I suppose half the bloggers in the world will be writing about the departure of George Bush and the inauguration of Barack Obama as US president today, so why should I add my words to theirs when there have probably been far too many words already?
Yet if I’m still around in 8 years time, and if the world is still around in 8 years time, I’d like to look back on this day and see whether what I hoped and feared has come to pass.
I think probably most of the world will breathe a sigh of relief at the departure of George Bush.
There are plenty of other trigger-happy lunatic politicans in the world, willing to commit murder and mayhem for evil, trivial or even completely inexplicable reasons that one can only guess at. But none of them has the miliary weaponry and economic resources that George Bush had at his disposal. The USSR took on Afghanistan, and the result was that the Bolsheviks took a beating. George Bush invaded both Afghanistan and Iraq, and the chickens are only now coming home to roost.
Bob Mugabe in Zimbabwe took a beating in the Congo, and is now taking it out on his own people. He doesn’t have the resources to spread anything more than cholera to other countries, thank God. Ehud Olmert bombed Lebanon in 2006 and Gaza this month. Osama bin Laden seems to be reduced to sending enigmatic videos to TV stations every few months.
But we can breathe a sigh of relief. At least George Bush never got round to bombing Iran or Venezuela, as some feared that he might.
Barack Obama is still an unknown quantity.
He has sung the praises of the pudding, but let’s see what the first spoonful tastes like. Let’s see if he can turn his rhetoric into reality. His rhetoric is good. As some journalists have noted, at least he speaks in complete sentences with comprehensible syntax, though some journalists say they will miss George Bush for his more incomprehensible utterances. As Rehana Rossouw said in The Weekender (17-18 Jan 2009)
I’m going to miss him mostly because he’s been a great source of comfort. For 10 years I’ve been able to take comfort when our political leaders stuff up by telling myself that there is someone in office worse than them.
And I must say I agree. When people knocked Thabo Mbeki and said he was such a bad president, I’d look at the leaders of other countries and realise how lucky we were. George Bush, Tony Blair, Ehud Olmert, Bob Mugabe, Vladimir Putin. Compared with them Thabo Mbeki looked positively angelic, and though he was no more able to restrain Robert Mugabe than George Bush was able to restrain Ehud Olmert he didn’t conduct bloody wars against countries on the other side of the globe.
But though I took comfort from the th0ught that people like George Bush were so much worse than Thabo Mbeki, I also can’t escape the thought that Barack Obama will be so much better. Even if he doesn’t manage to make things better in the short term, unlike Bush, I don’t think he will deliberately act to make them worse, by invading Iran, for example.
Whether the promised change we can believe in will materialise I don’t know. But for the moment I’m willing to settle for no change for the worse. And much of the threat of that is leaving with George Bush.
But then Jacob Zuma is waiting in the wings.