Barack Obama has won reelection as America’s president. But while the economy – and avoiding the so-called fiscal cliff – will inevitably take up much of his time, there are numerous foreign policy challenges facing the next administration. GPS asked 10 leading foreign policy analysts to name 10 things that Obama should focus on next. The views expressed are, of course, the authors' own.
Keep Arab Spring on track
By Kenneth Roth
Kenneth Roth is executive director of Human Rights Watch.
The biggest human rights challenge facing President Obama in his second term is finding ways to help keep on track the reform agenda that launched the Arab Spring. Most important is ending the horrible slaughter of civilians in Syria. Obama should stop pretending that Russia’s and China’s obstructionism absolves the U.S. of responsibility to continue ratcheting up pressure to stop the atrocities.
In Egypt, the regional trendsetter, Obama has properly said he respects the election that brought the Muslim Brotherhood to power, but now he should press the government, like all others, to respect basic rights, including of women and minorities. In Libya, Obama should stop treating the country as a “mission accomplished” and actively help elected authorities build the rule of law. And Obama should keep his promise to “promote reform across the region” and stop the discrediting double standard of making exceptions for U.S. allies, whether friendly monarchs or Israel.
By Fareed Zakaria
When I was getting my PhD in political science, the course I probably found least interesting at the time was the mandatory one on statistics. And yet it has probably been the course that has, at a practical level, been the most useful in helping me understand politics, because it gave me a framework and understanding of how to analyze data. So to watch the divisions during the presidential campaign between political operators who think that politics is all art and no science on the one hand, and the statisticians on the other, has been fascinating.
I do think that the social sciences – even economics – are quite different from areas like physics and mathematics, because subjects like international relations require analysis to be textured and historical. However, it is also clear to me that one area where statistical methods have worked very well has been in analysis of voting, because this is an area where you have lots of very clear, tangible data. And you also have much repetition of the experiment, allowing you to reduce the chances of misleading anomalies.
By Fareed Zakaria
Over the course of this campaign, commentators on both sides of the political divide seemed to agree on one point: this was a campaign about nothing. Barack Obama’s supporters wanted him to lay out a detailed and ambitious agenda for his second term. Mitt Romney’s fans wanted to hear more about the radical restructuring of government. But in fact, by the standards of most elections, this was a campaign about something very big.
Obama and Romney presented two distinct visions of how to rebuild the American economy. Romney emphasized the need to cut taxes and spending and, in general, shrink government. Obama talked about core investments that would allow the country to compete in this century. (Both agreed, without being specific, that they would pursue their agenda while reducing the deficit.) This is not a trivial divide, and the fact that Obama won should have consequences.
By Fareed Zakaria
Growing up in India in the 1960s and 1970s, I always thought of America as the future. It was the place where the newest technology, the best gadgets and the latest fads seemed to originate. Seemingly exotic political causes — women’s liberation, gay rights, ageism — always seemed to get their start on the streets or in the legislatures and courts of the United States. Indians couldn’t imagine embracing all American trends — in fact, we rejected some things outright — because they were too edgy for a country like ours. But we had a sneaking suspicion that today’s weird California fad would become tomorrow’s conventional practice.
For me, Tuesday’s elections brought back that sense of America as the land of the future. The presidential race is being discussed as one that was “about nothing,” with no message or mandate. But that’s simply not true. Put aside the reelection of Barack Obama and consider what else happened this week
By Xenia Dormandy, Special to CNN
Editor's note: Xenia Dormandy is a senior fellow, U.S. International Role, at Chatham House in London. The views expressed are her own.
The big question in recent weeks has been whether the U.S. election would lead to continuity or change – Obama or Romney? American voters made clear yesterday that they wanted Obama (and more broadly the Democrats) to a much greater degree than most, including this writer, had anticipated.
However, the question of where continuity will take the United States, and what will have to change, still remains.
Some will argue that Obama has been given a much stronger mandate than anticipated. However, with the Republicans still in control of the House of Representatives, Obama will find himself constrained by a party that is loath to give him any policy wins.
By Bruce Stokes, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Bruce Stokes is Director of Global Economic Attitudes at the Pew Research Center. Additional details about public opinion on these and other issues can be found at Pewresearch.org. The views expressed are his own.
Now that the election is over, the hard work begins. The U.S. economy is careening toward a so-called fiscal cliff that could dramatically shrink output in 2013. Confrontations loom with Iran over its nuclear weapons program and China over its trade practices.
Yet while the American people have chosen Barack Obama to navigate these shoals over the next four years, they remain deeply divided over what to do about these challenges. Obama has a mandate to govern, but his mandate on specific issues is far from clear. His biggest challenge may be to bridge the divides among the American people.
The economy was issue number one for voters on election day: 59 percent named the economy as their top concern, 15 percent said the government deficit, according to election day exit polls released by AP. The results echo a CNN exit poll that suggested 60 percent of voters see the economy as their top concern, with 38 percent saying that unemployment was their top economic worry.
Barack Obama has been reelected U.S. president, defeating Republican challenger Mitt Romney in a contest that proved to be the most expensive campaign in history. But as the world’s media reacts, and as foreign leaders offer their congratulations to Obama, Global Public Square wants to know what you think.
Was Obama the right choice? What do you think the impact will be on where you live? What went wrong for Romney? And what is the future of the Republican Party?
We’re looking forward to hearing your thoughts.
By Shen Dingli, Special to CNN
Editor's note: Shen Dingli is director of the Center for American Studies at Fudan University, Shanghai. This is the last in our series of articles looking at how the world views the presidential election. The views expressed are his own.
As Americans head to the polls to elect their president, many in China – which itself is seeing a leadership transition – are watching closely.
Being the incumbent, President Barack Obama has the resources and visibility that come with his office at his disposal, and incumbents in recent years have generally fared well in U.S. elections. And Obama’s health care reforms – which he has argued will benefit tens of millions of Americans – would likely be enough to sway many Chinese, were they allowed to vote.
But what of U.S. policy toward China?
The 2012 presidential election is certainly going down to the wire, with polls and pundits alike calling it...well, too close to call.
Though Americans are on the edge of their seats waiting to see who will take the presidency, this isn’t the first time two politicians have been locked in a nail-biter of a U.S. election.
1. 1916: Woodrow Wilson and Charles Hughes
Incumbent Obama could look to Woodrow Wilson for inspiration. Wilson, a democrat seeking a second term against Charles Evans Hughes, was staring down the barrel of World War I, which had been sweeping though Europe for two years leading up to the election. Wilson had respected America's desire for neutrality, and campaigned on the slogan “He kept us out of war,” Yahoo Voices reported.
By Fareed Zakaria
The American political system is simply not working. The parties have become too polarized; institutions and traditions of governance, like the filibuster, have been abused to create permanent gridlock. It's tempting to pretend that this has always been a part of the country's raucous democracy and that both parties are to blame. But that's just not true. Consider these facts. Over the past five years, Republicans in the Senate have threatened or used a filibuster 385 times. That's almost double the rate of the preceding five years and much more than the historic average.
Would Obama or Romney be better at breaking this deadlock? Each side makes its arguments. Obama has recently said that his re-election would "break the fever" and force Republicans to the table. Romney partisans quietly admit that the Republican Party will have to accept higher taxes, but they claim only one of its own can take them there.
Watch the video for the full take.
"Fareed Zakaria GPS" this Sunday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET.
The United States is about to elect its president. But what would the rest of the world like to see? Fareed assembles a global panel of thinkers to tackle the issue, including: From Singapore, Kishore Mahbubani, dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy. From Paris, Dominique Moisi, one of France’s great public intellectuals and writers. In Tel Aviv, Ari Shavit is a senior correspondent at Haaretz. And here in New York, GPS hears from Rula Jebreal, who has been a writer and journalist in both Israel and Italy.
Then, the other “election” – why China’s upcoming leadership change is so important.
And finally, a history lesson: how the past holds lessons for the present. Fareed convenes a panel of distinguished U.S. presidential historians for their take on the 2012 race for the White House, including Edmund Morris, the Pulitzer Prize winning author of biographies of Theodore Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan.
“Reagan had the gift of putting over hard, provocative policy statements with a sweetness and personal presentation, a niceness about him, that somehow diffused the hardness of these positions,” Morris says. “If he had become president when he first ran in 1976, I think the world would have been a very dangerous place, because this nice guy was saying things and intending to do things to the Soviet Union which would probably have brought on a real international stress. History came to our rescue and delayed Reagan's election until a later time, when he became more philosophical and more diplomatic.”
By Ravi Agrawal, CNN
Editor’s note: Ravi Agrawal is a senior producer on Fareed Zakaria’s Global Public Square. The views expressed are his own. You can follow him on Twitter @RaviAgrawalCNN
At the start of the year, GPS billed 2012 as “the year of elections.” It was to be a rare alignment of the electoral stars: the year China, Russia, France, and the U.S. would elect new leaders. Together, these four countries represent 80 percent of the U.N. Security Council and account for 40 percent of global GDP. There were also elections scheduled in Venezuela, Mexico, and Egypt. Unlike 2011 – which unleashed the sudden churn of the Arab Spring – 2012 was meant to bring a different kind of people power: planned change.
Democracy at its core is about the rule of the people; it is about free and fair elections. Yet democratic countries fall under a fairly broad spectrum – some proudly enshrine a range of freedoms, others impose restrictions. One would think the world is moving inexorably towards the freer end of this spectrum, but the data shows the opposite. Freedom House’s annual Freedom in the World survey scores countries on the political rights and civil liberties they offer. In each of the last six years, more countries have seen declines in their ratings than gains. On average, for every two countries that see an improvement, three fall back. Why is this happening? In part, it is because of the disproportionate importance we ascribe to elections. Fareed Zakaria predicted this trend in a 1997 Foreign Affairs essay, when he described illiberal democracy as a growth industry. “In the end,” he wrote, “elections trump everything. If a country holds elections, Washington and the world will tolerate a great deal from the resulting government … Elections are an important virtue of governance, but they are not the only virtue.”