World: Will the real Barack Obama please stand up

[Hoje Macau, Macau]



The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Obama Not All He's Cracked Up to Be


"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."


By Meidyatama Suryodiningrat,


November 5, 2008


The Jakarta Post - Indonesia - Home Page (English)

Front page of The Jakarta Post, November 5, 2008.


BBC NEWS VIDEO: The planet reacts to Obama's victory, Nov. 5, 00:04:09RealVideo

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 one."


Obamania swept 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 graduates.


Over the 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.


And Indonesians 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 president-elect.


While Indonesians can't get enough of tales of the young Barry running around eating bakso in 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.




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 with America'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.


On foreign 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.


On the 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.


Abandoning 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.










































[Posted by WORLDMEETS.US November 6, 2:45am]