I spent last May with a group of writers touring Arab universities, meeting with students in Syria, Jordan, and Palestine. Whenever we were able to speak informally, politics--specifically, American politics--came up again and again. At times, the anxiety among the students we met was overwhelming. They wanted to know why we had gone to Iraq, why we had reelected Bush, why we had squandered our opportunity to lead. Which brings me to this year's presidential contest. I've never voted with much enthusiasm, and, certainly, this year feels different. Domestically, the Democratic candidates speak much the same language. But U.S. elections are not simply for internal consumption: Our choice will have an impact on our international standing. Barack Obama's global roots, his personal narrative, his ability to inspire--he, alone among the candidates, can usher in a new kind of foreign policy.
Daniel Alarcón is the author of War by Candlelight.
Part one: Randall Kennedy
Part two: Judith Shulevitz