Immersed in the drama of a hotly contested election, most Americans may not have noted that a large part of the world was watching… and hoping.
The almost universal chorus of welcome to President-elect Obama reflected regard, almost relief going far beyond the needs of overseas civility. It is no secret that Bush unilateralist policies have been widely unpopular abroad. But, to that must be added a warm note about Obama himself.
This was evident in the vast crowd that greeted the American candidate in Berlin. And an opinion poll in France in September reported 80 percent of French people saying they would vote for Obama if they had the chance.
The European Union is already discussing plans to invite the new president to a summit in April. European officials speak of "a new deal for a new world." Agreements on greenhouse gasses and trade are already in an agenda that will undoubtedly feature coordinated regulatory action to deal with the financial crisis.
Obviously the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will be waiting on the doorstep with Obama enters the White House… and even before. New authority for stationing American troops in Iraq and a new strategic plan for Afghanistan may have to be dealt with in transitional agreements between the outgoing and incoming administration.
Africa, with violence in Darfur and the Congo, will undoubtedly command the attention of the new president. It was noteworthy that Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki, in congratulation the President-elect, made reference to Obama's Kenyan forebearers, and said that this election was an inspiration to millions the world over – with a "special resonance for Kenya."
Seldom has a new president taken office with such a wide-open mandate to repair America's alliances and friendships.