Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Mr Obama comes to town, part II

Somewhat belatedly, here's a column I wrote last week on the speech that Barack Obama gave in Santiago. Billed as a new Alliance for Progress, the policy Obama outlined was little more than a rehashing of existing policy towards the region.

The most substantial change, in my view, was an insistence on partnership, rather than US leadership. The American president quite rightly recognizes that it is difficult to claim political, economic, and moral leadership when his country is in such political, economic and moral trouble. When many Latin American countries are in better fiscal shape than the US, when the US dollar is losing value against commodity-inflated economies, when the level of political discourse in the United States seems to fall to Latin American levels of animosity and populism, the US begins to look like just another country in the hemisphere.

Still, there is a place for US leadership and the region continues to look to the United States. Obama would be foolish to overplay his hand in this regard. As Libya shows, President Obama tends to shirk his global responsibilities until it becomes absolutely necessary, for fear of being labelled an imperialist. He should worry less about what his Harvard classmates and Michael Moore might say, and worry more about promoting democracy and helping those who fight for it.

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