"How to prevent an early collision between Pretoria and President Barack Obama"
Yesterday Barack Obama was inaugurated as the 44th President of the United States. He provides a symbol of hope to a fearful nation and an uncertain world, battered by the worst economic crisis we have experienced in 80 years, and facing an array of vexed international challenges. These range from uncompleted wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, a hostile standoff between nuclear India and nuclear Pakistan, to an intensification of violence in Palestine and Israel, and growing uncertainty as to whether the crisis of stabilizing global carbon emission will be addressed conclusively and successfully in Copenhagen later this year.
President Obama offers the opportunity for America and the world to look for rights-based and multilateral solutions to these global crises. South Africa, by rights and by inclination, should be a willing and vigorous partner in the plan to reinvigorate a more just world order.
It is my opinion that our recent votes and voice in international councils and forums, such as the United Nations, have placed us on a potential collision course with a more enlightened White House administration and put us in the company of the rights-delinquent nations and authoritarian regimes of the world.
Earlier this month it was revealed, for example, that South Africa refused to support a declaration by the United Nations General Assembly calling for the decriminalization of homosexuality. What we practise at home, in our constitution and via progressive legislation, we contradict abroad for fear of offending some of the most retrogressive authoritarian countries in the world.
Shortly before Christmas, South Africa's foreign policy was again in the news in Washington - and again for all the wrong reasons. Under the headline, "South Africa's Crime", the highly influential Washington Post decried our government's enablement of Robert Mugabe's "destruction of neighbouring Zimbabwe, at the cost of thousands of lives."