January 20, 2009

Nikolas Gvosdev has a provocative post, titled The Gamble, in which he suggests that there might be an “expectations gap” between what a new American administration is willing to offer and what the world is hoping for:

. . .[W]hat I think might end up occurring is that a new U.S. administration might be prepared to offer something that would have been acceptable in 2002 or 2003 but that by 2009 may seem insufficient — so I do think that there is a clear “expectations gap”, certainly in the trans-Atlantic relationship. It bears watching, and it means that we need to de-emphasize the countdown to 1.20.09 as the only thing that needs to change.

I suspect that expectations gap will be wider if John McCain winds up winning the election this fall. But what could the next American president offer to not only advance our interests, but recreate a sense of America’s dynamic global leadership? Here are five declarations I’d like to see in the next presidential inaugural address:

– Get America on board with multilateral accords to combat climate change. This is probably the gesture that could most repair America’s frayed leadership image abroad.
– An executive order closing Gitmo and extending habeas corpus rights to all terrorism detainees, and the introduction of legislation transferring them to the civilian justice system. This is a very close second.
– The return of the United States as a meaningful participant in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, the willingness of the United States to engage in good faith bilateral negotiations with Iran, and the organization of a broader Middle East regional stability conference.
– The United States’ commitment to reforming the UN Security Council, G8, IMF and World Bank to better reflect the emerging power centers of the globalized world.
– The United States’ desire to see Europe develop a complementary defense capacity designed to expand the West’s ability to contribute to global stability operations.

Probably every single one of these declarations (besides closing Gitmo and participating in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process) would qualify as a “net loss” in a close accounting of the balance of power. But the gains in soft power would make up for them.

Send in your list of five, or reactions to this one, and I’ll post them as they come in.

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