WHEN BARACK Obama steps into the Oval Office for the first time .as president, he will be in the unique position of having earned the support not just of Americans who chose him in a historic and dramatic election but of millions around the world who would have voted for him if they could have. It has been widely observed that on November 4 the United States held the first-ever world election and Obama was the clear winner.
No other American president in memory will have started in office with such broad public support overseas. His international star power will help to recover some of America's credibility and trust lost during the past decade due to Iraq, Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib. And, it will allow Obama and his team to more easily negotiate the treacherous foreign-policy waters ahead in their first months in office.
Obama will surely need that capital. Obama mania is so fervent in many parts of the world that expectations for what he might do to transform America's international standing are absurdly high and, in some countries, wildly distorted. German Social Democrats will undoubtedly be disappointed that Obama does not recreate in the United States their version of the welfare state. Arabs and Pakistanis will find that an Obama administration continues to exercise power diplomacy in their regions. Hugo Chávez will undoubtedly discover that a summit in Caracas is not the first step Obama will take in our own hemisphere.