Obama ardor cools abroad amid crises

Barack Obama got a global standing ovation long before he was elected president. But in a fickle and fast-moving world, the overseas reviews are already turning mixed.

Though much of the world will party through the night Tuesday after Obama is sworn in as America's 44th president — just as it did when he was elected — there are signs the ardor is cooling as the sheer weight of his challenges sinks in.

A deepening global recession, new hostilities in the Middle East, complications in closing the Guantanamo Bay prison, Iran, North Korea, Afghanistan — an impatient world has a stake in all of them and is asking how much change Obama can deliver.

"Just two months ago, the future president seemed a cross between Superman and Merlin the magician," Massimo Gramellini wrote in a commentary for Italy's La Stampa newspaper. "Now he himself admits he won't be able to keep all his promises."

"The idealism has diminished," said Samuel Solvit, who heads an Obama support network in France. "Everyone was dreaming a little. Now people are more realistic."

Muslims want to know why Obama hasn't joined the chorus of international criticism of Israel's Gaza offensive. Last week posters of him were set on fire in Tehran to shouts of "Death to Obama!"

Obama has expressed concern about Gaza, but says he's reluctant to say much more until his inauguration.

Meanwhile, the global economic collapse is already closing in on him. Around the world, leaders and their publics are waiting to see what he does to calm roiled markets and restore confidence.

Even items on Obama's agenda that initially seemed straightforward are turning out to be fraught with complications, such as closing Guantanamo in eastern Cuba. Obama has hinted that it may be his first executive order — but experts say it could take a year to accomplish.

Mexico has tempered its expectations that Obama will bring "transformational change" to the economy or quickly tackle immigration reform. As Agustin Carstens, Mexico's treasury secretary, put it: "At the end of the day, we have to be realistic."

Obama ardor cools abroad amid crises 01/18/09 [Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2011 4:47pm]

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