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Helmut Scholz

The need for realism

By Helmut Scholz, member of DIE LINKE Federal Executive Committee and member of the Executive Board of the European Left Party.

The 2008 Presidential elections have set new standards in many respects and not just for the United States. The election of a President with African American roots, 138 years after racism was banned from the US Constitution, marks a new beginning - historically and culturally.

Barack Obama entered the campaign with the will and intention to foster change. Accordingly, the hopes and expectations placed on him are high. It remains to be seen whether he can live up to his campaign promises.

Realism is what is needed: Sustainable political changes will only be feasible by turning away from the previous US policy in the long term and by creating a stable basis. Besides, the new President will take office at a time of economic weakness and international financial crisis. This will vastly influence his political priorities for the first few months in office.

Over the last eight years the Bush Administration has gambled away much of its worldwide confidence and support. Whether the new President Barack Obama will set new standards on the international stage remains to be seen. American troops are still in Afghanistan and Iraq. American intelligence agencies still operate worldwide, practicing the inhuman renditions in violation of international law, such as torture is – de facto – legitimate. The US is still obstructing the UN and the International Court of Justice and torpedoes efforts towards an international policy on the climate. Obama's first job will be regaining trust by defining clear objectives and filling them with substance.

From the perspective of many of his voters in the US, but also many people in Europe, Asia, Africa, and Latin America this includes a consistent peace policy and the withdrawal of troops from the Middle East and Afghanistan, a farewell to the logic of military strength, and return to the realm of international law. The proper approach to the aim of a world without nuclear weapons Obama put forward, would be the withdrawal of the US nuclear contingents from Europe. Furthermore, people expect a clearly more democratic and social edge to the financial and economic policies, credible strategies against the impoverishment that can be applied to a much wider portion of the US, and a radical reform of health and education. This takes political courage.

Europe has pinned much hope on Obama, and Obama expects a lot from Europe. The European Union would be ill-advised to fall back on the old routine of neo-liberalism and military build-up. Europe is rather called upon to submit sustainable ideas of its own for resolving the common global issues.

Obama coined 'Yes we can' in his candidacy. 'Yes we can' the voters responded. DIE LINKE thinks that gauged by the promises of the 16th Democrat serving as US President, it is time for 'Yes you have to'.