In a 52-page document that spells out a new vision for America, President Barack Obama has scrapped the Bush doctrine on the war on terror. The idea that America’s primary role in the world was to combat terror has been shoved aside. With this has gone the simplistic ‘good guy vs bad guy’ concept which saw US forces marching in to countries and taking on ‘enemies’. While the new paper retains for the US to act unilaterally in certain situations it emphasises that military force should be used only as a last resort. Instead it draws up a considerably more complex and distinctly more intelligent concept of the world as a place within which new partnerships need to be forged and space created for emerging powers.
The abandonment of the narrow vision used by former President Bush comes as a relief. The Bush years have left the world a badly polarised place, with Muslims in many places open in their expressions of hatred for Washington and its policies, making the world a more dangerous place for all.
The question is whether the Obama administration can succeed in its task of building partnerships and convincing allies that it indeed seeks a changed order. Doing away with an image built over many years of course takes time. To succeed in turning the eloquent words of the new paper into deeds, President Obama must prove he is sincere in what he says. For this we need to see action. At home, in a country the US has made clear it sees as an epicenter of terror, we must ask why the help for people, including those in the conflict zone, has not been seen or why the promised help to resolve the power crisis is not visible. It is after all such efforts that can play a genuine part in building partnerships with people and converting enemies to friends.
Published in the Express Tribune May 29th, 2010.