THE INDEX — January 20, 2009

While journalists worldwide welcome a new president into the White House, in the Bangkok Post, Alan Dawson praises George W. Bush’s achievments. “I’m in the currently silent minority that kind of likes the outgoing U.S. president,” says Dawson, suggesting that historians will look differently on Bush’s eight years than do contemporaries.

In the Kenyan Daily Nation, Rasna Warahp highlights how important Obama‘s election appears in Africa. “Songs will be sung and cows will be slaughtered in his name,” but are people in Africa right to expect change from the new American president? He may increase foreign assistance to the continent, but he is unlikely to tackle corruption, which he has called the biggest cause of under-development in the region.

Barack Obama‘s inauguration prompts C. Raja Mohan, strategic affairs editor at The Indian Express, to explain that New Delhi is not ready for the new approach promised by Obama toward India and Pakistan. The new American president links U.S. vulnerability in Afghanistan to the Kashmir dispute, and proposes a special envoy to the region.

Israeli writer David Grossman writes in Haaretz that although the massive operation led by Israeli forces against Hamas appears successful, it does not mean it is right. On the contrary, it is “misguided, unethical, unwise and above all, responsible, time after time, for fanning the flames that consume us,” he writes. But on Ynetnews, Slomo Engel asserts Grossman and his fellow writers are “disconnected from reality.” The rifts in their perspective show just how distanced these two sides are from each other.

With the U.S. inaugural celebration taking center stage, the offenses in Gaza still continue—even with the guns silent—according to Robert Fisk in The Independent. While Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is caught laughing and joking with other international politicians on the front page of Beirut‘s As-Safir daily newspaper, Mahmoud Abbas says that making peace with Israel the only option for the Arab world. Perhaps, Fisk writes, humiliation (rather than bullets) adds insult to injury in Gaza.

Just ahead of Obama‘s inauguration, North Korea says, “hey, don’t forget about us!” A North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman announced last weekend that, contrary to agreements made nearly two years ago, the country has no intention of disarming its nuclear weapons program and has “weaponized 30.8 kilograms of plutonium.” While some see these well-timed statements as a plea for attention, others attest that North Korea must be taken seriously by the new administration.

China has chosen to step up its military capability. Citing a forthcoming global competition for energy and food, to its worry over Tibet and Taiwan, China sees its “unity and security” increasingly threatened. Given the timing of this announcement, it is no surprise that China is calling on the United States to “improve and promote military-to-military relations.” Beijing feels that Washington has placed obstacles in its path keeping it from improving military capability and reinforcing national security, while Washington worries that China’s growing military might precipitate a new arms race.

Writing in, George Friedman lays out the future struggles Barack Obama is sure to face in office. AfghanistanRussia, and Europe share top billing.

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