Anyone with an ounce of humanity or progressive spirit will be lifted by the election of Barack Obama as president of the United States. For the majority of the world's population it will be something far more than that. Anyone who has studied the history of racism in the US knows that for a black person to become president, to assume the most powerful job in the world, is truly an historic moment which it is very difficult to overestimate.
But Barack Obama is also being handed a poisoned chalice - although, perhaps, only in a moment of such turmoil could such an historic shift take place. Obama will inherit the worst financial crisis in the US for eighty years. This crisis is ultimately due to the fact that, due to decades of underinvestment in its domestic economy, the US is simply not competitive at anything like approaching the current exchange rate of the dollar.
For almost thirty years US presidents have attempted to overcome the consequences of this through using the military and political might of the US, which is very real, to substitute for an economy which, except in certain areas of high tech, simply cannot compete. Invading Iraq to seize oil, putting the squeeze on Japan to prop up the dollar at the expense of nearly two decades of Japanese economic stagnation, these were the types of methods used by US presidents to try to avoid the consequences of US economic decline.
Not merely did such methods not work, the economy proved in the long run more powerful as a factor than politics, but they led their country to military and financial catastrophe. George W Bush will be remembered as one of the worst of all US president's for having led his country both to a military debacle in Iraq and then financial disaster in the credit crisis. The neo-con agenda failed at each crucial point.
The only conclusion that can be drawn is that the US must withdraw from these disastrous policies to concentrate its resources on rebuilding its domestic economy. Pull out of Iraq, close the string of the US bases round the world, stop the reckless anti-ballistic missile programmes that destabilise Europe, spend all the resources released on rebuilding the US's infrastructure, improving its schools, and increasing its rate of investment.
If Barack Obama goes down that road he will be remembered not only as an historic president of the United States but as one the greatest presidents of the United States. If he does not follow it, if the continues with the policies of the last thirty years, even the gigantic goodwill he receives as president cannot solve the problems of the US. And that goodwill will dissipate while the racists will proclaim 'we told you so'.
Huge decisions await the new US president. Today every progressive spirit in the world will feel lifted. Very soon will come momentous decisions.