Saturday, January 3, 2009

The time has come: Can Barack Obama really make a difference? - Americas, World - The Independent

"Never, to paraphrase Winston Churchill, have so many invested so much hope in a single individual. Except that the object of their fixation is not a proven titan like Churchill. Barack Obama's career on the national political stage began barely four years ago. He has run nothing of note, except an admittedly brilliantly conducted campaign for the White House.

Now he must run everything. He will be ultimately responsible for a federal budget of three trillion dollars. He will lead the mightiest military on earth. Most important of all, he will be in charge of his country's government, at a moment when Americans look more intensely to government for solutions than at any time since the Great Depression.

This huge outpouring of hope moreover ignores a paradox. In 1945, the US stood at the pinnacle of its power. The Red Army might have been about to conquer Berlin, but America was far and away the wealthiest country on earth. It could create, and to all intents and purposes impose, a new global financial system. Singlehanded, it could promote international economic recovery, as it did with the Marshall Plan in a Western Europe that might otherwise have fallen under Communist control.

Six decades later, the biggest creditor nation on earth has turned into the world's biggest debtor. In a globalised age, the US is one economic power centre among several. The slump of 2008 may have started there, but the key to ending it is to be found in Beijing, Delhi and Brussels as well. Yet for now these inconvenient truths are forgotten in the euphoria over Obama. Can he do it? The deafening chant echoes back: Yes He Can."

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