Saturday, January 29, 2011

Salim Mansur on the World

Salim Mansur gives some context to the explosions across North Africa. I am still very afraid of islamist victories across North Africa.

Americans are understandably concerned about their economy with an astronomical debt burden now equalling the country’s gross domestic product of $14 trillion, unemployment numbers still hovering close to one in 10 people out of work and the domestic market still in slump.

In the November 2010 election, Americans sent a message to Washington by electing Republicans to deal with economy as the priority. For U.S. President Barack Obama, Tuesday’s State of the Union address was his opportunity to let Americans know he understood their imperative.

Americans will judge and give their verdict in 2012 on how well Obama understood their November message.

But Obama sent his own message to Americans and the world that his administration, to be focused on domestic priorities, has little interest or inclination to respond to the foreign policy challenges growing more ominous even as he spoke.

With America tilting under debt, Obama’s rhetorical flourish — “This is our generation’s Sputnik moment” — was Quixotic, or the unrepentant instinct of a spendthrift with empty pockets and no savings.

It might be worse — America turning inwards and its leadership clueless on how to contend with the gathering storm in the navel of the world, the Middle East, and the dire consequences in its aftermath.

In watching Obama on Tuesday evening, my thoughts took me back to the world adrift exactly 100 years ago in 1911. That was the year, as some historians suggest, that marked the beginning of the short 20th century and an end to the long 19th century.

Few today, without looking into history books, can recall who were the leaders of the great democratic powers in 1911, and what urgent issues preoccupied them.

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