US President Barack Obama (1961- ). Shall he rise to the occasion? God willing, he shall.
The American magazine Newsweek published an article by its former senior editor Andrew Nagorski, entitled Missions Critical. After taking a look at problems facing new US President Barack Obama, the author makes the stunning conclusion that Mr Obama may not be able to handle the current crisis alone. Mr Nagorski compares President Obama with the pilot of a huge airliner with little flying experience who, try as he might to make a soft landing, will still need help from more experienced co-pilots, foreign heads of state, who can fly their own missions. Here, mutual understanding and a mutual desire to help are of great importance. In dealing with the global financial crisis, Mr Obama and every other major political leader face a dual task, the author said. The first part concerns determining the size and scope of stimulus packages, while the second, equally-vital part, is about instilling public confidence that the proposed measures will actually produce results and allow for a soft landing.
Speaking about key foreign policy challenges, Mr Nagorski focused on Afghanistan and Pakistan. For one, he warned that European leaders are not enthusiastic about Washington’s calls to send reinforcements to NATO’s troop contingent in Afghanistan. The latest opinion polls in Europe show that most Europeans are strongly opposed to upping their involvement. The sad experience of the Afghan campaign shows that military force alone is not enough to establish a lasting peace. More than fresh troops are needed. The international community needs to pour more aid into Afghanistan and Pakistan to deal with humanitarian problems and encourage their long-term economic development, Mr Nagorski remarked.
Touching upon Iran, he said that in order to find a way for Russia and NATO to cooperate in dealing with a potential missile threat from that country, focus should be reframed to assess Iran’s real nuclear capability, both in terms of producing weapons and of delivering them. In Mr Nagorski’s opinion, there is reason to believe that Moscow wants to cooperate with the West on far more than just Afghanistan; in fact, it wishes to do so regarding a wide range of issues, including nuclear disarmament. Looking at US-Chinese relations, Mr Nagorski acknowledged some difficulties, but, said the two countries equally need each other, particularly when it comes to trade-economic issues, and need to work in tandem to address the current financial crisis.
Continuing the “pilot” metaphor, the Mr Nagorski suggested that President Obama “may already need to make some adjustments in his early flight plan”, since even the “most skilful pilot recognises that flying is always dangerous”, particularly in volatile weather. The article’s headline, Missions Critical, brings to mind a popular TV series, Mission Impossible, whose characters fight their way through the most difficult situations. Let’s hope we can manage it in real life as well.
11 February 2009
Voice of Russia World Service