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2008年11月 7日 (金)


2008/11/7--The Asahi Shimbun, Nov. 6(IHT/Asahi: November 7,2008)

EDITORIAL: A leader for our times

オバマ氏当選―米国刷新への熱い期待 米国を変えたい。刷新したい。 

On Tuesday, American voters forcefully expressed their desire for change and renewal, handing Democratic candidate Barack Obama a landslide victory in his quest to become the first African-American to occupy the White House.

America entrusted the 47-year-old senator from Illinois with the daunting mission of rehabilitating their wounded country at a time when it is caught in an extraordinary emergency, fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan while facing a grave financial crisis.



This historic outcome clearly reflects two key expectations on the part of voters: rehabilitation of their country, which was bitterly divided under the administration of President George W. Bush; and an end to the era of a unipolar world dominated by the United States.

Obama's victory will not just transform America as a nation. It will also usher in a new era in its relationship with the rest of the world.


Breaking down barriers


In his victory speech in Chicago, Obama said, "the true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals."


These words reflect a self-confidence borne out of the fact that Obama personifies the American ideal of equal opportunity for all people irrespective of color or sex.


During the gruelling election campaign, Obama became a target of brutal smear attacks focused on his relatively young age and racial heritage.


Despite his clear edge in opinion polls, there was concern that many white voters would think twice at the last moment about casting their votes for a black candidate.


But Obama managed to engineer an overwhelming victory by breaking down all the racial prejudices behind the attacks.


Half a century after the civil rights movement took off under the late Martin Luther King, the American people have finally pulled off the feat of breaking through the racial barrier in choosing their leader.


The race problem in the United States is a negative legacy of the country's history of slavery. One election can't solve it.


But the significance of the fact that the racial barrier fell in this crucial election is immeasurable. In the future, it won't seem remarkable to see a woman or a member of an ethnic minority running for the White House.

It seems likely that there will be major progress in healing the social divisions within the United States.


Obama owes his electoral victory in part to structural changes in U.S. society, for example, the rising population of racial minorities like Hispanics and Asians. But these changes alone cannot explain the dramatic shift in mind-set, which smacks of a revolution.


Big no to the Bush era


There is much gloom in American society today. Some 80 percent of the American people believe their country was moving in a misguided direction, according to one poll. The superpower that has long overwhelmed all other countries in terms of military and economic power is now suffering from a loss of confidence.


There is apparently a strong desire among the American people to rid themselves of this feeling of helplessness and make a fresh start.


Obama's message of change found a tremendous resonance among Americans, especially young people, generating a groundswell of support that gave rise to the "Obama phenomenon."


Obama's "Yes, we can" mantra inspired many Americans and made them willing to think again about tackling challenges in a forward-looking manner.


Another key driving force for Obama's ascent to power is voters' disgust with the eight years of the Bush presidency.


After the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, the Bush administration plunged into a series of unilateral actions, taking full advantage of the nation's overwhelming military might in a particularly high-profile way.


The Iraq war, which was seen by many as unjustifiable, has killed more than 4,000 American soldiers and countless Iraqis. It has caused tremendous confusion in the Middle East and seriously undermined international confidence in the United States.


Then came the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. The financial hurricane has wiped out the once high-flying investment banks on Wall Street. A wave of radical and painful restructuring is sweeping the U.S. auto industry, which once symbolized U.S. prosperity.


The nasty aftereffects of the economic bubbles created by the unchecked worship of financial markets and years of deregulation have begun to wreak havoc with the economy.


The situation indicates a disastrous failure of the neo-liberalism that defined U.S. policies for nearly three decades since the Reagan era. As president, Ronald Reagan built up the military to create up "a strong America" and pushed the agenda for "small government."


The failure of neo-liberalism that became clear during the Bush presidency has disillusioned even supporters of the Republican Party and set the stage for Republican candidate John McCain's crushing defeat in the presidential election.


Stressing the government has a role to play and criticizing the Iraq war, Obama spoke eloquently for Americans who are deeply dissatisfied with the Bush administration.


The Democratic Party also won resoundingly in the elections for both the Senate and the House of Representatives. This is the first time since 1992, when Bill Clinton was elected president for the first time, that the Democrats have taken control of the White House and both houses of Congress.


End to U.S.-centered unipolar world


But tough challenges await the new U.S. president. The Obama administration's first task will be to put the U.S. economy back on track.


Obama will have to start grappling with a raft of serious economic problems even before he is sworn in as president in January. They include not only domestic concerns like a weakening economy, surging unemployment and a snowballing budget deficit which is expected to hit $1 trillion (100 trillion yen) but also global economic turmoil.


The era of global dominance by a strong America has come to an end on both the military and economic fronts. The United States is still a superpower, but it is no longer possible for any one country, even the United States, to clean up the mess in countries like Iraq and Afghanistan without help.


Global responses are crucial for dealing with major problems in financial markets where huge amounts of money travel around the world at a lightening speed.


From this point of view, Obama has responded to the demands of the times by emphasizing the importance of international cooperation and voicing his willingness to even hold talks with countries that have been hostile to the United States.


International cooperation led by the United States is also vital for tackling challenges ranging from global warming to nuclear proliferation.


Even if the trend is toward a multipolar world, the importance of U.S. leadership will remain unchanged. Americans are not the only people who are eagerly awaiting the "rehabilitation of the U.S."


In his victory speech, Obama also said, 'I will listen to you.' We hope that he really will listen to a range of voices around the world and revive a United States that is trusted and respected around the world.



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