New Year’s Resolutions for World Leaders

(FP) What Barack Obama, Vladimir Putin, and Hu Jintao should be promising to do in 2011 — but probably won’t. See the full article here and a few others below!

SILVIO BERLUSCONI

Resolution: Quit while you’re ahead

Why he should: Right now, the 74-year-old Berlusconi’s incredible political saga seems set to end in one of two ways. He continues to govern — fighting off legal challenges to his sovereign immunity and threats to his ruling majority — until he dies in office. Or he’s forced from office and put on trial for one of the many, many charges against him. If he’s smart, Berlusconi will work out a grand bargain with the opposition in which he agrees to step down in exchange for immunity from prosecution and lives out the rest of his days in pleasant debauchery.

Why he won’t: He doesn’t trust the judges. The judiciary is the one branch of Italian government where Berlusconi doesn’t have any friends. The moment he becomes a common citizen again, he has to expect the judicial branch to come after him, deal or no deal. Plus, Berlusconi has never expressed any remorse for the transgressions of which he has been accused and seems to view the prime minister’s office as his birthright. He won’t give it up without a fight.

DAVID CAMERON

Resolution: Ease up

Why he should: Cameron was as good as his word this year, unveiling a deep set of cuts to government services, the civil service, and the defense budget, and increasing university tuition as part of an ambitious austerity program. But the fees increase, in particular, brought young Britons out onto the streets in scenes reminiscent the late 1960s. If the government goes through with further planned cuts, he risks fracturing his fragile coalition with the Liberal Democrats and even losing support from his own party.

It’s time for Cameron to prove that his “Big Society” vision is about more than just cutting services. Perhaps one place to start is immigration. As the case of Stockholm bomber Taimour Abdulwahab al-Abdaly shows, Britain has an ongoing problem with the radicalization of Muslim immigrants. The Cameron government, not seen as touch-feely on immigration issues, could make the integration of Britain’s Muslim community a major priority.

Why he won’t: The Cameron government views deep cuts as an economic necessity, given the country’s still-high level of public debt, political consequences be damned. Plus, British votes overwhelmingly support further restrictions on immigration.

HUGO CHÁVEZ

Resolution: Be like Lula

Why he should: In the remaining hours of 2010, Chávez ought to look south, where Brazilian President Luiz Inacío Lula da Silva is stepping down with one of the highest popularity ratings on Earth. Chávez could have adopted Lula’s style of practical populism, combining generous social programs with support of trade and private industry and a foreign policy widely seen as independent, without falling back on kneejerk anti-Americanism.

Instead, Chávez has opted for old-fashioned Latin American leftism, which has left his country coping with economic distress and increasing international isolation. His once-unchallenged control on Venezuela’s legislature is now starting to slip. But it may not too late for the Bolivarian revolutionary to take a cue from his outgoing neighbor, ease up on private industry and political dissent, and let his country grow into the Latin American power it should be.

Why he won’t: Chances for political reform in Venezuela tend to rise and fall with oil prices, and those have been on an upswing lately. El presidente shows no signs of loosening up these days, having just pushed through new emergency decree powers for himself.

KIM JONG IL

Resolution: Don’t start a war

Why he should: In the past, Kim has always been able to ratchet up tensions on the Korean Peninsula right to the breaking point, offering last-minute concessions and returning to the negotiating table to keep sanctions light and foreign aid flowing. But he may have gone too far this time. After this year’s sinking of the Cheonan warship and the shelling near Yeonpyeong Island, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak is under heavy pressure to retaliate against future attacks. North Korea wisely backed off its threats near the end of December, but any future military action could mean war. If nothing else, Kim should ratchet down the rhetoric out of his own family’s self-interest.

Why he won’t: It’s succession time. Chosen successor Kim Jong-Un is relatively unknown, and is closely identified with a disastrous currency devaluation scheme last year. The need to obtain military “victories” for the future leader may lead North Korea toward further provocations.

MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD

Resolution: Be the hard-liner’s reformer

Why he should: It would be the ultimate irony if the man seen as the face of Iran’s hard-line Islamic regime became the agent of its undoing, but there have been signs lately of the president splitting from Iran’s clerical establishment. Ahmadinejad has been blasted by conservatives recently for criticizing Parliament and promoting an “Iranian” rather than “Islamic” school of thought. He has also accused other members of the government of “running to Qum [Iran’s religious capital] for every instruction.” The tensions came to a head over his recent firing of Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, who was widely supported in Parliament. Could Ahmadinejad build his conservative nationalist supporters into a movement capable of challenging Iran’s dominant theocracy?

Why he won’t: Despite growing fault lines between Ahmadinejad and the hard-line clerics and their allies in the legislature, he owes them for supporting him during last year’s election crisis and is unlikely to ever step too far out of bounds. Plus, there’s the supreme leader to worry about, and he still calls the shots.

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