A lot of people criticize Barack Obama for his lack of foreign policy experience -- and that's a valid point of view when one considers his short-lived political career. But it occurred to me during my time living in Beijing that assuming he won't succeed in global affairs because of this is almost ridiculous.
Because it seems a good portion of the international community is rooting for him.
When the Democratic National Convention was going on, all eyes at China Daily were glued to Barack and Michelle Obama on CNN. Though Hilary Clinton was a big favorite among my Chinese colleagues, Obama riled a similar excitement and hope in my British, Canadian and New Zealander friends as he does in me. To them, the United States is behind the times and Obama is the answer to speeding-up the progressive mentality that has been lacking in America, bringing it to a similar level of other Western democracies.
For Daniel Vincent, a China Daily copy editor from London, Obama becoming president would make the idea of the U.S. as an ethnic melting pot a reality. Vincent said ideals like this are what draws foreign youngsters to admire U.S. culture. When one looks at it as the home of Disney and Hollywood, America can seem glamorous to a middle school student. It's when he and friends started taking foreign policy classes in high school and university that they came to dislike the U.S.
In fact, another Londoner, Josephine McDermott, thinks she and the rest of the world should get an international vote in the U.S. presidential elections since we're the ones who "start all the wars," she said.
It wasn't a surprise to me that all my non-American friends disliked the U.S.' political decisions, but I didn't expect the repercussions it would have on their feelings toward the country in general. With the exception of Vincent (who hopes to visit California to experience that glamour of Disneyland and Hollywood) none of my foreign friends had the desire to come to America. They offered to meet up with me in Canada or maybe Mexico some day, but in my home country? There was no chance.
According to comedian Sarah Silverman, Obama is the best way to end our reputation as the "assholes of the universe." I agree. He really is the polar opposite of what's gotten us into this mess in the first place. And I think it will say a lot about Americans' open-mindedness if he gets elected, which, in turn, will give us some much-needed credibility in the rest of the world.
When it comes down to it, Obama's success in foreign policy won't be measured by his experience, but by the world's perception of his ideals and integrity. In fact, some foreigners were surprised when I told them many Americans were concerned about Obama's lack of experience with world issues. To them, it's about America adopting an administration that cares about the advancement of its people and the rest of the world in alliance as an international community. With the values Obama has promoted, it's clear he's the best choice to make this happen.
If they get it, why can't we? Let's stop being one step behind the rest of the world.