SCMP winning essay:
To the new President
How the US can improve its standing in the international community.
The US has the biggest influence in the world. It leads in many fields: invention, science, education, music, films, and others. Much of the world desires to ape the American life style.
By electing a black president, a man not from an elite dynasty family, the US has already improved its standing in the international community. US has made a big leap towards coming down from its pedestal to equate to the majority of not only the Americans but the rest of the world.
Much of the angst created abroad in the past years has to be erased. A new respect needs be created. In healing itself the US will begin to help the world to look up to it as the big brother.
A financial crisis is now staring the world in the face. Recession can be shortened if America gets back on track and comes up with solutions to reduce its ten trillion debt. It needs to save some of the large industries from going under and check the money guzzling stock market and property market and look for ways to reform. It has to create jobs that will in turn increase spending to benefit world trade. Until America’s problems are sorted out the poorer countries will find it very difficult to get bank loans. From America came the global financial crisis and it has to solve its own problems before the rest of the world to start to move to put their banks and business and property in order.
The world needs to reverse the effects of climate change. It hardly needs reminding how the last US government had scoffed at the idea the planet is dangerously heating up. Melting icecaps increase flooding and lead to loss of low-lying regions and islands around the world, reduce the world’s greenery and endanger animals in the wild and cause migration of people and animals from deserts formed by dried up lakes and rivers. America’s refusal to join the rest of the world to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and its refusal to sign agreements, and walking away from debates on climate change has set a bad example to China and India and other countries and has put the world in jeopardy. But it’s hugely encouraging too, that the biggest defender of climate change has come from the US. Al Gore has given concrete proof that the world is in dire straits. It hardly bears repeating now, with how much urgency, the US has to become the leader in helping to arrest, reduce, and maybe even reverse the disasters created by climate change.
Being the largest consumer of world’s resources the US has to lead in change, not continue as a throwaway society pandering to waste, but change its ways and set an example. The world has to see that this developed country uses less — uses less fuel, wastes less energy, consume less food, packages less and enjoys fewer must haves.
US has been the leader in science, research, invention, space exploration and health studies. Many projects for betterment of life and health were either held up or stopped by the former government. It is time to change, to continue the advancement. US government needs to be firm about showing the world it is secular and remove religion from interfering with science as in the case of the origin of species. Groups at home and abroad that provide advice on abortion should lift bans on family planning. Aid and help should not come with conditions like insistence on celibacy before marriage. If the ban on abortion is lifted in the US many other countries will follow suit enabling a healthy legal alternative. The number of single mothers out-weigh single fathers, and whether they are divorced or never married majority of them live in great poverty or are unable to care for their children.
US is a generous country when it comes to aid to the world. But aid should not come with unreasonable or unworkable pre conditions, with strings attached. Often aid is tied up with having to give the largest contracts to US companies. This practice of giving on the one hand and taking away on the other, siphoning back much from the country’s wealth to which aid is given does not help country’s poor from whom land is often taken. Placing American contractors and businesses in lucrative positions in these countries should be changed to training people to run their own businesses. The US should also look into the companies that are on the continent of Africa, companies, that are involved in the extraction of oil, diamond and copper, that give little care for the people of the land and companies that use the land carelessly. These companies, having offered bribes to local heads of states, fleece the locals of their natural resources, pollute and poison their land and give very little in return to the poor.
Though the US touts free trade it does not in realty practice it. Trade is much tilted in America’s favour. The world now hopes and expects US as a more balanced trading partner. It has to ease some of the trade restrictions imposed on the so called third world countries, especially when it comes cultural imports of movies, dance, and music.
Terror is foremost in the American psyche since the attacks of 9/11. This has given the US government an excuse to attack sovereign nations. It should not take upon itself to interfere in other governments whether they are perceived to be lame or otherwise. Terror of the unknown has reduced America to place its justice system on suspicion, to imprison foreign nationals as terrorists without trial. It has shamelessly allowed helpless prisoners to be tortured and treated inhumanely. Terrorism has increased in the last seven years and the Afghanistan Pakistan border has become a hot bed of terrorist training. This can only be reduced if the US seriously considers increasing the standard of living of the people in this region. In most cases acts of terrorism is carried out in foreign countries where there is a big American military presence. Now the US is seen as an unjust and cruel government, an aggressor equal to the terrorist. The new government has much to accomplish to get back the world’s respect. Direct dialogue and diplomacy and tact is needed and the US must prepare to listen to advisers and co-operate to reduce imperious confrontation, sit down with no preconditions and talk to Iran and other so called enemies or axis of evil.
A change is needed in the foreign policy of the US. It must recognise democracies though they may not be solely in American style of democracy as in case of Hamas. It has to give less support to and be firmer with Israel to reduce the humanitarian catastrophe affecting the Palestinians. It needs to be more diplomatic with Russia and work closely with the South American countries and reduce its bullying tactics. It blatantly flaunts its relationship with China and yet punishes Cuba. It needs to show some fairness and accept Cuba as a communist country and lift sanctions. Promises made to North Korea need be carried out promptly. In the Iraq and Afghanistan the US needs to work harder to train the locals and withdraw its military presence. Military might, the greed to have a military foot in every country, creates military competition around the world. There has to be an arms reduction. The divide and rule policy in the name of defence has everyone on the edge of uncertainty. This policy has to go.
It is indeed a tall order for the US to improve its standing in the international community but the world looks forward to the new government with a wave of optimism and trust.
Let the healing begin and as Mr. Gordon Brown said let the US be “guided by truth.”