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New US president faces Herculean task
  Written By: Pascal Boniface
  Article Date:
October 06
, 2008


It is in a context of economic turmoil that George W. Bush will be leaving the White House. He neither forecast the crisis nor gave the impression that he could face it or limit its negative effects. It is the greatest economic crisis since the Wall Street crash in 1929.

This is to be added to the moral crisis that shakes the country and the eight years of President Bush's failure, especially in strategic and international affairs. The next US President will inherit difficult domestic and international challenges due to the failure of his predecessor. His duty will be to bring the country back to its feet. He should also regain the confidence of the American people. Finally, he will seek reconciliation between the US and the rest of the world.

A few years ago, those who criticised Bush's policy were termed anti-American. But one must wonder if no US President has ever harmed his country as much.

He will probably be remembered as the worst president in all of American history. At every level, the credibility of the US is undermined. Because of the lies about Iraq, the scandals about Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, its moral influence has been damaged. The days when the 9/11 attacks had overwhelming effects on the Americans and the governments worldwide are gone. Bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan, the US has lost all credibility. Moreover, they are unable to advance peace in the Middle East. On the contrary, the foreign policy of the US led to the complete destruction of the Oslo peace process. Third, President Bush's war against terrorism is a failure. In fact, we must admit that terrorism has never been so wide-spread. At last, it is obvious that the US was powerless to prevent the defeat of Georgia, even if the US ally was encouraged to provoke Russia.

Now, on top of all this, an economic crisis has unfolded. Tens of thousands of Americans are literally ruined to such an extent that they are forced to sell their houses. The financial system is deeply shaken. Although the crisis occurred in the US, it could have a global impact.

Last year, those who admired America's economic dynamism forgot that it was depending on consumption, not on production. That means both extending credit and increasing debt. Bush pursued Reagan's policy of lowering taxes for the rich, (a policy now famous as Reaganomics), leading to a decrease in resources, and favoured increasing public spending, especially in defence. As a result, the economy weakened after initial success. History has repeated itself.

Of course, the crisis in the financial system is not only due to Bush's failures. But there's something disconcerting about their conjunction. It is not surprising that the two candidates for US presidency forcefully seek to distinguish themselves from President Bush and keep away from him. If they don't, it would scare voters. The next president, who will be elected on November 4 and take office in January 2009, will face a Herculean task. He should cover all deficits left by his predecessor - bankruptcy, budget and trade deficit, as well as loss of strategic and moral leadership. As Bush's disapproval rating is at a record, he would benefit from a political change. But the task will be difficult.


All this doesn't mean that the US will lose its position as the sole superpower. Not immediately, in any case. The country has become weaker and Americans should understand that a single-power world is inherently unstable. However, they remain the greatest world power.

True, the US is deeply concerned about the current crisis. But don't be fooled: the 44th president of the US will still be the head of the most powerful nation in the world. He will be less powerful than George W. Bush and what the neoconservatives expect him to be, less powerful than the nation was when Bill Clinton left office, but nevertheless the most powerful.

Let's hope the next president would learn lessons from US failures. Let's hope he will practice multilateralism. Only then can he re-establish US credibility.

Dr Pascal Boniface is the founder and director of IRIS (Institut de Relations Internationales et Stratégiques). He has published or edited more than 40 books dealing with international relations, nuclear deterrence and disarmament, European security and French international policy.

Source: Gulf News