Obama’s Hardest Choices Lie Ahead

TEL AVIV – It was only natural that Barack Obama, a president whose election was one of the most revolutionary events in American history, should fill his first 100 days in office with a breathtaking, all-embracing agenda. These are times of trial and upheaval that call for such daring. Strikingly energetic and self-confident, Obama has set out on a titanic journey to remake America’s economy and redress a broken and dysfunctional international system.

It is perhaps especially in Obama’s domestic policy – the shift to a more social-democratic tax system and universal health care – that one can best see the new president’s ideological drive. But emphasizing the reduction of social inequalities does not sit easily with America’s profoundly individualistic ethos, and the attempt to “Europeanize” the nature of the social contract between the state and its citizens might yet crash against the constitutive principles of the American system.

When it comes to salvaging America’s collapsing financial system, Obama has been far more interventionist than any European government. For once, the faltering Czech presidency of the EU reflected a European consensus when it defined Obama’s astronomic financial stimulus as a “road to hell.” The unprecedented explosion of America’s fiscal deficit raises the risk of high inflation in the future – exactly the kind of scenario that Europeans want to prevent at all cost.

Obama’s foreign policy agenda has been no less audacious than his domestic undertakings. After eight years of American unilateralism that left behind a broken transatlantic alliance, resuscitated the specter of a cold war with Russia, and saw the Middle East decline into a doomsday politics, Obama’s injection of new thinking to endemic problems is extremely welcome.