When this ‘skinny kid with a funny name’, as he likes to describe himself, became the first African-American President of the United State amidst worldwide euphoria, it was clear that he had an enormous weight of expectation on his shoulders, which could make it difficult for him to perform as well as the world expected him to or as well as he would himself want to. It is possible for Barack Obama to disappoint loads of people across the globe simply because the expectations of Obama are somewhere between unrealistic and fantastical. He is the President of the United States and not the President of the World. So, he can be expected to push the interest of the US first and foremost, as he should, but cannot be expected to keep the world happy.
By virtue of the very nature of his job as President of the most powerful nation in the world, he can well be expected to ruffle some feathers in the international arena. But Obama would do as little of that ruffling as possible because he knows, as we all do, from the American experience that offensive actions come back to haunt in near or distant future.
However, he does have a few things going – in fact a little more than few things – going for him. One of them is his predecessor. Bush would help Obama in the job because he messed things up so badly that any improvement at all would shine like gold. And Obama knows how not to mess things. He is more of consensus-builder than a confrontationist. He believes in dialogue and peaceful negotiations, which takes care of the Middle East problem because the US has already shown the kind of havoc it could wreak and it’s time for a softer, reconciliatory approach with the memories of violence working in the background. He does not see the problem as an ‘axis of evil’ issue or as ‘clash of civilizations’, which is, again, a reasonable view of things. And the Middle East is likely to respond to a reasonable stand better than it responded to Bush’s arm-twisting. Not that the issues would be sorted out overnight, but a significant breakthrough is likely.
The other major challenge that the US faces is the current economic meltdown, and what Obama is doing is the best possible course in the current situation. That’s the best a government could do to help retard and reverse the slowdown.
So, Obama just has to stay the course and be himself, and will have already bettered the situation a great deal because any departure from Bush’s dangerously preposterous worldview is a mighty relief.
Originally published on my WordPress Blog on May 8, 2009