U.S. Representative William Delahunt of Massachusetts, a leading foreign-policy voice in the Democratic Party, has endorsed Barack Obama for president saying that he believes the Senator will repair the image of the United States overseas. He said, “If Barack Obama is elected president, I daresay America will present a new face to the world, will restore, simply by his election (emphasis added) hope — not just within the United States, but from all corners of the world, that America’s claim to moral authority is back on track and that our leadership in the world affairs will see a renaissance.”
The phrases, “A new face…simply by his election” seem to imply that the election of an African-American will signal significant changes in U.S. foreign policy to the nations of the world. However, the current Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her predecessor Colin Powell, both African-Americans in positions of power, have failed to make the changes in policy necessary to repair the image of the U.S.
Personality and good intentions may win nominations and elections, but the rest of the world will be looking for new policies that call for the use of American soft power rather than the military adventurism that dominates world society and enforces American interests.
It will take a lot more than ending the U.S. invasion of Iraq to prove this. Remember that the Democrats endorse a residual force kept there to protect U.S. bases, to train Iraqi soldiers and to kill Iraqi insurgents.
The next Democratic president, Obama or Clinton or Edwards can change the U.S. image worldwide by cutting the enormous military budget, closing some of the 737 U.S. military bases now in 130 countries, cutting back on its 10,000 nuclear weapons, stopping the kidnapping and torture of suspected terrorists, promoting human rights, adhering to international law and the Geneva Conventions, increasing its support for the struggle against AIDS and other diseases, to name but a few serious changes.
Electing the Hillary Clinton as the first woman president or Barack Obama as the first African American president is important to the United States. It would be a sign of improved gender and race relations. Although the prejudices remain latent, over the course of the long campaign the voters have come to regard these two candidates more as individuals than as representatives of a group.
This is a welcome development for the often difficult relations in American society. It will send an interesting and hopeful signal abroad but will do little to repair the tattered image of our country unless there is evidence of changes in the nation’s policies that have been in place for decades, perhaps centuries.
So far, the leading candidates have spoken about change in the abstract without significant detail. They may get away with that cynical approach with an electorate that focuses on personality, appearance and electability but public opinion abroad will need to see pertinent policy changes that will improve their lives in a world dominated by Uncle Sam.