"Indonesians are just as enamored as
the rest of the world. It is an upsurge fueled by sentimentality over
rationality. … Since the campaign began, only one brief remark about Indonesia has
ever been recorded. Perhaps to placate a phobic electorate, he chose to gloss
over his experience among the world's largest Muslim population."
Is he Barack or
Barry? Obama or Soetoro? On the campaign trail, John
McCain once referred to him as "that one." As of Wednesday, he was
the world as giddily as an American Idol contest. He attained iconic status for
his composed veneer, compelling delivery, and eloquence becoming of all Harvard
Republican message of "fear," his campaign team ingeniously juxtaposed
a platform of "hope." After eight years of fear mongering, Americans
ultimately voted for hope.
All is well and
good tonight in America. Camelot has been reborn; shades of the Kennedy and
early Clinton years have been rekindled.
are just as enamored as the rest of the world. It is an upsurge fueled by
sentimentality over rationality. A deluge of local features underlined Obama's
"brief" presence in Central Jakarta, as distant cousins, old
schoolmates and grade-school teachers used up their 15 minutes of fame to
propagate Obamania through the faded childhood memory of America's 44th
can't get enough of tales of the young Barry running around eating baksoin Menteng, his time
here has been fleeting since the campaign began in January. Only one brief
remark about Indonesia has ever been recorded, and references to Indonesia or
Southeast Asia are elusive even during his foreign policy briefings.
CELEBRATE OBAMA'S ELECTION VICTORY, NOVEMBER 5
Barry may have
forgotten about his time in the world's largest archipelago. Or perhaps, to
placate a phobic electorate, he chose to gloss over his experience among the
world's largest Muslim population. Recall how two Muslim women in headscarves
were removed by overzealous campaign workers at an Obama rally from standing
within range of some TV cameras.
Elections are all
about appeasing domestic constituents. The conclusion for now to the discerning
foreign observer is that he's an American leader, not a global one. Obama's
lament during the Democratic Party Convention that American factories were
being shipped abroad is consistent with his party's ideology and his own
platform that smells eerily like protectionism.
He dropped strong
hints that call into question the value of free trade withAmerica's Asian partners, contending that limited
access to these markets don't compensate for the losses of American jobs. He
has threatened to end billions in tax breaks for U.S. companies who move their
operations abroad, while pledging to ensure that public contracts are awarded
only to companies committed to American workers.
In fact it was
Obama who as a Senator, helped introduce the Patriot Employer Act last year,
which provides tax credits to companies that maintain or increase the number of
full-time workers in America relative to the number outside the U.S. And Obama
has made clear his dislike for the North American Free Trade Agreement and
Central American Free Trade Agreement as they are currently formulated.
policy, the Obama camp has lauded a new era of multilateral cooperation, quite
distinct from that of the Bush administration. Nevertheless, the strategic
fundamentals will not change.
Palestine-Israel issue, a subject both Indonesians and Americans are passionate
about, Obama will not deviate from the traditional U.S. stance. Though
supporting a two-state solution, he maintains that America's first and
incontrovertible commitment in the Middle East is for Israeli security. He has
called for beefed-up packages of military aid to Israel, including a joint
missile defense system for the Jewish state.
A key pledge
Obama has made is in regard to the military's withdrawal from Iraq. Since the
U.S. shouldn't have invaded in the first place, this will be a move welcomed
around the world. But thus far, the narrative of withdrawal has been
self-servingly American rather than in the interests of Iraqis. Obama's logic
seems to be simply that America has lost, and now it's better to flee than pay
for the long-term consequences of being involved there.
security to a nascent Iraqi force, pressuring the Iraqi government to take
control before its ready and muscling Iraqis to pay for reconstruction is
irresponsible. Whether at the local china shop or in Iraq, the pottery-barn
rule applies: You break it, you fix and you pay for it!
For now, Obama
offers much hope but not yet enough change.