Archive for January 22nd, 2009

Do the Batik Walk, Mr. Obama

By Farish A. Noor

With the hopes of the world apparently pinned upon his shoulders, Barrack Obama will have a lot of things on his mind in the months and years to come for certain. The news that the interrogations at Guantanamo Bay might be suspended for a period of 120 days already sends out the right signals that the man intends to deliver upon his promises, and that cannot be a bad thing for anyone for what was promised was a new America that should play a humbler, moderating role in world affairs.

But let us be somewhat circumspect and realistic in our expectations for now. While many of us would like to see the man succeed, Barrack Obama is just another American President who has – for now – served us a tantalising wish-list that as sweet as it is appealing to many.

But we have also had our share of American Presidents who spoke at length about the promotion of human rights and democracy across the world, only to have our hopes dashed on the hard rocks of realpolitik when it became painfully evident that their focus was more on the Soviet bloc and the enemies of the United States.

Jimmy Carter got the ball rolling after the Helsinki accord of 1975 when he spoke of America’s mission to rid the world of authoritarianism and despotic rule; but it was the same administration that did little to help the people of Indonesia and the Philippines as they lived under the heels of two of the most corrupt and authoritarian pro-American despots, Ferdinand Marcos and General Suharto.

So let us see whether Obama can actually deliver on what he has promised, and let us keep our fingers crossed that he will not turn into another froth-producing American leader who is long on rhetoric but pitifully short on substance. Read the rest of this entry »