Foreign Policy Blogs

World Views of Obama: Part I

Senator Obama's clinching the Democratic nomination for President made headlines not only in the US, but around the world. It's fair to say that in most parts of the world the reaction is overwhelmingly positive.

But the world is a complicated place, so for the next couple of blog posts we’ll try to capture different reactions to this landmark event in American History. We’ll also look at how these reactions are shaped by each country's historical relationship with the US and the socio-cultural and political dynamics currently in play.

I’ll begin with a radio program that interviewed journalists in France, the Middle East, Israel, Russia, Israel, Kenya and Venezuela about the reaction of those nations’ publics to news of Obama's primary campaign victory.

A former US Bureau chief for the French news-daily Le Monde  tells the host that newsthat Obama garners support from across the political aisles. All look forward to seeing the change Obama promises realized.

But the French correspondent notes that most of all the French look forward to a break from the “horrible Bush times.” It is worthkeeping in mind, as the outpouring of enthusiasm for Obama comes in from abroad, that global publics could be more favorable to Obama simply because he represents a change from the current American establishment, and not because of his inherent qualities.

But there is of course, much more to it. For example, the next guest, a professor of Middle East affairs who just returned from a trip to the Middle East spoke of hoe publics in the Middle East also share the hope that Obama will chart a new course for American policy. But he emphasized that this hope is trumped by fear and suspicion that Obama will not be able to enact this change, in the face of the “traditional political mechanisms” within the American political system.

Interestingly, the professor explained that in the Middle East the US is not seen as a foreign power, rather a “regional, Middle Eastern power,” and that what happens in the American political system often has a direct effect on their livelihood.

He went on to comment that Obama is Bin Laden's “worst nightmare.” He cannot say the same thing about Obama that he does about Bush–leader of an empire, tyrant, etc. He said that the symbol of Barack Hussein Obama, even though he is a Christian, will resonate strongly with the Islamic world, and will enable him to begin the “healing” that needs to happen between the US and that part of the world.

On the alternative candidate, the professor explained that Republican presumptive nominee John McCain is seen as an “extension” of the Bush administration, and a “hawk” who would likely escalate the violence taking place in the Middle East.  

The most heart-warming story of the program was the Christian Science Monitor reporter based in Kenya who told of the reaction of Senator Omaba's “Granny” in his family's home town in the West of the country. Granny watched her grandson clinch the victory on a solar powered television, the only one in the village.

He also made an interesting observation about how Obama's victory comes as a breath of fresh air to the wider African continent. According to the journalist, the rise of a new face with powerful agenda for a change in policy is certainly the exception to the rule, in a continent where cronyism and tribal ties tend to dominate the political scene.

Very interesting stuff. I’ll let you all listen to the program in its entiretly.



Melinda Brouwer

Melinda Brower holds a Masters degree in Global Politics from the London School of Economics and Political Science. She received her bachelor's degree in Political Science and Spanish at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She received a graduate diploma in International Relations from the University of Chile during her tenure as a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar. She has worked on Capitol Hill, at the State Department, for Foreign Policy magazine and the American Academy of Diplomacy. She presently works for an internationally focused non-profit research organization in Washington, DC.