Dominique de Villepin Headshot

Once Upon a Time, There Was America

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AP
AP

Once upon a time, there was Obama. It was only four years ago. A symbol of hope for the whole world because America, through this election, became again what it had always been for other parts of the world, the land of the possible.

The last years have been a time of disillusion, after eight years of neoconservative delusion. It was at once the success and the failure of the Obama years. America wanted to get sober again. This meant first of all realizing what was happening around the world where the United States was creating confrontations: with China in the first year of the Bush administration even if in the end relations became more calm, with Russia as if both were still engaged in a fantom Cold War, with the Middle East and the Muslim world through the interventions in Iraq and the lasting occupation of Afghanistan. It's always more difficult to end wars than to begin them, and President Obama has found the right balance and the right people to help him on the field. That's for the success.

President Obama also wanted to restart a new relationship with each part of the world, through inspiring speeches and multilateral partnerships all around the world. In the end, we must say it out loud: nothing has restarted. The world's engine has no grip on the world today. The speeches have remained empty shells for most observers. Mostly, it also must be said, because the new administration came into office at a time of freezing, because of the economic crisis. The Iranian strategy was blocked by the growing authoritarian shift of the regime of Tehran after the spring of 2009 ; the Russian strategy was blocked by the war in Georgia in the summer of 2008. The strategy in the Middle East in the time of the Arab Spring was blocked by the relationship with Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Obama's efforts or good will in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, still in my view the key question of today's Middle East in terms of justice, dialogue and stability, was made totally inefficient by the situation in Gaza and the hard line of Israeli politics.

Maybe these four years will remain as the greatest missed opportunity of the beginning of the century. Because it's not only about settling the past, it's also about inventing a new relationship to the south, putting concrete actions on the image of a black, Indonesia raised President that would know the world. That's because these years are not any years in the history of the United States. They too are changing. They too must acknowledge it and move forward.

Yes, once upon a time, there was America, the Frontier and the Dream. Once upon a time there was the hope for progress and equality in the great spaces between the Pacific and the Atlantic. Now the empty map has been filled. Now the question is, who is America leaning towards to, the Atlantic, the Pacific, its Southern border? It's no longer the refuge of the "huddled masses" of the world, where minorities could find rights and respect in the course of a common history, despite conflicts, despite difficulties we should not forget. I know that America will bounce back. There are already signs of this astonishing ability. Growth could be back soon and jobs in the international sector too.

Still there's a huge challenge, changing a mythology, changing an identity. Now, the United States are beginning a new era and they will need new dreams, new imaginations if they don't wish to live among ghosts and become the Norman Bates of the global model. They have to find a new balance.

This country of the young and the restless must learn to become an aging country, anxious for its security, anxious for its prosperity. That means passing from a society who dares to a society who cares, or even better a society who dares and cares. That's the main challenge when it comes to education, because today the middle classes are struggling harder than before to send their children to college and every two student out of three begin their career with the heavy burden of a student loan. Health is the second crucial issue in this regard and that's why it has been in the center of political debate in the past years as it will in the future.

The country of the individual destiny of prosperity must learn to reduce its inequalities, because in a complex society, what's the part of an individual's success that is due to his natural gifts and to society's gifts? The economy of knowledge is a collective economy, where the success of others increases the success of all. If America was so admired around the world, it's because it was the country where everything was possible, where every dream was within reach, where every effort was rewarded. A country of the possible and of the impossible.

The country of great spaces must learn to see these spaces filled and to protect them, because they are the common good of the future generations. Shale gas extraction is a chance for America's industries, for sure, but it's also an environmental challenge that should be openly discussed.

The country of the moral values must learn to find the balance between civil rights and personal responsibility, to adapt common prescriptions to the many shades and differences of real situations. In this sense it must stay true to its double inspiration, the call for values and the interpretation of the law.

Last of all, this country who has often proven that where there's a will, there's a way needs today to make action possible. The blockade of the political institutions in Washington has become dramatic and it is to be feared that whatever the outcome of the presidential election on Tuesday, Congress will still remain divided and powerless.

In a new globalized world, these are challenges of the New Frontier of today. Once again, Pilgrim Fathers are needed to set foot on this unknown land, with a spirit of adventure and enthusiasm, new Founding Fathers establishing institutions based on respect and dignity.
Overcome the conflicts of a divided world, that's the main task today, on all continents and in every country.

Today America is suffering, America is afraid, America is caught in the mimicry of its history, of its democracy; But the truth is, America has a fantastic capacity to face new challenges and to be born again out of its ashes. But this means it has to stop lamenting, commenting and buying out the democratic values. This means finding the way back to its freedom and independence. The American show is over. It must open its eyes and open up to the world, see it as it really is. The people on the world scene are waiting for the Hollywood star to show up. But there are no more stars. America is dead. Long live America.