented as the "decider" after the President blew the first debate and made a spirited comeback in the second.

In truth, the vast majority of Americans have already "decided". Bar a massive gaffe, the debate is likely to be more important for campaign mood music than a decisive breakthrough.

But the debate is important in another way. Unlike the first two, it is devoted to a single topic: foreign policy. And while the polls suggest Americans don't care about it that much, for the rest of the world, American foreign policy, with its mixture of enormous military power and prickly domestic sensitivities, can be the difference between peace and war, prosperity and poverty.

In 2008, President Obama inherited an in-tray from hell, from the ruins of Iraq to the unfolding tragedy of Afghanistan.

He has been calm in his decisionmaking, focused on the threat from al Qaeda, strategic in his "pivot" towards Asia, and patient in dealing with Europe.

Foreign policy is meant to be about encouraging your allies and disconcerting your foes. Mitt Romney's comments about the London Olympics did the opposite. But that was an accident, not a strategic shift.

When I met him last year, Romney previewed a mindset that has named Russia "the number one geopolitical foe", identified Israel as the front line in a new Cold War against radical Islam (lumping Iran in with al Qaeda), and signalled a big boost to defence spending at a time of radical cuts elsewhere. I don't agree with these ideas but you can see where he is coming from.

The President is the first Democrat in generations to go into an election with a lead on foreign policy -- an achievement in itself. But America's popularity ratings around the Muslim world are dire, China's rise is reshaping the world, and US military might cannot kill off the Taliban in Afghanistan.

The US remains a remarkable engine of economic innovation and social progress. But the world has changed. And the next president faces some very tough tests: the Iranian nuclear programme, ending the war in Afghanistan and reviving global trade and economic co- operation are just three examples.

So the US needs an Educator-in-Chief not just a Commander-in- Chief -- an Educator-in-Chief who can set out America's global role in a changed and changing world. Here are six lessons they need to set out.

First, the rise of China is an opportunity, not a threat. It has been depressing to hear both candidates telling the public that China is America's economic problem. I can see it is annoying that the Chinese are building iPads as well as buying them, but China is a big new player -- and a big new market.

Every year 50million people in Asia join the global middle class (earning $6,000-$18,000 a year). This is a success for the commitment over decades to opening up trade -- the West's economic renewal will not come from fighting these trends but riding the wave.

Second, "Islamist" is not a term of abuse. Some people in the Muslim world abuse their religion to fight global jihad.

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