Today, on the one year anniversary of the collapse of Lehman Brothers,
President Obama is speaking on Wall Street, addressing the need for
regulatory reforms to the financial sector. Since taking office the
president has led a coordinated global response to the worst economic
crisis since the Great Depression.
Upon returning from Moscow, the G-8 summit, and Africa, President Obama – and almost anyone closely following the trip – will be surprised to learn from conservatives that nothing was accomplished. At the G-8, leading economic powers made new commitments on food aid for the world’s poorest and manifested a new unity against Iran’s repression at home and nuclear ambitions abroad – both achievements showcasing US diplomacy and Obama’s personal leadership. The formulaic nature of conservative criticism in response was perhaps best summed up by Oliver North in an op-ed in the Washington Times, which said that “the trip to Chad... produced no serious risks to our future.” Obama’s trip to Chad did produce little – because he never went to Chad.
National security experts and retired military officials are in agreement that climate change poses a threat to our way of life, to the global order, and even to how we keep ourselves secure. This week’s G-8 summit, which sought to advance climate negotiations prior to meetings in Copenhagen in December, saw developing countries reject binding emission targets out of fear that it would stifle their development, as well as out of a sense that rich developed countries – the principal culprits of global warming – weren’t doing enough. Emerging economies are right that rich developed countries – especially the United States which is the largest per-capita emitter of greenhouse gases – have not done enough. The House of Representatives recently took a hugely important step in passing climate change legislation, but the legislation now looks to be bogged down in the Senate. If the impact on our way of life and the generations that follow us isn’t enough, Senators should recognize that their inaction has important consequences for our diplomacy and security.
The leaders of the eight leading industrialized nations meet in the G-8 summit in Italy today. This meeting comes just a few months after the G-20 summit in London, which sought to create a unified global response to the economic crisis. The IMF today reinforced the concern that much work remains to be done, and that it is too early to back away from stimulus policies and support for poorer countries.
Last week it became apparent that only a unified international response can stop the global credit crisis. This weekend, a coordinated approach was finally crafted after meetings of the G7, IMF, World Bank, European Union and other international organizations. The international infrastructure of alliances and institutions that was set up after World War II played a crucial role in helping forge a strategy which, by infusing capital into the banking system and guaranteeing interbank loans, has at least for the moment buoyed the markets.