As the whole world waits with bated breath for Obama to take over from George W. Bush, one can't help but feel very happy that an African American is going to be the US President in a short while from now. The symbolism of the moment should not prevent us from realising that Obama has a very arduous task ahead of him, what with the crisis in the Gaza Strip and the global economic recession.
Obama will do reasonably well with the economic crisis because everyone realises that Obama had no role to play in the making of this crisis. The US and the rest of the world will emerge from this recession in a couple of years at the most. During this period, Obama will only have to make sure he does not do or say anything stupid and pump out the right sound bytes at regular intervals, something he is very good at.
Obama realises that the Palestinian dispute is poisoning the West's relations with the Islamic world at a global level. However, I doubt if he will be able to solve this since it would require a tremendous amount of pressure to be exerted on Israel, including the actual withholding of US aid, in order to force Israel to give up all control over not only the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, but also over East Jerusalem, a pre-requisite for creating a viable Arab Palestinian State. The American public is still very much pro-Israel and politician that Obama is, he will not be able to exert the necessary pressure on Israel.
Kashmir is an issue which Obama will want to be solved during his Presidency. Though not as important to the Islamic world as Palestine, it is nevertheless one of the disputes where a large section of the Ummah is aggrieved. Since Obama cannot solve the Palestinian dispute, he might exert a tremendous amount of pressure on both India and Pakistan to force them to resolve the Kashmir issue. India should be prepared for some very strong arm twisting by the US. The main lever used against India is likely to be the threat to make it more difficult for US companies to outsource to India. Pakistan will be less vulnerable to US pressure than India since the US wants Pakistan's assistance in its fight against the Al Qaeda as much as Pakistan wants US financial aid.
Obama is a pragmatist when it comes to trade and economy. Though he is not a protectionist, in view of the recession, Obama will take a few concrete steps to curtail outsourcing by US companies. These will be in the form of financial disincentives to firms which outsource.
After a couple of years, the Obama magic will start to wear off, though this will be tempered if the economy starts to look up by them. However, I expect Obama's presidency to end on a lacklustre note, unless the economy does well.