Foreign Policy Blogs

Bring Us Together

Last February, I wrote a post entitled “The Whole World is Watching,” using the slogan from the street protests outside the 1968 Democratic Convention to try to convey how intently the world was now watching the 2008 Election campaign.  In 1968, it was rather fanciful to think that the “whole world” was following closely what happened in American politics.  Today, however, this blog (and countless others) are a running narrative that demonstrates how  American politics are at the center of the world's concerns.

And now, beside the elections, it's the economy.

After the turmoil on financial markets and Washington's response to it, you can be certain that American politics are preoccupying the rest of the world's leaders and publics.  On NPR this morning, calls were heard from Australia to Germany, imploring America's leaders to take action on the crisis on Wall Street.  Don't just play politics, they seem to be saying, do something.

Foreign audiences, as much as Americans, are puzzling over what should be done about the crisis.  But just as in the case of the elections, they have no vote.  So they watch, and they worry.

Viewed in political terms, the failure of yesterday's $700 billion rescue bill in Congress reflects poorly on the White House, the leadership of Congress, and, to a certain extent, on the presidential candidates.   John McCain, in particular, looked inept yesterday when he congratulated himself on helping to steer forward a bill that was promptly defeated by members of his own party.

Foreign observers can easily understand how George W. Bush may not muster votes on Capitol Hill, but when the Republicans’ freshly-minted presidential candidate cannot get his party to follow him, what is going on?

Much in international politics awaits the outcome of November 4th.  It is useless to expect much movement on international trade, climate change, the hot spots of Southwest Asia, until there's a new occupant of the White House.  It will be for that American leader — either McCain or Barack Obama — to try to put the country's financial house in order and thereby set the stage for a more ambitious international agenda.  To use another slogan from the long-ago ’68 elections, the world is looking for someone to “Bring Us Together.”  If you think that's a long-shot, think again.  The potential economic crisis that would affect the entire world, should remind us all that we’re all in this together — even if we can't all vote on who should lead us out of it.

PS:  If the world could vote, the vote would probably turn out like the Economist's predictions, right here.



Mark Dillen

Mark Dillen heads Dillen Associates LLC, an international public affairs consultancy based in San Francisco and Croatia. A former Senior Foreign Service Officer with the US State Department, Mark managed political, media and cultural relations for US embassies in Rome, Berlin, Moscow, Sofia and Belgrade, then moved to the private sector. He has degrees from Columbia and Michigan and was a Diplomat-in-Residence at the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies at Johns Hopkins. Mark has also worked for USAID as a media and political advisor and twice served as election observer and organizer for OSCE in Eastern Europe.

Areas of Focus:
US Government; Europe; Diplomacy