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By The Skanner News | The Skanner News
Published: 04 June 2008

LONDON (AP) -- 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 reverse 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 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.
Still, for millions around the world, the fact that a Black man has a strong chance to capture the White House is an inspiration that appears to outweigh concerns over policy matters.
In New Zealand, where indigenous people were robbed of land under British colonial rule, four lawmakers from the Maori Party called Obama's nomination victory "one small step for America, one giant leap for people of color the world over."
Perhaps most of all, people see his victory as a sign of a fundamental shift in race relations in the United States _ one that might grow into a global movement for healing racial and cultural divisions.
"I think that the fact that today, whites can choose a Black as a candidate, it is a revolution in the mentalities of the United States," said Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade.
In countries that suffered for centuries under the domination of Western powers _ and are re-emerging as world players _ Obama's message of "Yes we can!" strikes a particularly powerful chord.
"For the common man, in India, the fact that he's a person of color, he represents the equivalent of the underdog," said C. Uday Bhaskar, a New Delhi-based analyst with the Institute for Defense Studies. "I think Indians will connect with the underdog."
"He's not the red-necked white man that invokes the deepest kind of colonial anxiety in India," Bhaskar said.
Some analysts said Obama's multicultural background and vision of engaging the world on the key issues of the day would help repair America's tattered world image.
"I do think Obama embodies the sort of change that would go the fastest and quickest toward changing the United States' reputation abroad," said Tomas Valasek, director of foreign policy and defense at the Center for European Reform in London.
"It's because of his personal success story ... it's because of his optimism ... it's also because of his willingness to try different approaches to Iran, nuclear disarmament and so forth," Valasek said.
The bumpy transition from being an inspirational icon to a flesh-and-blood prospective leader taking real stances on difficult issues is beginning to create complications.
For example, Obama's initial comments embracing Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel -- made this week in a speech before an influential Jewish lobbying group in Washington -- has alienated Palestinians looking for an American leader to pressure Israel into key concessions.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said he "rejected" Obama's comments.
There was a similar reaction in Indonesia, where Obama spent four years as a child in elementary school. His statement this week that he would be "a true friend of Israel" dampened enthusiasm in the predominantly Muslim country, where the Palestinian cause enjoys wide support.
Maria Soraya, a business owner in Jakarta, said Obama's statement is "proof" that there can never be peace in the Middle East.
"America can't be trusted," she said. "They hate Islam. They don't want to see Islam advance, they would hate it. They can't be trusted, whoever their president is."
But Obama's race has also sparked hope in Palestinian territories.
"Obama came from the Black community, the community that has a long history of suffering in the U.S. Of course he would feel sympathy with those who suffered the same, like Palestinians," said Fayez Abu Zeid, a 54-year-old baker in Jenin on the West Bank.
"In all aspects, Obama is much better for our part of this world. He is similar to us."
There is still much skepticism in the Middle East and elsewhere about the possibility of an Obama victory because of deeply held beliefs about American racism.
"Obama will not be accepted by the majority of the American people because he is Black," said Sateh Noureddine, managing editor of the Lebanese newspaper As-Safir. "Also, neither U.S. traditions nor the political balance of power will allow this to happen."
There is a tendency in some places to discount Obama's campaign statements and assume that if he is elected he will largely embrace mainstream American economic and foreign policy as practiced in the last few decades.
Sheng Dingli, director of the Center for American Studies at Fudan University in China, said that Obama's criticism of China, for example, will likely fade if he is elected president.
"He's harsh toward China on both human rights and trade issues," Sheng said.
"But he will change, just like George Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. They were all harsh toward China during the campaign but softened after the election. Their job is to protect America's interests, and they know trade with China benefits America."

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