US presidential elections always have an element of Hollywood about them. In 2008 Barack Obama’s victory followed a timeless script – the charismatic outsider trounces the establishment to win the big prize. As Richard Wolffe writes on page 8, this year’s campaign is a revenge drama. Obama is borrowing the script which a wounded George W. Bush used to defeat his challenger, John Kerry, in 2004. The plan was simple: destroy the challenger’s character before he can dust himself down from the primary battle, then spare no e ort to get your core supporters out to vote.
With an estimated billion dollars being spent on campaigning, the dominant tone has been set by attack ads. As we move into the TV debate season, policy will come to the fore. On page 14, John Bolton says the US needs to return to Ronald Reagan’s policy of ‘peace through strength’. For the Obama campaign, Charles Kupchan and Bruce Jentleson argue that today’s dynamic landscape needs ‘principled pragmatism’.
The European Union meanwhile has won a breathing space to plan its future. But, as Robin Niblett writes on page 6, Britain is letting its relationship with Europe enter a period of drift. If it fails to engage with Europe now, Britain could one day find itself outside the EU.
Christopher Phillips (page 34) hears stories of some of Syria’s 200,000 refugees and highlights the threat they pose to stability in Jordan and Turkey.
It’s good to remember that public policy is not the only thing that makes the world go round. Our interview (page 50) with Haifaa Al Mansour, Saudi Arabia’s first female film director, shows that change can come in the Middle East without guns and blood, and with a smile.