Protests in Egypt -- and other apocalyptic changes -- could reset Obama’s agenda
President Obama wanted to focus on job creation. But dramatic unrest in Tunisia, Egypt, and across the Arab world, shaky governments in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Lebanon, and potential major developments in China and North Korea mean Mr. Obama's priorities in 2011 may not be ones of his choosing.
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Doomed regimes and ideologies
Though repressive regimes and ideologies may not tumble like falling dominoes in the Arab world or lingering communist-run states like China, history suggests that they are doomed. The explosion of modern technology, whereby protesters in the millions can coordinate through cellphones, e-mail, andTwitter and Facebook, guarantees it. What succeeds such yet-to-be-liberated states may not be democracy as Americans know it, but it will be the freedom to which all men and women aspire – even if they have never known it.Skip to next paragraph
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Apocalyptic changes could confront Obama in the Arab world or China (which could undergo serious inflationary economic problems in the face of rising workers’ expectations, let alone a change in communist leadership).
North Korea must be persuaded of the benefits of becoming a civil and non-threatening nation. Iran, which seeks dominance over the Arab region, and questions Israel’s right to exist, must be deterred from developing nuclear weaponry.
Cuba appears on the brink of post-Castro transition, the ultimate character of which is yet unclear.
In short, 2011 could be a year of substantial global change.
China may have become a major economic power, and is an emerging military power, with the ability to project power far beyond its borders, but US leadership, reaction, and involvement in such global change remains paramount.
Deft diplomacy will be required of Obama and Secretary Clinton.
After the upheaval in Tunisia, President Obama issued a message of support for the protesting demonstrators. In the case of Egypt, his phone call to President Mubarak was probably more nuanced between the need for reform and concern lest Islamist extremist forces take advantage of the situation.
Domestic politics may be engrossing for Obama in this preelection campaign year. But he had better be ready for those nighttime calls from capitals around the globe.
John Hughes, a former editor of the Monitor, writes a biweekly column.