The election is finally over and now it's time to think about how the U.S. is going to interact with the world under an Obama administration. Considering that I am an International Relations scholar first and foremost (and hackish political pundit only in my spare time) I am going to spend the next few posts analyzing how I think Obama's administration is going to deal with the various foreign policy challenges that are coming down the pike in the next few years, with an emphasis on diplomatic issues. Diplomacy is a pretty nebulous concept, so I will be hoping to unpack it to help make sense of what is going on in various regions.
At the most basic level, it seems people in general have high hopes for Obama. The world clearly wanted him to win in a big way prior to the election. Take a look at this very pretty interactive Gallup poll that Foreign Policy Magazine had on their website in the run-up to the elections; I'll be referring to it in subsequent posts. The numbers are pretty striking. If the world had a candidate it supported, it was generally Obama, and then overwhelmingly so. McCain only had more support in Georgia, the Philippines, and Cambodia (Laos is within what I imagine was the polls margin of error - usually +/-3%).
But look carefully at the map. Certainly, the West was heavily invested in this election and very pro-Obama. Middle-Eastern countries and China - i.e. the tricky areas - tended to not have an opinion on who should win, or if they did, said they didn't think it would make a difference. This is a bit of cold water in the face of people who think the whole world is as happy with Obama's win as the people who are reading this blog might be(all three of them).
This evidence is further supported by the interactive map at Pew, which is even more fun. While McCain was truly despised the world over, there is not a huge amount of support for Obama in geo-strategically significant areas outside of the West.
The Obama administration is not going to get it easy at the start in other words. In fact, there is a chance that they may be tested early on. But, based on the policy direction that Obama outlined during his campaign, as well as his response to issues such as the Georgia-Russia war(?) in August, I think he is going to help the U.S. adjust to a changing world, bring allies closer together, and calmly but firmly put challengers back in their boxes.
So consider this the prologue to a number of discussions/predictions on what an Obama administration might do in the world. I will have separate posts on the Middle-East & Iraq, China, U.S. allies/Europe/NATO, Afghanistan and the Global War on Terror (though I just found out yesterday that it is no longer called that), and maybe even Climate Change (I haven't decided yet).
But to start with in the next post, I will go with everyone's favorite new Hollywood-esque threat: Putin's..er Medvedev's Russia.