The US and the rest of the world

It was evident from the start that this presidential race in the United States would be fascinating. On the side of the Democrats, Hillary Rodham Clinton is the first woman to be making a serious run for the White House. Her main rival for the party’s candidate is Barack Obama, the son of an American and a Kenyan, who is the first African-American with a serious chance of becoming president. The race has not been decided yet but already it has won its place in the history books. On the other side, in the Republican Party, the question is which candidate will best be able to make Americans forget that it was this party that sent the current president to Washington. In this battle for survival and victory, it may be difficult for the candidates to remember that the world is greater than their constituency and that in a year’s time the winner will be called upon to govern in a way that will benefit not only his or her country but the world itself. For many decades, the United States has been the one country whose actions affect the planet most. But today the great country is on the brink – of continued decline or revival. The new president will take over a country that is facing unprecedented challenges, domestically and in foreign affairs, at the same time that its power is reduced and its people’s confidence shaken by economic storms and long military sacrifice. The United States is the sole superpower, but the events since 2001 show that it remains one country among all the others. Its military is unable to do much on its own because it has found, as the military of every great power does, that it is easier to win a war than to impose the peace. The last few years have also shown that the values of which the Americans are justifiably proud can easily be undermined by the very officials who are sworn to upkeep them. Recently we saw that the foundation of consumers’ well-being – homeownership and easy loans – can be rocked by the same mendacity of financiers and regulatory backwardness that plague lesser countries. The effects of climate change and exorbitantly priced oil affect the Americans just the way they do everyone else. The United States, the great innovator, has played a most important role in shaping a world in which every country and every individual has been empowered as never before. Democracy, the open markets of capitalism and the Internet have created a global village, a marketplace in which everything is learned the moment it happens. The chatter right now is how the United States is neither omnipotent nor impervious to harm. The new president will have to lead from the front, like a general, so that the world will follow. It will no longer do to preach from splendid isolation, nor, on an international level, to act unilaterally. The United Nations, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, NATO and other mechanisms of international political and economic stability are no longer to be taken for granted as willing subjects of the United States. Every country has an opinion and its own agenda. To continue to lead, the United States will have to find a new way to drive the world in the direction it wants. The candidates for the presidential nomination will have to have a clear vision of what they want for the United States and their position in the world. They must also have a vision for the world. The new president will have to unite a country divided by partisan anger and so win the confidence of the international community. This will happen only when a new spirit of justice prevails in the United States and abroad. This may sound naive and unrealistic, but when today’s candidates are so happy to spread the gospel of «change» and «hope,» they could just as well invest in a call for justice for all.