The Financial Times has just published an interesting article by Michael Fullilove, director of the global issues programme at the Lowy Institute in Sydney and a visiting fellow in foreign policy at the Brookings Institution, comparing Obama's future presidency to cricket. After all, as the author points out:
"To succeed in cricket, you need to understand the different approaches of the various cricketing nations.... [T]he cricketing world contains multitudes: an emerging great power, India; awkward powers such as Pakistan and rogue regimes such as Zimbabwe; fading imperial powers like the UK and regional metropoles such as South Africa. Rich countries such as Australia play cricket but so do poor countries such as Bangladesh. It is even played in Kenya, Mr Obama’s ancestral homeland. The International Cricket Council is located in the cockpit of geopolitics, the Persian Gulf."
For those to whom the rules of that noble game are still arcane (including me, despite many attempts to decipher them), here are the basics, according to Mr. Fullilove:
The first lesson derives from the fact that, like foreign policy, cricket is played outside the US. It is followed by perhaps one or two billion people. Unlike baseball’s World Series, cricket’s World Cup actually involves the world.... Mr Obama needs to be deaf to the siren songs of protectionism and isolationism and alert to the voices (both the cheers and the jeers) of the world.
[A]s Americans often complain, cricket is a long game. A Test match often takes five days – and ends in a draw. Things are opaque in cricket, as in life: sometimes a draw can be a win. Cricket requires patience and discipline, which are not virtues we normally associate with the US. They were, however, on display during Mr Obama’s impressive campaign and they are exactly the qualities his administration will need in order to prevail in the war in Afghanistan.
[I]n the game of cricket, the condition of the pitch is critical. The ball usually bounces before it reaches the batsman, which introduces extra unpredictability into the contest. The ball does not just swing in the air, it turns off the seam. It can come at your head, not just your chest. In foreign policy, too, the decision-making environment is fast and fluid. It is difficult to see the choices before you, let alone make the right ones.
[I]n foreign policy as in cricket, you cannot win a match with a single swing, regardless of the beauty of your cover drive.
[T]he captain’s role is crucial. He sets the strategy and places the field. But he has to work through his players: he cannot deliver every ball and score every run. The captain is not the decider: he is first among equals. So it is with foreign policy, too. America’s allies and partners are tired of American unilateralism – but they are ready for American leadership.
[T]oughness has its place. Very few cricket matches are won through sweet reason alone. It is commendable that Mr Obama has cast aside Mr Bush’s prejudice against talking to America’s adversaries, but he needs to ensure those adversaries do not mistake his reasonableness for weakness. On the other hand, assertiveness comes in different forms – spin bowling as well as pace, forceful diplomacy as well as force.
- Finally, the primacy of no cricket team is assured forever. Australia has dominated international cricket for the past decade through its brilliance, aggression and athleticism – but that period may now be coming to an end. The commonly heard claims of America’s decline are surely premature, yet nothing should be taken for granted. Much depends on the calibre of the new management in Washington.
Hat-tip (once again) to England for Obama