The World is Watching 0

The world is indeed watching today.

Despite the United States recent economic woes, there is no doubt amongst serious observers that the country is still, by far the most powerful nation in the world. The United States military budget “" which, I think it is fair to say, gets quite a bit of use “" is astronomical. The U.S. accounts almost half of the world’s military spending, with the FY 2009 budget allocating more than $650 billion. To put this in perspective, the next highest spender is the United Kingdom with just over $50 billion. And the U.S. figures do not count the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan which are paid for with supplemental bills and have cost the nation hundreds of billions more over the last five years.

Further, the world economy, for better or worse (worse is the popular answer in 2008), is directly dependent on the U.S economy. Even though China, for example, continues to grow, they are only able to do so by sending 80 percent of their exports to the U.S. Now, as American consumers are becoming thrifty, or broke (or both), Chinese growth is in trouble.

Russia “" China’s partner in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which many see as a blossoming counter to the US and NATO “" is now losing out on all the revenues that they were getting from $147 barrels of oil. And this drop in oil occurred, at least in part, due to the massive deflation that has occurred since the US economy really hit the skids in September. Venezuela and Iran, two other oil-rich nations with hostile relations with the U.S, are facing the same problems as oil prices go down.

So why is this relevant to the 2008 election? It is a reminder of how important this election, and American policy in general, is to other parts of the world.

In Israel, for example, the right has expressed fears over an Obama presidency. While Obama has said all of the right things, and spoke in front of AIPAC when he finally won the primary, some in Israel are not sure he will be 1) as aggressive on Iran as a McCain or Bush Administration or 2) as willing to continue America’s unconditional (and totally unique) package in aid, which is at $3 billion, the most in the world. This is why the right started singing the “Obama-is-anti-Israel” tune when McCain fell sharply behind (as did Hillary Clinton when she was gasping for anything at the tail end of the divisive primary, which gives you a sense of how predictably low politicians can go when in trouble).

It is a fairly empty tale. Obama has toed the Party line with Israel, pledging continued and increased aid, and insisting that Iran poses a grave threat, despite the fact that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has said the opposite.

Nonetheless, this election is watched with great interest from the Israeli right. To follow the coverage in Israel, I recommend, Haaretz, which is widely viewed as the “New York Times of Israel.”

Another country that must be watching with watchful eyes in Pakistan, especially given Obama’s expressed a willingness to bomb the country (which President Bush actually did recently).

Interestingly, Iraqis and U.S. soldiers may have less at stake that one might think. While Obama ran in the primary with anti-war rhetoric , his staff has acknowledged to the Wall Street Journal that he will leave around 35 “" 45 thousands troops in the country. Given that a similar draw down is likely under a McCain Administration (though the exact timeline could vary), it appears that the War in Iraq will continue in a lesser fashion, no matter who wins. Still, if anyone wants to read an English language Iraqi newspaper, visit Azzaman in English.

Iranians, too, must be watching with great interest. While both McCain and Obama are willing to talk tough on Iran, Obama has a far more moderate (supported by many Republicans from the Bush I days, such as James Baker and Collin Powell) and reasonable stance on engaging in diplomacy. To read Iranian media visit Press TV and the Islamic Republic News Agency (both state-owned, for what its worth).

And of course, every country has a stake in the U.S. economy. As I listed above, the ramifications of the economic crisis are indeed global, and countries have been scrambling with bailout and stimulus packages, request for aid from the (US controlled) International Monetary Fund and the nationalizing of some banks.

Here, world public opinion is clear: Obama is the favorite for most of the world, which has grown deeply skeptical of U.S. economic policies, and gives most of the blame to Republicans.

Some other foreign news outlets:

The Daily Star (Lebanon)

Russia Today (Russia)

The Independent (United Kingdom)

Dar al Hayet (Saudi Arabia )