Analysis: In Davos, world seeks U.S. engagement

Sun Jan 27, 2013 3:56pm EST
 

By Paul Taylor

DAVOS, Switzerland (Reuters) - As President Barack Obama starts his second term, the world's business and political elite pines for greater American engagement to tackle a thicket of security challenges.

From Syria to Mali, from Iran to the South China Sea, the United States' reluctance to be drawn into conflicts far from its shores was a leitmotiv of geopolitical debate at this year's World Economic Forum in Davos.

The absence of top Obama administration officials from the annual brainstorming and networking event in the Swiss mountains symbolized to some a perceived pullback from global leadership, even though it was Inauguration Week in Washington.

Leaders of Russia, Germany, Britain, Italy, South Africa, Jordan and many other nations made the journey.

U.S. bankers, business leaders and academics were out in force, but the most senior U.S. government officials were a Treasury undersecretary, an assistant secretary of state and the outgoing U.S. Trade Representative.

Delegates debated whether and when China would overtake America as the number one economy and global power -- estimates ranging from the early 2020s to never -- and what troubles were brewing while Washington remains in hands-off mode.

The ground rules of many Davos panels preclude identifying the speakers. One minister, shielded by that anonymity, lamented the dangers of "a world without American leadership".

Without U.S. involvement, one session was told, Syria would become a "Somalia on the Mediterranean", with Middle East states waging a proxy war via sectarian factions, some of which would export militant violence to the neighbors and to Europe.   Continued...

 
A delegate is silhouetted as she passes by a sign for the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos January 26, 2013. REUTERS/Pascal Lauener (SWITZERLAND - Tags: POLITICS BUSINESS)