It will come as no surprise that Barack Obama’s emphatic victory has been warmly greeted in the United Kingdom and across Europe. Newspapers are covered with proclamations of a history-changing moment for the United States.
The record turnout, particularly among groups that previously felt they belonged only on the margins of society, is surely something to be impressed by — and a trend all Western parties will hope to learn from. The so-called “Bradley effect” never materialized. And there stands a good chance that race may now be laid to rest as an issue of division in American society. For European countries struggling with issues of immigration, integration and assimilation, there is clearly something to learn from America.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown called President-elect Obama “a true friend” of the United Kingdom, highlighting his faith in the endurance of the Anglo-American “special relationship.” There is talk across Europe about the possibility of an American-endorsed Kyoto II protocol. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon spoke excitedly about “an era of renewed partnership and a new multilateralism.”
Obama has as much expectation on his shoulders internationally, as he does domestically. And he has an agenda full of thorny and difficult issues to confront in both the short and long term: a financial crisis, an unstable Afghanistan and a resurgent Russia to name but a few.
The goodwill, legitimacy and credibility of Obama’s election win endows him with a mandate on the international stage. His advisers would do well to tell him this may not last forever. If he does intend to petition Europe for increased manpower commitments in Afghanistan, he should do it sooner rather than later.