Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., speaks during a town hall meeting at Troy High School in Troy, Mich., Monday, June 2, 2008. Since seizing the Democratic nomination, Obama has generated waves of anticipation for those that look to him to lead on a variety of global crises. But that anticipation could lead to disappointment, too. (AP photo/Chris Carlson)
LONDON — Here’s all Barack Obama has to do to meet the world’s expectations if he’s elected U.S. president:
End an unpopular war in Iraq, heal misery in nations hit by the global food crisis and stop global warming, in addition to building bridges to Muslim countries and reversing the unilateralist approach of the Bush administration.
The euphoria that has swept much of the world at the sight of a young and idealistic black politician seizing the Democratic nomination has generated waves of anticipation.
Yet Obama, precisely because of his lofty yet undefined message of hope and renewal, can be all things for all people — a blank canvas on which to project the world’s longings.
And in that sense, if he is elected, he may very well be forced to disappoint millions around the world, especially if he takes over a nation caught in an economic slowdown and intractable wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq.
Disillusionment could come on several fronts.
Many in developing nations who are drawn to Obama’s charisma and concern for the underprivileged might be surprised to learn he publicly espouses protectionist policies that could dampen their struggle to conquer poverty.
He has campaigned on a pledge to pull troops out of Iraq, a popular stance in much of the world. But a sober assessment of the security risks of an early pullout could lead a President Obama to reconsider.
“There is the almost unrealistic hope that Obama will bring change, that anything will be better than Bush,” said Robert McGeehan, an associate fellow at Chatham House in London who researches anti-Americanism.
He said few people who are embracing Obama have actually studied his proposals, but like him because he represents an end to the Bush era.
“Obama’s been given a very easy time of it, but now it will become much more difficult,” said the scholar, who has been supportive of Bush administration policies.
Already, some of Obama’s positions have met with resistance in key hot spots on America’s foreign policy agenda.
In the Middle East, Israelis are suspicious of his suggestion that he might reach out to Iranian leaders. Many lament the defeat of Hillary Rodham Clinton, whom they see as a more loyal friend of the Jewish state.
Some Arab leaders in surrounding countries are jittery over Obama’s promise to curtail the U.S. military presence in Iraq because of fears that an outbreak of civil war could quickly spread beyond its borders.
And Pakistanis are upset that Obama’s desire to make peace in Iraq has been counterbalanced by a pledge to step up military activity in Pakistan if necessary — even to the extent of acting alone on information about terrorist targets within the country’s borders.(p2)