Athens, Greece - Living in a part of the world -- the Balkans -- where the United States directly has influenced history over the past 50 years, I cannot expect a change of the majority in the U.S. Congress to lead to any great changes in U.S. foreign policy.
Here, as elsewhere, we have seen that it makes little difference whether the Republicans or Democrats are in power: The United States acts in its own interests. The fact that politicians understand their country's long-term interests depend on not alienating local populations in the short- and mid-term is one of the great mechanisms of checks and balances in the post-war international system -- and a concept to be cherished rather than discarded in this time of upheaval and conceptual restructuring.
History has shown that it matters little whether a Republican or Democrat is in the Oval Office or whether the Congress is in the hands of one or the other parties. When a foreign policy challenge arises, there may be differences in nuance and language, but the dynamics of intervention are very much the same.
This time, however, things may be different -- because today the international community's perceptions of the Unites States are as important as Washington's view of the world used to be in determining what the relationship between them will be. America may be the sole superpower, but, through technology and globalization, the rest of the world has never been more empowered to help determine the future of the planet.
President Bush's administration, with its brash unilateralism, haphazard realpolitik and dangerous failures has managed to confirm the suspicions of the most suspicious "anti-imperialists" and instilled a sense of cynicism in even the most well-meaning observers. Institutions such as the press and the courts that have helped keep alive the flame of what America stands for have done so mainly by standing up against the executive. If the Congress manages to impose some prudence and reason on the agenda this will strengthen America's image and may lead to better decisions by the president. This would be to the benefit of the United States and the rest of the world -- irrespective of which party is in the majority.
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