Let there be no doubt that apathy because of the colour of your skin, or because of where you’re from, is no longer an option. Let there be no doubt: all that has changed with Barack Obama’s election.
Let there also be no doubt that, when Obama said that “a new dawn of American leadership is at hand” in his victory speech, the world has changed in the past 8 years. The United States of America is no longer the one superpower that remained after the fall of the Soviet Union. If the current crisis has shown Americans one thing, it should be the realization that Ameríca’s economy is intertwined with the rest of the world, that it is no longer the undisputed leader that stands alone on a mountain top. And let there be no doubt that, indeed, political power no longer grows out of the barrel of a gun.
But let there also be no doubt: the world will never be the same again. Other players have entered the top of the game, thanks to – ironically – the lack of leadership displayed by the US during the past 8 years. To assume that America can regain its position of world leadership of yore, is a fantasy. Instead, America must work together with other nations, the other leaders that rose when America turned its back on the world for eight long years.
Let there be no doubt that America must again learn what responsibility is, and that America must show that responsibility. Barack Obama said he wants to “turn the page”. That is a welcome goal. But he mustn’t only turn the page on 8 years of George W. Bush, he must also turn the page on Bill Clinton, and all presidents before him.
Let America show that it is willing to change. Ratify the follow-up to the Kyoto Treaty, which neither George W. Bush nor Bill Clinton wanted. Sign and ratify the moratorium on land mines, on chemical weapons, on biological weapons, on the development of new nuclear weapons.
Let there be no doubt that America must walk the talk.
Lecture other countries about their ethical behaviour by improving America’s own ethical behaviour. Lecture by action, heal the damage done. When America demands of nations that they agree to stop producing chemical weapons and must allow international inspections for verification, America must allow those same inspectors to check American factories. When America demands of European countries that they abolish farm subsidies, let America abolish its own.
Support the International Crimes Tribunal. Repeal the ‘The Hague invasion act’. Become a nation among nations. Understand that there is not just one country on this planet, but that there is only one planet. And make other countries understand this, too. Again, by actions, not by lecturing.
“The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from our ideals”, Obama said. How I wish that were true.
The true strength of nations comes from their willingness to work together, by carefully appropriating the might of their arms and the scales of their wealth, not as goals unto themselves, but as tools with which to promote shared ideals.