When Even Your Best Rah Rah Friends Say This . . .

Nothing startling here, i.e., any reader of this blog could drum this up over a beverage of choice. But The Economist still has mind share among the NYC-DC shuttle set, so it is worth noting:

Most importantly, the next president will want to broaden American foreign policy from its preoccupation with the “war on terror”. The Olympic games in Beijing this summer will remind Americans of China’s growing economic might, at a time when America is nervous about its own economic performance and faces powerful protectionist pressures at home. Russia’s growing authoritarianism and assertiveness is also bound to pose a big strategic problem.

Even so, the issues that dominated the Bush presidency will not go away. Defeating radical Islam will remain a mainspring of American policy. Al-Qaeda still seems determined to inflict massive casualties on America’s civilian population. It is still powerful and continues to pursue biological and even nuclear weapons. The president’s first job is to protect the American people from attack, so al-Qaeda will remain an overriding worry.

A Democratic president might bring a change of strategy to the “war on terror”, with less martial rhetoric and a shift of focus from Iraq to Pakistan and Afghanistan. Mr Obama is saying that America should be fighting terrorism (but in Iraq it has chosen the wrong battlefield). He has expressed his willingness to go after high-value al-Qaeda targets in Pakistan without the permission of Pakistan’s government, something that Mr Bush refused to do. The Bush administration itself is already toning down its rhetoric and trying harder to work with local elites and use non-military tools. There would be more of this under a Democratic president.

Whoever wins, America’s foreign policy will continue to be bedevilled by three problems that Mr Bush has had to contend with. The first is partisanship at home. America will remain deeply divided about how to deal with radical Islam. Conservatives believe that this is the defining struggle of the age, whereas liberals see it as a hysterical response that will only add to the problem . . .

Perhaps after L’Affaire Wright has made those plunky fans of all things Yankee to be sheepish about audacity.


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