Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Dangerously Heightened Expectations

With the election of Barack Obama, a international outpouring of support has increased the already immense pressure on the 44th President-Elect. Congratulations have come from the most unexpected places, including the President of Iran (who now feels spurned by the Obama camp's tepid response). Different groups around the world are placing expectations and ideas at the feet of Obama hoping that he will become involved and help solve problems. On one hand, this invitation to multilateralism is breathtaking. It is amazing to see that even the international community believes that America can and will be better under the leadership of Obama. However, together with the expectations domestically, it is hard to imagine how Obama can make all groups happy within the grace period of his early campaign. Obama stands on the cusp of being the most important president in America's history. The possibility of making the U.S. more accountable and multilateral is a dream that many have hoped for for decades, particularly during some of the recent dark years America has faced. People around the world have placed their hopes and dreams on his administration and it is difficult to imagine how it can meet expectations. 

A recent article by one of my favorite journalists, Ahmed Rashid, author of the recent book Descent into Chaos (which focuses on the war on terror in South Asia, primarily Afghanistan and Pakistan), sheds light on some of the massive expectations Obama faces. Reading through the article I was struck by just how much different factions in different conflicts are focusing on every word Obama says, in hopes of identifying what his presidential and international priorities will be. Particularly interesting was the quote by an unnamed European foreign minister that European countries will be unable to refuse anything Obama asks for in the first six months of his administration. There is such a massive amount of power in that statement. I cannot imagine any president in recent times being charged with such a great and also dangerous burden.

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