On Tuesday, millions of Americans went to the polls and cast their votes to elect the 45th president of the United States. Arguably the ugliest presidential election in recent memory, the race pitted former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who had to deal with a prolonged email scandal, against Republican candidate Donald Trump – who was vilified and demonized and defamed and seemed to enjoy it. Although Secretary Clinton was the establishment candidate and Mr. Trump the outsider, people across the world whose lives are affected by Washington's policy choices are united in their call for change.
Over the past eight years, U.S. President Barack Obama went from a source of inspiration for millions of disadvantaged communities in the U.S. and around the globe to the embodiment of indecision, inaction and ineptitude. In 2008, the then-junior senator from Illinois promised to repair the U.S.'s image in the world, end the wars in the Middle East and promote equality at home. To be clear, he failed to accomplish his mission.
When Mr. Obama entered the White House, the American people had no appetite for war. As he steps down, the world suffers due to his extreme non-interventionism. The new balance of power that the Obama administration sought to create in the Middle East caused the greatest humanitarian catastrophe since World War II. To make matters worse, he failed to take action and shut down Guantanamo – which was a much simpler goal than stabilizing a troubled and complex region.
The next U.S. president inherited a disreputable, unreliable and unpredictable country from Mr. Obama. To turn things around, they will need to make some tough choices.
Improving Washington's credibility is crucial to restoring order in the world. The Obama administration, although incredibly successful at public relations and branding, caved in whenever it encountered challenges abroad. In Iraq, the administration's unwillingness to build strong institutions led to a power vacuum that eventually gave rise to Daesh and other extremist groups. Again in Syria, Mr. Obama's failure to enforce his red line encouraged Bashar Assad's regime to target civilians with chemical weapons and kill hundreds of thousands of people. Moving forward, the U.S. needs to win back disillusioned allies who learned a bitter lesson in recent years.
In addition to dealing with problems in the developing world, the next U.S. president must focus on stopping the extreme right's rise in Europe. While racism, xenophobia and Islamophobia could further strengthen extremists in the Middle East and elsewhere, the weakening of the European Union might, in turn, trigger developments that led to two world wars in the 20th century.
Finally, the White House has to ensure that its relations with various U.S. allies are transparent and predictable. The Iran nuclear deal is a great example: When Turkey and Brazil pioneered the effort to contain Tehran's nuclear ambitions, the Obama administration alienated both governments – only to strike a similar deal with the Iranians before leaving office. During the process, not only has the U.S. alienated friendly developing nations but the administration also rewarded a rogue state for breaking the rules.
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