''I wish George W. Bush was still in power,'' a leading Egyptian liberal politician said to me in Cairo earlier this year. ''At least we knew what we would get with Bush.'' Not just in Egypt, but in Syria, Israel, Bahrain, Iran and even Saudi Arabia there is a perception that President Obama and the United States cannot be relied upon. This weakens America's allies, and strengthens its enemies. President Obama can change this perception in his second term by taking his domestic mantra of ''I mean what I say, and I say what I mean'' to the world's most volatile region.
He has been wise not to intervene militarily in Syria. In coming months, Syrian rebels, Turkey and Gulf countries will try to lure the U.S. into the jihadist battlefields by escalating violence and chaos. Will the U.S. maintain its sobriety?
Obama's victory will be seen as an amber light in Tehran. To further isolate Iran, and be prepared for consequences of U.S. military options, Obama can't ignore the Palestinians. His second term can see him belatedly deserve the Nobel Prize by bringing Israelis and Arabs to a settlement. He has made new friends in the Middle East, not least the region's most powerful political force: the Muslim Brotherhood. They will expect leadership and reliability.
Ed Husain is a senior fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.