This is perhaps one of the most crucial American elections for the world. It will decide whether United States' transition from sole superpower to a multipolar world goes through a gentle landing or bloody wars.
The millennium began with a very, very, very powerful United States, boisterous, telling others how to conduct and govern themselves. It turned into a bit of an excitable bully when Al Qaeda punctured its 'indestructibility'. French fries and cheese can tell some tales from 2003. Ten years later, the USA is still powerful, still somewhat boisterous and giving sermons to others but minus the overt bullying. Other powers have emerged in this world. But many in the US right are finding it difficult to stomach power spreading around a bit. This election could shape the next few decades.
From untouchable heights the USA has slid into phenomenal debt, much of it to China, a country that has quietly taken advantage of American distractions from big power politics in pointless wars. The world seems less attentive to American rhetoric. Iran and North Korea have spent the decade leading the US in a dance of little returns. Indian diplomacy is shrewdly exploiting US position. Even little old 'special relationship' Britain, usually the first to lead the pack when USA clicks its fingers, has snubbed the US recently. Clearly American 'will' is facing the real world.
There are two ways that this once unbridled power could face the reality of multipolar world. Either gradually come to terms with it and accept that two decades of unchallenged power was just a phase after Soviet demise. Or it could go a little bonkers and attempt to reassert its lost status with a 'no one messes with us' sign glued to each missile posted to rickety upstart states like Sudan and Yemen, as message to the world. In the process of restoring the short lived 'American Empire' it might even sprinkle a few nuclear bombs using the 'first strike option'.
It seems that Republicans with their closet but powerful neo-cons want to move on further from where Bush junior left the world. They want to rattle the world into submission. They seem pretty miffed at losing 'total' world dominance. Some of the Republican neo-con diehards and extreme Republicans see the dream of a thousand year American Empire fast sliding away. This is where the danger really lies. What do they really have in mind for China, the main challenger?
Pax Americana still permeates many Republicans' daily dreams. Obama has been accused of being soft on the world by some Republicans. His handling of Afghanistan, Pakistan and most importantly Iran and China has made them weary. Many disapprove of his opposition to Netanyahu's doomsday prescription for the Iran 'problem'. One can only hope that a Republican victory will not march the world towards World War III.
Obama is no saint either, despite winning a Noble prize even before he stepped into White House. But he has not been wild either. His victory brought back respect for the USA as a benign, responsible and serious superpower. Of course, the claim on other peoples' oil and other resources through force has not been any less, but America under him has not made universal enemies as Bush did. His method has been gentler, more mature and less scary. He has been more cerebral and strategic rather than the jingoistic 'with us or against us' approach. He has weakened adversaries such as Iran and forced them to the concession table. No silly wars against foods like 'French fries' from his administration. And much of the western world has given into his charm on international issues.
The world seems a lot safer under Obama than was under Bush, even if Obama has sent more forces to Afghanistan. Perhaps it is perception more than reality that calms.
With his four year record, Obama is the more reassuring candidate to manage the inevitable transition of USA from being sole superpower to leader in a multipolar world. He seems more in tune with reality than his Republican counterpart. Despite Romney's statement "you cannot kill your way to peace", there still lurk powerful neo cons and doomsday lobbies in his party who think otherwise. Bush too seemed 'OK' until the neocons hijacked his Government.
There is general fear that a trigger happy Republican-led America at this very sensitive stage in international tectonic shifts could make the world a more dangerous place, not least for Americans.
If Obama wins, we can sleep with some comfort knowing that our greatest threat is the environment and not an America itching to use its colossal arsenal to restore Pax Americana. There are too many unknowns about Romney and his team. Will American voters take note?