Obama's choice could help ease global tensions

The Jakarta Post
01 September 2008

Lilian Budianto, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

World News - Monday, September 01, 2008

U.S. Democrat presidential candidate Barack Obama's choice of anti-Iraq war proponent Joseph Biden as his running mate will heighten the senator's leverage in the Muslim world, local analysts say.

The popularity of the Bush administration has plummeted since the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. Its continued dominance in war-torn Iraq has given it a poor image among the Muslim community.

Although the prospect of a black president with Muslim ties is viewed as a way for the United States to restore its reputation across the world, doubts are emerging over the 47-year-old senator's ability to become the commander-in-chief.

On Aug. 23, Obama named 65-year-old Biden, a senator from Delaware and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, as his running mate, a move analysts say is crucial in securing victory.

"Joseph Biden is the most influential person in U.S. foreign policy as he has 30 years of experience in the Senate. And just like Obama, he has shown deep understanding and sensitivity for Asian issues. This is a quality we haven't observed in the Bush administration," said Wimar Witoelar, an advisor for former president Abdurrahman "Gus Dur" Wahid and now host of several political TV shows.

"Biden's political heft will provide the expertise needed for Obama to navigate his way into the White House. And if the pair wins, they would make a huge difference for Asian countries, easing the global political tension between the West and Muslim powers," Wimar said.

Tension between the West and the Muslim world reached new heights after Bush launched the "war against terror" in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.

Fighting extremism became top of the U.S. agenda in its bilateral and regional relationships with countries with large Muslim populations, including Indonesia.

"Definitely, I would say there will be shift in American relations with Muslim countries," Suzie Sudarman, director of the American Studies Center at the University of Indonesia, wrote in an email interview.

She said although the Bush administration had chosen the military option in the "war against terror", Obama has indicated his preference for a diplomatic approach when dealing with Muslim countries.

During his campaign and an interview with U.S. television, the Hawaiian native -- whose father was Muslim -- has shown his understanding of radicalism by differentiating between what he calls "terrorist targets" and "the average Muslims", who have also become the victims of extremists' violent actions.

"Obama has experience with Muslim-majority nations such as Indonesia and Pakistan, and his own family in Kenya," Suzie said.

"Now with Biden weighing into foreign policy decision making in the Obama administration, there will be a reasonable expectation of changes (that will ease the tension between Western and Muslim nations)."

But Suzie warned of likely turbulent relations with countries struggling with freedom and equality if the Democrats win office, given the party's history of intervening to enforce liberal values throughout the world.

Indonesia's relationship with the United States soured when the Clinton administration imposed a military embargo, citing concerns over human rights abuses in Timor Leste and Papua.

When the military embargo was lifted, it marked another phase of military ties with Indonesia after 15 years of interruption.

However, analysts said the aim of the resumption of military relations was to allow Indonesia, which hosts a minority of religious militants, to step up its fight against terrorism.

Achmad Jainuri, rector of Muhammadiyah University in Sidoarjo, East Java, said Bush was handing his successors more problems related to radical movements around the world, leaving the new leader the monumental task of bringing the superpower back on track.

"Regime change will always bring hope of a better nation and we are looking forward to Obama and Biden addressing it," he said.

Obama said he would withdraw troops from Iraq and seek diplomatic talks with Iranian leaders, making military action his last resort in addressing the issues of nuclear development with the Islamic nation.

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  1. From paank on 01 September 2008 18:34:26 WIB
    "Obama has experience with Muslim-majority nations such as Indonesia and Pakistan, and his own family in Kenya"

    I agree with Her.

    Go! Go! Obama
  2. From albertus on 01 September 2008 21:46:11 WIB
    I find it funny that in Indonesia, Obama's Indonesia past is hailed as something incredibly important, how it can helped Obama's standing on tolerance, about 'Muslim world', and so on.

    While in the US, such correlation are discouraged to be put into the limelight as it is considered to be a political liability. Never ever I've heard Obama's team describe his past in Indonesia as an strategic asset that will contributes to his foreign affairs policies.

    Only in Indonesia, that it is so overblown, this Obama's Indonesia past. And personally, I doubt it will contribute to anything in his foreign policy. Although, I do understand the romanticist value of this rare situation, for a possible US president to have some connection with Indonesia.

    To stay on topic, Biden is good choice, he can fill in the gap within Obama's candidacy. We should also see McCain pick of Palin, whether this is good or bust, it is clear that McCain is desperate.
  3. From Rizki Yogaswara on 03 September 2008 16:00:14 WIB
    of course Obama's past in Indonesia is valued highly amongst Indonesian, the candidate for president of one of the most powerful countries in the world had a past in our meagre country. but its not just that. Barrack Obama represent, for us, a hope for the future, of better things, of equality and harmony between different nations, religions, race and ethnicity.

    it is an important milestone for the history of the world, that one of the most important position in this world, that has long been exclusive for white man, finally accepted a 'different' candidate, no matter how you look at it. so.. for us, at the least, for me, i took it as a hope for change, that in this world some very fundamental change is currently happening... and that we as a country has connection in some way, no matter how meagre it is, it is enough to make us, i mean me, proud.
  4. From gesti on 04 September 2008 11:37:31 WIB
    obama just need to be more consequent...
    it's the beginning, go obama!
  5. From Chandra on 04 September 2008 12:40:00 WIB
    Obama is a peace loving while McBush is warmongering. But do not expect a radical change in US foreign policy under Obama. America will keep it's illegal role as world police, oil greed and will never be able to detach herself from the eternal Israeli lobby. Those are common to any US presidential candidates. You try to defy Israel lobby and you are history.
  6. From thea on 05 September 2008 12:05:00 WIB
    I share a similar concern that in the future there won't be a radical change on foreign policy of USA toward Indonesia. The fact that he's ever spent his childhood in Jakarta, I assume, won't influent much. However, that fact is also a "gimmick" for him to win over the battle versus McCain as he's considered exposed into wide cultural-religion experience.
    Anyway, won't it be a thrill if the next president of USA will be the one who's ever stayed at Menteng:D??
  7. From Siti Parliah on 05 September 2008 12:48:33 WIB
    I agree with Albertus. It's nothing special about the fact that Obama spent part of his childhood in Indonesia. It might be influenced the way he thinks. But I doubt that it will benefit us Indonesian when he elected President of The USA. There is so many domestic issues that need to be handled by Obama.

  8. From Tomi Audya on 05 September 2008 14:27:51 WIB
    i hope mr. obama bring a \"new change\". and US foreign policy more \"honest\" to muslim nations.
  9. From Intox on 06 September 2008 21:24:13 WIB
    This site gets more and more watered down, nothing\'s really exciting anymore, most are rehash of what the big news corporation are saying on their websites. Also what\'s with the constant topic of Obama and McCain?

    Whoever gets chosen, the Iraq war is still not gonna end anytime soon, the Afghanis are still terrorized, the World Bank will still screw everyone over, etc etc you know the drill. I\'m sorry but what exactly is this \"sensitive issues\" in the Asian region that can be eased? On papers, perhaps. But the fact remains that the multinationals are still paying the factory workers meagerly, the destruction of the environment will still continue, and the poor will always be poor and hungry, no matter what the World Bank says. Poverty breeds desperation, which in turn breeds terrorism.
  10. From Berto on 07 September 2008 23:15:51 WIB
    Time will tell, if this pair, if elected, will make a good pair governing the United States of America.
  11. From dmitri on 08 September 2008 13:20:01 WIB
    dont forget to search for I.O.U.S.A on google... or youtube :) more reason to look at the US, and learn.

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