What I DO like About Obama

I’ve written before here that I’m wary of Barak Obama, and that I’m not sure just how different his foreign policy will be. Liberal Internationalism bothers me as much as conservative unilateralism because it still sees the United States as managing or running the world, and I see Obama as a committed liberal internationalist. This is not a good thing.

But… there is something I do like about Barak Obama. For too many Americans, their only experience of the world outside the United States is a world of need. They go as soldiers or missionaries (either religious or secular, “volunteers” for aid projects or whatever), and thus they encounter a world that needs what America has. A world that can only get what it needs from America. A world full of incompetent people who can do nothing without American handouts, American assistance, American guidance.

Obama, however, has lived in a somewhat different world. If nothing else, his experience as a child in Indonesia, of his father’s family in Kenya, he at least has an understanding of the world outside the United States as a normal place, with people quite capable of working toward ends they determine themselves. I’ve never met the man or spent any time with him (I have met members of the U.S. Senate when I was a reporter in Washington, but it tended to be in the journalism relationship, and so I do not know how accurate my very positive impressions of Paul Wellstone or Richard Lugar, the two senators I got to “know” the best, are), so I have no idea if this is a good assumption about Obama. It may not be.

I still do not believe that the United States will become a “normal country” under an Obama administration (my idea of normal country is Finland, or Portugal, or Botswana, or Uruguay, or maybe even New Zealand — no empire, no overseas military bases, no projection of power, no messianic belief in national mission, no assumption of global privilege). I would like the United States to become a normal country, in my lifetime, without having to collapse. I still am not sure that is possible. But the Soviet Union went away peacefully, so anything is possible.