how the world sees america

How the World Sees "Change"

change-we-can-believe-in.jpg
Want change?

Washington DC – “What countries did you visit on this trip?” the U.S. customs agent asks. I respond: “Turkey, Lebanon, Israel, the Philippines, and South Korea.”

There’s a pause. I’m anxious. After my previous airport adventures, I fully expect her to order me into a back room for a talk with a burly interrogator. But instead she tugs back her sleeve, lifts a stamper in the air, and brings it down hard on my customs form. Cla-Clack. She hands me back my passport with a flourish.

“Welcome home.”

I’ve been on the road for one hundred days since kicking off Part II of How the World Sees America. For the next week I’ll be in Washington DC, restocking, repairing broken equipment, and preparing for the next leg of the project in Venezuela and Mexico.

Though I’m looking south, it takes only a few moments stateside before I start thinking about the differences between how the world sees America and how we see ourselves.

I exit baggage claim and am greeted by dozens of TVs overhead recycling images of our presidential candidates. These candidates, in turn, recycle the same one word: “Change.”

Stand for Change,” an Obama sign commands.

“[I offer] change you can count on,” Clinton stresses.

Giuliani quips, “[the democrats want] to take the change out of your pocket.”

The rest parrot, “I’m the candidate of change…I’m the candidate of change.”

It doesn’t take three months abroad to be struck by the omnipresence of this word in America. Pundits are busy dissecting it. Candidates prance before it.

Yet I find the buzzword "change" most striking at home because I hear it so rarely abroad.

When I'm in other countries and bring up the subject of “change” within America, it often makes people anxious. For example, Turkish General Edip Baser fretted about a precipitous U.S. withdrawal from Iraq before passionately recounting what he called “a long, tragic history of American betrayals in the region.” In the Philippines, an aid worker worried about whether U.S. money would keep flowing even if terrorism ebbed. And in South Korea, a retired general fretted about a new American president turning soft toward North Korea, undercutting the hard line of the South's new president, Lee Myung-bak. As PostGlobal panelist Ahmed Rashid put it in Pakistan: Even if the U.S. State Department takes the long view, the White House’s attention span in the global arena -- and the attention span of the American public -- is far too short.

Obviously the word “change” means different things to different people, inside and outside of America. Change can call for greater government competence, for the end of the current U.S. administration, or for something more specific like health care reform. The word is notoriously and purposefully vague. But it seems tailor-made for U.S. voters, inspiring a widespread enthusiasm and acceptance here that's harder to find abroad.

On Fox’s Republican South Carolina debate, Giuliani felt it necessary to urge voters not to be seduced by the word, and to realize that "change is either good or bad."

That's a truism Giuliani probably wouldn't need to state in Beirut, Manila or Seoul, where people watch America "change" with cautious eyes.

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Comments (23)

Amar C. Bakshi:

I must say reading through all these comments I'm quite humbled. It's a really fascinating discussion developing here, and I'm very glad you're choosing to explore these thoughts here. I learn a lot. OK, enough emotional gushing.

A lot of topics have come up here and I want to come back to each of them in turn as I think about them more. The main point of the piece, as I intended it, was the degree to which the rest of the world fears the volatility of American foreign policy. It's interesting to look at poll numbers where majorities in countries like Turkey, traditional allies, fear a U.S. attack to some degree or another.How does one assure continuity of policy through election seasons?

I just wrote a very quick post on how important it seems to me American views of the outside world will be for 2008: from illegal immigrants clogging social services to dependence on foreign oil, terrorism, and foreign debt, a lot of issues force America to look inside and out. Globalization is often described in dynamic terms -- as a process of unsettling change. To me that seems to be part of what is making America interested in the rest of the world -- change being impacted by more and more, and further and further away actors.

All of your comments read as article posts, and my comments come out as a rushed stream of conscious, forgive me, but I wanted to change topics and ask you all something. A lot of you have brought up this idea of wanting 08 debate to be more about policy, less about buzzwords.

How the World Sees America has tried, to some extent, to show how America's international posture impacts ordinary lives, and I'm wondering if there is a way to graft that format onto the 08 elections within America. Is there a tour of the U.S. you guys would like to see that would help explore some key issues at stake in the election. Any five word title like 'how the world sees america' you'd put to it?

Thank you Tin-Tin, Tom, Rick and others for the kind welcome back. It's good being home, but I'm itching to get back on the road soon!

Chrissy:

Vic Van Meter

Dear Mr. Meter:

That is a very insightful and near genius post that you had written. I haven't really thought of this country as deeply as you have in the mental root of conflict and fighting. Yes, I agree that we are a country that is historically known for putting up a serious fight for good and bad causes. When we fight for a good cause (end slavery, women's rights, right to worship and live freely...even though we haven't lived us to these standards the way that we should), we are at our best. When we focus that same strength on fights that are misguided, wrong, and with no vision; then fail and fail terribly. We are looked at as warmongers, horrible and violent people, criminals even. That is why we can not afford to have leadership that do not "think" and that do not have a "vision" with sound strategy. The answer isn't to never fight again, but it is to know what the heck you are fighting for and if it really protects us and those who are trying to protect from further harm. Our government officials did not understand the difference between an immediate threat and unnecessary fighting in regards to the war on terrorism. There was no intelligent plan, if any, put in place after the bombing. We have been called devils before, but this war has actually made us look like them even more.

VICTORIA:

i havent decided to support obama yet- because frankly- i cannot discern what his message of change is. he is far too vague- also i was disappointed by his 180 degree turnaround and rolling over for the jewish lobby AIPAC when he stated the palestinian people were suffering more than anyon- quickly morphed into the palestinians AND ISRAELIS are suffering because of the violence of the palestinians.

that hypocrisy left a bad taste in my mouth.
(also he abstained voting on the majority of senate votes- to me a politically savvy move- but one doesnt really know where he comes down on issue)
(also didnt vote on iraq, and didnt vote AGAINST the patriot act even though hes a constituional scholar)
i dont need to be cheerled into feeling good- and i get that with his speeches, which contain a great deal of style but very little substance.

hillary was off my radar until i heard her speak in iowa to an audience where she ended every proposal with a "and here is how i'll do it".

and actually had viable plans.

i like john edwards populist message- but he keeps getting edged out-

i really like kucinich- but he cant even get on the stage to debate, and when he did, actually had to pose and answer questions himself to get equal tme with the big 3-
did i mention he carries a copy of the constituion in his pocket?

huckabee frankly scares me-

amending the constituion to include god-(instead of the creator)
calling for an end to immigrants who come from 'countries where terrorism occurs'
(read muslims)
stating that marriages should not be recognized under these categories-
man with man (homosexuals)
woman with woman(homosexuals)
man with 2 wives (muslims)
man with 3 wives(mormons)
man with animals? (homosexuals again- a dog whistle to the old christian right standby- where do we stop with homosexual marriages? next people will what to marry animals!)

personally, i have never encountered anyone who lobbies for man/animal marriages- but i guess there out there somewhere)

o yes, lets not forget the flat tax

giuiani 911! 911! 911!, did he say 911?
also i think its strategically dumb to sit like a spider in florida waiting for the end of the caucuses)
mccain- well, mac is back with an iranian attack

romnney? good businessman- a little slick but thats not so bad

ron paul- well- yeehaw ron paul but he cannot get on the stage to debate either, so...

lets face it, the democrats have it locked up this time-

change simply means a change from bush

serena1313:

Obama originally used the term "change" before the others picked it up. When asked about that, Obama replied, "Good Iam glad to see everyone is talking about the need for change." He could have said something quite the opposite, but he didn't.

When Obama differentiates himself and positions from Hillary's he is called hateful or accused of attacking Hillary. He has every right to draw where they differ. After all he is trying to win an election.

He is accused of offering false hope. There is no such thing as false hope. Americans want leadership, unity and hope. To keep hope alive today and tomorrow requires leadership. Equally important is our participation in the political process.

Obama's inspiring speeches are criticized by some who complain they lack substance. Obama has more than one type of speech. Apparently the press decided his stump speeches are not as interesting to report. Failing to inspire people to act disqualifies an individual seeking to lead a nation. However Obama is inspiring young and old alike to caucus and/or vote for the first time. When was the last time you were inspired by someone?

Obama is a visionary who knows how to get from point A to point B and on to Z if need be. He wants to unite the country. His track-record proves he connects and unites people of all stripes: age, colour, gender regardless of party affiliation. It also shows he can work across party lines. Actions speak louder than words.

Obama wants to change the mind-set: change the thinking [that got us into war in the first place]. A president sets the tone of the country. With someone like Obama as president just think of what we can accomplish.

The voice of hope is alive. His words are inspiring and his vision is something that we all share. Moreover Obama is a man who acts on his convictions.

America stands at the threshold of a monumental and historical moment. The opportunity to make great strides is before us.

Everyone is clamouring for change, but unless we are willing to put our money where our mouth is, we'll end-up with politics as usual. Making wise decisions based on sound judgment is more important than "experience" and division. Likewise life-experience outside of Washington and allows fresh ideas to discover new ways to operate in the world .

If Obama is your choice, vote for Obama; if Hillary is your choice, vote for Hillary likewise Edwards, but don't allow the 'electability' issue to sway you. Otherwise based on that premise it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy by your own design. Furthermore if you are not willing to vote your conscience and aspirations why then would anyone else?

Vote for the candidate most capable of uniting the country. Vote for truth. Vote for the one who is most likely to bring change. But most of all vote for the candidate who moves You. Vote your conscience. Vote your aspirations.

Too often we (myself included) fail to recognize, sometimes small - sometimes phenomenal, opportunities and later regret it. As a nation, let's not let this one slip by.

Rising above the clouds we can clearly see that this moment is too, too important to watch it slip away!

Obama's background and experiences prepared him for this moment. With a deep understanding of the human psyche and a grasp of world events and how the two are inseparable indicates Obama is uniquely qualified to become the next president.

People overseas tell me they are not worried about what "change" Obama will bring. They are worried that Americans may not recognize this opportunity is a special moment in history. Obama, they say, inspires them, too. They are excited about the prospect of Obama becoming the next President of the United States of America.

Obama can change things for the better, if given the chance. I believe that deeply.

Gary E. Masters:

The problem is that our "lowest common denominator" is way too low. To get something that all can agree to, we have the obvious and trivial solution - nothing. The solution is to go to what we have - a President with a plan. Perhaps the solution is for the national will to rise to the occasion and not lower our goals to what the least are willing to do. Can't never could.

Gary E. Masters:

he problem is that our "lowest common denominator" is way too low. To get something that all can agree to we have the obvious and trivial solution - nothing. The solution is to go to what we have - a President with a plan. Perhaps the solution is for the national will to rise to the occasion and not lower our goals to what the least are willing to do.

Basat Tayfun:

For those of you that feared class warfare, you have seen nothing yet: Welcome to the generation wars.

Americans would be best served if they looked at the factors that will mostly dictate the scale and scope of the change (or changes) that are coming our way. They will see that, as most successful states, the seeds of failure come from within. After all, if you have done so well so as to become an empire (or the king of the jungle), then why would you ever decline (or loose your place to a giraffe)? In other words, why would Europe, Japan, China, etc. have any better chance of gaining the top seat if you are already there?

Let's see why the US is declining: It is running out of money, real fast. Well, actually, it ran out of money a long time ago, but needed only small injections to keep itself afloat. As one would expect of any system that relies on debt to sustain itself, debt with compounding interest has had an avalanche affect, insuring a vicious cycle downward no amount of "promised change" can break.

To put it mildly: If the USA has not been able to pay off its debt and instead continues to borrow, then why would we believe it could reverse the trend so late in the game? Is the new guy a multi-trillionaire who is willing to cut Uncle Sam a 10-trillion dollar check? Nope.

So, with an aging population that will demand more in the way of financial support, not less, and an economy that has lost its competitive edge in many areas, if not most or all, what avenue do we really have for turning the tide? We do not.

The USA will become increasinly poorer as a rapidly declining dollar indicates. In terms of Euros and Rubles, despite all of the raises and bonuses, the average American is making markedly less than what they were making in real terms a few years ago. A good portion of the gas price increases are due to this. And, this is only the beginning. Expect inflation due to the need to print money (if you cannot borrow, you can always print and dilute value of money) and pay more for everything we consume (most things we buy use petroleum products or are manufactured abroad).

Also, since the US is so dependent on debt, it will need to offer a competitive return on the borrowing it does. With a weakening dollar, that means it needs to offer higher and higher interest. But, due to the recession fears and the credit crunch, the policy has been to LOWER rates. That means, less people are likely to want to lend to Uncle Sam when they can buy up land, real estate, companies (technology and market share), political influence (lobbying), etc. instead of earning zero if not negative returns on T-bills! So, expect much greater corruption in Washington (due to dependence on foreign governments) and a more rapid outflow of wealth (executive control over critical economy sectors and assets passed on to foreigners). The US may be about to become a colonized nation...

So, we are really stuck. The trillions our parents and grandparents were happy to borrow have come home to roost. The children and grandchildren are now seeing this big dark cloud over their heads. Thanks to the financial "ingeniuty" of their parents, current and future generation of Americans not only have to deal with much lower purchasing power, but have to pay larger taxes to cover SS and Medicaid, the spending of a government that has diminished borrowing power. All the while the intellectual and real assets we develop will belong more and more to foreign-owned interests...

I wonder if the kids are going to take it and simply let the parents fend for themselves.

Again, for those of you that feared class warfare, you have seen nothing yet: Welcome to the generation wars.

Vic van Meter:

One thing we, as Americans, have trouble understanding is that change comes in many, many flavors.

The best kind of change is continuous and unavoidable. Even in the time I write this sentence, our continent will move hairs of millimeters closer to Africa and Europe. In this slow, unavoidable manner, racism is being slowly drained from America. We all have a ways to go, but any good change takes decades, even centuries, to complete. In fact, we do not even notice effective change.

Then there are flash changes, which are almost always bad because they are almost always ill-thought. Moving quickly and violently is not anywhere near as effective as moving slowly and methodically. Opinions of people in a rapid change do not change as quickly, hence our partisanism. We believe in something blindly, since our brains cannot process deep-seated alterations to our world quickly enough to keep up.

So when you talk about change, what exactly are you talking about?

Every candidate has a change sale for us. They make us believe that a year after getting into office, they will be able to fix all the problems plaguing America. They have to, they have a maximum of eight years, pending public approval, to effect change. Unfortunately for the public, our deep divisions cause any root change to be uprooted in the next election as our pendulum swings from right to left and back again. These fleeting, flashing changes are ineffective, mostly harmful, and wholly disgusting on the larger part.

It does not help that we, as Americans, are subject to an incredibly stressful lifestyle that is more suited to adaptability than to long-distance evolution. Our world's technology is moving at such a rapid pace that, without an incredibly flexible and adaptable mind, we would simply not be able to keep up with all the advancements in modern life. Couple that to a culture which is, on the whole, based deep in a religion of conflict, and you have a people who are subject to quick, decisive, almost violent change while still maintaining our roots to long-held traditions.

As I have said before, Americans are, in spirit, a warrior people. We are more like Spartans than Athenians, more like Norsemen than the Swiss, and more like the English than the Swedes. Deep rooted in our culture, deeper than even our religions, skin color, and social identity is a deeply held set of American values that are reflexive, reactive, courageous and often violent. We rarely recognize these roots in our system because we in America rarely indentify with people outside America often. And I think other people are too polite to bring it up. But there is something in Americans that is both romantic and frightening to the rest of the world.

In effect, our honor is based on courage, tenacity, fearlessness, individuality, upfrontedness, discipline, and strategic adaptability. These are what we most admire, and why our candidates, though they stress change, fear being called "weak." The world over admires us for this, takes this from our culture and markets it as American. This base culture is incredibly intriguing to most of the world's people who have not regularly dealt with Americans. Our universal dislike of Al'Qaida, Hezbollah, and other like military forces is rarely that they are fighting, but that they are cowards. In short, America's military presence in the world is disliked, but the fact that we rarely hide that presence and stand in the open to face our enemies is a long-dying tradition not much adhered to in the face of our strength.

But these same values are also frightening and apalling to those same people who romanticized our culture. These views I have expressed are certainly not the views of a peaceful negotiator, but of a military strategist or warrior. Everything an American at his roots tends to perceive is a war, a war physically, socially, or mentally. Everything is a battle to be won, a trial to face down, an affront to whatever our pet issues are farther up the surface from our deeply held belief in conflict. None of my international friends (sans British, Australians, and Canadians to a degree) have displayed this root behavior at the bottom of their foundations. They found their lives more on oneness with their environments (social more than atmospheric), harmony, understanding, diplomacy, religion, servitude, nihilism, and other such. Depending on where you are, different attitudes are instilled in the basest heart of mens' hearts. But only in America is the culture of warfare so deep seated and so permeating.

I am not saying this in an effort to change our identity as American people. Our foundations have made us who we are in the world for generations upon generations of venerated warriors. Our most famous citizens, those we venerate most, are known for their bravery, tenacity, and relentless pursuit of their conflict. This is the root, and it will doubtful ever change.

I write all these thoughts above simply because change is a word our candidates can sling around for the benefit of their own conflicts without changing anything. We are all warriors, all fiercely fighting the world around us in order to make it a step higher up some mountain we cannot perceive. From this, we draw our identity as Americans far beyond our birth in these borders.

The change these candidates propose is largely cosmetic. If you wish to exact true change in our system, you will have to look in the mirror and understand what you are at the deepest core of your being. What will you fight for? What will you die for? What are you prepared to pour ever fiber of your soul into in order to change?

Do you think these candidates have done that? Have Clinton, Obama, McCain, Guiliani, all of them boiled away the layer of lies, wishful thinking, and international appearances to take a hard look at themselves? Are they not simply strong, but American strong?

Let me be frank. The world needs America because the world has very few people left who are so remarkably adaptable and still obsessed with their cause. Our President needs to reflect this. They must have the key ingredients to a sucessful American success. An iron will (not a heart of gold), an inner strength (not an outer source), a quick mind that forms a strategy of actions (not a reactive mind that does not consider all battlefield considerations), and a dogged determination to do what must be done (not necessarily to whine about the impossible). Are these those candidates? Who amongst them is the strongest, the most steel-hearted, fiery souled, tempered-minded, and honorably disciplined candidate?

I'm sure we all have different answers, but this all relates back to the subject of change and the way they throw it around on a campaign. Do not be fooled. These are not changes they propose. These are adaptive strategies, some better thought out than others. Analyze the strategies and those they come from. Forget what these people are and understand who they are. Are they sniveling panderers or are they capable of something truly principled and steel-hearted? Can they react well? We will never predict the future, much to every candidate's dismay. All we can do is react to changing circumstances.

What we do know is that we have understood ourselves wrong. George W Bush does not react intelligently to immediate difficulties. His strategies have proven to be largely incorrect and misguided. Of course he is devoted doggedly to a cause (as are most Americans) but he has no idea how to get there. Whatever his place in the hierarchy of our society, he was not meant to be our leader because, though he is admirably tenacious and willful, he is not intelligent. But would a more "understanding" candidate be any better? If you are intelligent and reactive but lack vision, you are also not a suitable leader. Determination to a well-thought plan is the hallmark of American leadership.

Above all this election season, never forget who you are at your core. If we understood each other at our base, I am fairly certain that the entire world would get along much better than it does. We are expected to be the world's peacekeepers, but we fare poorly as their peacemakers. Remember that you, as an American, have been born into a world that is at war with you, wherever you are and whatever you do. It is a mindset, a lifestyle, that differentiates us from much of the world. So shrug aside the talk of change. Change is useless. Only strategy is effective, and the way I see it, I think our candidates owe us a lot more strategy than we are seeing from them.

I, for one, am a bit frustrated at how the election race has reduced me to hearing buzz words and tabloid gossip from candidates rather than hearing more about their strategy for success. They treat us like children who cannot feasibly understand the complexities of their minds. We are not this foolish, nor is the world. Tell me what you plan to do to fix the situation and be prepared for an arguement from your detractors.

But don't you candidates dare cloak your campaign and hide as cowards from an honest debate. It isn't a trait Americans look up to, hiding in the face of a conflict. Bring your best plan to the table and be ready for war. Is it too much to ask?

Anonymous:

It is one of the more obvious truisms that change is not of itself intrinsically meritorious. To say you will effect change means no more or less than that you will alter the state of things, and no alteration will please all of the people all of the time.

The word is so ubiquitous in the 2008 presidential campaign for two reasons. First, since the number of voters dissatisfied with the Bush-era status quo now far exceeds the number of voters who are satisfied, every candidate knows she or he must promise to end that status quo. If you are stuck on a deserted island, you will probably respond positively to anyone who promises you a way off; where they might take you is a different and more distant question. Secondly, because the word is devoid of meaning, when an unthinking person is promised change, he will project into that promise whatsoever he most desires. I'm sure the default human state of restless, and our collective affinity for novelty has something to do with it as well.

In any case, I think this campaign would benefit from a diminution in the quantity and audacity of the the rhetoric and a much greater emphasis on the policies, proposals and abilities of the candidates.

Chris Lynd:

Mike, you and about 3% of this country think that the U.S. economy is doing well. You must either be near the top of the pyramid scheme (called Republican economics) or foolishly believe that you will be near the top of that pyramid scheme.

The rest of us believe that a good economy is when unemployment is low, wages are high, and everyone has good health care. This is precisely the opposite of what Republicans think is a good economy.

The Republicans have spent over a decade fighting health-care reform to keep the profits of insurance companies and drug companies high, they fight wage increases because keeping wages low means higher profits for corporations, and they want unemployment between 4.5% - 7% to keep wages low and corporate profits high.

Furthermore they put corporate profits before the sucurity of Americans. They fight having our ports secured because of fears of slowing down Wal-Mart's business and they don't bother to secure our borders because illegal immigration is good for big business because it keeps wages low.

If people were smart enough to vote their pocketbook, there would be no Republican party because less than 10% of the population actually benefits from their economic policies.

TIN-TIN:

HI Amar! I'm glad you're back home safely, take care and keep in touch, God bless!

cheers,
TIN-TIN

Mobedda:

Mike wrote: "Rudy was pointing out that change is not inherently a good thing, particulalrly when you start tinkering with the highly successful American economy."

---

Bwaaaaaa ha ha ha ha ha ha ha haaaaa.... Ooooooh hoo hoo hoo hooooo.... Oh, God, it HURTS! Ahhh ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.... Whooo.

Thanks, I needed that.

berry, ecuador:

Observer,

Thank you for your observations. As I said before, it was just a dream. After all, this forum's question was about "How the world sees change?"

Anyway, dreams apart:

* * *

"When drugs get legalized, drug cartels will not collapse, they will export drugs to the US legally. Millions of Americans will get addicted."

That's interesting. Your comment seems to suggest that America is NOT the world's #1 drug market for both legal and illegal drugs. Colombian and Mexican cocain cartels, as well as Taliban's opium cartels in Afghanistan, owe their very existence to DRUG DEMAND in the U.S. Have you ever checked the facts? What percentage of American teenagers use drugs compared to other countries? How many white-collar employees take drugs? How many inmates are in prison on drug charges. Supply and demand, my friend. Supply and demand.

* * *

"Yes, America will push fair trade because it is the victim of unfair trade from China, Korea, Japan, etc. South Americans (with the exception of Chile) will not export their way to prosperity. Instead they will try to export illegal immigrants, who will remit money to essentially remittance economies."

Wrong again, my friend. Millions of people leave their poor countries and break into rich countries BECAUSE THEIR HOME COUNTRIES ARE POOR. You keep Latin American and African countries poor, you will see many more millions trying to get into rich nations. Vice-versa: when people in Latin America and Africa get jobs, they stay in their home country, because it would be just stupid to risk their lives and suffer all kinds of humiliations far away from home.

* * *

"Dark skinned or fair skinned Hispanics will not be allowed to break immigration laws with impunity. Mexico will not be able to dump its population on the US to be fed, housed, educated, and employed. That will remain Mexico's responsibility."

If that is the way you want this conversation to be, it's ok. Then, the U.S. should begin taking their light-skinned or dark-skinned military people back home from all over the world. Don't forget to take your contractors, mercenaries, and particularly your CIA agents back home too. The U.S. will not be able to dump their school-dropouts on the rest of the world to be fed, housed, educated, and employed. That will remain U.S. responsibility.

Martin:

A far more interesting question is how America will adapt to the World changing around it. The most obvious indications are the rise to power of China and India but on top of that Europe is moving towards greater integration and Brazil has a developing sense of its potential influence. Multipolar indeed, and then probably unipolar forever....a third of the World's population sharing a strong collective cultural identity care less then you imagine about America's elctoral window dressing.

As ever, some Americans will react to suppress the freedom of others while declaring their own sacred. Others will recognise that a better future for us all lies in acknowledging the obsolescence of Nation States whilst rejecting the laissez faire corporate piracy that currently threatens to replace them. Power to the people.

Observer:

To Berry from Ecuador:

When drugs get legalized, drug cartels will not collapse, they will export drugs to the US legally. Millions of Americans will get addicted.

Yes, America will push fair trade because it is the victim of unfair trade from China, Korea, Japan, etc.
South Americans (with the exception of Chile) will not export their way to prosperity. Instead they will try to export illegal immigrants, who will remit money to essentially remittance economies.

Dark skinned or fair skinned Hispanics will not be allowed to break immigration laws with impunity. Mexico will not be able to dump its population on the US to be fed, housed, educated, and employed. That will remain Mexico's responsibility.

Mike:

"Did Rudy really say "change is either good or bad"? Can he really think something that simple?"

Are you kidding me? The Dems run around spouting "change" as a policy statement and you attack Rudy for being simplistic? Give me a break.

By the way, the point is a salient one. Dems (and their supporters) babble about change without giving any details. Rudy was pointing out that change is not inherently a good thing, particulalrly when you start tinkering with the highly successful American economy.

CCPA:

Me thinks the Obamaites are way too defensive. How did this article elicit 2 such quick responses defensively on Obama?

When foreign peoples come to depend on American policies, the "change" can hurt those peoples. GW's policies are considered horrible around much of the world, but it's the "devil they know". It's the uncertainty of not knowing that causes the anxiety.

yehadut:

You've got to be kidding. Sure, you can find some people who don't want change in America, but the overwhelming majority of people definitely do. Bush's positives in countries from Turkey to Germany to Japan are all ridiculously low. Of course change can be good or bad -- but in this case, it's hard for things to get much worse, in the eyes of the world.

newageblues:

Did Rudy really say "change is either good or bad"? Can he really think something that simple?That's over the top, even for him.

berry, ecuador:

Let me dream for a moment.

The next President of the United States will abandon the failed "war on drugs". Instead, he/she will push for a broad legalization and tough regulation of drugs. This will lead to a suden collapse of drug cartels all over the world, particularly in Latin America and Afghanistan.

During the next administration, Fair Trade will be a priority. The President will convince Congress to dismantle the complex array of subsidies and tariffs that protect American businesses from foreign competition. Europe will soon follow. As a result, dozens of Latin American and African countries will increase their exports, and will begin to see substantial improvements in the standards of living of their populations.

The first black President will end racism in America. Never again will dark-skinned, Spanish-speaking immigrants be rounded up by white supremacists.

Ok. Dreaming time is over.

mobedda:

I want an Executive Branch that:

1) Doesn’t start with the premise that they must not reveal the truth about anything.

2) Understands that 2 out of three people can tell reality from fantasy, and that the remaining 3rd ABSOLUTELY MUST BE ignored.

It is simply not the case that this administration has been an unqualified, long-term, boon to anyone alive. PERIOD. Not even Bush himself, and he may just live long enough to develop the wisdom to realize this.

Tom Wallach:

Welcome back indeed, and I hope your trip was as great as it sounds in the website.

"Change" has become the buzzword of this campaign through the same political opportunism that the true concept of change threatens.

The main reason I support Barack Obama is because of his incredibly responsible economic policy, mixed in with his record of making considered, measured choices. The change here is that he is the first popular politician I have seen who actually considers the best idea, rather than the most popular. I think most of the true Obama fiends take a similar approach to their approval. The man isn't "soft on policy," he is just such an electrifying speaker his policy takes second stage. (Plus, honestly, if folks won elections based on policy the Clinton Era would never have begun (we would instead have the Tsongas Era)).

But Barack offers a host of subsidiary positive changes. He is a politician unsullied by recent criminal acts, feckless brothers, major corporate ties, or skeletons in the closet ( he unveiled all of them in his books before the Presidency was a serious option). Beyond this, he offers an inclusive approach, the first politician from either side of the Aisle to run based on what is best for the United States, and not the Republicans or the Democrats.

Internationally, I don't think that Obama would be the magic bullet that so many might like to see him as. But his candidacy (and i hope his eventual election) do provide a wedge into the view that many outside this country have of us. He chips at the image of "White America," with his skin tone and his Muslim relatives. He supports the fact that many folks from more oppressive areas of the world don't understand, that at the core, power in the United States constitutionally and legitimately lies with the people (its just that we are often too lazy to exercise it, instead seconding it to corporations and ad-firms). He lends credence to one of the underlying notions of American Society that made us so threatening to oligarchs, and so empowering to the oppressed and downtrodden of the world, that in America, anything is possible for anyone.

Change can be good or bad, and I will not assert that Obama and his "change" will necessarily always be for the better. But the door he opens is so potentially fruitful, and the door he closes, that of political aristocracy, neo-oligarchical political operations, and the theoretical choke-hold of Washington on the United States, is so much better locked up and buried.

Rick Jones, Fredericksburg, VA:

Welcome back Amar.

To me, the change promised by Barack Obama is:

1. A swift but responsible withdrawal from Iraq; i.e. begin withdrawal immediately with the goal of all troops out by the end of 2009, but keep an eye on the facts on the ground. Only leave troops in to the extent that they can accomplish something positive, and I don’t mean get in the middle of a Sunni/Shiite civil war.

2. Return the US policy to that of honest broker in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.

This means that Israel must:

a. Return to pre-1948 war original UN partition borders, with 55% of historic Palestine allocated to Israel and no exceptions. No more 78% (post-1967 war) allocated to Israel plus all the additional settlement activity that they desire.

b. Grant right of return to refugees and descendents to their homes inside Israel.

c. Completely remove all settlements in East Jerusalem.

d. Completely remove all settlements from West Bank.

e. Share water rights equally with Palestinians. No more 80%/20% split.

3. Return to the balanced budget policy of Clinton’s 1992-2000 terms in office.

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