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A ‘different approach’
pakalert | November 9, 2008 at 09:19 amby
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Even though the financial crisis, which he pledged on Friday to tackle ‘head on’, is his first priority, Barack Obama has no choice but to clear the foreign policy mess being left behind by the Republican administration. At his first news conference as president-elect, Obama said he would adopt ‘a different approach’ towards the Muslim world, though he gave no indication how he intended to do this. Reacting to a letter from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, Obama said he would not respond to sensitive issues in ‘a knee-jerk fashion’. In his message, Ahmedinejad hoped that the new man in the White House would distance himself from the policies followed by President George Bush, especially with regard to the people of Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan. There is no doubt Obama’s election has aroused among the Muslim peoples a degree of hope which the new president will have to take into account while charting a new course away from the minefield left behind by the neocons.While 9/11 was no doubt a monstrous crime, the way the Republican administration went about conducting its war on terror proved counterproductive and alienated even those sections of Muslim opinion which considered terrorism a threat not just to America or the west but first and foremost to the Muslims themselves.The Bush administration angered the Muslim world by attacking Iraq, even though Baghdad neither had weapons of mass destruction nor was it in anyway connected to al-Qaeda. Israel considered Baathist Iraq its main threat, and President Bush went about destroying it. The Republican administration also failed to realise that there was a relationship between terrorism and unresolved issues like Kashmir and Palestine. More unfortunately, the Bush government seemed to ignore the fact that Israel and India were using the war on terror as a cover to de-legitimise genuine movements for self-determination. Foreign policy in America is a bipartisan affair, notwithstanding the differences in shades. Its one immutable principle is unqualified support not just to Israel’s security but to all its wars and depredations and its obstinacy in refusing to withdraw from the occupied territory. In that context the appointment of Rahm Emanuel, an Israeli sympathiser, as the White House chief of staff is a significant development.In Afghanistan and Fata, American missile attacks have killed more civilians than militants, and yet there is no indication that the insurgency on either side of the Durand Line is anywhere near defeat. Mercifully, there have been peace signals from the Bush administration during the last few months. Obama must pay attention to these moves, which also have European support. If America’s new leader wants to cast his country in a new image, he will have to abandon the Bush administration’s unilateralism which relied on force to solve problems which could have been tackled by talks.