If you were Obama, what would you do first?

Image: Brian Ambrozy on Flickr.

From Kenya to Cuba, many of our Observers are watching Barack Obama's plentiful inauguration festivities today. We asked some of them what they'd do first as president. 

And you, what would you do?

Cuba: "If I were Obama I'd sit down at a table to dialogue with a new generation of Cuban politicians"

Yoani Sanchez runs the controversial Generacion Y blog from Havana. She was voted one of Time's 100 Most Influential People in 2008.

If I were Obama I'd sit down at a table to dialogue with a new generation of Cuban politicians, or at least sit down with the old ones until the young ones take over. One thing I'd start with - and something he's able to do by himself - is to eliminate the law against North Americans travelling to Cuba. Finishing the embargo will take longer and many discussions.

We have to discuss new migration treaties. For example, attempted immigrants to the US who are caught in the ocean are returned to Cuba, while those who manage to make it to land are accepted as immigrants. It's very controversial and called 'the law of dry feet'. It's luck that decides, not justice. That has to change.

It seems positive to me that Obama can help to eliminate the type of confrontation and antagonism which has served the Cuban government so well for 50 years, in particular to silence critics from within. On another front: in the country that Cuba sees as its arch-enemy, a black man has risen to the presidency, and years before such a thing could happen in Cuba. Given how much the Cuban government has always criticised the US for its race relations, it will lose more credibility with its people."

Israel: "I would very much like to lead a US-European front against Iran"

Amatzia Baram is professor of Middle Eastern history at the University of Haifa.

If I were Obama, I'd firstly realise that the Iranians are just leading me on with 'negotiations'; playing for time in which to become a nuclear power. I could then, and would very much like to, lead a US-European front against Iran - in terms of very severe economic sanctions.

I'd also like to advance on a Syria - Israel peace agreement. And help too with a written agreement on Gaza and the Palestinian Authority. I'd join the Europeans in helping to rebuild Gaza through the Palestinian Authority rather than Hamas. If there's a new election in Gaza, Obama should ensure that Hamas is not allowed to run at all."

China: "If I were Obama I'd give China the confidence to change"

Zhang works for an environmental NGO in Chongqing. She prefers to remain anonymous.

If I were Obama I'd give China the confidence to change. I would help China to supervise food safety. I would keep a watchful eye on human rights in China, and instead of just accusing the authorities of a human rights disaster, I'd offer concrete examples of ways to change. I'd insist on using new strategies for energy issues and the possibility of bringing greener technology from America. I would encourage increased cultural exchanges between the two countries. There should be more chances for people to get to know each other. However, the Chinese government will not be happy to have the Obama administration dabbling in their affairs. Sadly, I don't think things are going to get much better between the US and Chinese governments."

Kenya: "If I were in Obama's place I would stop the American support for soft dictators across Africa"

Daudi Were is an entrepreneur and youth worker from Nairobi.

If I were in Obama's place I would stop the American support for soft dictators across Africa. These guys who have 'elections', like [Hosni] Mubarak in Egypt, Meles [Zenawi, PM] in Ethiopia, and then the African monarchs in places like Morocco and Tunisia - the list is endless.

I'd also like a bit more transparency with the nature between the US and Kenyan militaries - exactly what they're doing and who's paying for it. It would be good too if he came to visit. Clinton and Bush avoided Kenya on their trips to Africa. But it would be hard for this guy to!"

Iran: "I would avert war"

Ali is a student from Tehran. He prefers to remain anonymous.

As Obama I would avert war between Israel and Iran or the US and Iran, and I trust Obama as president to have that effect. I would also try to talk to the Iranian government - and I think he will - but sadly, the Iranians certainly do not want to talk to him. It's part of their ideology - they go against the American vision completely. I don't really believe there will be any negotiations between Obama and Ahmadinejad in the near future. I don't think Obama will have any effect on civil liberties inside the country either. In any case, he has too many challenges inside America to handle first. But one thing I do hope is that he does his best to prevent another catastrophe like Gaza happening."

Venezuela: "I would set up dialogue with Chavez"

Juliana Boersner is a social psychology professor and blogger from Caracas.

I would set up dialogue with [Venezuelan President Hugo] Chavez. There are more things that join them than separate them. I would like to see tensions lowered, accords made. I would like it to be a relationship of mutual respect. This wouldn't be about money. It would be about setting up better economic, technological and educational agreements, different from what there has been traditionally.

Also, the image I think Obama has of Latin America, from statements he made last year, comes from a very traditional perception that the United States has of Latin America, so if I were him I'd make an effort to become aware of all the countries in Latin America. Traditionally certain countries have always been privileged by the US: countries like Mexico, Brazil, perhaps Argentina. But Latin America is more unified now than it used to be; for example, he should take note of Mercosur, a free-trade alliance of many of the Latin American nations."



Get rid of the garbagge broadcast media ,which pollute the minds of the masses,the broadcast media thrives on ignorance,ignorance is the commodity thats sells and makes money,and its broadcast media are its messengers.

Be straight up with Mugabe

I would tell Mugabe to step down also give a stern warning to those so called brotherhood fellows of Mugabe, especially Mbeki that we know he has personal interest in Zimbabwe and his investments dont mean nothing compared to the cry of Zimbabwean people.Ask Mbeki how does he sleep when man and woman who freely express their freedom are butched and he shields Mugabe.He should stop that nonsense to be honest i will stop all foreign aid that goes into the region until they deal with Mugabe because they are the ones who are supporting him just because some of them got shelter during times of conflict during their struggles does not mean any thing comparing to the millions of Zimbabweans who are living in fear.

If I were Obama, there are

If I were Obama, there are two things that I will most certainly do once in the office. First, I'll do whatever it takes to save the U.S from the stifling economical crisis that its going through. Second, I'll do my best fix the choas that Bush's sick policies created in the Middle East and try to cool things down instead of waging new wars. I'll start talks with Syria & Iran, withdraw from Iraq, and pay a special and fair attention to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict that Bush's administration made only worst.

If I were Obama, I would heal the economy first

I know the phrase "heal the economy" sounds cheesy and is more profound than what I can cover in this post, but Obama's catapult to the National renown was nothing more than his concern about a falling US economy, dragging with it down teh world economy. Let's remember his edge over tough opponent McCain was shaped by the fact that the latter supported the war Bush waged, the same war sucked the funds to exhaustion; while the former (Obama) wanted to concentrate on the economy at home.

So, instead of starting abroad, Obama should focus at home first. So, I were him I would want to be remembered as the guy who brought the economy back on the line because focus on foreign policy!!

Economy, economy, . . .and economy again would be my top priority.

I wouldn't bother sending even more troops to Afghanistan...

Well one thing's for sure; our president, Karzai, is not friends with Obama. After his trip to New York, when he quarrelled with Joe Biden, who told him he was on his way out [not confirmed, but rumoured], Karzai came back in a hopeless state, demanding that all foreigners must leave Afghanistan – meaning the US occupation I guess. The election here is in two months and now that relations have gone bad with the US Karzai is demanding four to five months more in office – which is simply unconstitutional and dictatorial! So Obama is going to have a tough time handling him and the rest of the corrupt government, and fighting the Taliban at the same time. He won't be able to just withdraw the US troops, but sending more is not helping either. Of course there will be more war. The situation here is so dire, something has to be done. You ask people what they think of Obama here, and they'll say 'who is Obama?' They can't even turn on their televisions…"

I'd visit China!

I'd visit China and meet my half borther there! That will certainly be something great for the friendship between the 2 countries! In China we talk a lot about President Obama's half brother Mark Ndesandjo, who has been living in Shenzhen,China since 2002. Chinese people call Mark China's son in law, as his wife is a native Chinese woman( from HenanProvince). Mark has been actively involved in charity in China, plus given the good image of Obama, we're quite expecting the new administration.

I'd sit down with Mugabe

I'm not sure I want someone interfering in the politics of the country but If I were Obama I'd like to play a role, and I think there's a real possibility that he might sit down with Mugabe. I think they'd appreciate each other's intellectual capacity. And although Obama probably can't change Mugabe's mind, and I doubt it would achieve anything tangible, it would still give hope to the people. Zimbabwe's been sidelined every time any world leaders come to visit Africa, because of our politics. It would be amazing to see someone come, and I do think Obama could be that person.

Mugabe should be drilled some sense into his skull

I agree with Reyhana sit down with Mugabe knock some sense in his thick skull.Dude is so arogant, Africa should learn from the America and this culture of blame the West, West this, West that, it has to come to an end.These old horses should pave way for the new generation and let new ideas flow into the system and they should know its not about them its about us, the people we need to know what the government can do to lead the nation preparing a sound and concrete foundation for the future generation.


It is no use negotiating with Mugabe, to be honest his excellency should not even bother with him. Mugabe will use that as an excuse to pepetrate his propaganda.
The truth is time is against mugabe 's regime and henchmen who have been supporting his tenure.
It is a great shame and a continental embarrassment, that he can utter such absurd slogans and Zimbabwean dance to them.

I'd sit down with Mugabe

that wont work, force would do it