The toast of the world, but not the leaders of our allies

Barack Obama’s election is, among other wonderful feats, supposed to “restore” the world’s goodwill and admiration towards the world’s only superpower. The prospects for this happy outcome depend on the meaning of “world.”

Obama is certainly the toast of the streets of places like Berlin and Vienna (see for example this particularly fatuous AP story that is featured on AOL’s page). And, as John notes below, Iran’s president Mahmoud Ahmedinejad is delighted with Obama’s election.

The leaders of key allies seem less taken with the president-elect. Thus, as John also observes, Israel’s Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, the less hard-line of the two main contenders for the job of Prime Minister, has warned against the kind of dialogue with Iran’s leaders that Obama promised during the campaign. And French President Nicolas Sarkozy has attacked Obama’s approach to Iran as “arrogant.”

I’m actually not convinced that Obama is committed to the dialogue he promised. My guess is that Obama took this position in the Democratic primary solely for the purpose of getting to Hillary Clinton’s left. When the general election rolled around, Obama sensed, or determined through polling, that voters would not be too put off by the notion of talking to Iran (what’s the harm in talking), and thus that he didn’t need to flip-flop. Now that he’s president, he can talk or not talk, without or without preconditions.

John is correct that the left will expect Obama to distance himself from President Bush on foreign policy. But I’m guessing that by pushing an aggressively left-wing domestic agenda and throwing in a few foreign policy gestures, Obama can pacify, or else neutralize, the left.

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