Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: Twixt Hell & Highwater
The International Response to the U.S. Election
Dealing with Russia will not be easy. It is not America’s equal, but fiercely independent; it is not an ally, but not a willing adversary either. Russia, however, is critical for the 21 century’s global balance — and that should not escape Obama’s attention.
He (Obama) has been wise not to intervene militarily in Syria. In coming months, Syrian rebels, Turkey and Gulf countries will try to lure the U.S. into the jihadist battlefields by escalating violence and chaos. Will the U.S. maintain its sobriety?
Similarly, if it turns out that diplomacy will fail to stop Iran’s nuclear ambitions and more robust steps will have to be taken, Obama will have the legitimacy, internal and international, to do this. Unlike Romney, he cannot be branded as a gung-ho warmonger.
Across Asia, the reaction to the elections has been muted. Asians woke up sometime ago to the reality that exceptionalism driven by narrow national political agendas is at the core of American foreign policy, and they have to endure its global implications.
The plain fact is: now that the sometimes appalling, occasionally entertaining, and only intermittently edifying spectacle of these U.S. elections is behind us, it’s time to get serious again. The crisis on both sides of the Atlantic is not just about banks or mortgages. What’s still at stake is nothing less than the resilience of our economies, the fairness of our societies, the stability of our democracies — and the preservation of a free and decent international order.
At a different level, the defeat of Mitt Romney in the United States after that of Nicolas Sarkozy in France is proof that if you loose the centrist votes by flirting too much with the most right wing forces you run the risk of being condemned to defeat. Obama’s victory may seem like a bitter pill for Sarkozy — it is possible to be re-elected in times of crisis — but it is definitely encouraging for Angela Merkel in Germany. If the leader of the West can make it, so can the leader of Europe.
U.S. policy for Africa was barely discussed during this year’s presidential campaign, except for a fleeting mention of Islamic extremism in Somalia and Mali during a debate on foreign policy. The scant attention paid to Africa has left some on the continent feeling abandoned, especially by a president with African roots.
Although the region was ignored during the campaign, the strong turnout from Hispanic voters in key states like Florida fanned hopes that politicians on both sides of the U.S. political divide will focus more on the region in years to come, including issues like immigration reform.
"This is very good for Latin America," said former Mexican foreign minister Jorge Castañeda, now a professor at New York University.
Guido Mantega, Brazil's Finance minister, told reporters in Brasilia, "Obama's reelection is positive for Brazil and the G-20."
For Mexico in particular, the U.S. electoral results were viewed positively by many Mexicans for two of its main issues with the U.S.: immigration and the country's anti-drug war.
Politicians who favour Obama avoided showing their support in public for fear of reprisals. However, many of them told the reformist Etemaad newspaper Obama would be a better choice for the future of Iran.
For one Chinese citizen, following the US polls had a certain voyeuristic thrill. "For us, the US presidential election is the same as watching an [adult] movie," he wrote on the popular Sina Weibo microblog service, "we cannot participate, but we are willing to stare at it."
In Afghanistan, there had been little interest in the election, probably because most people felt US policy towards their country was already broadly fixed, with a Nato-agreed deadline of 2014 for the withdrawal of most troops.
"Everybody was saying Romney is better for Pakistan, but I said they were wrong," he said. "He was much more likely to declare war on Iran, and that would have been a disaster for Pakistan and the Middle East. OK, Obama has been more stick than carrot with Pakistan, but at least it is a stick we know."
Middle East (Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, et al)
Reaction in the Middle East to Obama's re-election has ranged from wariness to disappointment. Regional leaders and the Arab street were, at best, underwhelmed. There is no sense that the incumbent's second term offers the same sort of hope that his first did, four years ago. Obama's Cairo speech was a beacon on the hill that steadily dimmed throughout the past four years. With the region now in turmoil, few seem to believe the leader of the world's largest economy and most powerful military has the will to do much about the situation.Egypt's Islamist president, Mohamed Morsi, expressed the hope that a second term would "strengthen friendship" between Washington and Cairo. Aside from that, reaction, at least initially, was largely mute.