27 January 2009

United States of America - All Change

I'm in a state of shock and awe. I had a good feeling about Barack Obama almost from the first time I heard of him (which was about a couple of months before he was elected). Now that he's started to make his mark, I have to say I'm somewhat envious. Why? Because I wish we had someone like him in charge of my country too.

Firstly, he announced the closing of Guantànamo bay. As well as being the right thing to do, it seems to me that Barack Obama really has the interests of the American people at heart. It's a fact that the holding of foreign prisoners, without trial and over long periods of time, is one of the prime reasons the USA as a nation has become hated over the course of the Bush administration in many quarters. Guantànamo bay has come to symbolise this injustice in the eyes of many, and while things are never as simple as they are portrayed to be in the media, this single act will probably do more than any other to bring the USA fully back into the international fold. For sure, there will be complications along the way and it will take time to resolve, but he has shown very clearly by this act what his priorities are. Despite whatever difficulties he faces along the way this single act speaks volumes which will be heard around the world, not only in the 'west' but also around the middle-east and Asia where the reputation of the USA has been severely compromised in recent years.

Secondly, he has announced an intention to make the USA energy independent. I have privately argued for some years that the USA's biggest problem stems from its dependence on foreign nations for energy, primarily oil. It is this which motivates a lot of intervention in the affairs of other nations, as it seeks to defend the sources of oil. It is for this reason that countries like Venezuela have been a thorn in the side of the USA in recent years. However, a successfully implemented set of policies to reduce or even totally remove the dependence of the USA on energy from foreign nations will not only increase its level of autonomy but is likely to have immense benefits for the environment at the same time. Barack Obama is starting to unwind the foolhardy policies of the Bush administration and replace them with something much more forward-thinking. Allowing individual states to set stricter car emissions standards? Good for the environment, good for the motor industry, good for the US economy as a whole. Accelerating the implementation of renewable energy sources and energy efficiency of buildings? Good for the environment, a good way of creating jobs, good for the US economy as a whole.

Now of course, I realise that it is early days, and only time will tell whether he is successful at implementing the things he has outlined in his first few days of office. But this is a very good start at least, and I wish him all the best at achieving the aims he has outlined.

If you had asked me even just 2 months ago whether the USA stood a chance of transforming itself from the environmental pariah of the world into an example for other nations to follow, I would never have believed it. I think I can say with all honesty that this is something I not only hope for but can realistically see coming about over the coming years. It won't happen over night, and probably can't be achieved within 8 years even if Barack Obama stays in power for this long, but he can at least steer the ship on a new course. Let's just hope it comes about. Congratulations to the American people for making the right choice in this election.

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