How would the U.S. be under Kerry’s leadership?

Posted by Admin on Saturday, 14 August 2004 | Opini

The Jakarta Post , Jakarta | Sat, 08/14/2004 1:47 PM

Sayidiman Suryohadiprojo, Jakarta

Like Indonesia, the United States is facing a vital presidential election. The recent Democratic National Convention in Boston, Massachusetts, nominated Sen. John Kerry as the Democratic presidential candidate, with Sen. John Edwards as his vice presidential running mate.

They will be running against the incumbent George W. Bush, who most likely will keep Dick Cheney as his running mate.

It is far from clear who will win the election this November, but the entire world is wondering whether we can expect a different United States, whoever the American people elect.

Many people know that the administration of the current U.S. president has stoked anti-American sentiment in many parts of the world. The most obvious example of this is the U.S. position in Iraq, where the U.S. administration has failed to validate its arguments for attacking Iraq and has been unable to build widespread support for its actions there, even on policies that should seemingly enjoy broad support.

This is even true of its objective of turning Iraq into a democratic nation that could serve as an example for other Middle Eastern countries. Many people, not only in the U.S., sympathize with and support this objective. However, the real situation in Iraq today makes the growth of a democratic life very doubtful.

Anti-American sentiment continues to grow around the world. Not only among those people who have felt the direct consequences of U.S. policies and behavior, such as in Afghanistan, Iraq and Palestine, but even among traditional allies of the U.S. such as Western Europe.

A new president could be expected to take steps to reverse this growing tide of anti-Americanism. If Bush is reelected, however, it is doubtful he would be willing to make drastic changes.

If we talk about a different U.S., we certainly mean a better and more benign U.S., as the sole superpower in the world. There are many Americans who share this desire, but the criteria for such a U.S. might not be the same for Americans as for non-Americans.

For Americans, the next president must provide them with a better economy. For many Americans, the Bush government has failed to stimulate economic growth, especially when this administration’s economic record is compared with that of the Clinton administration.

This is particularly true for low income people, although less so for wealthier Americans who have enjoyed the Bush tax cuts. It could be expected that the rich would be more inclined to vote for Bush, while the poor would be more likely to favor John Kerry.

However, addressing the needs of low income groups at home could have a negative impact in other parts of the world.

Although a stronger U.S. economy would be welcomed by most nations, it could burden other countries, in particular the less developed, if it included policies that made it difficult for their products to enter the U.S. market.

Therefore, if either Kerry or Bush changed the country’s economic policies to benefit the economically disadvantaged in the U.S., it is far from certain that the new situation would create a better U.S. for many non-Americans.

Most non-Americans would agree that the unilateral attitude of the U.S. under Bush must change if the country wants to reduce anti-American sentiment.

John Kerry has said on numerous occasions that he prefers multilateralism in U.S. foreign policy.

But it is not clear whether the U.S. would be a benign superpower under Kerry. It is also unclear if he would continue the present policy of preemptive attacks against nations that are considered to pose a danger to U.S. interests.

As a senator, Kerry did not oppose the Iraq war. It is easy to understand why the majority of Americans would be in favor of U.S. hegemony in the world, therefore John Kerry cannot afford to change current U.S. policy too much if the majority of voters are in favor of that policy.

American nationalism is strong in the U.S. and has become even stronger after the Sept. 11 attacks. This is not only true in the Midwest where nationalism has always been strong, but also in areas that are usually more cosmopolitan.

If Bush is reelected it is difficult to see him abandoning his neo-conservative clan and conducting a more benign international policy. He will maintain his unilateral approach because he believes that it is the best way to achieve and defend U.S. national interests.

Very important for non-Americans is the U.S. policy vis–vis Palestine. The U.S. has always been a strong supporter of Israel, whether a Democratic or Republican president has been in power. It seems that for several reasons the U.S. cannot afford to take an impartial attitude in this conflict.

Domestic conditions in the U.S. also make it impossible to take a different approach to Palestine, and John Kerry as president would most likely change little about U.S. policy in this part of the world.

On the war on terrorism, most people in the world expect the new administration to conduct a policy that minimizes the possibility of radicalization. That policy would gradually isolate religious terrorists and would make it clear that they are only a very small minority among the millions of Muslims in the world who despise terrorism.

The U.S. war in Iraq has in reality enhanced radicalization among Muslims inside and outside Iraq. This will become a serious challenge for John Kerry if he becomes president.

Can he and his aides perceive the need for radical changes in Iraq without risking the votes of people who do not want to see a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq.

There is enough evidence that many Americans deplore the death of U.S. soldiers in Iraq, but at the same time want the U.S. to stay the course.

The latest polls show Kerry on top with 50 percent of the vote compared to 43 percent for Bush.

However, the race is far from over and changes in the international and domestic situation could benefit the incumbent president. But whatever happen in the election, it is difficult to expect a different U.S.

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