The Promise of Change was central to Barack Obama’s presidential election. It also played well abroad to a global populace that was largely critical of US policy in Iraq and its handling of suspected terrorists, according to polls. Expectations for a new approach are high.

But Can Obama restore US prestige abroad?

In many places, Obama’s election has already reversed a deep pessimism, according to foreign-policy analysts, ambassadors, and intellectuals interviewed. Some American diplomats say that, despite problems that would be serious without a global financial crisis, they are optimistic, guardedly, for the first time in years. Obama does not have a long track record of foreign policy experience. But he represents an opening abroad for something new. The intelligence with which the Obama team organized the campaign and outlasted formidable opponents is not lost on foreign elites. Europeans say Obama “gets” the globalized world, and his biography gives him some unique insights.

“Obama is the most global, multilateral president we’ve had in a century,” argues Ronald Asmus, director of the German Marshall Fund in Brussels, “and he will change the direction of US foreign policy.”