A number of polls published before the U.S. presidential election in November indicated that, on a global level, if the world could vote, they would have re-elected President Barack Obama by a wide margin. Perhaps that isn't terribly surprising, given the immense interest Obama's rise in 2008 created outside the U.S., the general lack of enthusiasm for Mitt Romney even at home, and the fact that in Europe Obama "is perceived, rightly or wrongly, as the most European of North American leaders," as HuffPost France's Geoffroy Clavel writes. And the polls were, after all, entirely hypothetical.
Yet the very fact that these polls are conducted, as well as the overwhelming support they illustrate for Obama, is a reminder that many people around the world are invested in the direction that America chooses to take, and more to the point, may also still feel, despite a mixed first term in office, that Obama can, as my colleague Howard Fineman put it, "turn great promise into true greatness."
But recognizing that most of the world wanted Obama isn't the same as knowing what the world wants from Obama.
To help us better understand what some of those things might be, we turned to HuffPost's international editions -- in the UK, Canada, France, Spain and Italy -- for a collection of articles as part of our series "THE ROAD FORWARD: Obama's Second Term Challenges." (You can read the full series here.) The hope is that these pieces, written by our reporters in these countries, will illuminate how the world outside America views the challenges and possibilities facing a leader whose personal appeal still looms larger than his presidential accomplishments.
If one is willing to hazard identifying a theme from these six articles, it is the simple but important fact that the world still looks to America to lead on a number of fronts, and that despite talk of the U.S.'s relative decline in geopolitical influence, the policies the country pursues and the positions it takes still matter greatly to those living beyond our borders.
When it comes to the economy, the main political parties in the UK are closely watching the path out of the recession that Obama is trying to chart between austerity and stimulus, in hopes of proving that their fiscal policies will be vindicated by the public as the right ones. "To be economically credible in Westminster, it seems, is to be aligned with Barack Obama," writes UK Political Director Mehdi Hasan. Meanwhile, as HuffPost France's Geoffroy Clavel reports, "Paris relies on Washington to set the tone for a growth policy that would turn its back" on austerity measures.
On the U.S. domestic front, Canadians are looking to Obama to approve TransCanada's controversial Keystone XL pipeline while also engaging in greater stewardship on the environment, says Canada Business Reporter Sunny Freeman, even though those goals are somewhat contradictory. For Spain, Obama's pledge to expand America's development of renewable energy presents an economic opportunity for the struggling country, as Spanish companies have invested heavily in U.S. projects in recent years, writes HuffPost Spain's Daniel Basteiro.
Regarding foreign policy, HuffPost Italy readers are hoping that the president can show greater courage on issues ranging from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to Guantanamo to Afghanistan, while on a more local level, Dina Rickman reports that many Brits would like to see Obama take action on reforming the process established by the U.S.-UK Extradition Act, which allows for the extradition of UK citizens for breaking U.S. laws.
As Obama begins his second term, these articles, and the issues they raise, are a reminder that the world beyond America's shores has a stake in the road ahead, and that our leaders, in turn, have an obligation to try to meet these expectations. In an increasingly globalized age, one of our aims in launching foreign editions of the Huffington Post -- which we will continue to do in 2013 in regions like South America and Asia -- is to bring an international perspective on world affairs to our readers and create a truly global conversation. And we hope that you will join us, in the comment sections or on social media, in making that conversation even better.
This article is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post that closely examines the most pressing challenges facing President Obama in his second term. To read other posts in the series, click here.