Good Morning, Mr. President What Europe Wants from Obama
Part 7: 'By Voting for Obama, Americans Are not Voting to Become an EU Country'
Volker Perthes is the head of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs in Berlin.
This election will bring change, regardless of the winner. Both candidates expressed their wish to cooperate with Europeans more than their predecessor has done and to abandon the "us vs. them" mentality that has characterized much of the Bush years.
You do have the sense, more so in the media than in policy circles, that many here expect that Obama will rule as a "European president." That may turn out to be wrong in several respects. By voting for Obama, Americans are not voting to become an EU country.
Obama understands the changing world, and we can expect that he will increasingly rely on partners in Asia -- not just partners in Europe. As expected, I think he will be more multilateral in his approach, but that doesn't mean he'll play below the weight of his country.
The biggest challenge will be to align agendas on both sides of the Atlantic. This has been difficult in the past not only because European and American interests partly diverge, but also because of differing styles and traditions of behavior. Europeans, for instance, will never be as prepared to use military force as Americans are.
There are other challenges, too: Americans and Europeans have to come to agreement about concrete goals in Afghanistan. Is it democracy? Or simply stability? Are we aiming for economic transformation, particularly in the Pashtun tribal areas? Each side will have to determine what it is willing to contribute.
As far as Russia is concerned, it will be easier for Obama than it would have been for McCain to improve relations. Obama, after all, has not proposed kicking Russia out of the G-8 or forming a league of democracies aligned against it.
As far as Israel-Palestine is concerned, the opposite might be true. Obama might face more domestic pressure on the issue than McCain would have, because many Americans still suspect Obama of being a krypto-Muslim or at least of being pro-Arab.
Ann Pettifor is the co-founder of the Jubilee 2000, a global campaign aimed at cancelling $100 billion in debt owed by the 42 poorest countries. She is currently a fellow at the New Economics Foundation in London and director of Advocacy International.
My hope is that the next US president will help build a new, more just, stable and sustainable global financial architecture, vital for balance and stability in the world economy, but also for the eco-system.
In 1971, President Nixon unilaterally dismantled the post-war Bretton Woods system, which maintained balance between the current and capital accounts of nations. Through his refusal to honor the US's obligations to make repayments in gold as required by Bretton Woods, Nixon's administration engineered the biggest sovereign default in history. It is seldom described as such, but that is what it was.
After the dismantling of Bretton Woods, the staff of the International Monetary Fund were called upon to design a new architecture. Their efforts failed and, by default, US Treasury bills (IOUs to the US government) at very low rates of interest, were established as the worlds reserve asset. As a result, countries with large numbers of poor, like China, India and South Africa are obliged to use their reserves to make loans to the US, at very low rates. They thereby finance consumption in a country with large numbers of rich people. The system discourages the US from structurally adjusting its economy, to restore balance. From being the worlds biggest creditor, the US became the worlds biggest debtor.
This post-1971 architecture, combined with financial and trade deregulation, fuelled US consumption. Increased consumption in turn fuelled carbon emissions worldwide. Until the "debtonation" of August 2007 (the current global financial crisis), this consumption appeared to be without limit, and worsened international imbalances.
Imbalances at the heart of the global economy are in my view the root cause of instability in the global financial system, but also the ecosystem.
Hans von Storch, director of the Institute for Coastal Research at the GKSS Research Center in Geesthacht and climate researcher at the Institute of Meteorology at the University of Hamburg, is one of Germany's preeminent climate researchers.
There are two dimensions to my wishes: the values that the new man will represent and his analytical capabilities. As far as values are concerned, I expect respect for human rights and cultural diversity as called for under international law. When it comes to analytical skills, I hope that the new president will be able to distinguish between cultural constructs that lead to "passionate" activism and, ultimately, unnecessary conflict, and knowledge-based "cold" analysis. That he keeps an eye on the full range of all relevant problems and does not narrow his horizons to focus on one central issue, be it terrorism, the climate or the well-being of capitalism. And, of course, that Guantanamo is closed immediately. Putting Rumsfeld before an international court -- that too would be satisfying.
- 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'