Even though President-elect Barack Obama is still about seven weeks away from taking oath of office, he has his plate full! The monumental change brought about by his historic election has not only raised hopes within the United States but there is a renewed sense of ‘willingness’ in the international community to see Washington in a different light after years of rather abrupt and abrasive policies, based on the ‘principle’ of ‘either you are with us or against us’.

War, inevitably, is the failure of diplomacy. We’ve had enough of it in the past few years. Our world changed forever on 9/11/01. An aggrieved but enraged US was left with no choice but to go after the perpetrators of possibly the worst attack on innocent civilians in modern history.

The world universally abhors terrorism but it has been proven beyond doubt that war is not the answer. The ‘new assassins’ masquerading as religious activists are out to undermine the very ideals on which the edifice the US has stood firmly for more than two centuries. By the same token, wars cannot be left only to the generals and diplomacy cannot be the sole preserve of professional diplomats. Public participation is a must and that is what Obama has promised all along his election campaign.

Terrorism is at once a crime and a symptom of a sickness in an environment that has failed to nurture its human resources, both in terms of imparting to them a sense of purpose and value in life and acquiring marketable skills. That is, perhaps, what the world of Islam is faced with – a dilemma where too many have gone astray because of the distorted and politically motivated beliefs of a few ‘leaders’ within the community from the mountains of Pakistan and Afghanistan to the confines of Morocco and Tunisia.

The wars on Afghanistan and Iraq have not won us many friends anywhere, much less in the Muslim world. We often wonder why the Islamic world is up in arms against the New War, and ponder over the ways to win the hearts and minds of folks around the globe.

One believes that we have arrived at the turning point in world affairs. We are left with no choice but to step back from the wars we have committed ourselves to. The world expects us to match our economic and military might with our moral might – to stand up for good against evil, for peace against war, for love against hate, for justice against high-handedness. As a necessary start to détente, the US should halt its war talk. This must not be seen as its defeat, but as a victory of peace. One understands that it will not be easy but peace does not come cheap.

We can expect to experience some welcome signs of adjusting US policies in the Obama presidency.  Given his keen sense of judgment, he understands that when a country is rich and powerful, that itself generates resentment. If the leaders of the country behave with arrogance, that compounds the problem. It is worth recalling that the problem existed even a generation ago when Senator Fulbright wrote his celebrated book, “The Arrogance of Power.”

The ‘New World’ is a reality. Obama must bear in mind that the US must relentlessly pursue terrorists wherever they are and make fundamental changes in policies related to terrorism accordingly. The US must continue to exercise leadership of the global coalition against terrorism. Needless to say, there is an imperative necessity to utilize America’s enormous military, political and economic strength to promote a just international order.

What is really needed is to deal with the roots of terrorism rather than be concerned only with the terrorist manifestations of frustration and despair.

Burning political and human rights issues, such as the Darfur problem, affecting large populations need to be addressed, in all seriousness. The economic divide affecting the entire world, between the rich and poor countries, is getting wider each year. That the world may witness resort to terrorism against the privileged minority could well become a reality if the reasons for agitation at each world economic moot are not addressed.

Understood that the US itself is faced with loads of issues in this time of monstrous economic distress, it has to soldier on with the good work. Obama has to heal the ailing world. There are hard choices to make. The good news is that Obama is one who can turn the tide with the passage of time.

The dark forces of religious bigotry have to be defeated. Most of the terrorists also recognize the murky background out of which proponents of retrogressive and intolerant ethos that have sprung up to undermine the dynamic synthesis of American foreign policy that worked out so well in the post World War II era and that reflected the lofty ideals for which the US stands for.

The challenge has to be met with an iron hand. Simultaneously Obama can possibly undertake deep introspection to determine the underlying causes of this culture of religious violence so that these can be eliminated through sustained reform and social action in various parts of the world. The criminals must be punished but we must also address the socio-economic and cultural malaise that enables the terrorists to raise their ugly heads and act with such impudent disregard for humanity and the respective faiths of individuals.

The US has to work with the rest of the world, not apart from it. There should be no repetition of the ‘hit out and be damned’ response of the previous administration.

Barack Obama can prove to be a refreshing change. One hopes that conducive counter-terrorism measures will be taken by working multilaterally. The argument is to keep the momentum going but in a broader and prudent manner that ensures less of a war and more of a peace.

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