The World Wants... Lincoln

Delving back into history a little, Barack Obama will not be the first President from Illinois to receive international moral support. In 1862 textile workers from Manchester, England, who were suffering economic hardship as a result of the Union blockade on Confederacy ports (from where they sourced cotton), wrote to Abraham Lincoln to nevertheless express their support for him because "the vast progress which you have made in the short space of twenty months fills us with hope that every stain on your freedom will shortly be removed, and that the erasure of that foul blot on civilisation and Christianity - chattel slavery - during your presidency, will cause the name of Abraham Lincoln to be honoured and revered by posterity. We are certain that such a glorious consummation will cement Great Britain and the United States in close and enduring regards." Lincoln wrote back saying that their self-sacrificial support was: "an energetic and re-inspiring assurance of... the ultimate and universal triumph of justice, humanity and freedom."

Obamania in the "arc of instability"

Refering to the "arc of instability from the Mediterranean to Islamabad", veteran British columnist Simon Jenkins, on a visit to Lebanon, writes: "At last this exhausted region is energised - by its old foe. From the Mediterranean to Islamabad, people battered for a decade by dreadful US policies are in the grip of Obamania." He observes: "Any traveller to these parts at present is overwhelmed by Obamania. From the dinner tables of Lahore to the lecture halls of Beirut's American University, the president-elect carries an astonishing burden of expectation. To a people for whom George W Bush became synonymous with mindless anti-Americanism, Obama's race, name, moderation and lack of bombast have risen like a messiah from another land." Jenkins thinks that their "hopes are unreal", including expectations that "Obama will back the Saudi plan for the Middle East and push Israel to the negotiating table. He will end the occupation of Iraq. He will calm relations with Iran and recognise that US aggression has aided only extremism. He will unleash his general, David Petraeus, to negotiate with the Taliban. He will stop bombing Pakistan villages and recruiting thousands to al-Qaida. Obama will aid Pakistan's secular schools, not its army." Jenkins is doubtful that these expectations will be met but nonetheless "Obama's store of goodwill must be unprecedented for a US leader in modern times. Were he to visit Cairo or Beirut or even Tehran, he would be greeted as a custodian of promise. An area battered by dreadful US policies for a decade wants only a smile, a nudge and a promise to do better from a country that has done it such harm. It is not the plausibility of these expectations that is significant but the fervour with which they are held."