Many of my American friends are delirious with joy at the prospect of an Obama victory. They have good reasons. Chief among them is that it will show the world the truth that America-haters have long denied—America is an extraordinarily open and free society. A black leader is unimaginable in any European state. Obama is an enormously attractive candidate. But there are troubling aspects to his almost effortless cruise to the presidency. First is the absurdly messianic belief in the man, at home and abroad. It’s a belief he promotes himself. In Florida on Wednesday, he declared that a vote for him could “save the world.”
Obama seems to think American power can be withdrawn from the world without dire consequences. This is nonsense. Apart from the continuing threat to world peace of Islamic terrorism and a belligerent Iran, there is now added the threat of worldwide economic chaos.It’s hard to believe that that claim is not cynical. Whether or not, after raising such unrealistic hope must come a great fall. Disappointment if not disillusion is inevitable, particularly in light of the current economic meltdown.
Second, many of the great names of the American press—The New York Times springs to mind—have abandoned objectivity. They been in the bag for Obama for months. So carried away are they with encouraging the popular acclaim for Obama, they have spent far less time than they should on examining his slim record. People talk glibly about racism in America, but if anything it is the Obama campaign that has played the race card with great skill. It is hard to believe a white man with so few accomplishments and such dodgy associations, particularly in Chicago, would have got so far. Hilary Clinton would have dispatched him. Abroad, Obama has enthralled both crowds and politicians with a touch of genius, but his positions often amount to little more than appeasement—or have been just plain wrong. Between 2004 and 2007, his constant demand for American troop withdrawals from Iraq would have led to catastrophic genocide; in 2007 he stridently opposed President Bush’s troop surge in Iraq. He has only recently, grudgingly, admitted the surge has been a great success. The awful truth is that Obama has been counting on defeat in Iraq. And the even worse truth is that he could still pull defeat from the jaws of victory unless, as president, he allows America to continue to underwrite the progress the Iraqis have made toward a decent society. Thanks to American blood and treasure, Iraq now has the nearest thing to democracy in the Arab world. It may be imperfect and fragile, but it is a vast improvement on what it suffered before. Nothing in Obama’s statements suggests he understands this. Equally dangerous is his promise to meet without preconditions Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has declared Israel a “stinking corpse” and seeks to destroy it. Even French officials, who tried to talk with Iran for years under Chirac, snort at such naïve folly. An added danger is that Israel, scared lest Obama appease an almost nuclear ready Iran, will seize the interregnum between his election and his inauguration on January 20 to launch an independent attack on Iran’s nuclear installations. Much of the rhetoric Obama has used to fuel his rise suggests he wishes to withdraw America from the world stage. This unattractive isolationism will be boosted by the looming economic recession and the inevitable loss of jobs across America. His threat to renege on, or at least renegotiate, free trade agreements (because that is what his union backers demand) can only deepen the global financial crisis. Obama seems to think American power can be withdrawn from the world without dire consequences. This is nonsense. Apart from the continuing threat to world peace of Islamic terrorism and a belligerent Iran, there is now added the threat of worldwide economic chaos. After the 1929 crash and the economic turmoil of the 1930s, America became isolationist and without American engagement, no one could prevent the European dictators from flourishing, with terrible consequences. Today similar problems face us in the shape of the economic meltdown and a rise in the number of failed states. It was a Democratic secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, who said America is “the indispensable country.” One can only hope that if he wins on November 4, President-elect Obama will quickly come to understand exactly what she meant.