My dear Muhammad Ali: In all the "Obamamania" one shouldn't forget that the change that is being wrought in America and by extension the world has been caused by reaction to America's foreign and economic policy failures. Barack Obama is a product - and more importantly a symbol - of that change, for by electing the sort of person that not too long ago conventional wisdom believed America was not yet ready for, the people have said: "Thus far and no further or we can upset your applecart." So while Obama is not the agent of change, as I said two weeks ago, he could be a harbinger of change, in the sense that he can help give it direction and meaning. If he fails to, change will come nevertheless, but it could become chaotic, even diabolic. When change came upon the world with the collapse of the Soviet Union there was no one with enough intellectual stature leading America at the time. Thus instead of becoming a mature superpower it ended up as a hyper-power because it could not cease functioning outside the adversarial framework even when it had no credible enemy left to function against. So it started inventing enemies where there were none. An adversarial framework helps in controlling minds by frightening people - the "Red Menace is upon us." When the Red Menace was gone they invented the 'Green Menace' of Islam. What Obama needs to do is to change from the adversarial framework to an enabling framework in which there is something in it for everyone. That is the only way to achieve world peace. He has thus to help craft a new social, political and economic contract at home and in the world. He should help fashion a phoenix from the ashes of failed US policies to replace the vulture that has caused so much mayhem. The problem with symbols is that they get so caught up in the hype surrounding their newfound celebrity that they are in danger of remaining just that - symbols. They look the part but don't live up to their promise and much less to the huge expectations associated with them, like the huge bud of the Black Rose holds great promise but never blossoms. Whatever symbols do, the short-term judgement on them usually is that they were short on delivery. The best that they can do - and that is what really matters - is that they start the process of crafting new all-encompassing international contracts and orders as was done in Yalta and Bretton Woods. One of Barack Obama's big problems is that expectations of him are sky-high, so that even if he does fairly well it may not be seen as enough. He has to cool the temperature and lower the bar that the people have placed so high. Since the man has never held a meaningful executive position before, he remains an untested, untried commodity. Rhetoric aside, his actions so far do not portend well. He has to remember that at the end of the day, leaders are judged by actions and results, not acting and rhetoric. His choice of chief of staff has put Arab Muslims in a quandary and his selection of Sonal Shah has proved to be a party pooper in Pakistan. In an article titled Conned Again in Information Clearing House, Paul Craig Roberts writes: "If the change President-elect Obama has promised includes a halt to America's wars of aggression and an end to the rip-off of taxpayers by powerful financial interests, what explains Obama's choice of foreign and economic policy advisors? Indeed, Obama's selection of Rahm Israel Emanuel as White House chief of staff is a signal that change ended with Obama's election. The only thing different about the new administration will be the face. Rahm Israel Emanuel is a supporter of Bush's invasion of Iraq. Emanuel rose to prominence in the Democratic Party as a result of his fundraising connections to AIPAC. A strong supporter of the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee, he comes from a terrorist family. His father was a member of Irgun, a Jewish terrorist organisation that used violence to drive the British and Palestinians out of Palestine in order to create the Jewish state. During the 1991 Gulf War, Rahm Israel Emanuel volunteered to serve in the Israel Defence Forces. He was a member of the Freddie Mac board of directors and received $231,655 in director's fees in 2001. According to Wikipedia: "During the time Emanuel spent on the board, Freddie Mac was plagued with scandals involving campaign contributions and accounting irregularities." In Hail to the Chief of Staff, Alexander Cockburn describes Emanuel as "a super-Likudnik hawk," who as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 2006 "made great efforts to knock out anti-war Democratic candidates." My despondent friends in the Israeli peace movement ask: "What is this man doing in Obama's administration?" Osama's election was necessary as the only means Americans had to hold the Republicans accountable for their crimes against the constitution and human rights, for their violations of US and international laws, for their lies and deceptions, and for their financial chicanery. As an editorial in Pravda put it: "Only Satan would have been worse than the Bush regime. Therefore it could be argued that the new administration in the USA could never be worse than the one which divorced the hearts and minds of Americans from their brothers in the international community, which appalled the rest of the world with shock and awe tactics that included concentration camps, torture, mass murder and utter disrespect for international law. But Obama's advisers are drawn from the same gang of Washington thugs and Wall Street banksters as Bush's." The Indian woman Sonal Shah reportedly has fascist links. Says the Hindustan Times: "US President-elect Barack Obama may have cultivated a left-of-centre image for himself, but Sonal Shah, the Indian-American advisor in his transition team, has well established rightwing leanings. "The 40-year-old economist has been associated with the overseas activities of the Sangh Parivar. She was a national coordinator of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America campaign to raise funds for Gujarat earthquake victims in 2001. "Her father Ramesh Shah, a vice-president of the Overseas Friends of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), had campaigned for L K Advani in Gandhinagar during the 2004 Lok Sabha elections." "A senior functionary of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), involved in the global activities of the Parivar, said only [that Sonal's brother] Ramesh is associated with its activities." So could Obama turn out to be an appeaser of the right? Iran has another, and quite unique view. In an article titled Obama and Ahmadinejad in FORBES magazine's October 26, 2008 issue, Iran's Amir Taheri asks: "Is Barack Obama the 'promised warrior' coming to help the Hidden Imam of Shiite Muslims conquer the world? "The question has made the rounds in Iran since last month, when a pro-government Website published a Hadith (or tradition) from a Shiite text of the 17th century. The tradition comes from Bahar al-Anvar (meaning Oceans of Light) by Mullah Majlisi, a magnum opus in 132 volumes and the basis of modern Shiite Islam. "According to the tradition, Imam Ali Ibn Abi-Talib (the Prophet's cousin and son-in-law) prophesied that at the End of Times and just before the return of the Mahdi, the Ultimate Saviour, a 'tall black man will assume the reins of government in the West.' Commanding 'the strongest army on earth', the new ruler in the West will carry 'a clear sign' from the third imam, whose name was Hussein Ibn Ali. The tradition concludes: 'Shiites should have no doubt that he is with us'. "In a curious coincidence Obama's first and second names - Barack Hussein - mean 'the blessing of Hussein' in Arabic and Persian. His family name, Obama, written in the Persian alphabet, reads O Ba Ma, which means 'he is with us', the magic formula in Majlisi's tradition. "Mystical reasons aside, the Khomeinist establishment sees Obama's rise as another sign of the West's decline and the triumph of Islam. Obama's promise to seek unconditional talks with the Islamic Republic is cited as a sign that the US is ready to admit defeat. Obama's position could mean abandoning three resolutions passed by the United Nations Security Council setting conditions that Iran should meet to avoid sanctions. Seeking unconditional talks with the Khomeinists also means an admission of moral equivalence between the US and the Islamic Republic. It would imply an end to the description by the US of the regime as a 'systematic violator of human rights'. "Obama has abandoned claims by all US administrations in the past 30 years that Iran is 'a state sponsor of terrorism'. Instead, he uses the term 'violent groups' to describe Iran-financed outfits such as Hamas and Hezbollah. "Obama has also promised to attend a summit of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference within the first 100 days of his presidency. Such a move would please the mullahs, who have always demanded that Islam be treated differently, and that Muslim nations act as a bloc in dealings with Infidel nations." Time will tell which view is right, and it won't be a very long. One thing is certain, though. The uni-polar world order is gone. Hopefully, an equitable world order beckons. A 'Bushism' of May 10, 2000 had it: "I think we agree, the past is over." Quite, George. How about: "I think we also agree, the future is coming" as a parting shot? The writer is a senior political analyst E-mail: humayun.gauhar@gmail.com