The primary task of the new president will consist above all in re-establishing the credibility of the United States in the world, judges Francis Fukuyama. Passing through Paris, the famous political scientist from John Hopkins University delivered his impressions to a select audience of the French Institute of International Relations (IFRI). A couple of weeks from the passing of the powers of the White House, the author of “The End of History” and “The Last Man” (Flammarion, 1992) who flirted for a time with the neo-conservatives, believes that the new president will have as his first task the restoring of a certain credibility both to the political discourse of the United States and to the economic policy. Both are in very bad shape after the presidency of George W. Bush.

“Today the word ‘democracy’ is feared. As soon as one pronounces it abroad, one is speaking to us of Guantanamo and of Abu Ghraib. Even if the second Bush administration was very different from the first, with Condoleeza Rice, the United States has lost a significant amount of its moral credibility.”

Acccording to Fukuyama, this disrepute extends now also to the economic policy practiced by the United States since Ronald Reagan, and which was brought across the world with the help of big international organizations such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Trade Organization (WTO).

“In creating the myth according to which all reduction of taxes would self-finance automatically (because it supposedly created growth), President Reagan brought20the government almost incapable of raising taxes. This orthodoxy has prevented the United States, for example, from giving itself a real energy policy.”

On the foreign policy plan, the philosopher believes that the new president will have to face a challenge in which both the Clinton and Bush governments have failed. “The mental adjustment will be difficult. It will consist of learning to act in a world that is more and more multi-polar. Bush and Clinton could take for granted a high level of American hegemony. It is no longer the case for Obama. I think that the Clinton administration has been as guilty in the economic domain as Bush in the security domain. It is therefore necessary to re-think our policies in a world in which Russia, India, China, Brazil and several other countries are a lot more powerful. It will no longer be enough to be a little bit more multilateral than the second Bush administration, it will be necessary to show a lot more imagination.”

Obama is like……Nixon!

Ironically, the political scientist believes, the retreat of American troops from Iraq could be the easiest task of the new government. It is primarily for this reason that he believes that the new president has brought back Robert Gates as the Defense secretary. It will go very different in Afghanistan where “the problem will not be able to be solved by increasing military troops.” But to attack these different challenges, Obama will have to first restore nerve to the American government “whose capacities have declined all throughout the Bush administration,” said Fukuyama.

The nominations of Robert Gates (Defense), Jim Jones (National Security advisor) and Hillary Clinton(Secretary of State) have already been criticized by the left of the Democratic party. The political analyst Stevons Clemons, of the New America Foundation, doesn’t hesitate to compare the strategy that emerges to that of….Richard Nixon. “No one would have thought that Obama would be so Nixonian. A little bit like John McCain deep down. When Nixon arrived in the middle of the Vietnam War, he did everything possible to preserve the latitude of the United States in a period of decline. Obama tried to do exactly the same thing. He absolutely must appear strong, which will give him latitude to do anything without being attacked on his right.”

Leadership or Multilteralism?

Europeans evidently doubt the capacity of the new president to truly practice multilateralism. The rallying of the Obama administration to multilateralism does not signify an acceptance of multilaterlaism, specifies the special council of the IFRI, Dominique Moïsi. “One of the first speeches of Obama gave to the Europeans will probably consist of him saying: ‘You have voted for me, now act for me!’ These types of demands are going to multiply.” Moïsi therefore does not feel any rallying of Obama to multi-polarity. He even believes that Europe could be more caught unaware by an America that is back in motion. “Even on environmental issues, Europe could find itself behind an America that suddenly finds itself mor e green than Europe (…) And what would France say if America were to be serious in their desire to end nuclear weapons?”

According to Francis Fukuyama, the majority of foreigners, and notably Europeans, ask the opposite of the new administration. “It is expected that the Americans will recognize the multi-polarity of the world. But at the same time, it is asked that they demonstrate true leadership in numerous areas. One cannot hope for both at the same time. One must choose!” According to the political analyst, the United States will never forget the lesson of the Balkans where, the Europeans unable to agree, they had to act alone.

For the political scientist Ian Lesser, of the German Marshall Fund, the Americans are ready to accept multilateralism. “But the problem is that our partners don’t have the means.”

The message that the world is sending to the new president is deeply ambiguous, recognizes Moïsi. “Never has an American election been so followed in the world and has therefore given the United States the impression that they are the heart of the world. But this is happening right at the moment when America is realizing that their political and economic centrality is being called into question. In reality, the world is saying to America; “We have never watched you so much, but we know that you are no longer the same.”