Good Morning, Mr. President What Europe Wants from Obama
Part 6: 'Some Disappointment Is Inevitable'
Wolfgang Ischinger is a former German Ambassador to the United States and is chairman of the Munich Security Conference.
The most positive consequence of the election -- and the most necessary one -- is the opportunity for not just the United States, but for the entire West to regain the moral high ground in international affairs. Moral leadership is what we have most dramatically lost during the Bush years, and we must dramatically regain it.
I do worry that many Germans and other Europeans have developed unrealistically high expectations for an Obama administration. In some of the panels I've been participating in recently, you get the sense that everyone expects a trans-Atlantic paradise will emerge with blue skies and constant sunshine. Some disappointment is inevitable.
We know that on many issues there is an obvious, visible divergence of interests across the Atlantic. Europeans will be surprised, for instance, to learn that even with Obama in the White House and a strong Democratic majority in the US Senate, the US is unlikely to ratify the Kyoto protocol or its successor arrangements as they currently exist.
On the other hand, the high expectations people have for Obama are a sign of something healthy. Europeans clearly hope for better relations with the US. The new administration could be an antidote for the anti-Americanism that we've seen rise in recent years.
The advent of the next administration presents us with a historic opportunity to turn the page and recognize the trans-Atlantic partnership for what it is: the most important partnership in the world -- politically, economically, and militarily.
There are two issues in particular that I hope the new administration tackles early on. The next US president needs to seize the opportunity to rebuild a more effective and meaningful relationship with Russia. In my view, there has not been nearly enough discussion on a huge number of issues between Moscow and Washington. Reopening dialogue with Russia could also help change the climate between the US and the EU.
The other top issue on my list is Iran. The time has come to kick-start direct talks between Washington and Tehran. If we want to make progress in that part of the world, particularly regarding nuclear proliferation, we need to engage in direct and comprehensive dialogue, which has been lacking ever since 1979.
Jose Bové, 55, is a French farmer and trade unionist, anti-globalization activist and a pioneering radical opponent of the cultivation of genetically manipulated grain and vegetable crops.
My wish for the new president focuses on two key issues: To finally arrange for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq and a clear and decisive commitment to climate and the environment. An area in which the United States has a lot of catching up to do.
Reidar Visser is editor of the Iraq-focused Web site www.historiae.org and a research fellow at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs.
When it comes to Iraq policy, the hope is that the new president will adopt a policy that is radically different from what until now has been mainstream thinking among both Republicans and Democrats.
The problem with the Bush administration's policy in Iraq has been that it focuses almost exclusively on the military dimension and thereby fails to put pressure on the Iraqi government to undertake any reforms that would move it towards a more inclusive system of government. To the Iraqi government, American support has been like a blank check that has enabled it to become stronger while at the same time resisting pressures for political reform. Republicans realize that most Iraqis want a united country, but they do not have the right policy to back it up.
The problem with the Democratic Party's policy in Iraq so far is that it either focuses on withdrawal exclusively (with little regard for what might happen to the country in the aftermath of withdrawal), or that it combines withdrawal with visions of political settlement that have no resonance with the Iraqis themselves. A Dayton-style agreement involving Iraq's neighbors and based on federalism as a key principle is unlikely to succeed. Democrats fail to realize that among the Iraqis, only the Kurds are genuinely interested in federalism on an ethnic basis, and the majority of the Shiites do not want Iran to negotiate on their behalf.
The hope is that the next US president will realize that American interests in the region are best served by a stable Iraq, and that a stable Iraq requires a political system that is supported by the country's inhabitants. The best way of achieving this is a radical revision of the 2005 constitution. However, this is not a process that the United States should seek to micro-manage. Rather, it should focus on its role as a facilitator, and single out free and fair parliamentary elections in 2009 as its top priority. The Iraqis deserve one last chance to fix their own system before the American forces depart.
- Part 1: What Europe Wants from Obama
- Part 2: 'We Need the US as a Strong Partner'
- Part 3: 'On Iran, Precious Time Has Been Lost'
- Part 4: 'We Need a Washington Less Ideological in Dealing with Russia and China'
- Part 5: 'The Time Has Come to Kick-Start Talks with Tehran'
- Part 6: 'Some Disappointment Is Inevitable'
- Part 7: 'By Voting for Obama, Americans Are not Voting to Become an EU Country'
- Part 8: 'Please Don't Bomb Iran'
- Part 9: 'A Measure of Moral Leadership Would Be to Join the ICC'
- Part 10: 'Obama -- Something that Is Still Impossible to Achieve in many European Countries'