I am greatly enjoying the BBC Reith Lectures 2007, given by the economist Professor Jeffrey Sachs. He offers an optimistic world-view, and offers critiques against this notion that it is human nature to war, and our destiny to fail. It is as refreshing as it is inspiring.
For in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal. – President John F. Kennedy, 10th June, 1963
One thing Sach’s stressed was the need for good – even great – leadership in order to build the trust required to effect global change. Kennedy (who he quotes often) had that gift, and was able to use diplomacy and rhetoric to bring about a Nuclear Test Ban treaty, just 18 months after the Cuban Missile Crisis. Sach’s does not say it, but crucially George W Bush does not have these leadership qualities. After the disintegration of Iraq, this fact has became very clear to the American people, as evidenced by the Republican’s loss of Congressional control last November.
But it was ever thus. When people criticised President Bush’s approach, they were dismissed as either jealous, partisan, or simply elitist. When he failed to heed those critics, alter his demenour, or indeed, make concessions to opposition in his own country, he was lauded by supporters as strong and honest. But no-one followed, and all he demonstrated was a kind of faux leadership, epitomised by the charade of his ‘Mission Accomplished’ party on board an aircraft carrier. In fact, his attitude caused much of the United States, and most of the rest of the world, to distrust him and his administration. And if your own people do not trust you, what chance have you of convincing the rest of the world to do the same?
The change cannot come soon enough. Can Barak Obama win the trust of the American people and the world? He is certainly trying:
This election offers us the chance to turn the page and open a new chapter in American leadership. The disappointment that so many around the world feel toward America right now is only a testament to the high expectations they hold for us. We must meet those expectations again, not because being respected is an end in itself, but because the security of America and the wider world demands it.
This will require a new spirit – not of bluster and bombast, but of quiet confidence and sober intelligence, a spirit of care and renewed competence. It will also require a new leader. And as a candidate for President of the United States, I am asking you to entrust me with that responsibility.