Barack Obama a Year Later: The World View

Today, the excitement following Obama's election has calmed down, but the French remain somewhat indulgent toward Obama. They think that after a year in office it still is too early to judge the American president.

"We're expecting a lot from Obama," Christian Malard, senior foreign analyst for France 3 TV, told "But we can't judge him by saying he has not done anything. It's only been one year. We must give him time.

"We placed too much hope in this man," Malard added. "We made him a sort-of savior who was going to resolve all the problems of the U.S. and the rest of the world. And it's not that easy."

French opinion toward the U.S. has changed dramatically over the last year. Recent French polls show that 3/4 of those asked had a turnaround opinion of America in the last 12 months.

"Relations between the two countries are excellent," Malard said. "It's true that we're dealing with two different men, the pro-American Sarkozy, who would like to have privileged relations with Obama, and Obama, who wants to establish with all his European partners the same kind of equal relations. But both countries are in tune, in general, on all issues."


Italian commentary on Obama's first year in office is mostly an assessment of how he has done in the eyes of Americans, rather than Italians. It is clear that Obama's popularity at home has fallen, though many Italians still believe his accomplishments have been significant.

"At home, he avoided a financial apocalypse, but thwarted catastrophes aren't easy to communicate, they yield little in political terms," said an editorial in Italy's prestigious daily Il Corriere della Sera, which devoted four pages to the anniversary of Barack Obama's election.

"Instead of being relieved, America is demoralized by record unemployment and frightened by the explosion of public debt," continued the unsigned editorial. "[Obama] has restored the image of the United States in the world as a constructive and responsible power that looks for dialogue with all, including its enemies, and which respects human rights, but here, too, the recognition has come more from abroad than from American public opinion."

Maurizio Molinari, U.S. correspondent for the daily La Stampa, sees Obama at a crossroads, with U.S. public opinion about him hanging in a balance. The issues that will decide which way the scales will fall include health reform, the economy, and the climate and energy at home.

Overseas, the watersheds are Afghanistan, Iran's nuclear capability, and, at a crucial moment for Obama, the humanitarian crisis in Haiti.

Obama wants to show the international community that the U.S. can use its "imposing military arsenal for pacific purposes and to alleviate suffering," and at the same time prove to Americans that "this administration will not repeat the mistakes made by George W. Bush," when the aid for victims of hurricane Katrina arrived late and badly.

But "there are many perils lurking" in this, he wrote, including the tension with other countries committed to providing aid. In Haiti, wrote Molinari, "Obama cannot afford to make mistakes."

The Middle East

A year into his presidency, the initial support for President Obama in the Middle East has evaporated just as his efforts to kick-start a meaningful peace process have floundered.

Arabs are disappointed that the fine words of Obama's famous Cairo speech have not been followed up by action.

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