Obama's first challenge will not be the unresolved Middle East crisis. Nor will it be Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantanamo or the economy. His primary challenge will come in coming face to face with the Bush/Cheney doctrine of permanent worldwide war. Unless Obama renounces it on inauguration day, this doctrine will continue to be U.S. policy.
Beyond that, an even larger challenge - one which he may not ever be able to meet - is healing a nation that for too long has been sickened by what American Indian historian, Jack Forbes terms in Columbus and other Cannibals: soul-sickness. It is a disease that historically has allowed a majority of EuroAmericans to believe that God has chosen them lead the rest of the world into the light, permitting the United States to employ massive military might in achieving that so-called mandate.
Over the past eight years, it is the Bush-Cheney doctrine that has drawn the particular ire of the entire world - because it permits the United States to unilaterally attack any nation with massive force or to attack any target within any nation, regardless of civilian casualties. This doctrine has also permitted this outgoing administration to assert and amass extraordinary powers that have virtually rendered the U.S. Constitution meaningless. This doctrine includes the assertion that the executive branch and its extraordinary powers can not be questioned or hindered by Congress or the courts during times of war, thus the assertion of permanent war (the war on terror).
Yet, even if Obama were to reject this Bush-Cheney doctrine, the soul sickness would remain.
That notwithstanding, the president's first order of business has to be the rejection of the Bush-Cheney doctrine. Failure to do so immediately, will cause the promise of change [to the United States, the world and the future] to fall on deaf ears.
It will not be enough to wind down the Iraq War if it means that the president will simply shift resources to broaden the war in Afghanistan and to also continue the Bush-Cheney endless worldwide war against undefined enemies into the foreseeable future.
Eradicating that soul-sickness is probably not possible; it is what sustains the myths of this nation. It is what defines this nation. The secular equivalent of believing that God has chosen the United States for a special mission is the belief that being a superpower is an elected position and that with that title, the United States and its allies are entitled to invade, topple or occupy any nation they see fit. And it is not something that began with Bush and Cheney.
It can be no irony that those that initiated the invasion and occupation of Iraq - in defiance of the UN - were the United States, Britain & Spain... on Portuguese territory. In the past 500 years, these are the world's leading imperialists and colonialist nations. Essentially, they have been the world's architects of the policies of dehumanization - feeling entitled by God and blinded by greed to trample over the lands, bodies and rights of peoples [of color] worldwide.
Despite this imperial club, there's a reason the U.S. government is particularly despised by most of the world. It isn't just the Bush-Cheney regime, though they have certainly put a face to the "ugly American." It's that smug soul-sickness that permits Americans to believe that they indeed know what's best for the rest of the world.
When Obama was elected president, it was the hope of the world - evidenced by massive celebrations worldwide - that he would indeed reverse the arrogance of the Bush/Cheney doctrine. Though for those expecting president-elect Obama to bring about radical change to the world, all signs indicate that we are all in for a very rude awakening.
But it's a sleep or dream that many Americans don't want to wake from. To be sure, being elected U.S. president is not the same thing as being elected high commissioner for human rights or prince of peace. Since WWII, the United States has become the most powerful military empire in the history of the planet. In the path of this machine, millions of casualties are strewn about in Asia, Africa and Central America. Some have been the result of secret, proxy, unnecessary, foolish and illegal wars - such as Iraq - but truly, which war or military action by the United States since WWII has been necessary and legal and not foolish?
This is what Obama is inheriting; not just a permanent war and a soul sickness, but also the reins to a voracious military-industrial complex that needs to be constantly fed. There's little indication that he will starve this machine. But there is always hope.